I Timothy

I Timothy 3:14-16 The Mystery Of Godliness.

Paul wrote to Timothy because he was delayed in visiting him and wanted him to know how one should conduct themselves within the church. Paul makes the point of defining what the church is by the other terms he uses (vv. 14-15a). First of all it is the house of God (v. 15b). This carries all the biblical history up to and including the Davidic covenant promise that God would build His own house through David’s son, a promise that would only find ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah. Church or ekklesia means a public assembly of persons, in the case of the church, it is that of the living God. The church has never been a physical building, nor has it ever been an assembly of persons who worship lifeless idols. The church or house of God, is the church or house of the living God.

To continue with the analogy, as the house of God the church is also “the pillar and ground of the truth” (v. 15c). A pillar supports the infrastructure of a building from the ground up. The ‘ground’ of this infrastructure is the foundation upon which everything rests. This is the relationship which the church has with the truth, and it has always been this way. The scriptures are the truth of God revealed, and as Paul made so clear elsewhere, it was to the church of the old testament that “were committed the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2). The church continued this role up to the present. To the apostles were committed the New Testament word, and the entire bible has been preserved through the ages through the instrumentality of the church. The church is also called to preach and live the truth.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness” (v. 16a). So keeping in mind how we should understand Paul’s use of the word ‘mystery’, the hidden truth now revealed of godliness is “without controversy great.” What follows is believed to be part of an early hymn of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. The first part of this truth once hidden but now revealed is “God was manifested in the flesh.” John testified that, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). He was manifested in their time, but to the incarnation he was foreordained (I Pet. 1:20 Cf. I Jn. 1:2). John also revealed to us the ultimate purpose of this manifestation-“to take away our sins” (I Jn. 3:5b). Part of the reason why He is able to take away our sins is because “in Him there is no sin” (I Jn. 3:5c).

It is not an uncommon belief that we have to wait for the second coming for the Messiah to destroy the works of the devil. However, the apostolic witness is clear that it was with the incarnation that He came to destroy the devil’s works. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (I Jn. 3:8b). A second thing to learn concerning this mystery is that He was “justified in the Spirit.” The justification or acceptance of His offering Himself up as a sin offering was manifested in His subsequent resurrection from the dead. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). The spirit descended upon the Lord for this purpose at His baptism (Mt. 3:16).

After His resurrection the Lord was also “seen by angels.” This began on earth with a rolling away of the stone from the tomb (Mt. 28:2). Immediately the disciples were given the mandate to take the gospel to the nations (Mt. 28:19). “Preached among the Gentiles.” This purpose took some time for Peter and others to understand, but eventually they did (Acts 10:34ff.). This also fulfilled the prophetic word (Cf. Rom. 10:18; Ps. 19:4; Mt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15; Rom. 16:26; II Cor. 1:19; Col. 1:23). Furthermore, the word was not only preached, but it was “believed on in the world” (Cf. Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:6; I Th. 1:8). Finally, He was “received up in glory.” His ascension was the beginning of His messianic reign on the throne of heaven at the right hand of the Father (Cf. Mk. 16:19; Lk. 24:51; Ps. 110:1).

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