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…

I. JESUS CHRIST WAS FLESH — A REAL MAN. This has been denied. Some have said that Jesus was a mere phantasm or phantom — that men felt they saw a body like our own, but it was a spectre, a vision — the eyes with which they beheld were the eyes of imagination. Others have said He was more than an airy appearance, but not flesh; that the nature of Christ was a special material manifestation, say, a cloud acted upon by Divine power and made to appear a human body. Some have said that the flesh was heavenly substance, and not of the earth earthy; something ethereal which ultimately became absorbed in the sun. Others, again, have held that in the body of Jesus there was no common principle of life and no human soul. Jesus Christ was flesh — real man — flesh — and bones and blood spirit and soul and body.

II. JESUS CHRIST WAS GOD MANIFEST IN FLESH. In this one Being we may see real Man and true God. He is not a godly Man, but God-man. A double life — higher and lower is indicated by many circumstances. He is born of a woman and conceived by the Holy Ghost. From Bethlehem to Olivet, and from Olivet to the great white throne, God is manifest in Jesus Christ's flesh.

III. THAT JESUS CHRIST IS GOD MANIFEST IN FLESH IS A PROFOUND MYSTERY. The fact is declared, but the explanation is withheld. The manifestation of God in Jesus is proclaimed — the mode is hidden. Christian philosophers have, through centuries, tried to penetrate this manifestation; it is mystery still.

IV. THIS MYSTERY IS GREAT. Not a sham and a trick, not puerile and ridiculous, not useless and injurious as the mysteries of the ancient heathen and of corrupt churches, but real and magnificent, momentous, solemn, and blessed in intent. The incarnation does not exist for the mystery, but mystery necessarily enshrines the fact. And the fact, although great in wonderfulness, is equally great in wisdom and in power, in goodness and in love.

V. BUT THIS GREAT MYSTERY IS THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS. The mysterious fact, not the mysteriousness of the fact, is God's means of working godliness in us, and our means of working godliness to ourselves. Knowledge of God is essential to godliness; and this mystery is God manifest. The reality of God, His positive existence, His independence, His truth, His might, His wisdom, His knowledge, all the attributes that constitute Him the true God, are shown forth by Christ. The grace of God, His affection for His children, His graciousness to the penitent, these are revealed by Christ. A true and merciful God is manifested by the God-man. Faith in God is essential to godliness. Submission to God is essential to godliness; and this the mysteriousness of the incarnation secures. Love to God is essential to godliness. And to this the great mystery especially appeals. So that Jesus Christ as God manifest in flesh is a means of our knowing God, of our believing in God, and submitting to God, and loving God. This leads to devotion, entire consecration to God. This produces piety, the performance of every duty to God. The foundation of true religion is hereby laid bare, the object of religion is hereby disclosed, the nature of pure religion is hereby taught, the blessedness of godliness is hereby revealed, and godliness is hereby actually produced.

VI. GREAT IS THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS WITHOUT CONTROVERSY. That is, by the consent of all, God manifest in flesh is a great mystery. How many use the light of day without holding any theory as to its nature, or even knowing that theories have been formed! How many breathe the air in ignorance of its component parts and unable to comprehend the explanation which science can give! A knowledge of the chemistry of food and of the physiology of digestion is not essential to nutriment; and a man may live by his labour without having an idea of the philosophy of toil. Now here is spiritual light in which, mystery although it be, we may walk. And here is a moral atmosphere which, mystery though it be, we may breathe. And here is a sphere of godly life in which, mystery though it be, we may move and act. God manifest in flesh is the great mystery of godliness. The lessons hereby taught are these: —

1. To be godly we must respond to God-manifest. God cannot be correctly and adequately known except through Christ; and knowledge of God is essential to real religion.

2. To receive God-manifest we must bow to mystery.

3. If we have received this mystery let us do our duty by it.

(S. Martin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.

The Mystery of Godliness
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