1 Timothy 3:16
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

New Living Translation
Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory.

English Standard Version
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

Berean Study Bible
By common confession, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was proclaimed among the nations, was believed in throughout the world, was taken up in glory.

Berean Literal Bible
And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness: Who was revealed in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit, was seen by angels, was proclaimed among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

New American Standard Bible
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.

King James Bible
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

International Standard Version
By common confession, the secret of our godly worship is great: In flesh was he revealed to sight, kept righteous by the Spirit's might, adored by angels singing. To nations was he manifest, believing souls found peace and rest, our Lord in heaven reigning!

NET Bible
And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation: He was revealed in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

New Heart English Bible
Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: He was revealed in the flesh, justified by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
And this Mystery of Righteousness is truly great, which was revealed in the flesh and was justified in The Spirit; He appeared to Angels and was preached among the Gentiles; He was trusted in the world and he ascended into glory.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
The mystery that gives us our reverence for God is acknowledged to be great: He appeared in his human nature, was approved by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was announced throughout the nations, was believed in the world, and was taken to heaven in glory.

New American Standard 1977
And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness:
            He who was revealed in the flesh,
            Was vindicated in the Spirit,
            Beheld by angels,
            Proclaimed among the nations,
            Believed on in the world,
            Taken up in glory.

Jubilee Bible 2000
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

King James 2000 Bible
And without doubt great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

American King James Version
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

American Standard Version
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory.

Darby Bible Translation
And confessedly the mystery of piety is great. God has been manifested in flesh, has been justified in [the] Spirit, has appeared to angels, has been preached among [the] nations, has been believed on in [the] world, has been received up in glory.

English Revised Version
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory.

Webster's Bible Translation
And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Weymouth New Testament
And, beyond controversy, great is the mystery of our religion-- that Christ appeared in human form, and His claims justified by the Spirit, was seen by angels and proclaimed among Gentile nations, was believed on in the world, and received up again into glory.

World English Bible
Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.

Young's Literal Translation
and, confessedly, great is the secret of piety -- God was manifested in flesh, declared righteous in spirit, seen by messengers, preached among nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory!

Study Bible
The Mystery of Godliness
15so that, if I am delayed, you will know how each one must conduct himself in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16By common confession, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was proclaimed among the nations, was believed in throughout the world, was taken up in glory.
Cross References
Mark 16:19
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Luke 2:13
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:

Luke 24:4
While they were puzzling over this, suddenly two men in radiant apparel stood beside them.

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Acts 1:9
After He had said this, they watched as He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.

Romans 3:4
Absolutely not! Let God be true and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that You may be justified in Your words, and prevail in Your judgments."

Romans 16:25
Now to Him who is able to strengthen you by my gospel and by the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery concealed for ages past,

Romans 16:26
but now revealed and made known through the writings of the prophets by the command of the eternal God, in order to lead all the nations to the obedience that comes from faith--

2 Corinthians 1:19
For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed among you by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in Him it has always been "Yes."

Colossians 1:23
if indeed you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope of the gospel you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Treasury of Scripture

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.


Hebrews 7:7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

the mystery.

1 Timothy 3:9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

Matthew 13:11 He answered and said to them, Because it is given to you to know …

Romans 16:25 Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, …

1 Corinthians 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, …

Ephesians 1:9 Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his …

Ephesians 3:3-9 How that by revelation he made known to me the mystery; (as I wrote …

Ephesians 6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my …

Colossians 2:2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, …

2 Thessalonians 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now lets …

Revelation 17:5,7 And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, …


Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin …

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government …

Jeremiah 23:5,6 Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will raise to David …

Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be little among the thousands …

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, …

John 1:1,2,14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the …

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over the …

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, …

Romans 9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ …

1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, …

Philippians 2:6-8 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God…

Colossians 1:16-18 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that …

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his …

Hebrews 2:9-13 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for …

1 John 1:2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, …

Revelation 1:17,18 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right …

manifest. Gr. manifested.

