1 Timothy 3:16
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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 ΘC (“God”)—the contracted form in which ΘEOC was written—and the relative ΘC (“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, ΘC (“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.

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.And, without controversy - Undeniably, certainly. The object of the apostle is to say that the truth which he was about to state admitted of no dispute.

Great is the mystery - On the meaning of the word "mystery," see the notes on 1 Corinthians 2:7. The word means that which had been hidden or concealed. The meaning here is not that the proposition which he affirms was mysterious in the sense that it was unintelligible, or impossible to be understood; but that the doctrine respecting the incarnation and the work of the Messiah, which had been so long "kept hidden" from the world, was a subject of the deepest importance. This passage, therefore, should not be used to prove that there is anything unintelligible, or anything that surpasses human comprehension, in that doctrine, whatever may be the truth on that point; but that the doctrine which he now proceeds to state, and which had been so long concealed from mankind, was of the utmost consequence.

Of godliness - The word "godliness" means, properly, piety, reverence, or religiousness. It is used here, however, for the gospel scheme, to wit, that which the apostle proceeds to state. This "mystery," which had "been hidden from ages and from generations, and which was now manifest" Colossians 1:26, was the great doctrine on which depended "religion" everywhere, or was that which constituted the Christian scheme.

God - Probably there is no passage in the New Testament which has excited so much discussion among critics as this, and none in reference to which it is so difficult to determine the true reading. It is the only one, it is believed, in which the microscope has been employed to determine the lines of the letters used in a manuscript; and, after all that has been done to ascertain the exact truth in regard to it, still the question remains undecided. It is not the object of these notes to enter into the examination of questions of this nature. A full investigation may be found in Wetstein. The question which has excited so much controversy is, whether the original Greek word was Θεὸς Theos, "God," or whether it was ὅς hos, "who," or ὁ ho, "which." The controversy has turned, to a considerable degree, on the reading in the "Codex Alexandrinus;" and a remark or two on the method in which the manuscripts in the New Testament were written, will show the true nature of the controversy.

Greek manuscripts were formerly written entirely in capital letters, and without breaks or intervals between the words, and without accents; see a full description of the methods of writing the New Testament, in an article by Prof. Stuart in Dr. Robinson's Biblotheca Sacra, No. 2, pp. 254ff The small, cursive Greek letters which are now used, were not commonly employed in transcribing the New Testament, if at all, until the ninth or tenth centuries. It was a common thing to abridge or contract words in the manuscript. Thus, πρ would be used for πατερ pater, "father;" κς for κυριος kurios, "Lord;" Θς for Θεος Theos, "God," etc. The words thus contracted were designated by a faint line or dash over them. In this place, therefore, if the original uncials (capitals) were ΘC, standing for Θεὸς Theos, "God," and the line in the Θ, and the faint line over it, were obliterated from any cause, it would easily be mistaken for OC - ὅς hos - "who."

To ascertain which of these is the true reading, has been the great question; and it is with reference to this that the microscope has been resorted to in the examination of the Alexandrian manuscript. It is now generally admitted that the faint line "over" the word has been added by some later hand, though not improbably by one who found that the line was nearly obliterated, and who meant merely to restore it. Whether the letter O was originally written with a line within it, making the reading "God," it is now said to be impossible to determine, in consequence of the manuscript at this place having become so much worn by frequent examination. The Vulgate and the Syriac read it: "who," or "which." The Vulgate is, "Great is the sacrament of piety which was manifested in the flesh." The Syriac, "Great is the mystery of godliness, that he was manifested in the flesh." The "probability" in regard to the correct reading here, as it seems to me, is, that the word, as originally written, was Θεός Theos - "God." At the same time, however, the evidence is not so clear that it can be properly used in an argument. But the passage is not "necessary" to prove the doctrine which is affirmed, on the supposition that that is the correct reading. The same truth is abundantly taught elsewhere; compare Matthew 1:23; John 1:14.

Was manifest - Margin, "Manifested." The meaning is, "appeared" in the flesh.

In the flesh - In human nature; see this explained in the notes on Romans 1:3. The expression here looks as though the true reading of the much-disputed word was "God." It could not have been, it would seem evident, ὁ ho, "which," referring to "mystery;" for how could a mystery "be manifested in the flesh?" Nor could it it be ὅς hos, "who," unless that should refer to one who was more than a man; for how absurd would it be to say that "a man was manifested, or appeared in the flesh!" How else could a man appear? The phrase here means that God appeared in human form, or with human nature; and this is declared to be the "great" truth so long concealed from human view, but now revealed as constituting the fundamental doctrine of the gospel. The expressions which follow in this verse refer to God "as" thus manifested in the flesh; to the Saviour as he appeared on earth, regarded as a divine and human being. It was the fact that he thus appeared and sustained this character, which made the things which are immediately specified so remarkable, and so worthy of attention.

