Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

The Mystery of Godliness


This bible study is part of a series on the book of 1st Timothy, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of 1st Timothy for other studies in this book. 

When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.

Let’s start in verse fourteen of the third chapter of First Timothy.

The Mystery of Godliness

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

Paul has just finished (in the last two articles) giving Timothy the criteria for the people who were to serve in leadership with him. (I am careful to make sure that you are aware that serving in leadership is serving, not an opportunity to shirk responsibility or delegate opportunities to serve to suit selfish ambitions)

Another level

Some see Pastors, overseers, deacons, bishops or whoever is in leadership as “another level”, yes they are worthy of respect and worthy to be listened to, but they are just like you and me in many ways, they will disappoint, they are human, they won’t always get it right.

I remember visiting a church and hearing a Pastor who has recently gone to be with the LORD! And he stated (at the foundation of a new church, church was maybe about a year old at that point) that in that fledgling church if he was able to please people about 80% of the time he would be doing better than he himself thought he would.

You see, people assume because someone has taken a calling to be a pastor or a deacon that they are somehow enamored with this new ability to not error or make mistake. They are not sinless guys (There was only one of them and he is our Savior Jesus Christ) They will tick you off, they will hurt your feelings and in many cases will not make it good because many folks will not let them know.

I say this because people are leaving churches in droves, most are not meeting with the pastor, some are letting them know by text, email or even a phone call, which dependent on the pastor may be okay, but it is always best to meet with the person and love them enough to share what is going on.

Some of this is good and some of this is not as good as discussing today’s passage. Paul hopes to see Timothy soon, but Paul is fully aware that we are not guaranteed tomorrow (especially someone with as many people who hated him and wanted to see him wiped out as Paul) so he wrote this letter to Timothy, the church in Ephesus and now for us.

How to behave in the household of God

Paul writes to give these guidelines for Timothy so that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Paul wanted the church to be singular; regardless of the city the church was planted in he wanted some things to be constant. Paul gives guidelines to Timothy in order to know how he should set the church up, start it on the right foot and how things should run.

Paul reminds Timothy that it is not Paul’s house, not Timothy’s house; they are merely custodians of the house of God. This is a sobering reminder as I am guilty as anyone at admiring men with awesome ministries and seeing what God has accomplished through them. (As if they had done it themselves) But as Paul states, they are simply custodians, on a temp job if you will – This is God’s house!

Not only is it God’s house, but they are called together under the same purpose to be a “pillar and buttress of the truth” both the buttress (ground, foundation, what the place is built upon) and the pillars (what holds the building up and stops the roof crashing in) is truth. There are some churches that need to revisit this because if we are not giving the full counsel of the gospel, we are not serving our believers well.

The truth and the whole truth

Also, anyone who comes looking for truth, if the church is not giving the whole truth then people may miss out on the salvation message of their Savior Jesus Christ. The church is where the truth should be exalted, held up and defended; if the church is not doing so then there will be no truth as we cannot trust the world to give an accurate account of the gospel.

V16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

And here is the truth! Let us look at the mystery of godliness…

1) Manifested in the flesh – This is the beautiful part of the Immaculate Conception when Jesus was born of a virgin in the City of David, in Bethlehem and became man in order to begin his mission here on earth to atone for our sins. He was no less God, no less the Son in the Trinity, no less due all the honor and glory that his deity demands, but now was manifest in the flesh in the same way all of us were, born of a woman.

2) Vindicated by the Spirit – Jesus was not like the rest of us, as in justified after he had sinned by the Holy Spirit. Jesus never sinned and was he was who he was always supposed to be, completely justified and vindicated by the spirit and in constant communion with the Father God. (Matthew 3:16; 1st Peter 3:18; Acts 2:32-33)

3) Seen by angels – If we look at passages in Matthew Mark and Luke we see that Jesus had contact with angels, they ministered to him and they escorted him home to heaven. (Matthew 28:2-7, Mark 1:13, Luke 22:41-43)

4) Proclaimed among nations – Paul himself did this as did the other apostles (and Timothy also) where they would preach to the Jew first and then once they were unable to do this then they preached to the Gentile, bringing the nations to repentance. If we were not converted from Judaism then we are part of this ongoing process and I thank the LORD for the faithfulness of the apostle Paul.

5) Believed on in the world – As a result of this preaching, men believed having their hearts convicted by the Holy Spirit; we are not here to replace the Jews but to encourage the Jews into faith in their messiah Jesus Christ.

6) Taken up in glory – Jesus when he had completed his mission ascended to heaven (Luke 24:51) He prays and intercedes for us still on behalf of the Father (1 John 2:1) His last words before he died on the cross were “It is finished” which meant he had done what the father had sent him to do.

Jesus = literal fulfillment

Jesus fulfilled this and more and his witnesses when he was resurrected showed the world that this was not just some common criminal who died a common criminal death, but he was who he stated he was. Death could not hold him and he is alive today at the right hand of the father. He is the only one who can save you from your sins. Do you know where you are going if you were to pass away tonight?

Paul gives these six reasons why it is beyond all controversy, even within two generations of Christ’s crucifixion there were still heretics and naysayers stating that the historical fact did not happen. Even today people set out to drive a hole in an infallible bible and inerrant truth. Paul does 1st century apologetics in order to give a reasonable defense for what was believed. Praise God that he did!

Thank you again for finding this article and I pray these bible studies are a blessing. Please feel free to comment, like or share as the LORD leads you to.

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