1 John 3:5 And you know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.


Isaiah 50:5-7 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, neither …

Matthew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: …

John 1:32,33 And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven …

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the …

John 16:8,9 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, …

Acts 2:32-36 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses…

Romans 1:3,4 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed …

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, …

1 John 5:6-8 This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by …


Psalm 68:17,18 The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: …

Matthew 4:11 Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

Matthew 28:2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord …

Mark 1:13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; …

Mark 16:5 And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on …

Luke 2:10-14 And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good …

Luke 22:43 And there appeared an angel to him from heaven, strengthening him.

Luke 24:4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, …

John 20:12 And sees two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the …

Acts 1:10,11 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, …

Ephesians 3:10 To the intent that now to the principalities and powers in heavenly …

1 Peter 1:12 To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did …


Luke 2:32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.

Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that …

Acts 13:46-48 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that …

Romans 10:12,18 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the …

Galatians 2:8 (For he that worked effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the …

Ephesians 3:5-8 Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it …

Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of …


Acts 14:27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they …

Colossians 1:6,23 Which is come to you, as it is in all the world; and brings forth …

Revelation 7:9 After this I beheld, and, see, a great multitude, which no man could …


Mark 16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken to them, he was received up into …

Luke 24:51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, …

John 6:62 What and if you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?

John 13:3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, …

John 16:28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, …

John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self with the glory …

Acts 1:1-9,19 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus …

Ephesians 4:8-10 Why he said, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, …

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his …

Hebrews 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such …

Hebrews 12:2 Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the …

1 Peter 3:22 Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels …

(16) And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.--"And is not simply copulative, but heightens the force of the predication, Yes, confessedly great is the mystery" (Ellicott)--for the glorious truth which the Church of God pillar-like upholds, is none other than that stupendous mystery, in other ages not made known, but then revealed--the mystery of Christ, in all His loving manifestations and glorious triumph. Yes, confessedly great--so great that the massive grandeur of the pillar is only in proportion to the truth it supports.

God was manifest in the flesh.--Here, in the most ancient authorities, the word "God" does not occur. We must, then, literally translate the Greek of the most famous and trustworthy MSS. as follows: He who was manifested in the flesh. In the later MSS., and in the great majority of the fathers who cite the passage, we certainly find Theos ("God"), as in the Received text. The substitution can be traced to no special doctrinal prejudice, but is owing, probably, to a well-meant correction of early scribes. At first sight, Theos ("God") would be a reading easier to understand, and grammatically more exact; and in the original copies, the great similitude between ?C ("God")--the contracted form in which ?EOC was written--and the relative ?C ("He who"), would be likely to suggest to an officious scribe the very trifling alteration necessary for the easier and apparently more accurate word. Recent investigations have shown, however, beyond controversy that the oldest MSS., with scarcely an exception, contain the more difficult reading, ?C ("He who"). The Greek pronoun thus rendered is simply a relative to an omitted but easily-inferred antecedent--viz., Christ. Possibly the difficulty in the construction is due to the fact of the whole verse being a fragment of an ancient Christian hymn, embodying a confession of faith, well known to, and perhaps often sung by, the faithful among the congregations of such cities as Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome--a confession embodying the grand facts of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, the preaching of the cross to, and its reception by, the Gentile world, and the present session of Christ in glory. In the original Greek the rhythmical, as well as the antithetical character, of the clauses is very striking. In the English translation they can hardly be reproduced:--

"Who was manifested in the flesh,

justified in the Spirit,

seen of angels,

was preached among the Gentiles,

believed on in the world,

taken up into glory."

Fragments of similar hymns to Christ are found in 2Timothy 2:11, and perhaps also in Ephesians 5:14.

Manifest in the flesh.--When the Son of God came forth from the Father "He was manifested in the flesh;" or, in other divine words, "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father" (John 1:14. Comp. also 2Timothy 1:10). The men and women of the first days of Christianity who repeated or sang such words as these, must have accepted and firmly believed the dogma of the pre-existent glory of Christ.