Justified in the Spirit - That is, the incarnate person above referred to; the Redeemer, regarded as God and man. The word "Spirit," here, it is evident, refers to the Holy Spirit, because:

(1) it is not possible to attach any intelligible idea to the phrase, "he was justified by his own spirit, or soul;"

(2) as the Holy Spirit performed so important a part in the work of Christ, it is natural to suppose there would be some allusion here to him; and,

(3) as the "angels" are mentioned here as having been with him, and as the Holy Spirit is often mentioned in connection with him, it is natural to suppose that there would be some allusion to Him here. The word "justified," here, is not used in the sense in which it is when applied to Christians, but in its more common signification. It means to "vindicate," and the sense is, that he was shown to be the Son of God by the agency of the Holy Spirit; he was thus vindicated from the charges alleged against him. The Holy Spirit furnished the evidence that he was the Son of God, or "justified" his claims. Thus he descended on him at his baptism, Matthew 3:16; he was sent to convince the world of sin because it did not believe on him, John 16:8-9; the Saviour cast out devils by him, Matthew 12:28; the Spirit was given to him without measure, John 3:34, and the Spirit was sent down in accordance with his promise, to convert the hearts of people; Acts 2:33. All the manifestations of God to him; all the power of working miracles by his agency; all the influences imparted to the man Christ Jesus, endowing him with such wisdom as man never had before, may be regarded as an attestation of the Holy Spirit to the divine mission of the Lord Jesus, and of course as a vindication from all the charges against him. In like manner, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and his agency in the conversion of every sinner, prove the same thing, and furnish the grand argument in vindication of the Redeemer that he was sent from God. To this the apostle refers as a part of the glorious truth of the Christian scheme now revealed - the "mystery of religion;" as a portion of the amazing records, the memory of which the church was to preserve as connected with the redemption of the world.

Seen of angels - They were attendants on his ministry, and came to him in times of distress, peril, and want; compare Luke 2:9-13; Luke 22:43; Luke 24:4; Hebrews 1:6; Matthew 4:11. They felt an interest in him and his work, and they gladly came to him in his sorrows and troubles. The design of the apostle is to give an impressive view of the grandeur and glory of that work which attracted the attention of the heavenly hosts, and which drew them from the skies that they might proclaim his advent, sustain him in his temptations, witness his crucifixion, and watch over him in the tomb. The work of Christ, though despised by people, excited the deepest interest in heaven; compare notes on 1 Peter 1:12.

Preached unto the Gentiles - This is placed by the apostle among the "great" things which constituted the "mystery" of religion. The meaning is, that it was a glorious truth that salvation might be, and should be, proclaimed to all mankind, and that this was a part of the important truths made known in the gospel. Elsewhere this is called, by way of eminence, "the mystery of the gospel;" that is, the grand truth which had not been known until the coming of the Saviour; see the Ephesians 6:19 note; Colossians 1:26-27; Colossians 4:3 notes. Before his coming, a wall of partition had divided the Jewish and Gentile world. The Jews regarded the rest of mankind as excluded from the covenant mercies of God, and it was one of the principal stumblingblocks in their way, in regard to the gospel, that it proclaimed that all the race was on a level, that that middle wall of partition was broken down, and that salvation might now be published to all people; compare Acts 22:21; Ephesians 2:14-15; Romans 3:22; Romans 10:11-20.

continued...

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," &c. 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," &c. (to wit), "He who was manifested," &c. 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."

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: the various use of the particle kai in the Greek, which we translate and, maketh it doubtful what is the force of it here, whether it relates to the truth mentioned in the latter part of the former verse, or shows another reason why Timothy should have a care how he behaved himself in the house of God. If to the former, it is exegetical, and opens what he meant by truth, viz.,

the mystery of godliness, by which he means the gospel, which is the doctrine of godliness, being that which teacheth how aright to worship God, and walk before him; this he first calls, then proves to be, a mystery, a great mystery. The word is derived from the heathens, who had mysteries of their superstition and idolatrous religion. A mystery signifies a thing sacred and secret. The heathens also had their greater and lesser gods, and their greater and lesser mysteries. Paul calls the gospel, the doctrine of godliness, a great mystery, and says it is confessedly so, or such without controversy; then he proveth it by telling us what it is, and giving us the sum of it. It teacheth us that he who was truly God: God over all, blessed for ever, ( as the apostle saith), was manifested in the flesh; John 1:14: The Word was made flesh. How an infinite nature could be personally united to a finite nature, so as to make one person, is a mystery, and a great mystery. And this God thus manifested in the flesh was

justified in the Spirit; either by his Divine nature, (which is here as some think called the Spirit), by virtue of which he in the flesh wrought many miraculous operations, and when he was buried he rose again from the dead, by which he was justified, that is, undoubtedly proved to be the Son of God. Or, by the Holy Spirit of God, (the Third Person in the holy Trinity), by whom he was conceived in the womb of the virgin, Luke 1:35.

Seen of angels, who declared his conception, Luke 1:32,33; sang and glorified God when he was born, Luke 2:10,11; ministered to him when he was tempted, Matthew 4:11: who comforted him in his passion, declared his resurrection, Matthew 28:1-20, and attended his ascension, Acts 1:10.

