“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14, 15)

In the elders’ and ministers’ retreat this past weekend and in the lesson Sunday morning, Charles Siburt called attention to “Holy Manners.” He emphasized that in our congregations nation-wide, many Christians do not know how to behave as Christians.

When Paul wrote 1 Timothy, he left Timothy in Ephesus to address situations needing immediate attention (1:3). Though Ephesus was one of the earliest Christian communities with an established eldership (Acts 20:17), some situations needed attention. This was principally a gentile congregation in a large, important city.

Ephesus’ reputation reached world-wide. It was one of Asia Minor’s oldest cities, likely numbering in the hundreds of thousands in the first century. The gathering place for Ephesians (the amphitheater) seated 25,000 people.

Ephesus was the home of the goddess known as Artemis [the Roman Diana]. Her temple was the largest building in the Greek world. Her existence in Ephesus produced a fierce loyalty among most Ephesians (see Acts 19:27-29).

Thus Christians existed in an idol-worshipping city where most people knew much more about idolatrous conduct than Christian conduct. Many Christians simply did not know how to act like Christians. They confronted two continuing problems: (1) It was quite acceptable to worship many gods. (2) Christians must not live like, act like, or behave like the majority who did not know or feel loyalty to Jesus Christ.

Christians simply needed to learn how to act like Christians. Idol worshippers acted in ways characterizing people believing in pagan gods. Christians should act in ways characterizing Christians. There were idol-worshipping behaviors and Christ-worshipping behaviors. There were moral standards attached to the gods and moral standards attached to Jesus. Christians must daily know and model the differences. People should be able to determine a Christian’s commitment by the way he or she lives every day.

In the above text, “household” meant family. “Church” referred to who they were 24 hours a day, every day, not a building at an address. It was men and women who believed in the resurrected Jesus Christ all the time. It was the “pillar and support of the truth” because it literally changed who they were. They learned the “new manners” of a person belonging to God through Jesus Christ.

American Christians live in a society that worships many things—materialism, pleasure, status symbols, material security, etc. Who we are and what we live for distinguishes us from those who do not know or feel loyalty to Jesus Christ. Questions: “Do you know 'Holy Manners'? How does your behavior declare your faith in Jesus?”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 19 April 2007

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