Life in the Father’s House (#1): “The Local Church: God’s Household”


Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 3:14-16

Main Points:
I. Life in the Father’s house
II. The household of God
III. The church of the living God
IV. A pillar and buttress of the truth

Today, as we resume gathering around the Lord’s Table and receive the bread and the wine from the Lord as our remembrance of Him who died for us and gave us the fourfold freedom, that is, freedom from judgment, from sin’s demand, from discouragement and, finally, freedom from all fear, we’ll enjoy a new sermon series that will be preached over five Lord’s Days beginning from today. This series is, as you can see on the screen, ‘Life in the Father’s house.’

In this series, we’ll hear about ‘what the local church is’ and ‘what worship that we participate is.’ Then, we’ll hear about ‘the unity’ required of us as believing brothers and sisters, and the meaning of our ‘giving to God.’ The last in this series will be ‘praying for one another.’ These things are the very foundation of our life in the local church. I pray, therefore, that these messages may clarify any questions you might’ve held in your mind and enrich your life in the Father’s house.

Having said, let me talk about why a topic like ‘life in the Father’s house’ matters. Is it an important issue? Is it worth spending our precious time in the Lord’s Day worship? Yes, it is important for all Christians because we ought to know why we’re members of this local church and why we do various things in church. If we have no understanding of the life in the Father’s house, we might do things apart from the will of God, thus, sin against the Father rather than pleasing Him. But if we know the spiritual meaning of all things we do in church, we don’t waste our time; we don’t feel bored because every moment of our life in the Father’s house is meaningful, and every bit of it nourishes us and causes us to grow in Jesus.

About this, the Apostle Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 14:40 that “[in the Father’s house] all things should be done decently and in order.” He means that things in the church ought to be done ‘decently and in order’ as all church members know the meanings of what they do and enjoy doing them. Paul talks about this ‘order’ again in Col. 2:5. Writing to the saints in the church at Colossae, he writes this: “though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” There, the apostle is happy to see their doing all things in order and decency, knowing the meaning of what they do in the church and enjoying them in the Lord. This is why he connects in that verse, Col. 2:5, their ‘good order’ in the Father’s house to ‘the firmness of their faith in Jesus.’

So, if you and I are called by God in the name of Jesus, if we’re members of Christ’s church, we ought to know the meaning of our life in the Father’s house. In other words, you and I need to know what St Columba’s means to each of us, what it means to be in a worship service on the Lord’s Day and being one with another in Jesus, and so on.

In this sense, ‘life in the Father’s house’ is an important topic. And we begin today with the meaning of ‘the local church as God’s household.’

Let me remind you of the words the apostle says in 1 Tim. 3:15, that is, today’s text passage for us. He says this: “If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” We hear that the apostle describes the church as ‘the household of God’ or ‘the family of God.’

Yes, the church is the family of God. The most direct and clear proof of this truth is that we are called and adopted into God’s family to call God as our ‘Father.’ Once a sinner repents and believes in Jesus, he/she begins calling God ‘Father’ and Jesus ‘Lord.’ That’s the moment he is born to the family of God; that’s the moment she is brought into a new and eternal family of God.

Designating our relationship with God and with each other in Jesus as that of family is truly amazing. Family is the relationship into which every human being is born. Family is the most intimate, immediate and foundational human relationship. Everyone knows what father and mother mean, and who brother or sister is. As soon as someone hears ‘father’ or ‘sister,’ he needs no intellectual exertion to perceive its concept – it is understood instantly. Inviting us to call our Creator and Saviour God as our ‘Father’ is to allow us to have an instant understanding of our relationship with Him. He is our Father and we’re His children.

And the church is an ‘assembly’ of His children. When this assembly of God’s children were in Egypt, God sent Moses to Pharaoh, Egyptian king, to speak to him this: “Let My son [that is, Israel] go that he may serve Me.” The NT teaches the same as Rom. 8:15-17 which we read and heard its exposition two Sundays ago points out that we’re the coheirs of our Father’s glory. In this sense, the Bible is clear about the church as the assembly of God’s children.

When I say ‘church,’ I mean two kinds of assemblies – one is ‘universal’ and timeless which covers all true children of God, and the other is ‘local’ and temporary. While the universal church is the ultimate and true Church, the local church is a part and shadow of the universal church. While there’s no false believer in the universal church, a local church is always exposed to a false and unregenerated person as her member. It is like there’s a concept of a perfect family in everyone’s mind but in reality every family is imperfect. Yet, every imperfect family is a shadow of the perfect one. So, a local church, in other words, an assembly of God’s children gathering locally, is a family of God.

As God is our Father and our fellow Christians are our brothers and sisters, this church which is an assembly of God’s children is our mother. John Calvin, the great Reformer of the 16th century, rightly said that the church is the mother of believers. Let me quote him from the great, if not the greatest, book he wrote, that is, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ‘There is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, [and] nourish us at her breast … [A]way from her bosom, one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation.’ Calvin calls the church ‘mother.’ And this is agreed by the Westminster Confession of Faith which is what we Presbyterians uphold as the subordinate standard of faith and life. In its 25th chapter, the Confession agrees with Calvin and says this: ‘outside of [the church] there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.’