Preached unto the Gentiles: Christ’s being preached to the Gentiles was also a mystery, so great, that Peter would not believe it to be the will of God, till he was confirmed in it by a vision, Acts 10:1-48. This some think is spoken with some reference to the Gentile superstition, who also, (as was said before), had their greater and lesser mysteries, and to the former would admit no strangers.

Believed on in the world: that Christ should, upon the ministry of a few fishermen, and the report the world had received of what Christ did in Judea, be received and embraced by the world as their Saviour, was as great a mystery as any other, especially considering that the doctrine of Christ was as incomprehensible by human reason, as ungrateful to the propensions and inclinations of human nature.

Received up into glory: the resurrection of Christ is not mentioned, because necessarily supposed to his ascension, which he mentioneth as the last thing whereby Christ was declared to be

God manifested in the flesh. 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.

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

(8) There is nothing more excellent than this truth, of which the Church is the keeper and preserver here among men, the ministry of the word being appointed to that end and purpose: for it teaches us the greatest matters that may be thought, that is, that God has become visible in the person of Christ by taking our nature upon him, whose majesty, even though in such great weakness, was manifested in many ways, in so much that the sight of it pierced the very angels. And to conclude, he being preached to the Gentiles was received by them, and is now placed above in unspeakable glory.

(k) The power of the Godhead showed itself so marvellously in the weak flesh of Christ, that even though he was a weak man, yet all the world knows he was and is God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Timothy 3:16. Καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶ τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον] καί connects what follows with the preceding words, and in such a way as to emphasize the following predicate.

ὁμολογουμένως] which only occurs here, means neither “manifestly” (Luther), nor “according to the song of praise” (Mack), nor even “correspondingly” (Hofmann[143]); but: “as is acknowledged” (comp. 4Ma 6:31; 4Ma 7:16; 4Ma 16:1; Josephus, Antiq. i. 10. 2, ii. 9. 6).

μέγα] comp. Ephesians 5:32 (ΚΑῚ ΤῸ ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ ΤΟῦΤΟ ΜΈΓΑ ἘΣΤΊΝ), has the sense of “important, significant.”

The subject of the sentence: τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον, is a paraphrase of the ἈΛΉΘΕΙΑ in the preceding verse. It is so called by the apostle, because, as the substance of the Christian fear of God, or piety, it is hidden from the world: the sense is the same, therefore, as that of ΤῸ ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ Τῆς ΠΊΣΤΕΩς in 1 Timothy 3:9. It is wrong to translate it, as Luther does: “the blessed secret,” or to explain it: “the doctrine which leads to godliness.” Wiesinger is incorrect in explaining it: “a secret accessible only to godliness;” and Hofmann in saying: “the truth which is of such a nature as to produce godliness where it finds acceptance.”

The purport—i.e. the christological purport—is now given in the next clauses, Paul laying stress on it on account of the polemical tendency of the epistle against the heretics (chap. 4), whose theology and Christology were in contradiction with the gospel.

As to the construction of these clauses, there would be no difficulty with the reading Θεός. If be read, it must relate to ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ, which also might be the construction with Ὅς. According to the Vulgate (sacramentum quod manifestatum est), the latter is the construction adopted by the Latin Fathers who understood Christ to be the ΜΥΣΤΉΡΙΟΝ,[144]—an interpretation quite unjustifiable and unsuitable to the general train of thought. Several expositors (Mangold, Hofmann, and others) assume the first clause: ὃςσαρκί, to be the subject, and the other five clauses to form the predicate; but “on account of the parallelism, that is not advisable” (Winer, p. 519 [E. T. p. 736]). It is much more natural from their similar form to regard all six clauses as co-ordinate. Then the subject to which ὅς relates is not named; but, according to the purport of the various clauses, it can be none other than Christ. This curious omission may be thus accounted for; the sentence has been taken from a formula of confession, or better, from an old Christian hymn, as its metrical and euphonious character seems to indicate; comp. Rambach’s Anthologie christl. Gesänge aus allen Jahrh. d. Kirche, I. 33, and Winer, p. 547 [E. T. p. 797]. This view is also adopted by Heydenreich, Mack, de Wette, Wiesinger, van Oosterzee, Plitt.

The opinion of Matthies is untenable, that the apostle does not name Christ expressly, in order to maintain the character of τὸ μυστήριον (in the sense: Acknowledged great, etc., … he who is revealed, etc.), and that this absolute use of the relative pronoun is found elsewhere in the N. T. In the passages quoted by him, Romans 2:23, 1 Corinthians 7:37, John 1:46; John 3:34, 1 John 1:3, the pronoun has not the absolute meaning alleged by him. The first clause runs: ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί] ἐφανερώθη is often used of Christ’s appearance on earth, of His becoming man, 1 John 1:2; 1 John 3:5; it presupposes a previous concealment,[145] and consequently the pre-existence of Christ as the eternal Logos.