Justified in the Spirit.--The truth of Jesus Christ's own assertion respecting Himself, which seemed to be contradicted by His mortal liability to bodily weakness, and pain and suffering, and last of all to death, in the end was triumphantly vindicated or justified. Or, in other words, the claims of Jesus Christ to Divinity, put forth during His life of humiliation, were shown to be true. It was by His resurrection from the dead that Christ's lofty claims to the Godhead were justified. The Spirit, to which reference is here made, was the higher principle of spiritual life within Him--not itself the Divinity, but intimately united and associated with it. In the power of this Spirit, which he had within himself, He did take His life which He had laid down, did re-unite His soul unto His body from which He separated it when He gave up the ghost, and so did quicken and revive Himself, and thus publicly proclaimed His divine nature, His awful dignity. (Comp. Pearson, On the Creed, Art. V.)

Seen of angels . . .--It has been suggested that "angels" mean here nothing more than His Apostles and His own chosen messengers, by whom Jesus Christ was seen after His claims to Supreme power had been justified in the Spirit which had raised Him from the dead. These saw Him first, and after that carried the glad message to the distant isles of the Gentiles. But in spite of the ingenuity of such an exposition, the plain, obvious meaning of the word "angels "must be maintained, for the invariable meaning of angelos in the New Testament (perhaps with the exception of the earlier chapters of the Apocalypse) is never "apostle," but "angel." He was "seen of angels"--that is, Jesus Christ, after His resurrection and return to the throne at the Father's right hand, was, in His glorified humanity, visible to angels, who before had never looked on God. (Comp. Ephesians 3:10; Hebrews 1:6; 1Peter 1:12--each of which passages bears in some way on this mysterious subject.) Theodoret and St. Chrysostom have similarly commented on this statement respecting the angels' share in the beatific vision.

Preached unto the Gentiles.--The angels now for the first time saw, and gazed on, and rejoiced in, the vision of the Godhead manifested in the glorified humanity of the Son; and what the angels gained in the beatific vision, the nations of the world obtained through the preaching of the gospel--viz., the knowledge of the endless love and the surpassing glory of Christ. This line of the ancient Christian hymn tells us that this early confession of faith was peculiarly the outcome of the Pauline churches; for in enumerating the six glories of the Redeemer God it tells us one of these glories consisted in the preaching of His gospel to those peoples who had hitherto sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. It was the splendid fulfilment of the Isaiah prophecy respecting the coming Messiah. "It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles" (Isaiah 49:6).

Believed on in the world.--Different from Buddhism or even from Mahommedanism, Christianity has found acceptance among widely different nationalities. The religion of the Crucified alone among religions has a fair claim to the title of a world-religion. Its cradle was in the East, but it rapidly found a ready acceptance in the West, and in the present day it may be said not only to exist, but to exercise a vast and ever increasing influence in all the four quarters of the globe.

Received up into glory.--More accurately, received up in glory. These words refer evidently to the historical ascent of Christ into heaven--they declare the belief of these early churches in the fact of the Ascension as related in St. Luke's Gospel.

This fragment of the triumph-song of the early churches embraces the leading facts of the Messianic story:--

(1) The Incarnation of the Son of God.

(2) The justification in His Resurrection of the lofty claims advanced by Him during the days of His humiliation.

(3) The Epiphany of the glorified Humanity of Christ.

(a) To angels in the beatific vision.

(b) To men in the preaching of the cross.

(4) The glorious results of the great sacrifice already visible in those first suffering, struggling days of the Church.

(5) The return to heaven, and the session in power at the right hand of God--closing the first part of the blessed resurrection mystery, and beginning the glorious reign of Christ over men from His throne in heaven.

