Practicing Godliness in God’s House

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1 Timothy 3:14-4:10

INTRODUCTION: Please open your Bibles with me to the book of 1 Timothy. Our message series is called “Doing Church Together,” and we have been looking at various instructions Paul gave Timothy on how to do church. Today’s passage contains the central theme or question for the whole letter. How should God’s people conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God?

1 Timothy 3:14-4:10 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 of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, 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.
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
6 If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10 (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (NIV)

Every house has its rules. They may or may not be written down, but every home has its own set of house rules. We have our family rules taped to the refrigerator. It’s a simple list with such things on it as:

– Tell the truth.
– Treat each other with respect (no yelling, no hitting, no kicking, no name-calling)
– Do what Mom and Dad say the first time – without complaining or throwing a fit!
– Look for ways to be kind and helpful to each other.

I remember our boys had some friends over once, and I overheard one of the friends call someone else a name. I told him he couldn’t do that because it was against the house rules. He looked at me like I was crazy and asked, “What do you mean it’s against the house rules?” I brought him over to the refrigerator and showed him. He couldn’t believe it. I heard him talking to the others later. “Did you know you can’t call people names here? It’s against the house rules!”

We have also made it clear to our boys that the Fowler family house rules follow them wherever they go. They are not just rules for at our house. They are family rules. They are Fowlers wherever they go, and we expect them to behave like Fowlers.

In the same way, God has his “house rules.” And just like the family house rules, God’s rules follow you wherever you go. They are not just rules for when you are at church. They are family rules. You are a Christian wherever you go, and God expects you to act like a Christian.

And so Paul wrote to Timothy in 3:14-15: “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) Paul wanted Timothy to know how people should conduct themselves in God’s household. He wanted to pass on God’s house rules for the church. It is critical that as Christians we follow God’s house rules because the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth. God displays the truth of his love, mercy, grace, righteousness and holiness through the church.

And although the whole letter contains instructions for doing church together, Paul points to one of God’s most important house rules here with the one word, “godliness. We often define godliness as “God-likeness,” that is, acting like God. The word here simply means showing reverence and respect to God in the way you live your life. How should God’s people conduct themselves in God’s house? They should practice godliness. They should live in conscious reverence and respect for God at all times. And so this morning we are going to talk about godliness: God’s people should practice godliness in God’s house.

I. Godliness is rooted and revealed in Jesus Christ (3:16)

I want us to focus on three things in particular this passage teaches us about godliness. First of all, godliness is rooted and revealed in Jesus Christ. Look at verse 16: “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great.” We saw last week that this word “mystery” in the New Testament refers to something hidden that God reveals. And so Paul is talking here about how God has revealed true godliness through his Son. Godliness is rooted and revealed in Jesus Christ. The rest of verse 16 contains what may be an early hymn about Jesus. It contains three pairs of lines that work their way forward through the life of Christ. Let’s look at them briefly together:

He appeared in a body,
    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.

You will notice that in each pair of lines, one line focuses on earthly realities while the other line focuses on heavenly realities. For example, look at the first pair: “He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit.” “He appeared in a body” – that refers to the incarnation when Jesus came into the world, an earthly reality. “He was vindicated by the Spirit” – that refers to the Spirit’s role in resurrecting Christ from the dead, a heavenly reality.

In what sense was Jesus vindicated by the Spirit? The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit showed that Jesus was in fact who he said he was. He was the Son of God who had come into the world and had completed his mission. He lived a perfect life of godliness and offered up the perfect sacrifice for sin. Romans 1:3-4 parallel this first pair of lines closely: “ [Jesus] who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,” [there is the incarnation] 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord [there is the resurrection].”

How about the other lines? The second pair of lines, “seen by angels, preached among the nations,” refers to the testimony about Jesus before both the spiritual world and the physical world. And then the third pair, “was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory,” speaks about the response to Jesus both in the physical and the spiritual world. You will notice that the hymn begins with Jesus’ birth and ends with his ascension.

In other words, it all comes back to Jesus. Do you want to know how to live in God’s house? Look at Jesus! That’s what godliness looks like. Do you want to live a godly life that brings honor to God? Follow Jesus! Only Jesus lived a perfect life of godliness, and we can only live a godly life through Jesus living in us. Godliness is rooted and revealed in Jesus Christ.