Ἐν σαρκί] (comp. 1 John 4:2 : ἐληλυθὼς ἐν σαρκί; Romans 8:3 : ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας) denotes the human nature in which Christ appeared; John 1:14 : ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο.

With this first clause the second stands in contrast: ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι] means (as in Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35): to be shown to be such a one as He is in nature; here, therefore, the sense is: He was shown in His divine glory (as the Logos or eternal Son of God), which was veiled by the σάρξ. Ἐν πνεύματι is contrasted with ἐν σαρκί, the latter denoting the earthly, human manner of His appearing, the former the inner principle which formed the basis of His life. Though ἐν with πνεύματι has not entirely lost its proper meaning, yet it shades off into the idea of the means used, in so far as the spirit revealed in Him was the means of showing His true nature.[146] It would be wrong to separate here the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ from His person, and to understand by it the spirit proceeding from Him and imparted to His own; it is rather the living spiritual principle dwelling in Him and working out from Him (so, too, Plitt).

Chrysostom diverges from this exposition, and explains ἘΔΙΚΑΙΏΘΗ by: ΔΌΛΟΝ ΟὐΚ ἘΠΟΊΗΣΕΝ, ὍΠΕΡ Ὁ ΠΡΟΦΉΤΗς ΛΈΓΕΙ· Ὃς ἉΜΑΡΤΊΑΝ ΟὐΚ ἘΠΟΊΗΣΕ; and Bengel takes the meaning of the expression to be that Christ bore the sins of the world (peccata peccatorum tulit … et justitiam aeternam sibi suisque asseruit); but both views import ideas which are here out of place. The expression ἘΝ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΙ has also found very varying interpretations. Instead of ΠΝΕῦΜΑ being taken in its real sense, particular elements of it in the life of Christ, or particular modes of revealing the ΠΝΕῦΜΑ, have been fixed upon, or ΠΝΕῦΜΑ has been taken simply of the divine nature of Christ.[147]

ὬΦΘΗ ἈΓΓΈΛΟΙς] The right meaning of this third clause also can only be got from a faithful consideration of the words. The word ὬΦΘΗ is in the N. T. frequently joined with the dative, Matthew 17:3; Luke 1:11; Acts 7:2; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8; Hebrews 9:28, etc. In all these passages it is not the simple “was seen,” but “was revealed” or “appeared;” it always presupposes the activity of the thing seen.

From the analogy of these passages, we must think here of Christ going to those to whom He became visible, so that all explanations which take ὬΦΘΗ merely as “was seen” are to be rejected.

In the N. T. ἌΓΓΕΛΟΙ is especially applied to angels; in itself the word may also denote human messengers (comp. Jam 2:25). To take it here in this latter sense (which Hofmann does), as denoting the apostles to whom Christ appeared after His resurrection, is impossible, because nothing, not even the article, is used here to point to them in particular. If, then, ἌΓΓΕΛΟΙ can only mean angels, it is most natural to take ὬΦΘΗ ἈΓΓΈΛΟΙς of the ascension, by which Christ—as the Glorified One—was made manifest to angels (so, too, Plitt). Still there is nothing here to lay stress on the ascension (as is done in the sixth clause); the point is, that He who was justified ἘΝ ΠΝΕΎΜΑΤΙ presented Himself to the angels in His glory.

Baur, indeed, in gnostic fashion interprets the passage of Christ as passing through the various series of aeons, but it is clear that the words neither demand nor even justify such a view. No less arbitrary is de Wette’s opinion, that probably the ὨΦΘῆΝΑΙ ἈΓΓΈΛΟΙς relates to a supernatural scene differing from the ascension, and forming the antithesis to the descent into hell.

The very form of the expression shows that we are not to think of appearances of angels at various moments in the earthly life of Christ, as some expositors suppose. More noteworthy is an explanation given by Chrysostom and approved by some later expositors, especially by Matthies and Wiesinger. Chrysostom says: ὬΦΘΗ ἈΓΓΈΛΟΙς· ὭΣΤΕ ΚΑῚ ἌΓΓΕΛΟΙ ΜΕΘʼ ἩΜῶΝ ΕἾΔΟΝ ΤῸΝ ΥἹῸΝ ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ, ΠΡΌΤΕΡΟΝ ΟὐΧ ὉΡῶΝΤΕς. Theodoret’s expression is still more pointed: ΤῊΝ ΓᾺΡ ἈΌΡΑΤΟΝ Τῆς ΘΕΌΤΗΤΟς ΦΎΣΙΝ ΟὐΔῈ ἘΚΕῖΝΟΙ ἙΏΡΩΝ, ΣΑΡΚΩΘΈΝΤΑ ΔῈ ἘΘΕΆΣΑΝΤΟ. Matthies appeals to passages which he thinks are elucidated by the words, passages where Christ is said to have been manifested as … head to all things in heaven and on earth, Ephesians 1:20 ff; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 4:8 ff.; Colossians 1:15 ff; Colossians 2:10; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 1:6 ff. But, though Christ’s lordship over all is spoken of in such passages, it is not said that Christ was made manifest to the angels only by means of His incarnation. The only passage which might be quoted here is Ephesians 3:10, which, however, rather declares that to the angels the eternal decree of the divine love or of God’s wisdom was to be made known ΔΙᾺ Τῆς ἘΚΚΛΗΣΊΑς. But such cannot possibly be the meaning of ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις. Wiesinger simply explains it: “the angels saw the ΣΑΡΚΩΘΈΝΤΑ on earth;” but obviously the sentence is meant to express something which befell not men, but angels.

ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν] for ἘΚΗΡΎΧΘΗ, comp. Php 1:15; and for ἘΝ ἜΘΝΕΣΙΝ, Matthew 28:19. There is no good reason for taking ἜΘΝΗ here as relating not to the nations in general, but, as Hofmann thinks, to the heathen exclusive of the Jews.[148]

ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ] ἐπιστεύθη is not, with some expositors, to be explained by ἐδικαιώθη: “He has been testified” (viz. by the miracles of the apostles), or by “fidem sibi fecit” (“he gained belief for Himself”); it is to be taken in its proper meaning. The word κόσμος has the same general meaning as the preceding ἔθνη; van Oosterzee is wrong in thinking that it ought to be taken here in an ethical sense.—“Jesus is personally the subject-matter of preaching and of faith” (Hofmann).

ἀνελήφθη ἐν δόξῃ] Mark 16:19; Acts 1:11 (Acts 10:16), where the same verb joined with εἰς οὐρανόν is used of Christ’s ascension. This supports the opinion of most expositors, that the same fact is mentioned here.

ἐν δόξῃ] may be taken as an adverbial adjunct equivalent to ἐνδόξως (similarly 2 Corinthians 3:81 Timothy 3:16. The connexion of thought lies in a feeling that the lofty terms in which the Church has been just spoken of may demand a justification. The truth of which the Church is στύλος καὶ ἑδραίωμα is not a light thing nor an insubstantial fabric; the truth is, more expressly, τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον, the revelation to man of practical religion; and, beyond yea or nay, this truth, this revelation, is great. Whether you believe it or not, you cannot deny that the claims of Christianity are tremendous.

μέγας is rare in Paul: (Romans 9:2; 1 Corinthians 9:11; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 11:15; Ephesians 5:32; 1 Timothy 6:6; 2 Timothy 2:20; Titus 2:13). The nearest parallel to the present passage is Ephesians 5:32, τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο μέγα ἐστίν. See note on 1 Timothy 3:9. On εὐσέβεια, see chap. 1 Timothy 2:2.

If we assume that ὅς is the right reading, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that what follows is a quotation by St. Paul from a primitive creed or summary of the chief facts to be believed about Jesus Christ. And one is tempted to conjecture that another fragment of the same summary is quoted in 1 Peter 3:18, θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκὶ ζωοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι. ὅς, then, does not form part of the quotation at all; it is simply introductory, and relative to the subject, Jesus Christ, whose personality was, in some terms, expressed in an antecedent sentence which St. Paul has not quoted.

As the passage stands, there are three pairs of antithetic thoughts: (1) (a) the flesh and (b) the spirit of Christ, (2) (a) angels and (b) Gentiles—the two extremes of the rational creation, (3) (a) the world and (b) glory. In another point of view, there is a connexion between 2 b and 3 a, and between 2 b and 3 a. Again, we may say that we have here set forth (1) the Incarnation in itself, (2) its manifestation, (3) its consequence or result, as affecting man and God.

The antithesis between the σάρξ and πνεῦμα of Christ is drawn, in addition to 1 Peter 3:18, also in Romans 1:3-4. τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυεὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης. We cannot leave out of account in discussing these passages the parallel in 1 Peter 4:6, εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη ἵνα κριθῶσι μὲν κατὰ ἀνθρώπους σαρκί ζῶσι δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι. The πνεῦμα of Christ, as man, in these passages means His human spirit, the naturally permanent spiritual part of a human personality. See also 1 Corinthians 5:5.

ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί: He who had been from all eternity “in the form of God” became cognisable by the limited senses of human beings, ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας (Romans 8:3), became manifest in the flesh, σὰρξ ἐγένετο (John 1:14). φανεροῦν is used in connexion with Christ in four associations in the N.T.:—

(1) as here, of the objective fact of the Incarnation: John 1:31 (?), Hebrews 9:26, 1 Peter 1:20, 1 John 1:2 (bis), 1 Timothy 3:5; 1 Timothy 3:8.

(2) of the revelation involved in the Incarnation: Romans 16:26, Colossians 1:26; Colossians 4:4, 2 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:3. N.B. in Rom. and Col. the verb is used of a μυστήριον.

(3) of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, which were, in a sense, repetitions of the marvel of the Incarnation, as being manifestations of the unseen: Mark 16:12; Mark 16:14, John 21:1 (bis), 14.

(4) of the Second Coming, which will be, as far as man can tell, His final manifestation: Colossians 3:4, 1 Peter 5:4, 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:2.

ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι: proved or pronounced to be righteous in His higher nature. The best parallel to this use of δικαιοῦν is Psalms 50 (51):6, ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις σου, also Matthew 11:19 = Luke 7:35. We are not entitled to assume that the ἐν has the same force before πνεύματι that it has before σαρκί; the repetition of the preposition is due to a felt need of rhythmic effect. If we are asked, When did this δικαίωσις take place? we reply that it was on a review of the whole of the Incarnate Life. The heavenly voice, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα, heard by human ears at the Baptism and at the Transfiguration, might have been heard at any moment during the course of those “sinless years”. He was emphatically ὁ δίκαιος (Acts 3:14; Acts 22:14; 1 John 2:1. See also Matthew 3:15; John 16:10.) It is enough to mention without discussion the opinions that πνεύματι refers (a) to the Holy Spirit, or (b) to the Divine Personality of Christ.

ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις: Ellicott points out that in these three pairs of clauses, the first member of each group points to earthly relations, the second to heavenly. So that these words ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις refer to the fact that the Incarnation was “a spectacle to angels” as well as “to men”; or rather, as Dean Bernard notes (Comm. in loc.), ὤφθη and ἐκηρύχθη mark the difference in the communication of the Christian Revelation to angels—the rational creatures nearest to God—and to the Gentiles—farthest from God. “The revelation to Gentiles is mediate, by preaching …; the revelation to the higher orders of created intelligences is immediate, by vision.” It was as much a source of wonderment to the latter as to the former. See 1 Peter 1:12. The angels who greeted the Birth (Luke 2:13), who ministered at the temptations (Matthew 4:11, Mark 1:13), strengthened Him in His agony (Luke 22:43), proclaimed His Resurrection and stood by at the Ascension, are only glimpses to us of “a cloud of witnesses” of whose presence Jesus was always conscious (Matthew 26:53).

ὤφθη is usually used of the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to men. See reff.

ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ: This was in itself a miracle. See 2 Thessalonians 1:10, John 17:21.

Winer-Moulton notes (Grammar, p. 326) that ἐπιστεύθη cannot be referred to πιστεύειν Χῷ but presupposes the phrase πιστ. Χόν. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:10.

ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξη: This is the verb used of the Ascension. See reff. Cf. ἀνάλημψις Luke 9:51.

ἐν δόξῃ: ἐν has, in this case, a pregnant sense, εἰς δόξαν καὶ ἐστὶν ἐν δόξῃ (Ell.). See also reff., in which ἐν δόξῃ is a personal attribute of the glory that surrounds and transfigures a glorified spiritual person; but in this place δόξα means the place or state of glory; cf. Luke 24:26, ἔδειτὸν Χριστόνεἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ.16. without controversy] We may render, And confessedly mighty is that holy truth revealed, the very grain and fibre of a reverent Christian life, which counts all as ‘holy ground,’ for Christ is ‘all in all.’

God was manifest in the flesh] The controversy is well known which has so long prevailed as to the original reading; whether the passage should begin ‘God’ or ‘who’: the Greek abbreviated form of writing ‘God’ being very like the Greek for ‘who,’ ΘΣ and οσ. Since the minute inspection of the Alexandrine ms. by Bps Lightfoot, Ellicott, and others, there is no doubt of its original reading being ‘who,’ as is also the reading of א, and all the Versions older than the 7th century, of Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome, Theodore, and Cyril. The neuter relative is indeed found in one uncial ms. (D1) in the It. and Vulg. and in all the Latin Fathers except Jerome, a correction apparently to make it agree with the neuter word mustêrion. The support of mss., Versions and Fathers is comparatively weak for ‘God’: while ‘it is a most significant fact that in the Arian controversy, no one of the Catholic champions except Gregory of Nyssa produces this passage, though it would have been their strong weapon.’ All the evidence preponderates in favour of a relative masc. or neut., and it seems incredible that θσ should have been altered into οσ because of the difficulty of the reading. Moreover it is difficult to understand how it could be said that God was justified in spirit or seen of angels or received up in glory. We take the reading ‘who’ unhesitatingly, and refer it to ‘an omitted though easily recognised antecedent, viz. Christ.’ The Person is implied in the Mystery. In Colossians 1:27, He is expressly called ‘this mystery among the Gentiles.’ In order to bring out the personal reference contained in the word ‘mystery’ as followed by the masculine relative, we must render in English with R.V. the mystery of godliness; He who. The abruptness and the rhythmical parallelism of the passage have been very probably accounted for by supposing it to be part of one of the earliest of the Christian creeds or hymns; as in Ephesians 5:14, ‘Wherefore he saith “Awake thou that sleepest” ’ where the words cannot be referred to any known passages of Holy Scripture. Westcott and Hort in their new critical edition of the Greek Testament have arranged the lines in both places according to this explanation; here in two divisions, the first two clauses in each pointing to earthly, the third to heavenly relation:—

‘He Who was manifested in the flesh,

Was justified in His spirit,

Was shewn to the angels,

Was proclaimed among the nations,

Was believed on in the world,

Was taken up in glory.’

