MYSTERY OF GODLINESS
Part 1 of 2
“And 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.” I Timothy 3:16
The word “Mystery” tells us of that which can be called a “sacred secret” of truth which had been previously hidden, and which must now be divinely revealed. “Great” expresses how important, weighty, of high degree and mighty this mystery is. Thus he says that this sacred secret is “undeniably, unquestionably, great beyond successful contradiction; confessedly great.” Paul calls this and one other mystery great. Eph. 5:32.
“Godliness,” is that which is of God, by God, pertains to God, according to or in harmony with, and thus like God. Who knows what God is like? How can we know? “To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him…to whom shall I be equal saith the Holy One?” Isa. 40:18,25.
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight saith the Lord” Jer. 9:24. Is He not revealed through our Lord Jesus Christ? Oh yes, we know it is true, we have found it so. Consider Jesus’ words in Mt. 11:27 or Lk. 10:22.
Our beloved apostle Paul here names six weighty, important features of factors in unfolding this mystery for our understanding, which originates and consummates in Jesus Christ. We, in considering, can see that they embody, and are exemplified in Christ, and thus somewhat in His people, those “in Him.”
“Manifest in the flesh:” God chose many different ways to reveal Himself to humanity in the Old Testament (Heb. 1:1). In the word translated “manifest” we get the thought to uncover, lay bare, reveal, thus made visible in human form.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” Jn. 1:1,14. Read also verses 15-18. The glory of God’s holiness was seen through the Law, but the glory of His grace and truth shines forth in the face of Jesus Christ.
In Romans 8:3 we read that He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh. In Philippians 2:7-8, we understand that He was found in fashion as a men, to humble Himself and become obedient to the death of the cross. What a mystery! How could the creator of all things be tabernacled in a human body? Mary was told by the heavenly messenger, how this would begin - Lk. 1:35 (26-28).
“Justified in the Spirit:” Some translations read “vindicated,” He was declared or proven righteous. Pilate was caused to say repeatedly, “I find no fault in him.” The centurion said, “Truly, this was a just man, the Son of God.” But the people beholding the crucifixion said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he be the Christ the chosen of God.” One of the men crucified beside Jesus said, “This man hath done nothing amiss (wrong).” “Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,…He trusted in God; let him deliver him if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” Mt. 27:41,43. In Jesus’ temptation Satan had questioned our dear Lord’s
Sonship, but Jesus answered him with the Word, “It is written.”
Thank God, that the Father Himself answered all these foolish accusations in no uncertain terms. It was wonderful the way He spoke from heaven when Jesus was baptized. As Jesus ascended out of the water, the heavens were opened unto Him, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like as a dove and the Father from heaven is heard commending Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” Mt. 3:17.
Later when Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them, “behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” Mt. 17:5.
These are assuring statements. However, when God raised His Son from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father made the ultimate declaration of His pleasure and satisfaction in Him.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit” I Pet. 3:18.
God’s promise concerning Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” Rom. 1:3-4. We also read that Jesus was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification Rom. 4:25. Read also Rom. 8:11.
“Seen of angels:” Jesus was made visible to messengers both angelic and human, heavenly and of the earth. When the angel of the Lord brought the message to the shepherds of Jesus’ birth, he suddenly was accompanied by a multitude of heavenly host witnessing His birth.
Jesus was seen and borne witness to by a messenger of the heavenly variety after His resurrection. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and rolled back the stone and sat upon it. Then he told the women that came to the tomb, “Fear not: for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay…go…tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead…He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you” Mt. 28:1-7.
It was so important that our Lord be seen of witnesses after his resurrection, especially earthly messengers. Consider Acts 1:3 and 10:39-43. Oh, yes, he gave many infallible proofs, for forth days, before He ascended unto heaven. The apostle Paul innumerates many of the resurrection messengers, and then mentions himself. Steven while being stoned to death said “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” We see Jesus today by eyes of faith, crowned with glory and honor. Soon, praise God, we will see Him face to face.
“Preached unto the Gentiles:” “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” I Cor. 2:21. We do well to be mindful that the Gospel preached was not a set of by-laws, a system of do’s and do not’s, for formal creed, but the person of Jesus Christ.
Well praise God, what an offer, we Gentiles received opportunity to partake in this mystery of Godliness. When the Jews rejected the gospel, Paul and Barnabas boldly told them, “lo, we turn to the Gentiles Acts 13:46. When they returned from their missionary journey they reported what God had done with them, “and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Let us read Eph. 3:8 and rejoice!
To be continued