Wednesday, 20 December 2017
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: 1 Timothy 3:16a
Due to the length of 1 Timothy 3:16, it will be divided up into several readings.
The words of this verse form an axis on which the book pivots. Paul now says to Timothy words which are truly astounding to contemplate. In this, he begins with, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.” This is being stated to support what was said in the preceding verse, which is that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
The word translated as “without controversy” is an adverb, literally it says, “confessedly.” It gives the idea of “by common consent.” What this means is that there can be no dissent in what he will proclaim. The authority of God in heaven, the Source of godliness, is in full agreement with what will be said concerning his words.
What will be written by Paul is what that truth consists of in its fullest and most poignant sense. In other words, it is a paraphrase of the word “truth” in relation to Christ and the church. The church is what rests on, and what supports, the truth; and this truth is revealed in, and consists of, the mystery of godliness. As Charles Ellicott states, “Yes, confessedly great – so great that the massive grandeur of the pillar is only in proportion to the truth it supports.
Vincent’s Word Studies shows how the word “godliness” is meant to be expressive of how the believer in Christ is to conduct his life – “The contents of this truth or mystery is Christ, revealed in the gospel as the Savior from ungodliness, the norm and inspiration of godliness, the divine life in man, causing him to live unto God as Christ did and does.” Vincent’s further states, “The mystery of godliness is the truth which pertains or belongs to godliness. It is not the property of worldly wisdom.” In other words, without Christ, the world could not understand or attain godliness.
Paul’s use of the word “mystery” tells us that these truths of Christ were unknown before the coming of Christ, and they are only revealed in His Person and work. The use of the word “mystery” here does not mean that this is the first unveiling of the mystery, which is something that occurred, for example, in telling about the rapture in 1 Corinthians 15 (“Behold, I tell you a mystery…” 1 Corinthians 15:51). Rather, this is his explanation of the mystery that had become known to the church because of having observed Christ’s work in relation to Scripture.
What he will say in the rest of this verse is the explanation of that mystery of godliness. In understanding the example, man can then apply the example to his life. In doing so, godliness will be attained. In attaining the state, the man will attain what is required to be pleasing to God.
Life application: Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:16 form a snapshot of the gospel. In accepting, by faith, the words of this verse, one is accepting the gospel message. It is that which reconciles fallen man to God once again. Always be ready to tell others of the truth of the gospel. Without that knowledge man cannot attain godliness. And without godliness, man remains separate from God.
Lord God, Your word shows that we attain godliness through faith in the gospel message. Christ came in the flesh, he was justified in the Spirit, he was seen by angels, he was preached among the Gentiles, He was believed on in the world, and He was received up in glory. It is through faith in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, that we are reconciled to You once again. Help us to share this message of life with all people. Let us be bold in our proclamation. Give us this desire and ability, O God. Amen.