In the first three chapters of Paul’s first letter to Timothy we have seen Paul counselling Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus, on a number of church related matters. They have an amazingly contemporary ring about them. He counsels Timothy on how he ought to deal with false teaching in the church (1:3-7); he addresses the role of the law (1:8—11), and the gospel (1:12-17). He makes mention of the spiritual war in which every gospel minister and gospel church is involved (1:18—0); He reflects on the importance of prayer (2: 1-8) and the role relationship between men and women in the local church (2: 8-15). In the 3rd chapter Paul deals with the matter of church leadership as it relates to the roles of elders (3:1-7) and deacons (3: 8 -13). There’s a lot which Paul says here.
Now as we come to verses 14-16, Paul pauses , and he tells Timothy that he intends to come back to him at Ephesus from Macedonia (3:14; 4:13), presumably to be of further help and assistance to Timothy in the difficult work of the church there. He says:  “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that,…”. In the nature of things, and in terms of circumstances and travel time, such commitments are not always easy to keep, and so he tells Timothy …  if I delay, I want you to know these two things :
(i) understand the true nature of the church
(ii) understand the true nature of the great Saviour of the church
I. THE TRUE NATURE OF THE CHURCH : THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD, THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, THE PILLAR AND BUTTRESS OF THE TRUTH (V.15)
…(that) 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. Paul uses 3 descriptions to describe the nature of the church:
(i) The church is the household (Gr. oikō Theou) of God. Paul often uses building metaphors for the church. In Ephesians 2, he calls the church “a temple not made with hands.” Peter calls the individual members of the church “living stones that are being built up as a spiritual house…” (1 Pet. 2:5) We become members of God’s household through the new birth. In this process, God becomes our Father , Christ our Lord and brother, and every member of God’s households are also called brothers and sisters in Christ.
(ii) the church of the living God (Gr. ekklēsia Theou zōntos). “ We are the temple of the living God”(2 Cor. 6:16). “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place (i.e. a tabernacle) for God by the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:22) God is often called the living God in the OT, to make a deliberate contrast with the heathen, lifeless idols, who were created by the minds and hands of their worshippers. Paul can thus say of the Thessalonian Christians who had been converted from such pagan superstition that they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1Thess. 1:9). The fact that it is the household of God, and the church of the living God, which indicates that the church is not ours, it's God's. God's house, God’s church belongs to God. And in God’s house we ought to behave according to God’s rules, and not in any way we please. Many issues that Timothy faces in Ephesus are due to the fact that various people wanted to teach and organise the church according to their own rules and doctrines. Has it ever occurred to you, in thinking about the design of the OT tabernacle /temple, that God never asked Moses for his own architectural ideas and opinions? God gave Moses the entire plan. He said to Moses: “Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.” (Ex. 25:9). Similarly, the church, the household of God, which He purchased with His own blood is not a “do-as-you- please” institution. The church exists by the Word of God. So many of the problems in the local churches all over the world would be solved if we would understand that we are God's house and subject to God’s rules! In God’s house there shall, according to apostolic practise, regular attention be given to the apostles doctrine, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). 7th day congregational worship remains in place. Love and unity must remain central to the church’s being and activity.
The church of the living God will be exhibited in its purest form in heaven, and the writer to the Hebrews calls her “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven… the spirits of the righteous made perfect…” (Hebr.12:23) How awesome is the dwelling place of the living God of heaven and earth. That is the church which you are called to belong to!
(iii) a pillar and buttress of the truth. (Gr. stulos kai hedraiōma tēs alētheias). The stulos is a pillar or a column which supports a platform above, and the supports the pillar below. This kind of imagery must have spoken to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus, where one of the 7 wonders of the world was found, the temple of Diana , otherwise known as the temple of Artemis. It was a massive construction with 127 pillars, supporting the marble roof structure. Each of these 18 meter high pillars were made of marble, and decorated with jewels and gold. This temple made a massive impression upon all who saw it. The stones of the temple in Jerusalem had a similar effect . The application is, I trust, apparent. The church has received a massive foundation of truth, for all to see, given by the Tri-une God to the prophets of the OT and to the apostles of the NT, all sealed by the appearance of God’s supreme and final revelation of Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebr. 1:1-3). The church itself is not the originator of the truth. The originator is God. But God has deposited the truth in His church by means of His Word. The church thus serves as the pillar and support of the truth in the world. The less the church does this in the world, the less the world sees of God’s truth. She is God's essential vehicle for the gospel and for discipleship and also for the defense of the faith. We ought to be very concerned for the current lack of truth in the world.
