Devotional # 201. 8/8/16. 1 Timothy 3:14-16.
Intro. Last week we studied the requirements for leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Devotional #200). This week Paul will remind us why we must obey those requirements. Because the Church is not ours, instead it is “God’s house.” When we say it is His “house” we don’t mean He is confined to a building, instead we, His people, are the Church. We can meet in a beautiful cathedral or a dirty basement and He will be with us. The point is that it is His church to guide and build. As we’ll see in verse 16 God is much greater than we can fathom, He really is the only one who can rule and decree what is right, what is wrong and how the Church should function.
v. 14. We are reminded that Paul is writing to Timothy, to instruct him in how to correct the church in Ephesus (see 1 Timothy 1:1-2, Devotional #192, for more). Do we look forward to seeing other believers? Paul says that he has “hope to come to you shortly.” We just got back from a missions trip to Hungary and there was excitement and anticipation for us being able to see our friends there. We look forward to building each other up and encouraging in the Word. You should have people like this. Seek out people to mentor you and seek out others for you to mentor.
v. 15. Paul knew from experience how he could be delayed. Sometimes it was from the needs of other churches and other times it was being imprisoned or put on trial. No matter the disruptions, Paul wanted Timothy to be aware of what was expected of the Church and of him personally. When it says, “conduct yourself in the house of God” we must consider that the church truly is God’s house. We may not like to hear that women are not supposed to be the head pastor in a church, or that a pastor or deacon is by God’s calling and gifting, or that they need to be tested (see 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Devotional #200). But our rights and “freedoms” and culture make us feel entitled to certain things. However, the truth is that this is God’s church and He will do as He pleases and it will be absolutely perfect. When we’ve experienced the goodness of leaning on “the pillar” and standing on “the ground” of God’s “truth”, our sense of entitlement fades. We attend “the church of the living God.” He is powerful and answers prayers and holds us accountable for what He has told us to do.
v. 16. Paul starts speaking about “the mystery of godliness.” He mentioned the “mystery of the faith” last week (1 Timothy 3:9, Devotional # 200). Before we look into “the mystery of godliness” we should note Paul says it is “without controversy.” This is interesting because the first line of the “mystery” is that Jesus is God; but every major cult that calls themselves “Christians” denies that Jesus is God. So what does “without controversy” mean? My first thought is that it is fundamental spiritual truth and therefore, if God has said it and He is it, it cannot be contradicted or refuted. Spurgeon makes a great point, “I suppose [Paul] means that there ought to be no controversy about these facts, though controversies have arisen concerning them, and always will, since the most self-evident truth will always find self-evident fools to contradict it” (Source 1). In short, Satan will work in people to try and pretend like Jesus isn’t God, but that doesn’t mean it’s really a contradiction.
Now that we understand that, let’s explore “the mystery of godliness”. It’s thought this may have been a song from the early church. Paul says:
“God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.”
“God was manifested in the flesh,” As mentioned above this is a very clear indication that Jesus is God since “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). It’s sad that people try and deny this because it really is the only way we can be saved. We need a Savior who has never sinned but who is perfect other than God? Beyond that, what amazing humility to live among us and save us when we didn’t deserve it!
“Justified in the Spirit,” This could mean two things: first that “justified” means “vindicated” in which case the Holy Spirit vindicated Jesus (a truth found in Romans 1:4). Or “justified” can mean “righteous” which would mean this should be “spirit” with a lowercase “s” (therefore not the Holy Spirit), instead “indicating a declaration of Christ’s sinless spiritual righteousness (John 8:46, 2 Corinthians 5:21, etc.)” (Source 2).
“Seen by angels,” This is in conjunction with the next phrase about Jesus being “preached among the Gentiles.” The point here is that good and bad angels got to see Jesus come down from heaven and dwell among us, which had never happened before (Sources 2 & 3). It’s not just the physical world that testifies of Jesus, the spiritual one does as well.
“Preached among the Gentiles,” This reminds us that Jesus didn’t just come for Israelites but for everyone (“Gentiles” are anyone who is not Hebrew*). The great thing is that Jesus didn’t just come but that He was “preached among” them too. Everyone has the opportunity to hear of salvation.
“Believed on in the world,” This is the very encouraging news that after Jesus had been “seen by angels” and had been “preached among the Gentiles” there were people who came to faith in Him. The goal of Jesus coming to save us and the aim of Him being preached is that people can make the choice to accept His salvation.
“Received up in glory.” This is the perfect book-end to how this hymn started. It begins with Jesus going from heaven to earth (“God was manifested in the flesh”) and ends with Him leaving earth and returning to heaven (“received up in glory”).
*Gentiles-another way to translate this is “nations” which covers all people of all races.
Conclusion. In a section on Church leadership Paul gives us wonderful truths and advice, some in the form of a hymn. The fact that God has created rules for how He designed the church should be listened to because God designed salvation. We should be both telling others about Jesus’ amazing decent and life and ascent, and also leading the Church in a way that honors how God designed it because that ensures it will continue. We’re always one generation from losing the church. So be encouraged today that God has given us the model and power to do what we’re supposed to do, now let’s do it!
Source 1: Spurgeon, cited by David Guzik, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/guzik_david/StudyGuide_1Ti/1Ti_3.cfm?a=1122001
Source 2: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1866.
Source 3: Fausset (of Jamieson, Fausset & Brown), https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/1Ti/1Ti_003.cfm?a=1122001