Friday, April 21, 2017

The Vision (4.21.17): The Mystery of Godliness

Image: Azalea, North Garden, Virginia, April 2017

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday morning's sermon on 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 (1 Timothy 3:16).

Matthew Henry begins his exposition of this verse: “What is the mystery of godliness? It is Christ.”

The verse presents six points about Jesus:

First: “God was manifest in the flesh.”

This is a place of textual controversy. I believe the traditional text gets it right: God (rather than “he” as in some modern translations) was manifest in the flesh.

This speaks to the doctrine of the incarnation, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).

Second: he was “justified in the Spirit.”

The sense here is of Christ having been vindicated through his resurrection from the dead. This came about by the work of the Spirit (see Rom 1:3-4).

Matthew Henry: “Whereas he was reproached as a sinner, and put to death as a malefactor, he was raised again by the Spirit, and so was justified from all the calumnies with which he was loaded.”

Third, he was “seen of angels.”

What do we make of this? Surely the angels looked up the second person of the Godhead before his incarnation. They were created by him (cf. John 1:3; Heb 1:2).

According to Luke 2, the angelic host announced his birth to the shepherds (vv. 13-14).

When arrested and taken to be crucified, Jesus said he might have called upon “twelve legions of angels” to rescue him (Matt 26:53). No doubt, the angels looked on with deep sadness and horror at the cross.

But they also looked with awe at the resurrection. It was the angels appeared to the women at the empty tomb and announced that Jesus was risen (cf. Mark 16:6).

Fourth, he was “preached unto the Gentiles.”

After his resurrection, Jesus commissioned his disciples to teach all nations (Matthew 28:19-20) and to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

The shocking thing to many Jewish Christians, Paul included, was that the gospel would be taken to non-Jews (cf. Rom 1:5; Eph 3:1-7).

Fifth, he was “believed on in the world.”

Where Jesus was preached, some men came to believe. Not all men but some (the elect of God). And this happened in the world, among both Jews and Gentiles.

This is beautifully anticipated in John 12, when the Pharisees say, “behold, the world is gone after him” (v. 19).

Christianity is a universal faith, not that it teaches universalism (universal salvation, regardless of response to Christ), but that it teaches that men from all nations are among the elect of God (cf. John 10:16).

Sixth he was “received up into glory.”

The final point refers to the ascension of Jesus. He was received up into glory. We have a full narrative of this in Acts 1 (see vv. 3-11). Jesus appeared for 40 days to his apostles and then he commanded them to wait for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit and then to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

This was prophesied in Psalm 47:5: “God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of the trumpet.”

Where is Jesus now? He is seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19); all things are being put under his footstool (Psalm 110:1); he makes intercession for the saints (Hebrews 7:25).

To be a Christian is to confess the mystery of godliness revealed in Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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