“And undeniably great is the mystery of godliness, who was revealed in flesh, was vindicated in spirit, appeared to angels; was preached among the nations, was believed in the world, was taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
Undeniably great, I like that. The English Revised Version says, “without a doubt.” Other versions say noone can deny the greatness. I admit, I was having a little trouble grasping King James phraseology today, “without controversy great.” But, I’m grateful for the KJV because he’s the one that gets me to the original words so I can search deeper. So, what is so undeniably great?
There is this mystery of godliness that is undeniably great. It’s undeniably what? Great. Hm. That comes from the Greek word “megas,” you know, like mega. It’s not just big; it’s intense. So, in this mystery of godliness we have this undeniable greatness and intensity. Well, we don’t just have it, it’s an inherent quality of the mystery of godliness.
Well, what does this mystery of godliness mean? Let’s look at the mystery part. It’s from the Greek word “musterion.” It was used of “a secret or ‘mystery’ (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites).” (Strong’s Concordance) And this is about an initiation, but it’s about an initiation into a living religion , where one is not initiated based on their knowledge but based on their coming to experience and know and believe and trust in the Living Founder of True Religion, Jesus Christ. This mystery is “a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding.” (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) It’s also used as “a secret revealed by God, i.e., religious or mystical truth;” (Greek-English Lexicon, New Edition). It’s not something we can’t know; it’s just something we don’t know until it is revealed to us.
Maybe the word we are using for mystery here is closer to the word “muster” in some senses. Because it was originally used by the Roman military as the recruits recited their sacred oaths. You see, the recruits weren’t told any strategies until they were about to enter into them. And at the right time, the General would reveal his secret plan when they were ready to hear and carry them out. His plans didn’t need to be shared with the uninitiated. They would either work against his plans or be totally uninstrumental. But those who were sworn to his loyalty would have his secret plans revealed to them that they might be carried out. Only those on the inside received the knowledge.
A slight aside here, but the more I dig in here, the more excited I get! Because now I’m stepping into the mustering, this “mystery of godliness” and I’m asking, “What about this godliness? What does that mean or imply?” And as soon as I hit Strong’s it goes from “piety” into “specifically the gospel scheme.” There it is, the Gospel plan, the battle plan that God has and that He is mustering His recruits together to impart to them. But we don’t get to hear and understand the plan and participate in the plan, until we are sworn to Him. And that’s what the rest of this verse is all about. It’s all about the One I’m swearing my allegiance to, it’s all about the One whose sacred oath I have accepted, it’s all about my trust and faith and belief in Jesus. But it’s also all about Him revealing Himself to me so that I can come to that point.
God, You revealed Yourself to me in the flesh, in Jesus Christ. I couldn’t see You as Spirit. But You rendered Yourself apparent before us in Jesus. You manifested, You showed Yourself by walking on earth with us and being part of our history. You are undeniably there. You are in the history books. The General was revealing Himself to prepare us to join Him. We saw what kind of General You were. We could know what we were going to be getting ourselves into. You were giving us what we needed to be drawn into Your army. You lived with us, You died for us, and You rose for us. There were witnesses to it all.
But the evidence didn’t stop there. You were justified in the Spirit. I think You were not just justified in the Spirit but by the Spirit. I remember when You, Lord, were baptized, the Spirit of God descended on You like a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And of course, the Holy Spirit showed forth Your righteousness in all that You did and in every part of You, not only by Your ability to heal, but in the words You spoke, and every action, and every part of Your being, people knew. And because they knew, they were either drawn to You or repelled. Yes, only God could do the things You were doing. As the once blind man said, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” Now how is that for the evidence of the Spirit!
What do you mean He was seen of angels, Lord? How is that an evidence to me? The ISV says He was “adored by angels singing.” That takes me back to His entrance into the world and His birth in Bethlehem. And it was a witness before men, before the shepherds. So, for men to know and believe, the angels sang as a witness, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” And when You rose from the grave, who was there to give the tidings to us? Your angels again. And when You ascended into heaven before the over 500 brethren, two men in white robes appeared reminding of Your return.
That’s a lot of evidences and it doesn’t even stop there! Coming in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us, Holy Spirit verified, Angel proclaimed, what next? You have been proclaimed among the nations. Persecution took You everywhere. You are still travelling across the world. You started in Jerusalem but spread to Rome and beyond. The rulers thought You would fizzle out, like other men. But here’s the evidence that You are not just a man and that You are not like other men. It’s 2000 years later and You have not fizzled! You are still being proclaimed among the nations. You are still impacting lives. Persecution still has not ceased because there is no stopping what cannot be stopped! Yes, this is a manifestation of Your power and who You are to us and to the world.
And because You are being manifested in these ways, another manifestation of You is that people throughout the world like me here in the U.S., and Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran, and Pastor Rogelio Elosendo in the Philippines, and another dear sister who is from the Maldives, and the list goes on and on of all the people all over the world throughout the ages and the ages to come (if the Lord tarries that long) who have believed. And stop to think, that Paul was declaring that just in their time alone, the evidence of believers coming to trust in Christ and live in You, Lord, was enough of a testimony in itself! Well, imagine the intensity of the testimony of Your drawing souls to You in belief to this day! Unimaginable! Baffling! Awe inspiring!
And I suppose I already jumped ahead a little, because Paul lists where You were taken up in glory, Your ascension, as a seperate manifestation than I listed it earlier. So, I’ll agree with him. Over 500 people witnessing Your ascension is quite a justifier if You ask me. I think every one of these manifestations point to God having set You apart as His Special One. I think this mightily declares Your righteousness before all. So, You are the One who is right before God. You are the Only One acceptable before Him. And if I want to come before Him, I better do something with You, Jesus.
I better choose to muster up. I better choose to enter into Your band of soldiers. I better sign on under You and pledge my allegiance to You. You’re the One fighting and winning this battle, and if I want to be on the winning side, I better be in Your army. Because unless I’m in Your army, waiting patiently and faithfully for Your assignment, I won’t be getting any info or any assignments. And that’s just the thing. Once I’m on the inside, once I’m one of Yours, then You share Your great, immeasureable plans with me. Somehow, You have a plan that You want me to carry out, but I have to be in You in order for You to share that plan with me. Then, the wonderful thing is, I become a part of this godliness. I get to be manifesting You before the world. I enter into the mystery, the mustering, of showing and declaring forth Your righteousness in and through me. No doubt about it, Your gift of godliness in believers, Your including us in Your scheme of redemption, is undeniably great!
Lord, I am not godly apart from You. I’m not even good by Your standards. I am desperate for You to make me what You created me to be. I need You to be my General, my King, my Lord, my Savior, my Everything. I need You to make me something and put in me whatever I need to manifest You and for You to be manifested in me. I want to be a faithful soldier in Your army. I want You to make me able to handle great responsibilities in Your service. Oh, that others would be drawn to greater service as they watch me, just as I have been drawn to greater service through watching other faithful “soldiers” You have partnered with me. Lord, I want to be in Your muster. May I be found faithful so that I don’t miss out on Your mystery of godliness.
I couldn’t help but think one more thing, because every time I see the verse reference 3:16, it takes me back to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And I can’t help think of it’s importance to this verse here. It’s how I come to belong in the muster, into the everlasting life that is in God. It’s not just about life after death. It’s all about life everlasting in You, which is life in You, which begins the moment I muster, the moment I place my trust, my all, my self, my possessions in You. Jesus, You are Life, You are the Plan, and if I want to be included in that plan I must be in You and You in me. Thank You, Lord, for offering us the ability to be recruited into You.