This morning I want to talk with you about what scripture calls – ‘The Mystery of Godliness.’ The word ‘mystery’ may sound like a strange word to find in the Bible, yet it’s used numerous times in the New Testament and almost always in regards to Christ and His church. The word ‘mystery’ as it is used in the NT refers to a truth that was once hidden and how revealed. In today’s passage of scripture we see Paul referring to what he calls ‘the mystery of godliness.’
1 Timothy 3:16 “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.
What Paul is teaching us is that a right relationship with God comes through a right relationship with His Son, the Lord Jesus. The mystery of godliness is that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ.
I. Mystery of Godliness – God Appeared In Human Form
There are some groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Way International that teach that Jesus was not God. However, Paul states is very clear in this passage – “God was manifest in the flesh”. The word manifest means to reveal or make known. If this was the only passage in the entire NT to prove the deity of Jesus, it would be enough. But it is not the only passage. It is just one among many.
That God would and could come as a man is a great mystery.
A. Mystery to the prophets of old
1 Peter 1:8-12 NLT “You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”
B. Mystery to the angels of heaven
“It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.”
C. Mystery to Mary and Joseph
When Mary was told that she would bear a child that would be called the Son of God, she struggled – Luke 1:34 “… How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” The angel Gabriel told her – “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (vs 35)
1. How did this happen? All we know is that the Holy Spirit took control of the womb of Mary and conceived a male child. It is indeed amazing, yet with the Lord, nothing shall be impossible. Cannot the Creator of the universe create whatever He pleases?
2. More importantly is why He did this. In Luke 2 we read of the angels’ message to the shepherds – “10 …Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. The word ‘Savior’ means deliverer. Matthew’s gospel tells us what Jesus came to deliver us from – Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
II. Mystery of Godliness – Salvation Would Be Available For the World
A. Mystery to the Jews
That Christ would be preached to the nations was a mystery to Paul. Paul was a Jew and he had been taught to believe that only the Jews could be saved. The Jews had two things the rest of the world didn’t have: Abraham and Moses. Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation and Moses was the giver of the Law. The Jews believed that their ancestry and their actions would make them righteous.
Yet the Jews had failed to understand what it says of Abraham in Genesis 15:16 ‘And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.’ It was Abraham’s faith that allowed him to be declared righteous in the sight of God; not his works.
B. Message to the World
Hebrews 1:1-3 NKJV 1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
1. God’s mystery or truth that was hidden, but now revealed:
a. God would become a man called ‘Jesus’. The name Jesus means – ‘Jehovah is salvation.’
b. Testified to by the Spirit and angels
c. Salvation in His name is to be proclaimed to the whole world
1 Timothy 3:16 “…preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world…”
The Jews couldn’t understand that God loved the rest of the world, just as much as He loved them. They had been chosen, not because they were special, but because they were to be God’s spokesmen. But their relationship with God became filled with pride and rather than reaching the world, they shut out the world. Did you know that when Jesus braided a whip and drove out the money changers, He did so in the ‘Court of the Gentiles’? Much of Christ’s anger was over the fact that the Jews were keeping the Gentiles from coming to God.
That Gentiles would be saved was a great mystery to the Jews.
Paul makes reference to this in Ephesians 3:3 “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which 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; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
2. Why I Believe It is Our Duty to Reach the World with the Gospel
a. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (There is none righteous, no not one) (Romans 3)
b. Christ came to save the world.
Luke 2: 10 …Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 1:29 Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
c. Christ gave to His church, the mission of telling the world.
Mark 16:15 Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
Luke 24:47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
This gospel is to be preached until He returns and we’re still here.
d. Salvation is for ‘Whosoever’.
Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
e. To be saved, we must believe, and to believe, we must hear.
Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
III. Mystery of Godliness – Christ Is Now In Heaven – Waiting Until He Will Be Sent for His Bride
1 Timothy 3:16 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.
Where is Christ today?
A. Seated at the Right Hand of the Father
In the book of Hebrews, there is a great portion of scripture concerning Christ.
Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.
‘Till his enemies be made his footstool’ is a reference to Psalm 110, which speaks of Christ as God’s exalted King. Though Christ came into this world as a helpless baby, He did not stay as a baby. He grew into a man and laid down His life on the cross. Afterwards He was received back into heaven, where He is seated at His Father’s right hand, waiting the day until He returns. Six times in scripture we are told that the Father has said to the Son, ‘Sit at My right hand until Thy enemies be made Thy footstool.’ One day, the Son will return on a stallion with the armies of heaven following Him, and on that day He will be called King of kings and Lord of Lords.
B. Waiting the Culmination of His Father’s Plan
Christ’s first coming was according to His Father’s plan and timing. Galatians 4:4 tells us, “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” We learn also from Romans 11 that another fullness of timing is occurring that dictate the Lord’s second return.
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Today the nation of Israel is in a spirit of slumber that keeps them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Yet one day, God is going to remove that spirit and their eyes will be opened to His will. Zechariah 12:10 tells us, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” During the Tribulation Period, the eyes of Israel will be opened and many of them will come to Jesus and receive Him as their Lord and Savior.
Once there was a church that had 1 Corintians 1:23 inscribed over its main enterance – WE PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED. For several decades that is exactly what the church did. But as time passed by, ivy began to grew up the walls and cover part of the inscription. Soon the sign said – WE PREACH CHRIST…
Unaware of what was happening on the outside, inside the church itself was undergoing a lot of change. New generations did not like to hear messages about blood and death. The Gospel seem too divisive to many and they preferred to speak of God in terms such as – the ‘Father of All Mankind’. Eventually the name Jesus was dropped all together. Outside the ivy continued to grow until the sign read, WE PREACH…
Time continue to pass and now ivy all but covered the front of the building. All that could be seen of the original engraving was the word – ”WE…“. No more “PREACH“, no more “CHRIST“, no more “CRUCIFIED“. Both inwardly and outwardly a powerful church had been changed into a handful of folks meeting in a building that had over its entrance the epitaph – “WE“.
As we approach the entering of a new year, may we as the followers of Christ renew our commitment to preach Christ crucified. 1 Timothy 3:16 “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.”