1 Timothy 3:15 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Timothy 3:15, NIV: "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 3:15, ESV: "if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth."

1 Timothy 3:15, KJV: "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."

1 Timothy 3:15, NASB: "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one should act in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."

1 Timothy 3:15, NLT: "so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth."

1 Timothy 3:15, CSB: "But if I should be delayed, I have written so that 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."

What does 1 Timothy 3:15 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Though Paul hopes to travel to Ephesus soon (1 Timothy 3:14), he writes this letter to Timothy in case he is not able to come as soon as planned. Paul was uncertain about his future. From his letter to Titus, we know he made it to Nicopolis (Titus 3:12) with plans to spend the winter there. This occurred around the same time 1 Timothy was written. In 2 Timothy, Paul's plans had radically changed. He had been arrested and was in Roman imprisonment where he expected to be executed fairly soon.

The purpose of Paul's writing is so that Timothy—and others who would read his words—would have the right perspective on the healthy function of a church, here called the "household" of God. The church is a family, which is a primary reason overseers and deacons were required to lead their own family well before presuming to lead the household of God.

Paul also calls the church "the church of the living God." The "living God" was a name often associated with God the Father in the Old Testament. For example, Psalm 42:2 says, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?"

Next, Paul also calls the church "a pillar and buttress [foundation] of the truth." Interestingly, Jacob spoke similar words in Genesis 28:22: "this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. …" This is often applied by those seeking to grant additional authority to "the Church," meaning the human leaders of some particular denomination. However, context shows this to be the opposite of Paul's intent. Verse 14 made it clear that the written words (e.g. The Bible) as presented by Paul are the real authority.

It is also important to note Paul's use of particular Greek words here. Stylos means a "pillar, column, prop, or support" and is used only here, in Revelation 3:12, and in Revelation 10:1. Hedraiōma means a "prop or support" and appears only in this New Testament verse. Both words come from Greek roots which refer to something that steadies or stiffens or holds. More to the point, these are completely different words than used for other occurrences of "foundation" in English Bibles. First Corinthians 3:11, for instance, uses the word themelion, literally meaning the "foundation of a building" or "initial and founding principles of an idea," in reference to Christ.

Paul's point here is not that the church is, itself, the source of spiritual truth or authority. Nor is it that the church, or its human leaders, are the ultimate arbiters of God's word on earth. Rather, the church is meant to be the "support" connecting the foundation of Christ to the fallen world.