The Mystery of the Faith

The Mystery of the Faith

The Mystery of the Faith.

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 way 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 to doubters and unbelievers.

“Deacons must be reverent… holding onto the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. Without question, great is the mystery of the faith: 

“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 3:9, 16).

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 what has long been the hidden truths of God but have now been revealed… the basic doctrines of the Faith. He wants Timothy to challenge the heresies that are floating around his church by focusing on the gospel’s mysteries, those Christian events that have changed the world.

Paul here quotes 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. In verse 16, Paul uses the word “godliness” as a replacement word that intends to point to the word “faith” or “the gospel.” Many versions have “faith,” while others have “godliness’ which is meant to point to “faith.” That phrase that introduces the song below it is intended to say, “Great is the mystery of faith.”

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, these truths long hidden but now revealed, 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.