The Mystery of Godliness

1 Tim. 3:14-16

 

14These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But 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. 16And 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.

 

The beloved apostle Paul gives Timothy instruction as to how he is to behave  in church.  The implication being, not all behavior in the Lord’s church is appropriate.

 

14These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God  (KJV)

 

The subjects of this admonition is unclear, as the translators see this  differently. The ASV translators has this

 "15but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God".  Other translations state it this way:  "I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, "    

 

Regardless of what translation we may read, the implication is God expects certain behavior, in the house of God, and His people ought to respect what God says regarding this behavior. 15But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.

 

God has never and neither does He now, accept whatsoever men may choose to offer.  Man's behavior certainly involves  our worship, which may be either true worship John 4:23-24 vain worship Matt. 15:9. Conduct in God's house is a matter of His instruction, we must study the Bible to know what acceptable conduct is.

 

Paul next  refers the church as "the house of God".

 

15 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.

 

Paul uses the term "house" in the familiar sense of a family. Luke wrote of Christ being of the "house" of David, meaning his family or lineage (Luke 2:4). The Church of God is then, "the family or the household of God". God is the Father, we who are children, are those who have  born again (John 3:3-5). Paul reminds the Corinthians 

 

15For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16Wherefore I beseech you, be ye imitators of me.  1 Corinthians 4:15

 

Proper behavior;  we are to be "the  salt and light of the world From the lips of our Master: Matthew 5:13-16

16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

 

Paul continues in our text, to describe "the church of the Living God"…. 1 Tim. 3:15 by adding, the church is "the pillar and ground of the truth"   The pillar supports the structure. As great pillars supported the temple, so the truth is the pillar and support for the church. The term "ground"  is the very foundation upon which the building rests.

 

God expects "His family, His household, His church", to  support and maintain "the truth".  "The Truth" is the revealed truth. That of which we read in God's word.  John 17:17….   Jesus once said to the Jews John 8:31-32    "If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free".

 

It becomes the church to act as those who are put in trust with a priceless deposit.  Beloved, we dare not be other than faithful.  There is no room for indifference where the gospel is concerned.

 

I call your attention now to the theme of our lesson found in 1 Timothy 3:16

The Mystery of Godliness

 

Paul emphasizes the great truths revealed here are  Not Disputed they are Without Controversy

"God manifest in the flesh". "Justified in the Spirit". "Seen of angels". "Preached unto the Gentiles". "Believed on in the world", And, "Received up into glory". This Paul calls "the mystery of godliness"  

 

Mystery in the New Testament does not refer to that which is "mysterious or unfathomable" but it refers to something that has not yet been revealed.  There is a passage of scripture that I committed to memory a number of years ago, and think of often. It is found in 2 Timothy 1:8-10

 

8Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel

 

To the Ephesians Paul adds: Ephesians 3:5

5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

 

A mystery, but at last has been revealed notice Romans 16:25-26 where Paul writes:

 

25Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

 

The mystery,  the good news of godliness, revealed and God's people are to preach it to the entire world.      Mark 16:15-16

 

The first truth declared here is that : "God was manifest in the flesh"  This is direct reference to the incarnation of our Lord.  Is it not absolutely incredible that the infinite God, who :filleth all things, Alpha and Omega", actually condescended to veil Himself in  garments of human clay.  He made all things, yet he stooped to become the creature. The Eternal Creator, veiled with mortality. Well might the angels have traveled from heaven glory  to view Him whom the heavens could not contain, yet found His accommodations in a lowly stable in Bethlehem.  "God was manifest in the flesh"

 

In this statement, Paul testifies not only to the Lord's birth: but to the whole Divine manifestation of His life. Thirty and three years. He was God in power and miracles, but man in sufferings. He was the Son of the Highest and yet “the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” He walked upon the seas, yet never owned a foot of land in all Judea. He walked in the power of Divinity, yet was often  weary and faint. He healed all manner of diseases, yet was Himself exceeding sorrowful even unto death. The winds and seas obeyed Him, every element acknowledging His Divine Presence of Deity, yet, He was rejected  by His own.    

 

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

John 1:11-12

   

Our Lord’s presence and manhood was no mere phantom no myth as the Gnostics declared:,  but beyond doubt, and without controversy:

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14.

