“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 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.”
1 Timothy 3:14–15
Sunday’s Bible reading is 1 Timothy 1–3. 1 Timothy is one of Paul’s three pastoral letters: 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. In 1 Timothy 3:14–15, Paul tells Timothy his purpose in writing this letter: conduct in the household of God. That’s his purpose. Remember that as you read this letter.
Have you ever thought about the church being the pillar and support of the truth? In 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell write:
“The pillar and foundation of the truth. This is an awesome and descriptive phrase. John Calvin wrote: “It is no ordinary dignity that is ascribed to the church when it is called the pillar and ground of the truth. For what higher terms could he have used to describe it?”
““Pillar” and “foundation” are graphic architectural metaphors. A foundation is essential to the building; a building is only as good as its foundation. The church provides a solid bedrock of truth. Pillars stand upright on the foundation as columns and give the building its structure and beauty. The church as a pillar upholds the truth. Of course, the truth comes from God. God is the source of truth and not the church….
“This awesome reality lays equally awesome responsibilities on the church. Just as a foundation undergirds a building or a pillar supports the roof, the assembly of believers has been appointed to uphold and undergird, in this world, the truth that God has revealed through Christ. This is a divine call to allow the Word of God to saturate all of life. Jesus himself prayed for the church, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The truth of the Bible is to form and inform the foundation and the pillars.”1
In the opening verses of 1 Timothy Paul tells Timothy the purpose of instruction—a purpose that’s in tandem with the purpose of the letter. One of my pastors, Mike Braun, used to ask, “What is the goal of our instruction? To pass a true-false theological exam?” He would answer, “No!” and then quote 1 Timothy 1:5:
“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
1 Timothy 1:5
In archery an arrow is carefully fletched with feathers at the end of its shaft. When real feathers are used, they must all be from the same wing of a bird—if you mix feathers from both wings on the same arrow, it won’t fly correctly because feathers from the left wing cause it to spin to the right, while those from the right wing cause it to spin to the left. When a well-fletched arrow is shot, the feathers start the arrow spinning, giving it stability and enabling it to fly straight towards the target.
In Bible study our arrows of understanding are fletched with diligent and careful handling of Scripture. Sound doctrine enables the arrow to fly straight and true, and we cannot hit the target Paul gives us without sound doctrine; however, we can fletch arrows constantly and well, but if all we ever do is hold them up and say this is what a well-fletched arrow looks like, we will never hit the target of 1 Timothy 1:5.
Hughes and Chapell write that Paul’s sentence construction indicates the goal is not three things, but one thing—love—love from (1) a pure heart, (2) a good conscience and (3) a sincere faith.2 George Knight explains in his book, The Pastoral Epistles:
“…The goal of Christian instruction is love manifested in the Christian’s life through three channels, which are a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith….
“The love in view is said to come from (ἐκ) three sources, καρδίας [heart], συνειδήσεως [conscience], and πίστεω [faith] all three governed by one preposition and connected to each other by καί [and]. With these three nouns and their adjectives Paul speaks of the inner being (καρδίας) and its continually cleansed status (καθαρᾶς [pure]), the life of obedience as an outcome of one’s awareness of the responsibility to do what God asks believers to do (συνειδήσεως [conscience] ἀγαθῆς [good]) and sincere trust in God (πίστεως [faith] ἀνυποκριτοῦ [sincere]) which enable a believer to love.”3
When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, He answered:
“ ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29b-31 (ESV)
The night before He was crucified, He told His disciples:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
As I’ve written here many times Jesus made love the mark of a Christian, repeating the command to love one another twice in John 15:12-17, and in John 17:20-23 He prayed for the unity of all Christians—unity that is the final apologetic to the world that Jesus was, in fact, sent by God, and that God, in fact, has loved those who have believed in Jesus.
Several years after I first used this archery analogy, I found these words of Thomas Brooks from A Word in Season to Suffering Saints, written in London in 1675:
“Explanation is the drawing of the bow—
but application is the hitting of the mark, the bulls-eye.”4
In the Bible sound doctrine and sound living are never seen as two stand alone entities; the the Bible teaches that our conduct flows from our thinking.5
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
Fletching Arrow: Simon A. Eugster: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
Zielscheibe Bogenschießen, 4028mdk09: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
1, 2R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, pp. 91–92, 30.
2George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, pp. 76–77.
4Thomas Brooks, A Word in Season to Suffering Saints.
5See my post from last fall, Thinking & Living, for more on sound doctrine (orthodoxy) and sound living (orthopraxy).
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter