The Church, the House of God
by Henry Dyer
In I Timothy iii. 15, three names are given by the apostle to the people of God in their corporate capacity. First, he says they are "the House of God;" second, "the Church of the living God;" third, "the Pillar and ground of the truth." The chief thought in the first is that of a place of rest for God in the midst of His people, who are permanently related to Himself and to each other. The house of God is composed of "living stones" (1 Pet. ii. 4), all built upon Christ, who is its Rock foundation (Matt. xvi. 18), as also its chief corner Stone (Eph. ii. 20), uniting its walls of Jew and Gentile. Of those who were saved by means of Paul's Gospel message in Ephesus, he says more of them than they were saved by grace (ver. 8), made nigh to God (ver. 13), and individually His children (ver. 18). He declares them to be "builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit" (ver. 21). And what was true of the assembly of saints of Ephesus then, is true of other companies of His saints so assembling in His Name. Paul's wish for Timothy is that he may know how he ought to behave in this house of God in which He dwells, as it is His temple. In 1 Cor. iii. 9-16, Paul is showing how God uses human instrumentality in the building of this house or temple—"Ye are God's building" (ver. 16)—yet he as a wise master-builder laid the foundation and brought the first stones. He was very careful that only right materials were put into it, for spiritual persons as well as spiritual teachings are surely included in the figures of "gold, silver, and precious stones" of ver. 16,17. But he only baptized a few, and then the responsibility of adding others was evidently put upon those who composed that assembly. So that when one had to be put away (1 Cor. v. 13). THEY were called upon to do it, and when he had repented and was restored to God, THEY were to bring him back to his place (2 Cor. ii. 7-10) in the assembly. So that all in the assembly, in their measure are builders, and help to bring in materials to build up this house of God.
The next word describing the saints of God as His assembled ones, is the "Church of the living God." Here the image varies and carries us onwards. The word "church" means the called out ones. They are called out from the world, and to the living God, and "unto His eternal glory" (1 Pet. v. 10). "Church of the living God," because He has a voice which is heard in its midst. It came into existence by hearing the voice of God, and in the assembly, His voice is still heard speaking. Some may think that they are there to speak to God, or to fellow-saints for God, but the first thing is to hear what God has to say to us. No one can speak aright to God unless he hear God's voice speaking to his own soul. We must hear before we can speak, and I shall be dumb, so long as I am deaf to the voice of God. Why are so many of the saints of God dumb? Their organs of speech are perfectly right, yet their voices are never heard in the assembly, leading the prayers or praises of the saints. It is because they do not hear God speaking to them, and they are not exercised. Their deafness is the cause of their dumbness. We are to be as Moses, when he went into the tabernacle in which God dwelt, to speak to Him; he heard the voice of One speaking unto him from "off the mercy-seat" (Num. vii. 89). If we would speak to God in prayer, or praise, or worship, or to fellow-saints in ministry or exhortation, it can only be acceptable as the result of listening to God's voice speaking to us. When the Comforter came at Pentecost, He came not only to form the church, but to dwell in it. The living Spirit of God "filled all the house," and He came to abide. We have now likewise the Word of God complete and perfect, and the Spirit speaks to the soul through the Word. And as we read in 1 Cor. xiv. 36, 37, that Word of God which has come to us, is to to be heard and owned as His voice in His church. If men arise "speaking perverse things," contrary to that Word, they must be resisted and silenced, and for the help needed in this as in shepherding and guiding the saints, the apostle commends those serving ones "unto God," for HE was still there as "the living God "in His church, to be heard and owned even in perilous and trying times, and His Word was there to be obeyed.
"Pillar and ground of the truth" tells that the church is to be God's public testimony to the world. If I go to London, and see at Charing Cross, Nelson's Pillar, I find his name upon it, so the church in its assembling is a testimony to the Name in which we gather. Had one who was an idolater, gone to Corinth or Ephesus in early times, passing the place in which the Christians met, he might see the lights and hear the singing. If he ask who are these? they would answer, "They are disciples of one Jesus who was crucified, but whom they affirm to be alive." The Name is on the pillar. The assembly, as thus "come together into one place," is a public testimony to Christ. "Ground of the truth" refers to these same saints, as spread out in the world, dwelling among men in daily life. In the same Name in which they gather, they act, doing "ALL in the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. iii. 17), in the home, in the market, in the workshop, and in the field. May God still maintain such a testimony for Himself and for His Christ, who is "the Truth" in the power of the Spirit, for His own glory. It is a special honour given to all who own the precious Name of Jesus in these last days.