In summary, we need to appreciate afresh the weighty significance of the church. Unfortunately by focussing on matters that are not essential to biblical church life, the church in history has often been reduced to a petty minded group of self- absorbed men and women, from whose lips and lives the massive truth of God in Christ could not be seen or heard. I say it again : The church is built on massive truth. She exists for the glory of the massive, infinite God, “who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16). Brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit help you to see the church as God, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit sees her, and may your thoughts concerning her never be little again, as you make sure that you continue to build on the foundations of the apostles and the prophets, with Jesus Himself as the Corner Stone (Eph. 2:20)
II. THE TRUE NATURE OF THE GREAT SAVIOUR OF THE CHURCH : (V.16)
This verse gets to the heart of the church’s reason of existence, and therefore her ministry.  “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
The mystery of godliness referred to here is clearly the Lord Jesus. He is the mysterious power of the Christian life and of the Christian church. We have already seen that the religious life in Ephesus was overshadowed by the worship of Diana (Artemis). According to the account in Acts 19:21-41, Paul had a hard time after he preached the gospel there, when many turned from this gross idolatry to Christ. A man named Demetrius in particular stirred up trouble for Paul, because he knew that the power of Paul’s preaching was threatening the cult and the associated commerce of Artemis. Demetris cried out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:28). Paul by contrast says, “Great is the mystery of godliness – Great is Jesus Christ!”
The truth is that Diana and all the idols of the world cannot stand before our infinite, eternal, almighty King Jesus, just as little as the material Philistine god, Dagon, could stand before the captured ark of God. (1 Samuel 5)
SO WHO IS JESUS? 6 things …
(i)He was manifested in the flesh. Though he pre-existed as God eternally with the Father, He came into this world, and though His deity was veiled, yet He was revealed in His humiliation as the very Son of God.
(ii) vindicated by the Spirit. At various stages in Christ’s ministry in his supernatural birth , his baptism and commission , in his resurrection the Holy Spirit bore testimony to Christ.
(iii)seen by angels. Angels surrounded Christ at his birth and in his death, being seen by angels at the tomb on the day of His resurrection. Angels were present when He ascended to heaven.
(iv) proclaimed among the nations. The gospel of Christ has gone throughout the world, even more so today , than then.
(v)believed on in the world. Jesus is not only preached in all the nations, He's believed on in all the nations. There are people from every tribe and tongue, and land and nation, who are resting and trusting in Him.
(vi) taken up in glory. This refers to His ascension
In these 6 short statements Paul outlines the massive person and ministry of Jesus. The existence and the glory of the church rests on His person. We tend to forget that. Very often we are taken in by lesser glories- such as Diana temples. We are easily impressed by lesser glories. Our modern temples are the ever bigger and better shopping malls, sports stadiums, sports events and entertainment centres. These are the new cathedrals of the world. These and the services and goods and entertainment they sell keep us captivated and interested, and such idol business is booming like in Ephesus. Many are kept busy in commercial trade on this Lord’s day. The heart of our people lies exposed.
May God grant us to know how to behave in the household of God, the church of the Living God, the pillar and buttress of the truth. A church built on this massive foundation will deal with false teaching by showing the superior excellence of God’s truth. A church like this will know how to preach the gospel, and she will be able to manifest a true balance between law and gospel. A church like this prays for her city and nation . A church like this has a biblical view of the role of men and women. A church like this will choose her church officers according to godly standards ….all this, because the church knows the mystery of godliness – Jesus, her Lord ! Amen