II. Godliness applies to all areas of life (4:1-5)

So what is this godliness anyways? Is it just some holy way that I act when I am in church on Sundays? Do I have to learn how to walk and talk a certain way when I am around other Christians? Far from it! We saw earlier that godliness means showing reverence and respect to God in the way you live your life. In chapter 4:1-5 we see that godliness applies to all areas of life. Godliness is not how you act in church. It is how you live your whole life.

Look at 4:1: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” This is a general warning against all kinds of false teaching. Notice how Paul contrasts “the faith” with all these other teachings. “The faith” refers to the clear teachings of Scripture given to us by the Spirit of God. Those things that contradict Scripture do not come from the Holy Spirit, but from deceiving spirits. They are not the teachings of Christ, but the teachings of demons. Paul warns that in later times many will abandon the true faith and follow false teachings instead. We should take heed to Paul’s warning and make sure that we follow God’s truth as revealed in Scripture and are not led astray by false teaching that derives from demons.

Look at verse 2: “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” False teaching may have its source in deceiving spirits, but the enemy still needs human agents through which to channel his deception. You can’t have false teaching without false teachers. Paul has harsh words to say about false teachers. They are hypocrites; they are liars; their consciences have been seared. They speak with authority as though God had sent them, and yet God has not sent them, and so they are hypocrites. Perhaps at one point their consciences told them what they teach is wrong, but they have stifled their consciences for so long, that they have come to believe themselves the lies they spread to others.

Paul then moves on from a general warning about all false teachers to the specific false teaching that was being pushed at Timothy’s church in Ephesus. Look at verse 3: “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” The false teachers at Timothy’s church in Ephesus spoke out against earthly things like marriage and even certain types of food. They were trying to break life up into “physical life” and “spiritual life,” as if physical life didn’t matter and only “being spiritual” really counted. Some of them may even have taught that the physical world was evil and that only spiritual things were good.

But that is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that all of life matters, and that all of life should be lived to the glory of God. Remember the hymn about Christ that we looked at in verse 16? This hymn spoke of the mystery of godliness as revealed in Christ. And what did the hymn do? It spent equal time on the earthly and heavenly aspects of Christ’s life. The Bible doesn’t say that the physical stuff of life is evil. Jesus came into the world in a body. He rose from the dead in a body. And so he demonstrated the goodness of God’s creation forever.

And that’s what Paul goes on to say in verses 4-5: “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” Everything God created is good! Nothing is to be rejected! Well, there is a big “if” here. Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving. All of life matters, and all of life should be lived to God’s glory. That means your family life, your personal life, your business life, your school life, your hobbies, activities and pastimes, the books you read, the music you listen to, the movies you watch, the way you spend your money, the way you take care of your body.

When did we get so good at separating God from the rest of life? God is not just a compartment on the wall or another book on the shelf. He is the living God, the Creator of all things, the King of the universe.

Don’t make the mistake of breaking life into categories of things that have to do with God and things that don’t. Everything has to do with God, or, even better, God has to do with everything. Your whole life should be lived in conscious reverence and respect towards God with thanksgiving, consecrated to him by the word of God and prayer.

III. Godliness has value for this life and the life to come (4:6-10)

Godliness is rooted and revealed in Jesus Christ. Godliness applies to all areas of life. And then, finally, in verses 6-10, Paul says that godliness has value for this life and the life to come. Look at verse 6. Paul says to Timothy: “If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” This was in contrast to the false teachers who taught a false kind of godliness. If Timothy teaches these truths about godliness that Paul is teaching him, he will be a good minister of Christ Jesus rather than a hypocritical liar like the false teachers.

Not only that, he will grow in his own faith as he teaches the truth. The word translated “brought up in the truths of the faith” carries the idea of being strengthened or nourished by these truths. People who teach others in the church often find this to be true. You get as much out of teaching if not more than the people you teach. Even people teaching something as simple as children’s Sunday School testify to this over and over again. So there is a threefold benefit or value when you teach God’s word. You are helping others, you are serving Jesus Christ, and you are nourishing your own faith at the same time.

