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…
I. WHAT IT IS FOR ANY PEOPLE TO BELIEVE ON CHRIST.
1. I begin with that which seems to be the lowest act of faith: and that is receiving the testimony He has given of Himself; believing that His doctrine is of God, that it came from above.
2. They that believe on Christ look upon Him as the only Saviour of a lost world.
3. Believing in Christ is relying upon the righteousness, that He has brought in for our acceptance with God.
4. Believing in Christ is deriving from His fulness the principles of a new life. The satisfaction that He has made was with a view to this.
5. Believing in Christ is growing in the spiritual life.
6. When we believe in Christ, we regard Him as our great Comforter in every time of need.
7. They that believe in Christ are obedient to Him in all manner of conversation.
8. In particular, they that believe in Christ, live in the acts of religious worship to Him.
9. Believing in Christ is trusting Him for protection to the end of life.
10. Believing in Christ is looking to Him as the finisher of our faith; as one that is to give the completing stroke to His own work.
II. I am now to open this account that is given of Him, as an argument of His DIVINITY; that He in whom the world are to believe, can be no other than the Most High God. In believing we look upon Him as the only Saviour of the world; and this cannot be affirmed of one that is not God.
III. As it is a MYSTERY. The nature of the work.
1. Believing itself is a mystery; as it is acting without the direction of sense and reason, and very often against them, and therefore in opposition to the example and practice of others. So that it must proceed from something that we feel only in ourselves.
(1) Believing is acting without the direction of sense and reason; it is depending upon what we do not see, and admiring what we cannot understand.
(2) Believing is oftentimes acting against these two principles, by which we are to be conducted in other things.
(3) Believing is acting in opposition to the practice and example of others; and it is no easy matter to get thus high,
(4) This proceeds from something within ourselves.
IV. To what is said of believing in general, we may add the circumstance of place where men are to look for it, which leads us farther into the mystery.
1. You will observe the mystery of believing in Christ, if you regard it as a thing to be met with in this world, and not in heaven. Had it been said of Him now, that He is received up with glory, we could easily come into the report, because there He is revealed with a brightness unconfined: there is no veil upon His face, no limitation to their eyes.
2. It is mysterious that He is believed on in a world where He had been refused.
3. To this you may add another consideration, which heightens the wonder, that He is believed on in a world where the greatest evidence has already proved in vain (John 3:32).
4. He is thus believed on in a world where He appears no longer.
5. He is thus believed on in a world possessed of the greatest prejudice against Him (John 15:18).
6. It is farther strange that He is believed on in a world that is under the power of His most obstinate enemy.
7. It is strange that people should believe on Christ in a world when nothing is to be got by it. I do not affirm this in the strict sense of the words, for you know godliness has the promise of all things; but my meaning is, that the soul, in the recumbence of his faith upon Christ Jesus, looks above all riches, honours, and every endearment of life.
V. I am now to show, that for the world to believe in Christ Jesus as God who was manifest in the flesh, is a means of promoting that religion that ever was and ever will be the ornament of any profession. It is a mystery of GODLINESS. This will appear if you do but consider what the great business of religion is, and to what purposes it is both recommended as a practice, and promised as a blessing. I take it to consist in these four things —
1. In subjection to Christ's authority, and a conformity to His image; this may be called inward religion, and thus I shall consider it in the principle.
2. There arises from this a duty both to God and man, which is commanded in the two tables of the moral law.
3. It is a branch of this religion to make a profession of Christ, to own Him in the world, and show forth His praises.
4. The joys and satisfaction that Christ gives to His people who thus wait upon Him may come into the general notion that we have of godliness. Now all these are begun, advanced, and extended by the belief of those mysteries that we meet with in the faith, and in particular that He is a God who was manifest in the flesh.Application: If it is part of the mystery of godliness that Christ is believed on in the world, then —
1. You see how both ministers and people do best fall in with the design of Christianity; the one by preaching up this faith, and the other by receiving it.
2. If that is one branch of religion, that Christ is believed on in the world, no wonder that Satan sets himself in opposition to it (2 Corinthians 4:4, 5).
3. How great a wickedness must theirs be who would hinder the faith of Jesus in the world!
4. What need have we to be very earnest for that faith which is of the operation of God?
5. See that this end is answered upon your souls (Colossians 1:28).
6. Be sure that in believing on Him you regard all His perfections.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: 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.