Imagine Timothy–the Apostle Paul’s son in the faith, and young pastor of the church in Ephesus–walking through his city on an errand. Maybe he’s paying a tax, or getting supplies to a widow. Wherever he’s going, there’s a sight in Ephesus he couldn’t possibly overlook.

Dominating the view of the Ephesus is a massive temple—the Artemision. Otherwise known as the Temple or Artemis (or Diana), its massive size and architectural splendor made it one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. By Timothy’s time, the temple was over half a millennia old, having been built in 550 BC.

About this marvel Antipater of Sidon exclaimed:

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on [anything] so grand.”[1]

When Timothy walks past this building, he is looking at a structure that is 450 feet long, 225 feet wide (that’s a good bit larger than a football field), and 60 feet high—a towering six stories tall. Around this breath-taking edifice are at least 127 columns that supported the massive, ornately decorated roof. It was these sturdy columns that probably flashed into Timothy’s mind when he read his first letter from Paul, in which Paul wrote: “The church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

How trite and insignificant Timothy might have felt the church to be, compared to the tradition of Artemis worship—which besides being both ancient, exciting, and culturally important, supported the lucrative idol-making industry. Yet Paul’s Spirit-inspired words were intended to diffuse any feelings of intimidation: it is the church—not the awe-inspiring Artemision— that is the household of the living God. And it is the church—not the ancient traditions of Artemis worship—that upholds the liberating truth of the gospel.

God could have built huge skyscrapers to support signs that told his truth. But he didn’t. God could have written the gospel in clouds in the sky. But he didn’t. God could have etched the news of salvation in Grand Canyons all across the face of the earth. But he didn’t. Instead he made people the pillars of his truth.

God wants us, as his church, to live out and proclaim his truth. What does that mean for us? Simply what Paul has been emphasizing throughout this letter—that if we grasp the gospel, we will live by the gospel.

[1] Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58

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