Verse 16. - He who for God, A.V. and T.R.; manifested for manifest, A.V.; among the nations for unto the Gentiles, A.V.; in for into, A.V. Without controversy (ὁμολογουμένως); only here in the New Testament, but used in the same sense in the LXX. and in classical Greek, "confessedly," by common confession. Great is the mystery of godliness. This is said to enhance the glory of the Church just spoken of, to whom this mystery has been entrusted, and so still further to impress upon Timothy the vital necessity of a wise and holy walk in the Church. The mystery of godliness is all that truth which "in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." Godliness (τῆς εὐδεβείας); i.e." the Christian faith;" what in 1 Timothy 6:3 is called "The words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the doctrine which is according to godliness (τῇ κατ αὐσεβείαν διδασκαλὶᾳ)," and in 2 Timothy 1:1, "The truth which is according to godliness." In ver. 9 it is "the mystery of the faith, where ἠ πίστις is equivalent to ἡ αὐσεβεία. Bishop Ellicott, however, does not admit this objective sense of ἡ πίστις ορ ἡ αὐσεβεία but explains the genitive as "a pure possessive genitive," the mystery appertaining to, or the property of, subjective faith and godliness; but this is a use not borne out b- any passage in which the word "mystery" occurs. It is always mysteries (or mystery) of the kingdom of God, of Christ, of God, of the gospel, and the like. In the following passages the objective sense of ἠ πίστις is either necessary or by far the most natural: Acts 3:7; Acts 13:8; Acts 14:22; Acts 16:5; Galatians 1:23; Ephesians 4:5; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:23; Colossians 2:7; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Timothy 6:10, 21; 2 Timothy 4:7; Titus 1:13; James 2:1; Jude 1:3. Having thus exalted the "mystery of godliness," St. Paul goes on to expound it. He who (ὅς). This is generally adopted now as the true reading, instead of Θεός (ΟΣ, instead of ΘΣ). Bishop Ellicott satisfied himself, by most careful personal examination, that the original reading of the Cod. Alex. was ΟΣ, and that it had been altered by a later hand to ΘΣ. The Cod. Sinait certainly has ὅς, and to this all the older versions agree. The Vulgate has quod, agreeing with sacramentum and representing the Greek Accepting this, then, as the true reading, we proceed to explain it. Ὅς, who, is a relative, and must, therefore, have an antecedent. But there is no expressed antecedent of the masculine gender for it to agree with. The antecedent, therefore, must be understood, and gathered from the preceding words, τὸ μυστήριον τῆς εὐσεβείας. It can only be Christ. The mystery of the whole Old Testament, that which was wrapped in types and hidden under veils, was Christ (Colossians 1:27). Moses spake of him, the Psalms speak of him, the prophets speak of him; but all of them spake darkly. But in the gospel "the mystery of Christ" (Colossians 4:3)is revealed. Christ is the Mystery of Christianity. It is, therefore, no difficult step to pass from "the mystery" to "Christ," and to supply the word "Christ" as the antecedent to "who." Was manifested (ἐφανερώθη); a word frequently applied to Christ (John 1:31; 1 John 1:2; 1 John 3:5, 8, etc.). The idea is the same in John 1:14. Justified in the spirit. This is rather an obscure expression. But it seems to describe our Lord's spotless righteousness, perhaps with special reference to the declaration of it at his baptism, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." We have the same contrast between the flesh and the Spirit of Christ in 1 Peter 3:18. And between the flesh and the spirit of a Christian man in Romans 8:10, "The body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness." To this clause apparently the remark of Chrysostom applies, "God became man, and man became God." "The spirit" seems to mean the moral nature - the inner man. Seen of angels. Perhaps the multitude of the heavenly host who welcomed the birth of Christ were permitted to see the new-born Babe, as he seems to have done who described him to the shepherds as "wrapped in swaddling clothes" (Luke 2:12-14). Angels ministered unto him after the temptation (Mark 1:13), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43, where the word ὤφθη is used), and at his resurrection (Matthew 28:2). The special interest of angels in the "great mystery" is referred to in 1 Peter 1:12; Hebrews 1:6. Preached among the nations (ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν). It would have been better to keep the rendering "Gentiles" here, to mark the identity of thought with Ephesians 3:6, 8, where, in the apostle's view, the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, that they might be fellow-heirs with the Jews of the promises of God, is one main feature of the mystery (comp. 1 Timothy 2:7). Believed on in the world. The next step in this ascending scale is the acceptance of Christ in the world as the Savior thereof. The language here is not stronger than that of Colossians 1:5, 6, "The word of the truth of the gospel, which is come unto you; even as it is also in all the world, and beareth fruit." And in Colossians 1:23, "The gospel which was preached in all creation under heaven" (comp. Romans 1:8). The statement in Mark 16:15-20 might almost have been in St. Paul's mind. Note the use there of the words κηρύξατε ἐκηρύξαν, τὸν κόσμον ὀ πιστεύσας πιστεύσασι ἀνελήφρη. Received up in glory. The change of "into" (A.V.) into "in" is of very doubtful propriety. In New Testament Greek ἐν, frequently follows verbs of motion, and means the same as εἰς, like the Hebrew בְּ. Our Lord is net said to have ascended in glory (as he appeared at the Transfiguration), but, as St. Mark has it, "He was received up into heaven, and [there] sat down at the right hand of God," fulfilling John 17:5. This grand burst of dogmatic teaching is somewhat like that in 1 Timothy 2:5-7. There is no adequate evidence of its being, as many commentators have thought, a portion of a hymn or creed used in the Church. It rather implies the same tension in the apostle's mind which is apparent in other parts of the Epistle (comp. 1 Timothy 6:11 and following verses).

