Series on I Timothy, III Work, B Conduct of Life, Text: 3:14-16, Title: The Prime Directive


Here the apostle Paul gives to Timothy the basic reason for his writing to him. He declares that he is hoping to come soon, but if he is delayed the implication is that these matters are so important that they cannot wait. Here the Apostle refers to all that he is writing to Timothy as teaching him how to conduct himself in the house of God, that is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this passage then Paul gives the basis of everything else he has said and will say. We cannot overemphasize its importance. Some of you, perhaps many of you, are familiar with Star Trek, the voyages of the Star-ship Enterprise whose mission was to go where no man had gone before. They had a prime directive which was that they should never interfere with the cultural development of the peoples whom they encountered. It may occur to you that this prime directive has religious overtones. You see we live in a world where everyone's culture and everyone's religion is supposed to be as good as the next man's. It is a world in which truth is sacrificed on the altar of unity. Thus the crew of the enterprise must not proselytize. They must not take the good news of their culture or their religion to others. It is a perfect picture of the madness of our age. I am glad to tell you today that we have a prime directive. It is the exact opposite of the Star Trek prime directive. We are to carry the truth to the world. Timothy cannot learn how to conduct himself in God's house unless he knows the prime directive. It is summed up by Paul in two points: a commitment to the truth and a celebration of the truth.

I A Commitment to the Truth

Paul often speaks of the truth of the gospel as a sacred trust. It is a treasure committed to our care and he speaks of Christians as stewards or caretakers of the mysteries of God. He refers to that mystery of godliness here, Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 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. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great. A mystery in the New Testament is not some esoteric or hidden set of facts known only to a few special people. A mystery is something that has been revealed. It is the fulfillment of prophecy which makes things clear. So we may say the mystery is the truth we proclaim. What is in view here is our commitment to the truth. We who are the Church are the pillar and ground of the truth. We support it as a pillar supports the roof and a foundation supports the whole building. You might ask, “Cannot the truth stand by itself?” In one sense it stands more powerfully than we do. In fact the truth is really our foundation and support. In another sense the prime directive of the Church is to support the truth in various ways. There are no books in the Bible that focus so much on the importance of the truth as the pastoral epistles. In this letter alone Paul mentions it often, for example in 3:9, 4:6, 4:11-13, 5:7, 5:17, 5:21, 6:3, and 6:20. William Hendriksen suggests four ways in which we are to support the truth: by digesting it through study, by defending it through argument, by disseminating it through teaching, and by demonstrating its power in holy living. There is nothing we can do without the Word. Paul says in Romans 10:17, Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The first Psalm sums it up very well, Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

II A Celebration of the Truth

Now the Apostle quotes from an early Christian hymn. He moves from the importance of the truth to a statement of the truth itself, 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. This is a fragment we know because it begins with the relative pronoun who in the original Greek. The New International Version says "he" and provides a footnote that some manuscripts say "God". It is enough to say the hymn was well known and everyone would realize it was referring to Jesus Christ as God. What is really interesting about this hymn is its poetic structure. It’s not poetry such as many of you are accustomed too, but it has what we call a chiastic structure. Notice there are six propositions; three have to do with earthly things and three with heavenly, and they are arranged so that it goes from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven again. This is beautiful poetry though you might not recognize it as such. The theme is the summation of Christian truth. The mystery of godliness means the mystery of our faith or our devotion. That mystery is the immeasurable greatness of Christ. This is a confession of faith. We have a series of contrasts. Let's look at each one. The first is a contrast between the flesh and the spirit. It speaks of the humiliation of our Lord Jesus in His death and his exaltation in His resurrection. He was manifested in the flesh so that he might give himself for us, and he was, as Paul says in Romans 1, raised to life by the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of holiness. He was vindicated or as the Greek says “justified” by his resurrection. It was the sign that he had made full satisfaction for our sin by his atoning death. The second contrast is between that which is local and that which is worldwide. He was seen of angels throughout his life. They attended his birth, his temptation, his resurrection and his ascension. They witnessed the historical facts of his life which were local in Palestine. but  he is preached among the nations. His life, death, and resurrection has significance for every man. The third contrast is between the present and the future. He is believed on in the world, but though he is confirmed as the savior in every believing heart today, He will be confirmed at the last day. He is taken up into glory so that he may become Lord of the age and bring it to its consummation in the future. This is the immeasurable greatness of Christ, and this is the mystery of our faith which has been revealed. the important thing is to see that it is not just historical or just spiritual, but that the two are tied together. History has been invaded and it has spiritual consequences for all.


As Timothy goes about his work and as we go about ours in our families, in our jobs, neighborhoods and in the church, we are to be constantly reminding ourselves of this prime directive. This prime directive is that we are to be supporting the truth in our worship and work, in study, and in spreading the message. It is the message of a victorious Savior. It is a message that is necessary and universal. If we ever lose sight of the fact that we are the pillar and ground of the truth, we have lost our way. As Charles Wesley said, “T'is all my business here below to cry behold the lamb.”