In the weeks leading up to his second space shuttle mission, Rick was busy and isolated. He was busy with an intense preflight schedule of training and planning. He was isolated by the required isolation of pre-flight quarantine which separated him from his wife (Evelyn) and two children (Laura – 13 and Matthew – 8). During a pre-flight NASA interview he was asked "Outside of your time with NASA, what's been your most enjoyable time or experience in life?" His response revealed his heart:
"Well, I think apart from NASA, the most enjoyable part of my life has been my time with my family. And, if you think about, probably the pinnacle or the most exciting or memorable events, I would say probably my marriage and then the birth of our two children, and being there with my wife, and just the awesome experience of seeing a baby come into the world. And just being so overwhelmed with God's goodness in blessing us with two wonderful children."1
His response explains why, knowing that his coming mission was 17 days long, he diligently prepared 17 personal one-on-one video devotions for each of his kids.
The Space Shuttle roared into the skies at 10:39 AM Thursday, January 16, 2003. A successful mission was completed on February 1, 2003. Finally the payload bay doors were closed and latched, all seven astronauts including Rick Husband were dressed and ready in their orange launch and entry suits. At 8:18 AM the Columbia's braking rockets were fired and at 8:44 AM Columbia entered the upper fringes of Earths atmosphere at approximately 14,757 Miles per hour.2 A crack in the shielding on the left wing caused catastrophic failure of the craft. The entire crew was lost. The video devotions which Rick Husband had left his children changed in an instant from a gift into a treasure.3
Sometimes you might have thought (as I have), "I wish one of the apostles or God himself would come and tell me what to do in this situation." This is precisely the reason why God has preserved his word for us. He has provided in written form what we need to know. One of the ways he did that was by delaying Paul. Read 1 Tim 3:14-16
In the fourteenth verse we find out that Paul intended to come and speak face to face with Timothy. Remember from chapter one that when Paul left Timothy in Ephesus he himself went on into Macedonia. Also in chapter one we see that he gave Timothy some basic instructions. But time has passed and While he intends to return to Timothy soon he also recognizes that he may yet be delayed further and yet it remains necesary that Timothy and the Ephesian church understand how it should act.
Recognizing that the apostle believes he is going to be delayed should give us confidence in what he was writing. He wasn't just sending a staccato summary that he hoped to explain later – he really was taking the time to develop a proper instruction which could fill the void created by his absence. This letter therefore is super-important for the church. It really does contain the church's operating manual. So Paul wrote this letter in order to make sure that the church knew how to "do church" correctly. (And thus the title for this series: Church 101.)
But there is so much more in this letter than a mere instruction manual. 1 Timothy is a letter to you about God's relationship with you. And more than anything else – it is God's relationship with you which not only fills out the content of this letter but which drives the application of it home.
The single thread which ties chapter three (let alone the whole letter) together is found right here. In the first section we have requirements for pastors, second we have requirements for deacons and thirdly in this passage we have the identification of the church body. The center of the detail of what the church is and does is first and foremost found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the center of the church.
And you, as many as are believers in Jesus, you are the church. And I think you can find a great deal of peace and joy in how God describes His church, knowing that in this he is describing you.
Household of God
First we are called the household of God. Don't mistake that for a description of the building. We tend to look around at the structure and think of it as the house of God. But the household of God is you. The gathered saved believers are the household of God. It is a term intended to remind you that as a believer, God has made his home in you.
When I go into a hotel room I find a place to lay my head for the night. But when I come into my house I find a place to live my life. It is the same with God. A beleiver is not a motel 6 for the Spirit of God but is a temple, a home in which God takes up permanent residence. God himself dwells in you.
Not only does God himself dwell in you, but you are the very family of God. In John Chapter 1 we read that those who believe in the name of Jesus have the right to become children of God. I may enjoy spending time with some people, but when it all comes down to it there is no-one I would rather spend time with than my family. You are the temple of God and his Holy Spirit dwells in you. You are children of God.
Both concepts are centered upon the loving relationship God has with you.
Church of the Living God
Notice also that we are called the church of the Living God. The word choice is intentional here. In that day the church was surrounded by myriads of temples devoted to dead statues. It's really no different today. There are lots of religion options out there but everything outside of Christianity is nothing more than the manufactured worship of dead idols. But Jesus Christ is the living God. There is only one God who is alive. By faith in Jesus Christ you are the church of the living God.
The Pillar and Support of the Truth
First you are God's household – the people among whom God has chosen to dwell in his Glory. Second you are the gathered believers of the living God. Finally you are called "the pillar and support of the truth".
A Pillar holds something up and a support stabilizes it. One elevates the other keeps it from wobbling. God has entrusted the gospel message to his church. Throughout the ages the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been protected against heresy, maintained against degrading, and proclaimed. God has not only assigned the task to the church but has always assisted the church in it's task because the message he has given us is His message of salvation.
The word "pillar" would have meant a great deal to Timothy. The local temple of Diana had 127 pillars4 which performed two tasks comprised of both function and form. First was function: they supported the roof so that it did not fall. Second was form: their mass and shear number displayed the glory of the false deity within.
The church likewise supports the gospel and guards it so that it does not fall to the ground. It is the gospel "once and for all entrusted to the saints,"(Jude 1:3) but it also displays the glory of the gospel for all to see.
When you see that word "pillar" there are lots of images that can come to your mind, but the one I want you to grab hold of is the kind of decorative pillar you might see sitting in the foyer of a mansion with a bust of some great artist or leader sitting upon it. The pillar itself is not the focus. The purpose of that pillar and it's placement is to display what is upon it. The same is true of us, the church. We are not the central focus, the gospel of Jesus Christ is. And our primary task as the pillar is to display the gospel clearly to those around us. They shouldn't have to get real close and read the little brass plaque which tells them that we are supposed to be displaying Christ. They should be able to see Jesus from far away when they look at us.
The very fact that the church is the pillar and support of the truth demonstrates more clearly than anything else what is at stake. The truth has been given but once to the church and it must not be permitted to fail. The truth about Jesus Christ must be guarded from error, and proclaimed clearly. It is not sufficient for only a few to comprehend the gospel but for everyone. 5
Likewise the truth of this letter belongs to the church – not to the building but to you. We are not only the guardian and proclaimer of the truth. But in the same way that the size and shape of a pillar is determined by the amount of weight it must bear – so too we must be shaped by the truth we are called to display.
3Jank, Brenda. Once a Gift, Now a Treasure. Focus on the Family Magazine. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/focusmagazine/spiritualheritage/A000000127.cfm
4(Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, "An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"–Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), 1 Ti 3:14.
5William D. Mounce, vol. 46, Word Biblical Commentary : Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 222.