In verse 7 Paul goes back to a brief word of warning, followed by an important word of instruction. “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” Godless myths and old wives’ tales refer to teachings that are not truthful and have no historical basis. Once again, remember how Paul began this whole section on godliness. He began with a hymn focusing on the life of Jesus. Christianity is not based on a myth or a lie, but on the historical person of Jesus Christ who appeared in a body, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven. Godliness is rooted and revealed in Jesus Christ.

So Paul says, “Don’t waste your time on myths and fables; rather, train yourself to be godly.” That word translated “train yourself” is a word that means vigorous, disciplined exercise. We get our English word “gymnasium” from this word. When Paul uses this word, he is not thinking about someone who does a little exercise here, or a little exercise there. He is talking about the person who works out regularly and works hard when they do it. You know, the person who gets up early every morning to go running, or hits the gym four days a week.

If you want to get in good physical shape, or if you are training for an event, it is going to take discipline, effort and sacrifice. Guess what? If you want to be godly, it will also take discipline, effort and sacrifice. Have you ever thought about that? That growing in godliness takes effort? That godliness is not automatic? That you must actually train yourself to be godly? Yes it takes discipline and sacrifice, but it is worth it!

That’s what Paul says in verse 8: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” A lot of people put a lot of time into physical training. And Paul is not saying that there is anything wrong with physical training. But he is saying that it has limited value compared to godliness. Physical training has value for this life only. But godliness has value for all things – both for this life and the life to come.

Godliness has value for this life. There is not one area of your life that will not benefit from godliness. When you live your whole life out of thanksgiving to God with an attitude of reverence and respect towards God your creator and savior, your whole life will be transformed. Your outlook on life will be God-centered. Your priorities will be in the right place. You will be filled with love and joy and peace from God’s Holy Spirit. Your attitude will improve. Your relationships will improve. Godliness has value for this life, and life is simply better when you live it for God.

But godliness also has value for the life to come. The Bible speaks of rewards in heaven that will correspond to how we have lived our life here on earth. When you live a life of godliness, you not only reap the benefits in the present, you are also storing up treasures in heaven that will never be taken away.

Train yourself to be godly, because godliness is worth it! It may not be easy. It will take discipline and effort on your part, but it is worth all the sacrifice. In fact in verse 9 Paul calls this “a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.” That means you can take this one to the bank. “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Finally in verse 10, Paul shares his own example in this regard. “And for this we labor and strive, that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” Was Paul just speaking words, or did he also train himself to be godly? Paul says “for this we labor and strive.” The first word means painful toil; the second word means enduring insults. Paul put forth both effort and sacrifice in this area. And why? He says, “Because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.” Why was all this effort and sacrifice worth it? Because Paul had put his hope in the living God who is the Savior of all men.

This does not mean that all men are saved. It just means that all men who are saved are saved by God. No man can save himself. We are only saved by putting our faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who appeared in a body and gave his life for our sins. That’s why Paul finishes off the verse by saying, “and especially of those who believe.” Only those who believe in Jesus Christ are ultimately saved. God is the savior of all men in that all men can only be saved through him. But he is especially the Savior of those who believe, because those who believe are in fact saved for now and eternity. Once again, godliness has value for this life and the life to come.

CONCLUSION: If you are a Christian this morning, let me ask you. How are you doing with God’s house rules? How well do you represent God’s family with your life? None of us are perfect, and we all have a long way to go. But that’s why God tells you to train yourself to be godly.

So how do you do it? How do you train yourself to be godly? You certainly want to practice the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading and Christian fellowship. But you also want to practice making right decisions and putting God first in your life. You want to learn how to center your whole life around God. And most of all you want to practice trusting God every day of your life. You can never grow in godliness in your own strength. It will never happen. You must trust God to help you and ask God’s Holy Spirit to change you day by day.

If you are not a Christian this morning, please know that God is the Savior of all men, but especially of those who believe. Let me encourage you to put your trust and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. God will then give you the gift of the Holy Spirit and help you to grow in godliness, godliness that has benefit both for this life and the life to come.

God’s house rules are simple to remember but impossible to follow in our own strength. So let us turn to Jesus to help us practice godliness in God’s house, and then apply it to every area of our life.

© Ray Fowler

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