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness,.... What follows is so, the incarnation of Christ, his birth of a virgin, the union of the two natures, divine and human, in his person; this is a mystery, which though revealed, and so to be believed, is not to be discerned nor accounted for, nor the modus of it to be comprehended by reason: and it is a great one, next, if not equal, to the doctrine of a trinity of persons in the divine essence; and is a mystery of godliness, which tends to encourage internal and external religion, powerful and practical godliness in all the parts and branches of it; and is so beyond all dispute and doubt.

God was manifest in the flesh; not God essentially considered, or Deity in the abstract, but personally; and not the first nor the third Person; for of neither of them can this or the following things be said; but the second Person, the Word, or Son of God; see 1 John 3:8 who existed as a divine Person, and as a distinct one from the Father and Spirit, before his incarnation; and which is a proof of his true and proper deity: the Son of God in his divine nature is equally invisible as the Father, but became manifest by the assumption of human nature in a corporeal way, so as to be seen, heard, and felt: and by "flesh" is meant, not that part of the body only, which bears that name, nor the whole body only, but the whole human nature, consisting of a true body and a reasonable soul; so called, partly to denote the frailty of it, and to show that it was not a person, but a nature, Christ assumed; and the clause is added, not so much to distinguish this manifestation of Christ from a spiritual manifestation of him to his people, as in distinction from all other manifestations of him in the Old Testament, in an human form for a time, and in the cloud, both in the tabernacle and temple. This clause is a very apt and full interpretation of the word "Moriah", the name of the mount in which Jehovah would manifest himself, and be seen, Genesis 22:2.

Justified in the Spirit; either by the Spirit of God, making his human nature pure and holy, and preserving it from original sin and taint; and by descending on him at his baptism, thereby testifying that he was the Son of God; and by the miracles wrought by his power, which proved Jesus to be the Messiah against those that rejected him; and by his coming down upon the apostles at Pentecost; and who in their ministry vindicated him from all the aspersions cast upon him: or else it is to be understood of the divine nature of Christ, in distinction from his flesh or human nature; in the one he was manifest and put to death for the sins of his people, which were put upon him, and bore by him; and by the other he was quickened and declared to be the Son of God; and being raised from the dead, he was justified and acquitted from all the sins of his people, and they were justified in him; he having made full satisfaction to justice for them.

