Friday, 22 December 2017
…Justified in the Spirit, 1 Timothy 3:16c
This continues Paul’s poetic offset concerning “the mystery of godliness.” First Paul said that “God was manifested in the flesh.” Next he says that He, meaning Jesus, was “Justified in the Spirit.” There is dissension among scholars whether this is speaking of His own spirit, that which animates Him, or the Holy Spirit. Some, not wanting to be definitive and possibly err say that it is speaking of both.
The same Greek preposition, en or “in,” is used in both clauses so far. Therefore, unless Paul is equivocating on the meaning of the word between clauses (something unlikely), it is speaking of two different aspects of the life of Christ. Rather than being instrumental (by), He was “Justified in the Spirit.” But this justification isn’t purely in form alone (a mode of justification), but rather Paul is surely speaking of a local form of justification; His sphere of life.
God (Jesus) was manifested in the flesh – it is the sphere of physical existence.
Jesus (being God) was justified in the Spirit – it is the sphere of His physical existence.
With this understanding, we can then apply this to His life. First, however, the term “justified” must be explained. Vincent’s Word Studies notes that based on Paul’s use of the word in relation to Christ elsewhere, it should be understood to mean “vindicated.” This is generally agreed by scholars to be the case. And so Paul’s intent is that Jesus was “vindicated in the Spirit” in His advent when he was manifested in the flesh.
This came about through the conduct of His life. On one hand, while in the flesh, He was ridiculed, He was hated, He was attacked, and He was dismissed. He claimed to be God in the flesh, and He was rejected by those who heard His claim. Their rejection however, did not change the truth of the matter at all. There were those who seemed to realize that He was, in fact, God and yet He was crucified and died. Even Mary, His mother, must have had some type of doubts as to what Christ’s nature was when she stood at His cross and watched Him breath His last. And even the heavenly host (including the devil himself) did not grasp what God was doing in Christ. Upon His death, the devil must have thought he was the victor. Surely none could imagine what lay head. It was believed that His life ended in futility, and yet… He was justified in the Spirit.
He was raised from the dead, proving His claims. His manifestation in the flesh (meaning being God) was vindicated. His life of troubles and woes was seen for what they truly were meant to be, and He was vindicated. Those who said He was insane were proven wrong through His resurrection, thus He was vindicated. Everything about Him that was so very misunderstood was realized to be the work of God, and by God Himself.
And this is fully in accord with what the apostles say of Him in their speeches in Acts, and in the New Testament epistles. The Holy Spirit is called, “the Spirit of Christ,” in Romans 8. Again in Galatians 4, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of God’s Son. Again and again throughout the epistles, the work of the Spirit and the work of Christ are spoken of interchangeably. Therefore, though having been crucified and died, Christ as Spirit is justified, or vindicated. He was manifested in the flesh – fully Man and yet fully Divine.
The body of support for this vindication actually requires placing all the words of Scripture before a man and saying, “Here, God was manifested in the flesh (a thought which you may find incredible!), but He was justified in the Spirit.” From the first pages of the Bible, through the entire Pentateuch, in the writings, in the psalms, and in the prophets as well, all of Scripture shows what God would do. And when it happened, it could not be believed or understood until the resurrection. But in His resurrection, Christ was JUSTIFIED IN THE SPIRIT. Praise God for His amazing wisdom, revealed in the “mystery of godliness.” Surely it is great.
Life application: If you don’t believe Jesus is God, you have a serious theological meltdown. You have completely missed the entire point of Scripture. God could not have made this any clearer. To miss this point is like missing the fact that trees are made of wood.
Lord God, the most obvious thing found in all of Scripture is that You stepped out of eternity and manifested Yourself in the flesh. Nobody could have believed it, and surely those who were told still had doubts. Mary looked at the lifeless body of Christ and must have wondered what You had done. But all was vindicated in the resurrection. Every doubt can be dismissed, every naysayer is proven foolish. Great is the mystery of godliness, O God. But once it is revealed, it is marvelous. Thank You, O God, for Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.