The clauses have been however divided by Fairbairn and others into pairs; the first pair describing Christ’s human nature—in flesh manifested as true man, in spirit judged or approved as sinless man ‘fulfilling all righteousness’; the second pair recording the revelation of Himself by sight to the angels, by preaching to the Gentiles—the highest and the lowest of His subjects; the third pair closing with the acceptance of Himself by faith below, by ascension into glory above. We may shew something perhaps of the rhythmical effect thus for modern ears:

‘Who in flesh was manifested,

Pure in spirit was attested;

By angels’ vision witnessèd,

Among the nations heralded;

By faith accepted here,

Received in glory there!’

‘Manifested in the flesh’ is the first part of the statement of the Incarnation; ‘an historical appearance of One Who had previously existed but had been kept from the knowledge of the world’; the flesh, the material part of Christ’s human nature being the sphere of His manifestation. ‘Justified in the spirit’ is the second part; His spirit, the highest portion of the immaterial part of His human nature, is the sphere of His justification; the challenge which He made to the Jews, ‘Which of you convicteth Me of sin’ was one which He could make to His own conscience. He was justified when it spake and clear when it judged (Romans 3:4; Psalm 51:4). See Dr Plummer, Pastoral Epistles, pp. 135 sqq.

On the perfection of Christ’s human nature, body, soul and spirit, see Appendix, A.1 Timothy 3:16. Θεὸς, God) He had called Him Man, ch. 1 Timothy 2:5. He now compensates for what might there seem to have been derogatory to Him, calling Him here God.[26] (See however Apparat., p. 710, s.) [Ed. II., p. 400, seqq.]; for even the greatness of the mystery depends especially (even most of all) on the greatness of the subject, God. Paul, writing to Timothy and Titus, whose faith was greatly advanced, calls the Father Saviour, and in turn the Son God; and he subjoins three pairs of predicates, in which the whole economy of Christ, from His departure to His return or assumption, is summarily comprehended. The sum of these predicates, viz. He was taken up in (to) glory, is ascribed to the same Subject, God, in Psalm 47:5-6; and this one place compensates for the ambiguity in the reading of Paul, if any such there be, in this passage.—ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκὶ, was manifested in the flesh) The same verb occurs, 1 John 1:2; the same noun, John 1:14. This manifestation applies to the whole economy of Christ, who was at one time conspicuous (visible) to the eyes of mortal men.—ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, was justified in the spirit) Christ, while He was manifest in the flesh, walked among sinners and men subject to death. He was thought to be just such a one as any of themselves, and in reality bore their sins; but afterwards, by His death which He endured in the flesh, He abolished sin, that had been laid upon Him, and claimed for Himself and His people eternal righteousness, with the entire approbation of the Father, withdrawing from the sight of men, and entering into the spiritual and glorious state, which was suitable to His righteousness, by His resurrection and ascension. See respecting the notion of flesh and spirit, Romans 1:3-4; 1 Peter 3:18, note.[27] He was in this sense justified in the spirit. At the most precious and actual moment of His death, He ceased to be mortal, and to be burdened with the sin of the world. Comp. on the righteousness and justification of Christ, Matthew 3:15; Luke 7:35; John 19:30; John 16:10; Acts 22:14; Romans 6:10; Romans 6:7; Hebrews 9:28; Isaiah 1:8; 1 John 2:1. And He Himself, going in spirit to the spirits in prison, preached that righteousness, and from that time powerfully put it forth into exercise (operation): comp. Romans 4:25. This clause accords with the passage of Peter already quoted; as the expression, He was preached among the Gentiles, with 1 Peter 4:6.—ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις) He was seen, chiefly after the resurrection, by angels, good or even bad; of whom the former were at the same time made acquainted with His dispensation [the plan of redemption by Him], the latter were struck with terror, Ephesians 3:10; in which passage the mention of angels, properly so called, is in consonance with this summary of Paul here.—ἐκηρύχθη, was preached) This elegantly follows. The angels enjoyed the most immediate admission to Christ (“the Lord of angels”); the Gentiles, in their admission, were the furthest removed (in the greatest degree (“afar off,” Ephesians 2:17). And the foundations of this preaching, and of the faith existing in the world, were laid before Christ was taken up (“received up”) into heaven; John 17:18. The preachers and first believers were as it were the seed of the rest.—ἐπιστεύθη) He was believed on.—ἐν κόσμῳ) in the world, i.e. the whole world. [A circumstance calculated to fill us with astonishment.—V. g.] The world, or globe, is opposed to heaven, into which He, being God, was taken up. He fills all things.—ἀνελήφθη ἐν δὁξῃ) was taken up in glory [“received up into glory,” Engl. Vers.]) Supply, And He is now in glory, and comes in glory. The first thing is, manifest in the flesh; the last, He was received up in glory. These things even, especially refer to the greatness of the mystery. Even this single expression, He was taken, or received up, confutes what Artemonius has on this passage, Pref. p. 27.