Let me give you a couple of typical Bible verses that enabled both Calvin and all of the Westminster Divines to believe that the church is the mother of all believers. One is Isa. 66:7-13. Speaking of Jerusalem and Zion as the assembly of God’s children, the prophet says, “For as soon as Zion was in labour, she brought forth her children. … Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast; that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” I believe you get the picture because the prophet Isaiah is so clear in his prophecy about both Jerusalem and Zion as the mother figure for all believers. Another reference I’d like to point out to you is Rev. 12:17. Listen to this verse and draw a picture in your mind: “Then the dragon [that is, the devil and Satan] became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The Apostle John’s vision clearly points out that all true children of God are the offspring of the woman and this woman is the church.

Like the way an infant is born to his family through his mother, all Christians hear the gospel of Jesus preached through the church, repent and believe in Jesus, grow in faith, and learn to be one with the Lord as with fellow believing siblings in the church.

So, what is this local church to you and me? St Columba’s is our ‘mother’ through whom we’re nourished with the word of God and protected from the devil’s attack as well as enjoy all she provides for our benefit. Of course, St Columba’s is – like any local church – imperfect, but she represents our ultimate mother, the Lord Jesus’ universal church.

This is why every Christian must belong to a local church as he/she is a member of the Lord’s universal church, that is, God’s family. Also this is why all true followers of Jesus ought to worship God their Father alongside their spiritual and eternal brothers and sisters. If anyone claims to be a Christian yet refuses to join a local church, claiming that he could grow in faith being alone, that’s a nonsense. If anyone claims to be a Christian yet neglects his church, that’s dangerous in every way – and we’ll consider this more in a minute.

The next point the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Tim. 3:15 is that the church, the family of God and our spiritual mother, is of the living God. He means that God is the only true God unlike false gods, and He is a living God unlike all lifeless idols, and the church we belong is of this only true and living God.

This is about the vitality of the church we belong. A gathering of a dead and lifeless idol is dead also. But the Lord’s church is alive and never ceases from producing her offspring. Consider how constantly and abundantly God’s church has been producing her offspring since the forming of the NT church. Someone described it as a wildfire; her offspring have spread all over the earth and there’s no place left on earth that her offspring haven’t touched. Churches gather together everywhere, even in a place like North Korea, and more are coming; God’s word is translated into numerous languages and still more are on the way of completion. Surely, this church is very much alive as she is of the living God!

Not only does the church of the living God expand numerically and geographically, but also grow in the truth as the Spirit of God indwells each Christian and illumines their minds to the truth of the Scriptures. This two-way growth – that is, outward and inward, toward the horizon and upward – never ceases but gets stronger every moment. Often, you and I might lose sight of this constant growth, it is nevertheless the truth!

It means that, as God is alive, this ‘assembly’ of God, this family of God is very much alive! So, you and I should not be discouraged but trust God and love God’s church, our spiritual mother. Come and gather together, worship in the church (I mean, in the assembly of God’s children), drink the pure spiritual milk from her (that is, the word of God) and receive even better and solid food from her. Moreover, enjoy the comfort and fellowship she provides. If you do desire these things and enjoy all she provides, the church you attend and are a part of will soon turn into a vibrant one and no longer will you see her boring or your time with her irrelevant. Your life in the Father’s house will be full of exuberance and relevance.

The last point the Apostle Paul raises in 1 Tim. 3:15 is that this church of the living God is a ‘pillar and buttress of the truth.’ This analogy of pillar and buttress is to explain the indispensable position and role of the church in both the world and individual believer’s spiritual life.

Talking about the position and role of the church in the world, this assembly of God’s children supports God’s truth, functioning like what pillar and buttress do to a building. If the church is not in the world, then, God’s truth will not stand but crumble as the roof of a building would if it were not supported by pillar and buttress. Of course, this is simply an analogy, and God’s truth will never fall, nor will the church of the living God because Jesus has promised that His church will always stand and the gates of Hades will not overpower it as recorded in Mt. 16:18. This analogy simply emphasises the position and role of the church in the world. Standing firmly on God’s truth, God’s church upholds God’s truth and proclaims it to the ears of the world. So, the church is the pillar and buttress of the truth!

This analogy also tells us that the same is for individual’s life and faith. If the church does not exist in a believer’s heart and life, God’s truth will collapse in his life! If a Christian stays away from his church, if a Christian dislikes or rejects what her church provides, if a Christian severs his tie, his relationship with his church, God’s truth established in him will surely be at great risk. I’m not talking about Arminian’s ‘falling from grace’ which is totally opposite to the biblical teaching on ‘perseverance of the saints.’ A saved child of God will surely be carried by the hands of God to the glory, and never will his salvation be cancelled. I simply mean that such a Christian who strays from the church would face a time of deep spiritual darkness and of agony as he walks not with the Lord but walks the way of the world. I believe you and I have heard and seen numerous examples of this happened to Christians. I believe we ourselves have been in that path, haven’t we?

This church of which we’re members is our ‘mother.’ From her and through her, we grow in faith, become mature in the Lord as our spiritual nourishment is supplied in season. This church is of the living God and gives birth through preaching of the gospel of Jesus and nourishes all her offspring, God’s children. And this church we belong is a pillar and buttress of the truth of God and Christ. The assembly of God’s children upholds and proclaims the truth!

So, my dear and eternal brothers and sisters, let us gather together more and enjoy the provision of our gracious Father through Jesus Christ. Let us drink the spiritual milk and receive good and solid food from this church, our spiritual mother, and rejoice with all brothers and sisters, especially with newborn offspring of her, our dear ones in Jesus. ***

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