â€œAnd without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.â€ (1 Timothy 3:16)
by Dr. John Morris, Ph.D.
One of the specific reasons Paul wrote this letter to Timothy is contained in our text. The church is to guard and declare the â€œmystery of godliness.â€
A â€œmysteryâ€ in Scripture is something which was previously hidden, but which is now revealed. Here the mystery is the blessed truth that God is in the business of producing godliness in the lives of men and women; in this context, it is through the work of the church (v. 15). This ministry of the church in proclaiming this mystery was augmented by a doctrinal confession, or hymn, which was presented in:
â€œGod was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit.â€ â€œThe Word was made flesh, and dwelt among usâ€ (John 1:14), and was â€œdeclared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holinessâ€ (Romans 1:4). This couplet relates Christâ€™s human/divine nature. His humanity was evident to all; His divinity was declared through the Spirit.
â€œSeen of angels, preached unto the Gentilesâ€ (or nations). Angels observed, and to some degree participated in, Christâ€™s earthly ministry, but the salvation and godliness He offered was only to men, â€œwhich things the angels desire to look intoâ€ (1 Peter 1:12).
â€œBelieved on in the world, received up into glory.â€ Other teachers have gained a following, but only Christ ascended directly into heaven following His resurrection.
Doctrinal confessions or hymns can be an aid in learning and remembering truth, but the goal of each is godlinessâ€”â€œthis mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in youâ€ (Colossians 1:27). JDM