I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man:she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of fullrespect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the womenare to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

Paul opens Chapter Two urging his readers to pray.  The word translated “urge” actually meaning “a call intended to produce a particular effect” -   exhorting us all to the action of prayer. 

“Prayer is the only entry way into genuine self-knowledge.  It is also the main way we experience deep change – the reordering of our loves.  Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things He has for us.  Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire.  It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God.  Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.  We must learn to pray.  We have to.”    Timothy Keller

“A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.”   John Owen   

Paul sought to teach his readers the importance of praying for everyone – particularly those in authority.  The motive behind his purpose being that we might live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is pleasing to God.  This urging should certainly draw our attention to our individual prayer lives as well.  Most of us, if we are honest, pray very selfishly – or at the very least narrowly – seeking only to cover our immediate families and close friends.  Praying for our governing officials – those who lead our country – with thanksgiving - oftentimes is an afterthought at best.  Sadly, we seem to pray for what is most bothersome to us over what is the most bothering to the heart of God Who, Paul states, desires for all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth.

Paul’s prayers on behalf of the saints are exemplary.  I often mimic them in my own prayer life praying over my family and friends.  We can know for certain it is God’s will if we are praying His Word back to Him.  Indeed, I think it blesses His holy heart to hear His children repeat His Truths.  Two examples of Paul’s prayers are as follows.  We can insert the names of our families and friends where it says “you” or “yours”: 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.   Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.   Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)

Paul’s list was for all “requests” (meaning to pray, beg, implore; prayer for particular benefits); “prayers” (meaning to offer prayer, prayer to God); “intercession” (an appeal to authority, a petition directed toward One whose jurisdiction it is to grant the request; encounter, approach; prayer of intercession on behalf of others) and “thanksgiving” (thankful, grateful, well-pleasing, gratitude) – covers it all!  We are to be a praying, thankful people as prayer changes things not the least of which is our hearts.  Prayer gives us clarity, proper focus, demonstrates our trust and dependence on the One Who gives the power and Who also gets the glory.  I greatly desire to humbly go before His throne - emptying myself of me and asking for the Holy Spirit to fill every part of me with His fullness.  I want to pray according to His will and not my own.  This is not to say I do not pray specifically for things rather after I do, I seek to confidently leave them in His all-sufficient, all-powerful hands fully knowing He always has my best interest at heart.  Also, I desire to seek to be still and not distracted before Him – to quiet myself in His Presence – ever with an ear to hear from Him (which, I might add is very difficult for me at best!!!).  The Psalmist declared: 

10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”   Psalms 46:10 (NIV)

King David adding:

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.   Psalms 37:7 (NIV)

God desires to make Himself further known to us through our stillness before Him.  Sometimes I sing, sometimes I seek to envision Him on His Great Throne with Jesus at His right hand always interceding for me.  It is a wonderful reminder as well as comforting for me to know that He is ever on the throne and that nothing takes Him by surprise.  Nothing.          

We live in such confusing times and often only God can clear away the confusion.  Our attitudes of heart are to be honest and humbly repentant before Him and earnestly seeking His will and way as they are always pleasing and perfect for the pilgrim.  It does us good to remember that Paul was to make known the gospel to the Gentile world.  And what a world it was!  It was a world literally rotten in its vileness and corruption.  A world given to the worst kind of paganism and idolatry.  A world in which men were enslaved by Satan and powerless to deliver themselves.  Much akin to our world today.  It was into such a world as this that the apostle Paul proclaimed the One “who gave Himself a ransom for all.”  And when men believed the message they were saved.  They were transformed, and they who had been led by Satan captive to do his will became captives in the chains of love, delighting to serve the One who had died to redeem them.  There is nothing new under the sun now is there?  People are touched and transformed through our love.    

Lastly, a good rule of thumb in regarding our quiet times and prayer times is taken from two saints from the past Mueller and Martin Luther.  Both would ask themselves a set of questions of the text they read:

Is there any example for me to follow? 

Is there any command for me to obey?

Is there any error for me to avoid?

Is there any sin for me to forsake?

Is there any promise or me to claim?

Is there any new thought about God Himself?

After meditation of the Word, prayer is first approaching God in confession of our sins and then responding with thanksgiving and praise for our salvation via the cross.  God has never promised to answer a prayer that comes through unclean lips.  True prayer must be backed by a holy life as we seek to walk before Him in purity - keeping our accounts short with repentance.  All men are entitled to approach God but they must be careful that they are living such lives as will commend their prayers to God.  God has never promised to hear the prayers of people who are not seeking to walk righteously before Him in repentance.  After praise comes intercession for others and finally petition for our own needs.   

