What Does 1 Timothy 3:16 Mean?

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.

1 Timothy 3:16(KJV)

Verse Thoughts

There are many hidden truths that were revealed to Paul by the Lord Jesus which had been concealed for ages and generations, but which have been revealed to us through the anointed ministry of Christ's appointed apostle. In this passage, which was written to instruct Church leaders on godly conduct, we discover that the mystery of godliness is connected with 1) faith in Christ and 2) a spiritual walk. The mystery of godliness is rooted in believing important biblical facts: "That God was manifest in the flesh, that He was justified in the Spirit, that He was seen of angels, that He was preached to the Gentiles, that He was believed on in the world and was received up into glory."

In this verse, Paul gives a potted history of the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, covering the foundational doctrines upon which our eternal salvation rests. Jesus was the eternal Word of God Who laid aside His glory and took upon Himself mortal flesh. He identified with sinful man and become sin for us. He died on the Cross for our salvation and destroyed the evil work of the devil so that by faith in Him, we might be identified with His godliness, covered in His righteousness, and become a part of His mystical Body which is the Church.

Christ was the perfect Man, and His legitimacy was endorsed or justified at His baptism, His transfiguration, His resurrection, and His ascension. He was indeed vindicated as the beloved Son of God by both the Father and the Spirit. Angels ministered to His human needs, not only at His birth and resurrection but during His terrible agony in the garden of Gethsemane as He faced the looming Cross.

It is only by grace through faith in these astonishing historical facts that a lost sinner can become a saved saint. It is only by believing the glorious gospel of grace that this great and magnificent mystery of godliness is able to be manifested in the life of a believer, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul had been instructing Church deacons and other Christian leaders on godly conduct, personal purity, and spiritual living, and his teaching culminated in the fact that every area of a believer's behaviour should be in harmony with gospel teaching and founded on biblical truth.

Only those who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ have the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Only those who have been born again can walk in spirit and truth, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only those who believe that Christ was God manifest in the flesh, that He was justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory, can genuinely manifest the mystery of godliness in their life. Only the spiritual believer can demonstrate the beauty of Christ's life shining through them.

In his letter to Timothy, it was the bishops and deacons who were being instructed in correct conduct and godly behaviour. And in this passage, Paul clearly links spiritual conduct and godly behaviour with sound doctrine and a firm faith that is securely established on the unchangeable biblical truths of the unchanging Word of God. The faith of deacons and leaders, together with all who trust in Christ for salvation, must be rooted securely in sound doctrine: "That Christ was 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." And our lives are to be an out-shining of the mystery of godliness.

The mystery of godliness, where the resurrected life of Christ is manifested in the life of godly leaders and spiritual believers, will always stand secure on the glorious truths of the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and glorification of Jesus Christ. Paul equates correct doctrine and godly behaviour as two vital components in the life of all Christian leaders and spiritual believers. Godliness is not something that we conjure up ourselves. Godliness is the spiritual fruit of a life that is lived in willing submission to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

May the great and glorious mystery of godliness, which had been kept hidden for ages and generations be evident in our lives so that the life of Christ may we seen in us, to His praise and glory.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You that I am in Christ and that through His death and Resurrection, I have been made a new creation and have received His life within. Thank You that the Word of God became incarnate and was manifest in the flesh in the person of Christ. Thank You for revealing the truth of the glorious gospel in the written Word of God, and thank You for bestowing on all Your children, the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: "Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." I pray that I may show forth the love of Christ in all I say and do, to His praise and glory, AMEN.

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