 

That manifestation of “God in the flesh”, became yet more extraordinary when:  Jesus at last condescended to be put to death by His own creatures. Condemned in human courts; as guilty of the gravest crimes, He is fastened to the accursed cross, and put to death of the deepest shame and bitterest torture. Hear now the words of the guard as he witnessed these events:     Truly this man was the Son of God.”  A mystery surpassing all comprehension.

God was manifest in the flesh

                             

Man is royal, now that Christ  has become human. Man is exalted since Christ was humiliated. Man may go up to God, because God has come down to man. God was manifest in the flesh       Great is the mystery of Godliness!

 

 

The second phrase in vv 16 “Justified in the Spirit.  Justification when speaking of man, refers to the liberation  of sins. Romans 3

But cannot mean that here, Jesus had no sin (1 Peter 2:22).  The word means also to “vindicate”.  Jesus was vindicated by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit bore witness to the fact that He was all that he claimed to be......  

 

At Jesus baptism “the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; 17and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased   Matt. 3:16…   In Jesus' resurrection, the Holy Spirit reversed the criminal verdict which had been pronounced against Christ by designating Him as Son of God with  power.  Romans 1:3-4

 3Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

 

The apostle writes as the next part of this great mystery, that Christ “was seen of  Angels”   Jesus was seen of angels at his birth they appeared unto shepherds and bade them hasten to Bethlehem while they themselves looked on with wonder. Angels accompanied Him at the conclusion His trials by Satan the Great Deceiver. Matthew 4:11

An angel ministered unto Him in Gethsemane.  Luke 22:43. Angels were seen by the witnesses of His resurrection, clothed in white, one sat at the head, the other at the foot where His body lay. Angels witnessed His ascension. Acts 1:9-11..

And Angels sang as He entered Heaven  crying

 

7Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 8Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 9Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

Psalms 24:7-10

 

 This mention  of angels show the greatness of our religion, the angels  are interested in it. Did you ever hear of angels hovering over the assemblies men? Often important discoveries are made in the assemblies of man. I don’t remember ever reading, even in poetry that angels have ever shown any excitement at the news discovered in men’s conventions. 

 

When we find them deeply interested in any matter, it cannot be of small account.  Concerning the incarnate God, it is said, 

“which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Pet 1:12  So Paul writes 1Timothy 3:16

16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels,    

 

The next statement of 1 Tim. 3:16 is: "He was preached unto the Gentiles".   In 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 we read:

 

21For 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. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

 

The gospel reveals how God accounts or ascribes righteousness unto the sons and daughters of men. It is the good news of Christ's death for sinful man,  this is God's power to save . Romans 1:16.     Christ was preached unto the gentiles, the nations. A striking element of the "mystery of the Gospel" that we spoke of a moment ago, was " Ephesians 3:6

6That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

The blessings of the gospel were not confined just one family of people, or nation,  but is for all people.  Amazing, that God would take a biased people, the Jews, to carry the gospel to every nation.

 

The apostles received the order from the Master to do this very thing,  (Mark 16:15-16)  and they accomplished the task they had been given,  Colossians 1:23

 

23If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

 

The fact that "He was believed on in the world" attests to the power of the gospel. The word is powerful and produces faith in the hearers,  Romans 10:17, 1Cor. 6:9-11  In spite of all the wickedness and evil in the world,  when the gospel falls upon good and honest hearts, it produces faith and obedience.

 

The apostle winds up his summary of the mystery by reminding us that  “Christ was received up into glory.”

It is no small truth, that the our Great Apostle and High Priest of our profession should be exalted to the right hand of God.  Peter climaxed the 1st gospel sermon,  with these words

   

33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 34For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35Until I make thy foes thy footstool. 36Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:33-36 

 

At this present hour Jesus is King of kings, and Lord of lords, upholding all things by the word of his power.  Hebrews 1:1-3

His story began in heaven,  and it ends in heaven.  1 Peter 3:22 He has “gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.”  

 

He shall shortly come to be our Judge. He shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the trump of God,  and all men shall be gathered unto him  to receive their final sentence.  The graves shall give up their dead at His summons.  John 5:25-29   2 Thessalonians 1:7-10   2 Corinthians 5:10

 

What a great text, hear it again:  1 Timothy 3:14-16

 14These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: 15But 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. 16And 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.