The Mystery of Godliness
This is the caption that most translations use, but why, as it only seems to confuse most Christians.
Is Godliness a mystery?
Well, first, you have to answer the question, what is a mystery?
Webster’s dictionary tells us it is – “A profound secret; something wholly unknown or something kept cautiously concealed.”
Is that what God did, keep it concealed?
It almost seems as if He had to, and we see why in Genesis 3:1a.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. (NASB)
Satan immediately started in on Eve by crafting a scenario that could introduce confusion, doubt, and distrust, not just of Adam but also of God. God, in response to the deception and Eve’s reactions, tells her,
“…I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15 NASB)
What does enmity mean?
Webster’s conveys that it is: ill will, hatred, and the opposite of friendship.
We see the strain of this hatred and ill will throughout the Old Testament. Revelation 12:4 tells us the dragon (Satan) stood before the woman who was about to give birth so that when she gave birth, he might devour her child. Italics mine.
And we see this attempt at destroying Jesus when we read about Herod killing all the boys in the region that were ages two and under. You can look this up at your leisure in Matthew 2:16-18.
Much was said in Genesis 3:15, and yet most of it is kept cautiously concealed. Paul talks about the whys’ of this concealment in 1 Corinthians.
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; (1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB)
Consider how the Synagogue rulers had tried to kill Jesus on multiple occasions, and then, there was the frightened statement made by Thomas.
and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” (John 11:15-16 NASB)
Thomas knew that the Jews were actively looking for Jesus and that they wanted to kill him. There would have been nothing to stop them from killing anyone associated with Jesus.
Now, ask yourself, what would have happened if they killed Jesus before He was meant to and consider how He was supposed to die?
Perhaps the entire plan might have been eliminated. I don’t think God would have allowed that to happen, and therefore God’s plan to redeem us all was shrouded in the form of secrecy. But all that changed the day He rose from the dead.
Who are the rulers of this age?
The Word Study Dictionary explains this Greek word árchontos as a ruler, chief, prince, or a magistrate, but it can mean a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin or the Synagogue.
What did the Apostle Paul tell us?
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 NLT)
Just look around you at cities like Portland, Seattle, and now Louisville, Kentucky, where the town had to be boarded up. Why, because we have come to expect that the evil spirits and mighty powers of this dark world were going to show up on the city streets in an attempt to burn down another city.
So, back to our original question, Is Godliness a mystery?
Not to those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets.” (1 Corinthians 2:10 NLT)
The Spirit of Jesus Christ – the Holy Spirit, has revealed these things to us by His Spirit. Yeah, I know, some will whine as they say, but I don’t know anything. Just smile real big and say, that’s because you will not take any time to get to know Him through His word. It’s just that simple.
Having been a member of the body of Christ since I was a child, I have heard and read many things from scripture. Like pieces of a puzzle, they have, over time, come together to give me a picture of the nature and character of God; which, I found in Jesus.
“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.”
(1 Timothy 3:14-16 NASB)
- From the NLT, “so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God,”
I thought we were living in the age of grace, which means I can do anything and get away with it, right?
Wrong! God’s Spirit has written His laws upon your heart, and you are therefore responsible for them. Besides that, we have laws that govern our actions, and the laws (used to) demand retribution; that means you might have to pay for your foolish act, which you thought was wholly covered by grace, with prison time. Many of these fools, some of which think they are “Christian,” are burning our cities down. You know what grace did for them, it bought their forgiveness of sin before the Father. Since you only get to the Father through Jesus Christ, then you would have to acknowledge Him as your Lord, and there in the problem lies. Sins are forgiven, but you are still held responsible for what you did with God’s Son, Jesus. If that was nothing, then you have to throw yourself at God’s feet and hope for mercy when you get to the Great White Throne. Good luck with that.
But 1 Timothy 3:15 is talking about how we are to act within the body of Christ.
I am looking at this phrase: how one ought to conduct himself.
How is the Greek word pos. It means in what way or manner.
Ought is the Greek word dei. It means it is necessary; it behooves; ought or should.
We could easily substitute the words acceptable, appropriate, and suitable.
Conduct is the Greek word anastrepho. It means to busy oneself; remain; live; abide, and behave.
The CEV translation gives us this, “how everyone who belongs to God’s family ought to behave.”
I find myself asking; I did not know we had standards of behavior within the church.
I suppose that it is reasonable and necessary to have standards, as we had rules of conduct in Celebrate Recovery. Considering all that goes on there, and the people who come in, even I could see a need. We had people on court orders attending our anger group as an alternative to an anger management program, and the group I was a leader of, fit that requirement.
