1 Timothy 3:15 "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."
As the Apostle Paul wrote this 1st letter to young pastor Timothy, he is composing by Divine inspiration a series of instructions for this pastor and his flock. 1 Timothy 3:15 stands as the epicenter of 1 Timothy, being that it expresses to intent of the book, and really the purpose for which churches and Christians live. Within the verse we discover Who is the True owner of the church, namely by the phrase "church of the living God". Today's post is all about understanding what Paul means by this phrase "living God".
For starters, the term "living God" is found nearly 30 times in the Bible, with most of the references occuring in the Old Testament. The title is with reference to God Himself. The question we want to answer is: what does the title "Living God" tell us about God? That is to say: "Who is the Living God?" In studying through the scriptures, we find the following meanings of this phrase, with the final meaning bringing us to the identity of "The Living God" spoken of in 1 Timothy 3:15.
1. The Living God refers to the very essence of God revealed in covenant to His people.
In other words, this title "Living God" points us to the very being of God. The first time we encounter this phrase is in Deuteronomy 5:26 "For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?" This first mention points to the Uncreated nature of God's very being setting atop Mount Sinai in a burning Theophany or manifestation of Deity. To had witnessed God with one's own eyes was such a traumatic event that unless a word of mercy was spoken by an angel or God Himself, the only outcome would be judgment, since sinful flesh cannot stand in the presence of God without a mediator. Jeremiah 10:10 states: "But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation."
God's very essence prohibits any creature from having direct, unmediated contact with him. Even the angels have to veil their sight lest they be obliterated by God's uncreated light and glory. (Isaiah 6) Notice secondly...
2. The "Living God" distinguishes Himself from dead idols
When God is designated "The Living God", this is His exclusive claim to be the only God. All other deities worshipped by human beings are not gods but products of human imagination and demonic influence. Jeremiah 23:26 and Acts 14:15 both use this term "Living God" to contrast God with idols that have no life within themselves.
3. The "Living God" is the Divine Redeemers associated with His people
Joshua 3:10 records - "Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite." The revelation of God as "The Living God" serves to remove the idea of God being a "static, nameless, lifeless, abstract idea". God is ever working and providing deliverance for His people from their enemies. Other passages bear out this truth: 2 Kings 19:16; Isaiah 37:4; Daniel 6:20,26; Hosea 1:10; Romans 9:26; Revelation 7:22.
4. The "Living God" is a God who Personally relates
The Psalmist says in Psalm 42:2 "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;When shall I come and appear before God?" Similarly in Psalm 84:2 "My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." To refer to God as the Living God means we are desparate need of His life and Living presence. These particular verses bring this revelation of God's name from 35,000 feet to ground level.
5. The Living God is Jesus Christ
So then how does such a God communicate and interract with human beings? God of course makes know His presence through creation (Psalm 19) and the conscience (Romans 2:15) in general revelation. However, this only can result in indirect knowledge about God and rendering the person without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20).
God has secondly revealed Himself specifically through the words of the Bible or special revelation. In the words of scripture we find Him and He us. By His Word God brings salvation and Hope.
Thirdly, we discover that this One, Living God exists as Three Persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Bible tells us that the Second of those Persons, the Son, came to earth and took upon Himself a fully human nature so as to mediate between His uncreated being and the creatures for whom He came to save. 1 Timothy 4:10 notes - "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." God as Father revealed Himself in covenant to His people at Sinai, only to remind them that apart from a mediator, they could not approach Him. God's revelation of the tabernacle to Moses and God's subsequent indwelling of it foreshadowed what would be the Son's incarnation in human flesh. (John 1:14) Hence the Living God is God in His Uncreated essence revealing Himself in Covenant.
In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul writes that the church is literally in the Greek: "The Living God's Church". 1 Timothy 3:16 lays out in six lines the identity of the Living God as He came down to our world in human flesh by the virgin birth and then grew up and ministered. Though not inlcuded in 1 Timothy 3:16, we can include the fact that the Son as God incarnate went to the cross and in His humanity offered Himself as the once for all sacrifice. Three days later He raised from the dead. 1 Timothy 3:16 then points out Christ's ascension into heaven.
The Living God is literally the One who conquered death. Included in the revelation of this phrase is the fact of the Son in His humanity raising from the dead, thus demonstrating Himself to be not only perfect man, but also fully God who conquered death. To close out today's post, Revelation 1:17-18 "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades."
So Who is the Living God? None other than the risen Christ, the full revelation and manifestation of Deity in human flesh, seated at the right hand of His Father in Heaven, with whom He shares Uncreated, ever-living glory.
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