[26] Θεὸς of the Rec. Text has none of the oldest MSS. in its favour, no version as early as the seventh century; and as to the fathers, ex. gr. Cyril of Alex. and Chrysostom, quoted for Θεὸς, see Tregelles on the printed text of N. T., in which he shows these fathers are misquoted. Theodoret, however, does support it. Liberatus, Victor Tununensis (both of 6th cent.), affirm that Macedonius, under the Emperor Anastasius, changed ὃς into Θεός in order to support Nestorianism. AC corrected, G, read ὃς. So Memph. and Theb. The old Latin fg and Vulg. have quod, referring to μυοτἡριον, taken as a personal designation for the antecedent. The Syr. Peschito, and in fact all the versions older than the seventh cent., have the relative, not Θεὸς. D(Δ) corrected, alone of the uncials, favours . The silence of the fathers of the fourth cent., though Θεὸς would have furnished them with a strong argument, is conclusive against it.—ED.

[27] Flesh and Spirit do not denote strictly the human and divine nature of Christ respectively; but either of the two, according as it is His state of life among men, or as it is His glorified state with God.—ED.

—————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).

Without controversy (ὁμολογουμένως)

Lit. confessedly. N.T.o.

The mystery of godliness (τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον)

(a) The connection of thought is with the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), and the words mystery of godliness are a paraphrase of that word. The church is the pillar and stay of the truth, and the truth constitutes the mystery of godliness. (b) The contents of this truth or mystery is Christ, revealed in the gospel as the Savior from ungodliness, the norm and inspiration of godliness, the divine life in man, causing him to live unto God as Christ did and does (Romans 6:10). See 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 2:5; Colossians 1:26, Colossians 1:27. According to the Fourth Gospel, Christ is himself the truth (John 14:6). The mystery of godliness is the substance of piety equals mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9). (c) The truth is called a mystery because it was, historically, hidden, until revealed in the person and work of Christ; also because it is concealed from human wisdom, and apprehended only by faith in the revelation of God through Christ. (d) The genitive, of godliness, is possessive. The mystery of godliness is the truth which pertains or belongs to godliness. It is not the property of worldly wisdom. Great (μέγα) means important, weighty, as Ephesians 5:32.

God (Θεὸς)

But the correct reading is ὃς who. The antecedent of this relative is not mystery, as if Christ were styled "the mystery," but the relative refers to Christ as an antecedent; and the abruptness of its introduction may be explained by the fact that it and the words which follow were probably taken from an ancient credal hymn. In the earlier Christian ages it was not unusual to employ verse or rhythm for theological teaching or statement. The heretics propounded their peculiar doctrines in psalms. Clement of Alexandria wrote a hymn in honor of Christ for the use of catechumens, and Arius embodied his heresy in his Thalia, which was sung in the streets and taverns of Alexandria. The Muratorian Canon was probably composed in verse. In the last quarter of the fourth century, there are two metrical lists of Scripture by Amphilochius and Gregory Nazianzen.

Was manifest (ἐφανερώθη)

More correctly, was manifested. The verb is used John 1:2; Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 3:5, 1 John 3:8, of the historical manifestation of Christ; and of the future coming of Christ in Colossians 3:4; 1 Peter 5:4; 1 John 3:2.

In the flesh (ἐν σαρκί)

Comp. John 1:14; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 1:7; Romans 1:3; Romans 8:3; Romans 9:5. Σάρξ flesh only here in Pastorals.

Justified in the Spirit (ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι)

The verb δικαιοῦν, so familiar in Paul's writings, is found in the Pastorals only here and Titus 3:7. Its application to Christ as the subject of justification does not appear in Paul. Its meaning here is vindicated, indorsed, as Matthew 11:19; Luke 10:29. Concerning the whole phrase it is to be said: (a) That the two clauses, manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, exhibit a contrast between two aspects of the life of Christ (b) That ἐν in must have the same meaning in both clauses (c) That meaning is not instrumental, by, nor purely modal, expressing the kind and manner of Christ's justification, but rather local with a shade of modality. It expresses in each case a peculiar condition which accompanied the justification; a sphere of life in which it was exhibited and which gave character to it. In the one condition or sphere (the flesh) he was hated, persecuted, and murdered. In the other (the Spirit) he was triumphantly vindicated. See further the additional note at the end of this chapter.

Seen of angels (ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις)

Better, appeared unto or showed himself to, as Matthew 17:3; Luke 1:11; Acts 7:2; Hebrews 9:28. The same verb is used of the appearance of the risen Christ to different persons or parties (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). The reference of the words cannot be determined with certainty. They seem to imply some great, majestic occasion, rather than the angelic manifestations during Jesus' earthly life. Besides, on these occasions, the angels appeared to him, not he to them. The reference is probably to his appearance in the heavenly world after his ascension, when the glorified Christ, having been triumphantly vindicated in his messianic work and trial, presented himself to the heavenly hosts. Comp. Philippians 2:10; Ephesians 3:10, and, in the latter passage, note the connection with; "the mystery," 1 Timothy 3:9.

continued...

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