But take this idea of behavior one step further. I have made “friends” with several people over the years who have worked security within the mega-churches I attended. I never thought we would see the day that we needed armed security, but then, I visited John Hagee’s church in Texas many years ago. There, a man had walked up the aisle toward Pastor Hagee while he was speaking that morning. The man emptied the revolver he carried, in hopes of killing the Pastor; however, not one bullet struck the Pastor. I remember being shown the bullet holes in the podium. I have never forgotten that scene. Now incidents like this happen with frequency, and one of those victims was a relative of mine. Fortunately, he lived despite sustaining multiple gunshot wounds and returned to his pulpit.
On a less severe note.
I am reminded of a brother in Christ, who fancied himself a bit prophetic, and one day, motivated by something we were not aware of, decided to give an angry word to the church body. It began by him announcing to everyone that “this man is called of God and that we should listen to him.” Well, that did not sit well with anyone. It was all very theatrical, and many people noticed. Upon arriving at the church’s front, where everyone could see him better, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and proceeded to find the scripture that “the Holy Spirit” had told him to read. This phone thing was very discomforting as we now had to wait for the phone to respond. His reading was filled with emotion and a touch of rage. At one point, the pastor asks the brother to sit down and stated that he was out of line. That is when the man screamed out, you are a false teacher, and I can prove it. Seeing as false teachers are generally teaching contrary to the word of God, I do not think any of us could understand why he would shout such a thing.
A bit of background here.
Probably about a year before this event, I was invited to lunch with the previous pastor. Just a few bites into the meal, at a very public restaurant, and he asks me why I study eschatology. Not many people know what that means – it means end times events as they line up with the Bible. Mere seconds into my response, which included me saying because the Bible is relevant to the things around us every day. The pastor interrupted me and began to criticize me, saying, you prophesy guys are all like that; you overpower the listener and act like you know everything. It became quite personal. I waited until I thought he was done ranting, and then I challenged what he was saying by asking, is that what you think of me? To which he responded, yes. His answer and the tone of his voice pretty much ended the conversation.
I was supposed to teach the Pastor’s class on Christian discipline that night and had shown him the notes, merely to prove that I had done my preparations. He exclaimed, without hardly looking at it, you can’t teach that! I realize now that he thought it was too much information, as I always over-prepare. Nothing more was said about teaching that night. Thoroughly undone, I insisted that I needed to pick up my wife and tried to excuse myself. We left together, but he had to add that, under the premise of Godly wisdom, I should never look at or speak of eschatology again for five years. He said that there was no need, as the Lord was not coming back for at least forty more years. Of course, we did not have this phony COVID 19 pandemic, which has changed everything as we know it.
How does the brother in Christ, who was eventually escorted out of the building, relate to me? I simply put two events together. One included my attempt to have a conversation with this man about some of the global events we had recently experienced. His response to me at the time was authoritarian, oppressive, and he left me no opportunity to talk or respond. At lunch that day with the Pastor, he had mentioned that someone had been trying to coerce him into teaching on Revelation and eschatology. The Pastor turned him down. The same man who was getting escorted out of the building was the man who had soured the Pastor, and he was now taking his anger out on me.
While I feel that was rather lengthy, I think it shows a potential reason for guidelines.
The church where this happened quickly set up guidelines and forced anyone who operated in the Holy Spirit by giving words to the body, to write the message down on a piece of paper and somehow get it to the Pastor. The Pastor may or may not approve your giving of the word, especially if he thinks you are angry.
Continuing with 1 Timothy 3:15, from the CEV translation,
“After all, the church of the living God is the strong foundation of truth.”
What does Dr. J. Vernon McGee have to say?
“What Paul is saying is that the church is the pillar, the bedrock—it is the prop and support of the truth. If the officers do not represent the truth, the church has no foundation, no prop, and it cannot hold up the truth of God.”
Wait a minute, here in California; our Governor told us that the church is non-essential.
How is it that the pillar, the bedrock, the prop, and support of truth have become non-essential?
That is an easy question to answer as long as we are still supporting the truth, but this man-made pandemic has caused the church to show its true colors, and it is clear that in the majority, we the church, do not support the truth.
To help make my point, the Pastor of the mega-church I attended used to rave about Pastor Tim Keller. Several years later, in September of 2020, Tim Keller has come to the forefront again and is being attacked as a false teacher. A blog which spells some of those details out can be found here: (https://churchleaders.com/news/382650-tim-keller-sparks-twitter-debate-over-political-comments.html),
Here is a quote from Tim Keller.
“The current political parties offer a potpourri of different positions on these and many other topics, most of which, as just noted, the Bible does not speak to directly. This means when it comes to taking political positions, voting, determining alliances, and political involvement, the Christian has liberty of conscience. Christians cannot say to other Christians ‘no Christian can vote for…’ or ‘every Christian must vote for…unless you can find a Biblical command to that effect.‘”
In my mind, our life and freedoms emanate from God, and then from the basis of our constitution, which was founded on a belief in God. Those amendments give us rights. Let me show you the first one.