Seen of angels; meaning not ministers of the Gospel, and pastors of churches, who are sometimes so called; but the blessed spirits, the inhabitants of heaven: by these he was seen at his birth, who then descended and sung praise to God on that account; and in the wilderness, after he had been tempted by Satan, when they ministered unto him; and in the garden upon his agony and sweat there, when one appeared and strengthened him; and at his resurrection from the dead, who rolled away the stone from the sepulchre, and told the women he was risen from the dead; as also at his ascension to heaven, when they attended him thither in triumph; and now in heaven, where they wait upon him, and worship him, and are ministering spirits, sent forth by him to do his pleasure; and he is seen by them the ministry of the Gospel; into the truths of which they look with pleasure, and gaze upon with unutterable delight and admiration; especially those which respect the person and offices of Christ. Some copies read, "seen of men", but that is implied in the first clause:

preached unto the Gentiles; the worst of men, and that by the express orders of Christ himself; and which was foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and yet was a mystery, hid from ages and generations past:

believed on in the world; among the Jews, and in the nations of the world, so that he was preached with success; and faith in Christ is the end of preaching; though this is not of a man's self, but is the gift of God, and the operation of his power: and it was a marvellous thing, considering the reproach and ignominy Christ lay under, through the scandal of the cross, that he should be believed on as he was. This can be ascribed to nothing else but to the power of God, which went along with the ministry of the word.

Received up into glory; he was raised from the dead, and had a glory put upon his risen body; he ascended in a glorious manner to heaven, in a cloud, and in chariots of angels, and was received there with a welcome by his Father; and is set down at his right hand, and crowned with glory and honour, and glorified with the glory he had with him before the world was. 16. And—following up 1Ti 3:15: The pillar of the truth is the Church in which thou art required to minister; "AND (that thou mayest know how grand is that truth which the Church so upholds) confessedly (so the Greek for 'without controversy') great is the mystery of godliness: (namely), He who (so the oldest manuscripts and versions read for 'God') was manifested in (the) flesh (He who) was justified in the Spirit," etc. There is set before us the whole dignity of Christ's person. If He were not essentially superhuman (Tit 2:13), how could the apostle emphatically declare that He was manifested in (the) flesh? [Tregelles, Printed Text of the Greek New Testament]. (Joh 1:14; Php 2:7; 1Jo 1:2; 4:2). Christ, in all His aspects, is Himself "the mystery of godliness." He who before was hidden "with God" was made manifest (Joh 1:1, 14; Ro 16:25, 26; Col 1:26; 2Ti 1:10; Tit 2:11; 3:4; 1Jo 3:5, 8). "Confessedly," that is, by the universal confession of the members of "the Church," which is in this respect the "pillar" or upholder "of the truth."

the mystery—the divine scheme embodied in Christ (Col 1:27), once hidden from, but now revealed to, us who believe.

of godliness—rather, "piety"; a different Greek, expresses godliness (1Ti 2:10). In opposition to the ungodliness or impiety inseparable from error (departure from the faith: "doctrines of devils," "profane fables," 1Ti 4:1, 7; compare 1Ti 6:3). To the victims of such error, the "mystery of piety" (that is, Christ Himself) remains a mystery unrevealed (1Ti 4:2). It is accessible only to "piety" (1Ti 3:9): in relation to the pious it is termed a "mystery," though revealed (1Co 2:7-14), to imply the excellence of Him who is the surpassing essential subject of it, and who is Himself "wonderful" (Isa 9:6), surpassing knowledge (Eph 3:18, 19); compare Eph 5:32. The apostle now proceeds to unfold this confessedly great mystery in its details. It is not unlikely that some formula of confession or hymn existed in the Church and was generally accepted, to which Paul alludes in the words "confessedly great is the mystery," etc. (to wit), "He who was manifested," etc. Such hymns were then used (compare Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). Pliny [1.10, Epistle, 97], "They are wont on a fixed day before dawn to meet and sing a hymn in alternate responses to Christ, as being God"; and Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 5.28]. The short unconnected sentences with the words similarly arranged, and the number of syllables almost equal, and the ideas antithetically related, are characteristics of a Christian hymn. The clauses stand in parallelism; each two are connected as a pair, and form an antithesis turning on the opposition of heaven to earth; the order of this antithesis is reversed in each new pair of clauses: flesh and spirit, angels and Gentiles, world and glory; and there is a correspondence between the first and the last clause: "manifested in the flesh, received up into glory" [Wiesinger].