Lastly, in our prayers we are not to pray with indignation or malice but with sincere love for all mankind – lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting.  Out of love for others, we are to pray with confidence and speak the Truth with boldness. 

The Apostle now turns to instructions for women in the church.  If you are looking for a passage of Scripture that runs directly counter to the prevailing “wisdom” of our culture, then 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is a good place to start!  Our culture is terribly twisted on issues of gender and sexuality, and the pressure for the church to compromise and conform on these issues is great.  Pastor Mark Dever states:

“The most important revolution of the last century has been the sexual revolution…Contraception replaced conception.  Pleasure was separated from responsibility.  It was as if a license was given out, legitimizing the bending of every part of our lives around serving ourselves.  Since that time, divorce, remarriage, abortion, premarital sex, and extramarital sex, as well as homosexuality have been accepted by increasing percentages of the public.  Pornography is huge business.  This is not just a problem with society out there. Many churches have found their members plagued by failed marriages and illicit affairs, by so-called private sins that turn into public disgraces, some of which are known, some of which are not yet known.”

We live in a culture, on a world, and sadly amid a church marked by rampant sexual immorality, skyrocketing divorce, the degradation of marriage, and the confusion of gender.  John Piper writes:

“Confusion over the meaning of manhood and womanhood today is epidemic.  The consequences of this confusion is not a free and happy harmony among gender - free persons…The consequence rather is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that come with the loss of God-given identity.” 

Ladies, God’s Word is not out of line, and it is not out of date; it is true and right and good.  May we repent of our unbelief and arrogance and gladly submit to God’s best for our lives which is His good design.    

God’s desire is for the salvation of all people and He is deserving of the worship of all people and Christ’s death was for all people.  Clearly Paul was addressing situations and problems that were evident in the church at Ephesus in the first century – they don’t just come out of nowhere.  They were written to a specific people at a specific time.  Nevertheless, God’s Word still applies to all people at all times. 

Paul begins addressing the women with respect to their dress and hairstyles as they had become a distraction in the church.  Like many ancient cities into which Christianity was born, Ephesus was filled with sexual immorality.  It was common for women to use ornate fashion to attract attention to themselves, sometimes in seductive ways.  Clearly God has said to all people of all times in all cultures not to be adorned with things that draw other people’s attention for the wrong reasons.  That principal always remains true.  For example, the culture in Ephesus emphasized the hairstyles and dress of the women to which Paul was referring as violating modesty, decency and good sense.  On the other hand, say in Africa for instance, elaborate hairstyles do not express the same meaning as the Ephesus culture.  There elaborate hairstyles equate to modesty, decency and sensible.  Obviously, our understanding of cultural context matters.  God desires for His children to walk in a manner and dress worthy of His high calling on their lives.  We are not to dress seductively perhaps causing our brothers to stumble rather we are to adorn ourselves modest clothing using decency and good sense.  The examples vary in different cultures but the principal remains the same.  We do not want to accommodate our culture by discarding truth that the Bible addresses clearly and repeatedly.  One last thing about dress, it is not supposed to be our main focus.  This is not to condone some sort of dire, morose, dark look rather our appearance is to be lovely and proper and wooing.  Also, we are to be more concerned with the beauty of our insides rather than our exterior as Peter states:

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands.  1 Peter 3:3-5 (NIV)

Another thing for us to consider in our discussion is that God created men and women with equal dignity – that is both male and female are equally valuable before God.  Therefore, to demean men or women is to sin against God.  Paul’s instructions here have nothing to do with the value of men and women; rather, he was talking about the roles of men and women.  God created men and women with different and distinct roles which compliments each other.  Relationships of the Trinity provide us with a helpful analogy.  While all three are fully God they all have differing roles.  I like to think of it as:  God wills it, the Son words it, and the Spirit works it.

In the home, God’s good design for the husband and wife relate to each other with specific complementary roles.  In a similar way, men and women have complementary roles in the church as well.  Paul gives two prohibitions in the church – a woman is not to teach or have authority over a man.  We know that Paul makes it clear in Titus 2:3 that older women are to teach younger women.  Scripture also mentions a number of instances where women played a significant teaching role:

Timothy received instructions from his mother and grandmother. (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14)

Pricilla and her husband Aquila both took Apollos aside and “explained the way of God to him more accurately”.  (Acts 18:26)

Men and women both make disciples, which involves going, baptizing, and teaching people to obey everything Christ has commanded us.  (Matthew 28:19-20)

Paul told the whole church – men and women – to be “teaching and admonishing one another” as the word of Christ dwelt in them richly.  (Colossians 3:6)

Paul seemed to allow for women praying and prophesying in public worship, though with proper humility and submission.  (1 Corinthians 11).

