The Book of 1 TIMOTHY
James J. Barker


Lesson 6
THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS

Text: 1 TIMOTHY 3:14-16


INTRODUCTION:


  1. In verse 14, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly." At this time Paul was in Macedonia, and Timothy was in Ephesus. Paul was hoping to meet him there in Ephesus.
  2. Then in verse 15, Paul refers to the local church, "the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
  3. The "church" is the assembly, the congregation, not the building where they meet. It is "the church of the living God," not a place to worship dead idols.
  4. Then we come to one of the greatest texts in the Bible. Paul says in I Timothy 3:16, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness…”
  5. The "mystery of godliness" refers to the incarnation.
  6. Matthew 1:23 says, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
  7. John 1:14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
  8. These Scriptures teach the incarnation and the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  9. We need to watch out for inaccurate Bible translations, which have corrupted I Timothy 3:16 (and others as well).
  10. The NIV says: "He appeared in the flesh."
  11. The ESV says: "He was manifested in the flesh."
  12. The NASV says: "He who was revealed in the flesh."
  13. You will notice these modern translations have substituted the pronoun "He" for "God." This is precisely what the JW's have done!
  14. The vast majority of Greek manuscripts say "theos," which means "God." A handful of manuscripts say "os," a relative pronoun. This is wrong grammatically (no antecedent) as well as theologically.
  15. Some Bible teachers say this Scripture may have been an early hymn, but there is absolutely no evidence to support this theory.
  16. However, we cannot be absolutely certain (“without controversy”) that “God was manifest in the flesh.”

 

I. THE MYSTERY

  1. The word “mystery” is found 22 times in the New Testament. The Scofield Bible says, “A ‘mystery’ in Scripture is a previously hidden truth, now divinely revealed; but in which a supernatural element still remains despite the revelation.”
  2. Some of the mysteries include: the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13), the mystery of Israel’s blindness; the mystery of the rapture when we shall be changed, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:51, 52).
  3. The New Testament church is a mystery, and so is the false church, which the Bible calls, “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev. 17:5).
  4. These mysteries are all very important, and it would be wise and profitable to study all of them, but this evening we will focus on “the mystery of godliness.” The Bible says, “Great is the mystery of godliness…” (I Tim. 3:16).
  5. Spurgeon said, “There is no room for indifference where the Gospel is concerned – it is either the most astounding of shams, or the most amazing of revelations! No man can safely remain undecided about it – it is too weighty, too solemn to be snuffed at as a matter of no concern. Foes and friends alike confess that the mystery of godliness is great.”
  6. I was thinking of Spurgeon’s words, “Foes and friends alike confess that the mystery of godliness is great.” We know that Christians confess this, but how do the enemies of the Gospel confess that the mystery of godliness is great?
  7. Think about this – why would they expend so much time and energy and money fighting the Gospel unless they knew it was “great”?
  8. It is a great mystery and they hate it. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
  9. The very next Scripture after I Timothy 3:16 is I Timothy 4:1 (no chapter and verse divisions in the original Bible), which warns of the devil’s attack on the Christian faith. It warns of men departing from the truth and “giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.”
  10. One way the devil attacks is through these new and unreliable Bible translations. If your Bible does not say, “God was manifest in the flesh,” then you have the wrong Bible.

 

II. JUSTIFIED IN THE SPIRIT

  1. Not only was God manifest in the flesh, the Bible says He was “justified in the (Holy) Spirit” (I Tim. 3:16). This refers to the vindication of Christ's claims when God raised Him from the dead.
  2. Romans 1:4 says Christ was, “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
  3. This is what our Lord meant when He said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen” (Rev. 1:18).
  4. Furthermore, Christ was “seen of angels” (I Tim. 3:16). This means angels watched His earthly life from the announcement of His birth to His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven.
  5. And angels will accompany our Lord when He returns. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel…” (I Thess. 4:16).
  6. Our Lord said in Matthew 13:49 and 50, "So shall it be at the end of the world (age): the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
  7. Christ was “preached unto the Gentiles (the nations)” (I Tim. 3:16). The Gospel has gone out throughout the whole world. And Christ is not only preached in all the nations, He’s "believed on in the world."
  8. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
  9. Jesus said in Matthew 9:37, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few." The problem is not with the harvest. The problem is with the laborers.

 

III. RECEIVED UP INTO GLORY

  1. In Luke 24 and Acts 1, we see the Lord Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven. “He was received up into glory.”
  2. Spurgeon wrote,
            "Inasmuch as he has triumphed over all the powers of darkness upon the bloody tree, our faith beholds our King returning with dyed garments from Edom, robed in the splendour of victory. How glorious must he have been in the eyes of seraphs, when a cloud received him out of mortal sight, and he ascended up to heaven! Now he wears the glory which he had with God or ever the earth was, and yet another glory above all -- that which he has well earned in the fight against sin, death, and hell. As victor he wears the illustrious crown. Hark how the song swells high! It is a new and sweeter song: 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, for he hath redeemed us unto God by his blood!' He wears the glory of an Intercessor who can never fail, of a Prince who can never be defeated, of a Conqueror who has vanquished every foe, of a Lord who has the heart's allegiance of every subject. Jesus wears all the glory which the pomp of heaven can bestow upon him, which ten thousand times ten thousand angels can minister to him. You cannot with your utmost stretch of imagination conceive his exceeding greatness; yet there will be a further revelation of it when he shall descend from heaven in great power, with all the holy angels -- 'Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.' Oh, the splendour of that glory! It will ravish his people's hearts. Nor is this the close, for eternity shall sound his praise, 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever!' Reader, if you would joy in Christ's glory hereafter, he must be glorious in your sight now. Is he so?" (Morning & Evening).

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. The doctrine of the incarnation – “God was manifest in the flesh” – is the central doctrine of the Bible.
  2. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."


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