Paul begins 1 Timothy 3:1-4 with a certain urgency. He sent a letter just in case he was delayed. This wasn’t an email or even mail, he had to send a courier, someone he knew, and with certain dangers in travel attached. There is a weight of importance attached to how we should behave in the Church, probably more than most of us realize.
We do not attend a club, a place for entertainment, or anything that is strictly for our own enjoyment. Church is our response to Christ for having saved us by His infinite suffering on our behalf, because if He didn’t, we would have spend eternity doing the same.
Paul then focuses his attention and ours upon Christ. He called the Church the pillar and support of the truth. The word pillar in the Greek “is often used of persons to whose eminence and strength the (of) stability and authority of any institution or organization are due (depend),” (Lightfoot, emphasis added). The pillar is used as we all know to hold up the building, which is what Jesus Christ does for the Church.
The word support (NASB) is foundation, and upon it the building stands or falls. Paul emphasizes by two differing terms with the same meaning, that without Jesus Christ the Church (not a building of brick and mortar but of people) does not stand. The Christian is often tempted in many ways to take his eyes off of Christ and put them on himself, and many others things, as if they would support him instead of Christ.
For this reason, in verse 16 he goes on to tell us that “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness.” In other words, we all know that godliness boggles the mind, when we stop to think about it. How in the world have I been made righteous enough to stand before the God that is said to be a consuming fire? I have been conceived in sin, I still sin, I consider sin, and even at times I choose to sin.
Yet, I can pray, intercede, walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, and give glory to God that He accepts. We could consider for an hour the ways that God accepts, loves, and uses us for His glory. Jesus Christ is of greater value in our lives than we know.
In this section of scripture, Paul does not speak about how the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth, but turns our eyes upon Jesus Christ and becomes transfixed on His Person and work.
Upon this line of thinking Paul wrote, “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.” We might emphasize the phrases he used by interposing Jesus’s name. Jesus Christ (God among us, the Messiah, chosen one) was revealed in the flesh. Jesus Christ was vindicated in the Spirit, (He did not die for His own sins but for all who would believe in Him). Jesus Christ was seen by angels (Not in heaven where there is the Shekhinah glory or light, and a throne, but in human flesh). What great condescension and revelation! Jesus Christ was proclaimed (shouted from the housetops in the presence of severe persecution) among the nations. Jesus Christ was believed on (received into the human heart without any threat of loosing Him, by the power of God) in the world. Jesus Christ was taken up in glory (where He would offer His blood as a living sacrifice upon the mercy seat created in the heavens).
Upon His offering our salvation stands, our assurance, our hope, our joy, our peace, and our contentment. Jesus Christ is the pillar and foundation of the Church, and of all individuals who believe.
All that the Apostle Paul wrote about Jesus Christ has its proper weight in our hearts, when it is accompanied with the proper gravity of our sin. Apart from a proper acknowledgement of our sin, the truth about Jesus Christ has neither weight nor meaning. His sacrifice always has the ultimate weight and meaning to God, but unfortunately, He does not have the same to us, apart from the grace of God working in us.