Women who are gifted at teaching should use their gifts to build up the body of Christ but not in the role of elder.  Their teaching should be in accord with, and not contrary to, what the elders of the church teach.  Women are not to lead the elders, pastors, or overseers in the church.  Instead of exercising authority, women should learn quietly with all submissiveness.  By God’s grace, women are to submit gladly to the servant leadership of elders.  Women should lead in various positions of the church under the authority of elder leadership – just as the man is the authority of the home.  Scripture is clear on the prohibitions against women teaching and leading as an elder; beyond this it is not quite as clear.  We need to be clear where Scripture is clear and wise where Scripture is not as clear.  Remember, God’s design in creation gives authority to man. This is a central revelation not a cultural expression.  God created man before woman, a reality that undergirds the headship of man.  Also, after the fall God first came to Adam showing responsibility.  Paul is not basing his view merely on human opinion, which changes, but on divine revelation, which never changes.   As a woman teaches, she is to reflect God’s pattern for her in Scripture. 

It is also interesting to note in Genesis after the fall what the subsequent consequences were for Adam, Eve and the serpent:

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals!  You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”   Genesis 3:14-19 (NIV)

“The fields of opportunity are endless…for the entire church to be mobilized in ministry, male and female.  Nobody is to be at home watching soaps and reruns while the world burns.  God intends to equip and mobilize all the saints under the leadership of a company of qualified men who take primary responsibility for leadership and teaching in the church.”   John Piper  

All of this leads to one of Paul’s most difficult statements in 1 Timothy 2:15:

“But women will be saved through childbearing if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with propriety.”          

The ambiguous words kept safe through childbirth have given rise to several diverse interpretations: (a) preserved (physically) through the difficult and dangerous process of childbirth; (b) preserved (from insignificance) by means of her role in the family; (c) saved through the ultimate childbirth of Jesus Christ the Savior (an indirect reference to Genesis 3:15); and (d) kept from the corruption of society by being at home raising children. The interpretation of the verse is further clouded by the conditional clause at the end: if they, that is, mothers, continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety. Whatever one understands the first part of the verse to be affirming, it is contingent on a woman’s willingness to abide in these four virtues. 

While we do not know for certain, I believe the most plausible one to be talking about the salvation through the offspring of Eve – a deliberate reference to the fact that, even though the woman ate the fruit first and sin entered the world through her, the promise remains that the Savior would enter the world through her as we just read in Genesis 3:15.  According to this a child would be born through Eve’s line that would one day trample the serpent.  John Stott states:

“Earlier in this chapter the one mediator between God and men has been identified as the man Christ Jesus, who of course became a human being by being born of a woman.  Further, in the context of Paul’s references to the creation and fall, recalling Genesis 2 and 3, a further reference to the coming redemption through the woman’s seed, recalling Genesis 3:15, would be most apt.  The serpent had deceived her; her posterity would defeat him.  So then, even if certain roles are not open to women, and even if they are tempted to resent their position, they and we must never forget what we all owe to a woman.  If Mary had not given birth to the Christ child, there would have been no salvation for anybody.  No greater honor has ever been given to woman than in the calling of Mary to be the mother of the Savior of the world.”  Sin entered through a woman and salvation entered through a woman.

Two things we know for sure – (1) Women are sanctified as they glorify God in the distinct roles and responsibilities He has entrusted to them.  There is meaning and significance behind a woman’s gender, so sisters in Christ should be working out their salvation, not as generic persons but as women of God with inherent beauty and value as well as distinct giftings and opportunities.  Sisters in Christ should thrive in their roles as wives, mothers, and women of God.

The second thing we know for sure (2) Women are saved not through the birth of a child but through the death of Christ.  For that matter, women and men are saved through the death of Christ alone.  Sin has disordered this world we live in, and Satan has distorted God’s good design for our manhood, our womanhood, our marriages, our families, the church, and the culture.  But Christ has come, and He has conquered sin and trampled the Devil.  In Christ we can all thrive.  He died to make us the men and women God created us to be.  We are to submit to His wonderfully good design.

