14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.
I must confess that when I read this passage today, I skimmed over it. I nodded my head, slid over the “big words” and thought, “yep, Paul is writing to instruct Timothy because he is not present and he makes reference to Jesus at the end.” I want you to take a minute to slowly read over what Paul is saying. Do you fully understand the implications of what is in these few sentences?
Verse 15 can easily deceive us. We consider “the household of God” to be any temple or church building where His Word is taught and preached. Maybe we can even use this phrase to mean a house in which a “Godly family” lives. However if we look at the word Paul used for “household,” we can see that it represents something far greater than a building. The word oikos in Greek is used to describe any dwelling place. It is the same term used for spiritual dwelling places. In Asian countries, you will find many “spirit houses” which are built to hold and placate spirits. In the Old Testament, the most common dwelling place for the Spirit of God is the Holy of Holies in the temple. In the New Testament, we learn more about our own bodies being dwelling places for spirits, both good and bad. This is the fullness of oikos, it is not just a building, but a dwelling place for spirits and when it is inhabited by the Holy Spirit, it becomes the household of God. This means it can represent a church building or temple, but it is not limited to them.
As we continue through the verse, we find the word church or ekklesia, which means a public gathering. This phrase further classifies what Paul is talking about. We are not to be individuals inhabited by the Spirit of God, but rather a group of likeminded people united in Him. In thinking about how the Body of Christ should behave, I often reflect upon the Marine Corps and what we called Espirit de Corps. I used to call it the biggest fraternity in the world. Two Marines who never new each other could cross paths anywhere in the world and once they found out that each was a Marine, they would be friends based solely on their membership with the Marine Corps. This is exactly how Christians should behave. We have the same Spirit of God living in us, yet we let our own self-righteousness and theology get in the way. I was just telling someone the other day that similar to the Marine question, “which boot camp did you go through?” Christians tend to focus on “which denomination are you?” Who cares? You’re still a Marine regardless of which boot camp you went through. You’re still a Christian if you believe in the One True Living God and His Spirit is dwelling inside you.
This is what Paul is explaining in verse 16. It is the commonality of belief among Christians. It is the one thing that ties us together. So then why do we act like we are separated because of the title we see every Sunday morning as we enter the building we worship God in? Our worship of God is more than what we do for an hour and a half in a building on Sunday. It is how we live and relate to everyone else in the world. Being the church doesn’t mean organizing a committee to govern the body of people, but acting like a family. Jesus taught this principle just before He was crucified in John 13:35, “35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Why then aren’t we loving one another?