The First Amendment provides several rights protections: to express ideas through speech and the press, to assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons, and to ask the government to fix problems. It also protects the right to religious beliefs and practices. It prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion.
But I have to agree with Pastor Tim Keller in that not everything is spelled out for us in scripture.
When it comes to abortion, whether you think that a nine-month-old baby can reason or not, it is still a living being, and we, as Christians, we are under a mandate from God to NOT commit murder. Brutally slaughtering a defenseless baby is murder, and I have little sympathy over what happens legally or emotionally to someone that openly brags about how they slit the baby’s throat so that it won’t scream. I honestly cannot see anything but a callous human being doing this.
Now, if your candidate endorses or tells us you that they will fund ghastly abortions, perhaps you should turn your brain back on and rethink who you are going to vote for.
There are other accusations laid against Pastor Tim Keller, and you can read about them in the article Four Theological Problems With Tim Keller and Why He Should Be Avoided, By Jeff Maples, September 19, 2019, From the website, (https://reformationcharlotte.org/2019/09/19/four-theological-problems-with-tim-keller-and-why-he-should-be-avoided/)
Although I am not a fan of Tim Keller’s works, I did not want to get into a bashing session here but merely point out how the issues that erode our foundations can be subtle and come from venues we thought we could trust.
Let’s try to finish this out.
1 Timothy 3:16 CJB. “Great beyond all question is the formerly hidden truth underlying our faith: He was manifested physically and proved righteous spiritually, seen by angels and proclaimed among the nations, trusted throughout the world and raised up in glory to heaven.
- “Great beyond all question is the formerly hidden truth underlying our faith:” CJB
Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, wrote,
“Now to God, who can strengthen you, according to my Good News, in harmony with the revelation of the secret truth which is the proclamation of Yeshua the Messiah, kept hidden in silence for ages and ages,” Romans 16:25 CJB
There was a hidden truth, but it has been revealed through the preaching of the good news. It is the fact that Jesus is the Messiah. Paul says that even here in Romans, that information was kept hidden and silent for ages and ages.
Paul continues telling Timothy.
- “Christ came as a human.” CEV.
Many of us, having heard it for so long, merely say, yeah and?
Think about that fact for a moment.
The chain of humanity, extending from Adam outward, was tainted. Some would say yes, but God chose a virgin, Mary.
What does that have to with escaping the brokenness that passes through every human, including Mary – a virgin?
Not a thing, because God had a secret plan.
Cannot the inventor of the aspects that bring about a birth bring his own fertilized ovum into the picture?
And that is precisely what He did. Mary merely carried that fertilized ovum to its maturity.
This event was beyond human comprehension, and when you read about Mary’s pregnancy, you can get a feel for how she may have been mistreated. Joseph, stepping up and marrying her, gave her some relief, but those in Bethlehem would not soon forget or forgive. Perhaps now you can understand why the family moved to a small, no-name town, where no one knows you.
Jesus, still to this day, sits as the Son of God, at the right hand of the Father, still a human, and ever making intercession for us.
Ask yourself, is Jesus limited in any manner because of His humanness?
Not in the least bit.
What comes next can be seen as a resume, but it is even better than that as it takes on the air of Royalty. Perhaps this is best understood if you have watched the movie, A Knight’s Tale. In the movie, you could only joust if you had a royal bloodline. Now mind you, somebody could knight you, and eventually, the young man is knighted, ending a jealous dispute that prevented him from jousting, and so we have been.
He who was revealed in the flesh:
- “Was vindicated in the Spirit.” (The Father vindicated Jesus in the Spirit.)
Vindicated is to be rendered or shown to be just, innocent, free, and made to be righteous.
- Seen by angels,
Not only angels but also over 400 people could verify that He rose from the grave still a human and alive to God.
- Proclaimed among the nations,
An intriguing aspect of this is that Paul, while he was Saul, caused the church to disperse among the nations because of the persecution he put on them.
Is it possible that God has in hand in the trials we endure?
- “Believed on in the world,”
“because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth;” (Colossians 1:5-6 NASB)
In case you don’t believe, read this,
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; (Revelation 7:9 NASB)
- “Taken up in glory.”
By convincing proofs, he showed the disciples not only who He was but that His word was true; and that included being taken up into Glory, to be with the Father.
Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, Hebrews 8:1 NASB.
Jesus did not return to heaven to be able to play golf without distractions; He sits at the right hand of the throne of Majesty, interceding on behalf of those who belong to Him.