Paul now switches in Chapter Three to the qualifications for leadership in the church and identifies two primary leadership roles – elders, those who are servant leaders and deacons, those who are leading servants.  First and foremost, we need to understand that church leadership is designed by God.  It is not man’s invention.  Paul says that anyone setting his heart on being an elder (overseer) desires a noble task.  God had designed the church’s leadership to be a display of His glory and to be dependent on His gospel.  None of the qualifications could be possibly sustained long term apart from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  The character qualifications, the roles, and the responsibilities of church leaders are possible only as a result of Christ living in His people sustained by His power. We must keep in mind Christ is the Head and those who are qualified to lead only insofar as He is living and working within them.  

Two other words are also used to describe the role of elder and they are used interchangeably – pastors and overseers.  Also, when we see elder in Scripture there’s almost always more than one of them in the church.  Therefore, the picture we have in Scripture is neither a dictatorship nor a democracy; instead, Christ entrusts elders to lead the church.   These leaders are to lead under Christ’s authority as the church belongs to Him – He is the Head; they are to care for the body of Christ and protect the flock; they are to nurture the flock and teach the Word of Christ therefore they are to know the Word extensively and communicate it effectively; and they are to model the character of Christ.

Before delving into the list of qualifications presented in God’s Word for these servant leaders we should also note that women are not mentioned in connection with the role of elder and further, Scripture gives no indication whatsoever that the position of overall leadership in the church belongs to a female.  Remember, this is not an issue of equality or superiority; it’s more like the relationship between a husband and a wife.  As the husband is the head of the home and leads in this sphere, so elders are to provide leadership in the church.  Also, and important for us to hear, these qualifications listed are for every follower of Christ.  It is not a reach to say that the qualifications for being an elder revolve around exemplifying the character of Jesus.  We are all called to walk as Jesus walked.  Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:14-15:

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.   1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV)

6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.   1 John 2:6 (NIV)

Paul begins by stating if one sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task, validating the desire.  The word translated noble meaning good, honorable, beautiful, sound.  Then he begins with a list of about 15 character traits or qualifications which we would all do well to emulate.  To be sure, no one will fulfill these qualifications perfectly.  Each of us has numerous sins to confess daily.  However, elders ought to live lives worth imitating, lives that reflect the character of Christ:

(1)  Above reproach – not guilty of anything which could bring an accusation.

(2)  Husband of one wife – no polygamy, one-woman man.

(3)  Temperate – moderate, self-restrained, balanced.

(4)  Self-controlled – self-disciplined in one’s freedom; discreet sober, temperate, of sound mind.

(5)  Respectable – orderly, decent, responsible.

(6)  Hospitable – friendly and welcoming to both strangers and guests, pleasant.

(7)  Able to teach – Knows the Word and able to share it.

(8)  Not given to drunkenness.

(9)  Not violent – not a bully.

(10)  Gentle – moderate, not harsh or severe; mild and kind.

(11)  Not quarrelsome – argumentative, combative, cantankerous.

(12)  Not a lover of money – right priority on wealth.

(13)  Manages his family well – always look at the personal life, if it is a mess, more than likely it will carry over to all areas.

(14)  Not a recent convert – to keep one from becoming prideful and allow them to grow up into the position. 

(15)  Has a good reputation with outsiders – a good witness of a life that follows Christ.

Next Paul lists the qualifications of a deacon – again we are to seek to emulate these as well.  A deacon is to be a humble servant.  His office carries out the more menial tasks of the church so the elders can give attention to teaching the Word and prayer.  It is body life at its best – not everybody is to do everything – nor can they do so.  This teaches us that we need each other.  Acts 6:1-6 tells us:

1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”   Acts 6:1-4 (NIV)

The qualifications/character traits of deacons are as follows:

(1)  They are to be men worthy of respect – the wording denotes majestic and awe inspiring, qualities which do not repel rather invite and attract; serious men of dignity not clowns; this same word is used for women in verse 11.

(2)  They are to be sincere – honest and unhypocritical.  Romans 12 tells us:  9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.   Romans 12:9-10 (NIV)

(3) They are to be temperate not indulging in much wine.

(4) They are not to be pursuing dishonest gain.

(5)  They must be men of spiritual depth holding on to the deep truths of the faith both knowing and applying God’s Word to their lives.

(6)  They must have a clear conscience – nothing in their conduct of these men which is glaringly inconsistent with their professed beliefs.

(7)  They must demonstrate their maturity before being placed in a position of responsibility being free from accusation.  Christlike conduct is required.