justified—that is, approved to be righteous [Alford]. Christ, while "in the flesh," seemed to be just such a one as men in the flesh, and in fact bore their sins; but by having died to sin, and having risen again, He gained for Himself and His people justifying righteousness (Isa 50:8; Joh 16:10; Ac 22:14; Ro 4:25; 6:7, 10; Heb 9:28; 1Pe 3:18; 4:1 1Jo 2:1) [Bengel]; or rather, as the antithesis to "was manifest in the flesh" requires, He was justified in the Spirit at the same time that He was manifest in the flesh, that is, He was vindicated as divine "in His Spirit," that is, in His higher nature; in contrast to "in the flesh," His visible human nature. This contrasted opposition requires "in the Spirit" to be thus explained: not "by the Spirit," as Alford explains it. So Ro 1:3, 4, "Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." So "justified" is used to mean vindicated in one's true character (Mt 11:19; Lu 7:35; Ro 3:4). His manifestation "in the flesh" exposed him to misapprehension, as though he were nothing more (Joh 6:41; 7:27). His justification, or vindication, in respect to His Spirit or higher being, was effected by ALL that manifested that higher being, His words (Mt 7:29; Joh 7:46), His works (Joh 2:11; 3:2), by His Father's testimony at His baptism (Mt 3:17), and at the transfiguration (Mt 17:5), and especially by His resurrection (Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4), though not by this exclusively, as Bengel limits it.

seen of angels—answering to "preached unto the Gentiles" (or rather "among the nations"; including the Jews), on the other hand (Mt 28:19; Ro 16:25, 26). "Angels saw the Son of God with us, not having seen Him before" [Chrysostom].' "not even they had seen His divine nature, which is not visible to any creature, but they saw Him incarnate" [Theodoret] (Eph 3:8, 10; 1Pe 1:12; compare Col 1:16, 20). What angels came to know by seeing, the nations learned by preaching. He is a new message to the one class as well as to the other; in the wondrous union in His person of things most opposite, namely, heaven and earth, lies "the mystery" [Wiesinger]. If the English Version, "Gentiles," be retained, the antithesis will be between the angels who are so near the Son of God, the Lord of "angels," and the Gentiles who were so utterly "afar off" (Eph 2:17).

believed on in the world—which lieth in wickedness (1Jo 2:15; 5:19). Opposed to "glory" (Joh 3:16, 17). This followed upon His being "preached" (Ro 10:14).

received up into glory—Greek, "in glory." However, English Version may be retained thus, "Received up (so as now to be) in glory," that is, into glory (Mr 16:19; Lu 24:51; Ac 1:11). His reception in heaven answers to His reception on earth by being "believed on." 3:14-16 The church is the house of God; he dwells there. The church holds forth the Scripture and the doctrine of Christ, as a pillar holds forth a proclamation. When a church ceases to be the pillar and ground of truth, we may and ought to forsake her; for our regard to truth should be first and greatest. The mystery of godliness is Christ. He is God, who was made flesh, and was manifest in the flesh. God was pleased to manifest himself to man, by his own Son taking the nature of man. Though reproached as a sinner, and put to death as a malefactor, Christ was raised again by the Spirit, and so was justified from all the false charges with which he was loaded. Angels ministered to him, for he is the Lord of angels. The Gentiles welcomed the gospel which the Jews rejected. Let us remember that God was manifest in the flesh, to take away our sins, to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These doctrines must be shown forth by the fruits of the Spirit in our lives.
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