The Mystery of Godliness

The Mystery of Godliness

The Mystery of Godliness.

MYSTERY: a sacred secret hidden in the heart of God until the appointed time of revelation; a truth that can only be known by divine disclosure; spiritual insights into God’s ways of thinking and planning; hidden truths revealed by God that are beyond human intellect and reason; divine knowledge that can only be understood through the Holy Spirit; God’s thoughts and plans revealed to believers and hidden from unbelievers.

“Weighty is the hidden truth of godliness. Without any doubt, the mystery of our faith is very deep indeed. Yes, this Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough: 

God was revealed in the flesh,

Proved right by the Spirit,

Beheld by the angels,

Proclaimed among the nations,

Believed on in the world,

Taken up in glory.”   (1 Timothy 3:16, a weaving of several Bible translations).

CONTEXT. St. Paul wrote this personal letter to his spiritual son, Timothy, the young Bishop of Ephesus. Timothy was probably in his thirties, and he was challenged by false teachers and all the demands common to pastoral leadership. Paul was the spiritual director, the mentor, and Timothy was the working apprentice. Paul offers this letter to encourage, inspire and guide Timothy with practical advice on the nature of being a pastor.

Paul sees that many false teachers have arisen in the church, with many different theological opinions. Timothy is advised in this letter to stay strong in the basic doctrines of the Faith, to overcome any youthful shyness he might have, and to challenge the heresies that are floating around his church. Paul helpfully lists the qualifications for church leaders, and he offers advice as to pastoral care in the church community.

This first letter to Timothy is one of Paul’s “Pastoral Epistles,” along with II Timothy and Titus. This letter was written around 64-65 AD, before Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome. Paul shows himself to be a wise example and worthy of imitation by Timothy. Timothy’s name means “honored by God,” and he was one of Paul’s early converts to the Faith, probably when Timothy was living at home in Lystra.

THE SONG. This song was an excerpt from an early church creedal hymn. It lays out the vital Christian doctrines of the incarnation, resurrection and ascension. In Paul’s admonition to Timothy to stay close to the true doctrines of the Faith, Paul provides this brief hymn fragment that underscores his emphasis on how to challenge the false teachers in the church in Ephesus. Stick to basics like those in the hymn, Paul is saying, and you can’t go wrong.

Paul’s advice to Timothy through this hymn: Emphasize that Jesus was truly God made flesh in a real human body. Focus on how Jesus was justified in His words and actions when the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead. Don’t forget the angels gazed upon Jesus throughout His life on earth, starting right at His birth. He was preached to Gentile and Jew alike, and many people believed on Him throughout the world. And make sure you remember, Paul is saying, that Jesus was taken up to heaven in glory to be received by the Father. That’s right, Jesus ascended into the place of exalted glory when His time on earth had ended.

This hymn excerpt is rich and deep in its simplicity, and needs to be confessed and believed. What is beyond debate, though, what goes without question, is the fact that the Christian faith as summarized in this hymn is a great mystery. These doctrines are hidden truths that have been brought out into the open but are far beyond our human understanding. We can understand some of it, but not all of it. They are God’s secrets that have long been hidden and are now revealed. But these are divine mysteries that must be embraced as we trust God and want to live the Christian life, growing in godliness and faith.