(8)  Husband of one wife and manages his children and household well.

In like manner their wives are to be worthy of respect with majestic and awe inspiring qualities which do not repel rather invite and attract.  They are not to be malicious talkers and slanderers rather temperate, well balanced and trustworthy in everything.    

Paul ends Chapter Three first by writing that he hopes to come to them soon but he has written these instructions so that if he is delayed they will know how people in God’s household are to conduct themselves.  Remember the Church is to be the pillar and foundation of the Truth.  Mark Dever writes:

“For too many Christians today, the doctrine of the church is like a decoration on the front door of a building.  Maybe it’s pretty, maybe it’s not, but finally it’s unimportant because it bears no weight.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.  The doctrine of the church is of the utmost importance.  It is the most visible part of Christian theology, and it is vitally connected with every other part.”      

Many professing Christians may be surprised to hear that Scripture gives us a much higher view of the church.  Christ founded the church (Matthew 16:18-19), He died for the church (Ephesians 5:25), and He identifies intimately with it (Acts 9:4-5).  He even calls the church His own bride (John 3:29) or His body (Ephesians 5:30).  Our current passage, 1 Timothy 3:14-16, also speaks to the high value God places on the church.  God has given His people the privilege and responsibility of living in accord with and upholding the truth of the gospel.

As we come to the theme verse that frames the entire letter at the end of Chapter Three, Paul first discusses the significance of the church in verses 14-15.  He gives three descriptions followed by one awe inspiring reality:

(1)  The first description of the church is this:  we are the expression of God’s family.  We are His household, His family unit, His children.  As His household we are to operate under God’s rules and God’s direction.

(2)  As the church, we are the dwelling place of God’s presence – the church of the living God.  In the NT there is no special city, no tabernacle, and no temple (building) where God dwells.  Instead, God now dwells with His people.  Ephesians 2:19-22 states we are the dwelling place of the living God!   19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.   Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

(3)  The church is the guardian of God’s Word – the pillar and foundation of the Truth.  The church has the privilege and responsibility of preserving God’s Word as we hold it firm.  From age to age, from generation to generation, we have the responsibility of passing this Word on, holding it fast, and defending it against false teaching that would threaten it, from the first century to the twenty-first century.  Our second responsibility is proclaiming God’s Word as we hold it high.  We are to lift high the Truth of God’s Word.  We want the Word to shine so that the world will see and hear and know the only true God.  This Truth also means that, as the church, there are some things we don’t hold high – man’s opinions, man’s innovations, man’s creativity, man’s wisdom, and man’s possessions.  Instead we lift up one thing:  the Word of God.  Let us magnify it, amplify it, spotlight it, and spread it – in the church and all over the world.  

This all points to the awe inspiring reality that God dwells among us!  This is the God who spoke and the world came into being, the God who has absolute authority and sovereign power over all things in creation, the God who calls the stars by name and holds the nations in His hand – the all-powerful, all-knowing, indescribably great, infinitely holy God of the universe.  And He considers us, the church, to be His people, His gathering, His household.

After discussing the significance of the church, Paul moves on in verse 16 to talk about the supremacy of Christ.  Having godliness means being centered around God.  The mystery of godliness means something that was once hidden for a time but now has been revealed.  This mystery of godliness has everything to do with Christ.  It was a call from Paul to act in accordance with the truth of who Christ is and what He has accomplished through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.   Colossians 1:15-23 (NIV)

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)

Those who have been saved by this gospel will live godly lives.  Christ’s supremacy is seen first of all, Paul states, in that He reveals the mystery of godliness – by being manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and taken up in glory.  Christ is the manifestation of godliness.  Jesus Christ came to flesh God out.  He was verified by the Spirit, praised among the heavens and proclaimed across the earth.  He is the Savior of the world, the King over all the universe.  In telling us these truths, Paul was not only proclaiming who Jesus is, but he was also saying to the church: “Realize what this means for you, for godliness in your life and godliness in the church.”  This is the awe inspiring reality that Christ lives within you!  Let that soak in.  The Son of God resides in you, giving you power, strength, and grace.  Godliness, or the God-centered life, is nothing more than the overflow of Christ in you.  Christ is our help in times of trouble, our strength in weakness, our healing in sickness, our direction in confusion our peace in turmoil, our hope in our hopelessness, our all in all.  Because He lives in us we have nothing to fear.  Never will He leave or forsake us is the promise of Scripture and we can take that to the bank. 

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

What I Glean