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…
There is in the words a twofold antithesis, or distinction from what went before.
1. The first is in the nature or kind of the revelation; in the flesh He was manifest, in the spirit He is justified. The former does not carry the discovery far enough for His whole glory; many saw that who were strangers to the latter.
2. The other distinction here is about the manner of the discovery. He was manifest in the flesh, He is justified in the spirit; which may be understood these three ways.
(1) He was justified in the spirit, i.e., the seat of this justification, the place where it is fixed, is the soul of man. That He was manifest in the flesh we could see with our eyes; but when He is justified, that lies all within; there the mind, the conscience, the affections, take in the argument. And this is the great work of the Holy Spirit; the thing that He has in charge.
(2) The nature of this justification is all spiritual. As it is delivered to the mind and conscience, so it impresses these in a way suitable to the spirit of man. His manifestation was in the flesh, by miracles, signs, and wonders, to show His power; by meekness, humility, and patience, to show his purity; by trouble, shame, and death, to declare His merit. These were external, the facts upon which He sustained His character were seen abroad, the thing was not done in a corner; but the manner of conveying this to the soul is different. The things of the Spirit of God are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
(3) That the Spirit is the Author of this justification; it is He that works upon our souls in the manner that I have been describing.
I. We shall inquire into the sense of the words, that Christ Jesus was JUSTIFIED.
1. He had a Divine approbation, both to His character and to His actions. That He was the Messiah, the anointed of the Lord; and that what He did was right and good (John 8:29).
2. He was also praised and admired as another part of His justification (Romans 3:4).
II. ON WHAT HEADS IS CHRIST THUS JUSTIFIED?
1. As to His mission, that He was sent of God.
2. As to His personal glory.
3. As to His fitness for the undertaking.
4. As to the propriety of those methods that He used.
5. As to His claim of the great reward above.
6. As to His actual possession of it.
III. THE SCRIPTURE HAS FURNISHED US WITH SEVERAL PARTICULARS. CHRIST WAS JUSTIFIED IN THE SPIRIT.
1. By the prophetical warnings that were given of Him.
2. By His personal furniture.
3. At the hour of His death and suffering.
4. More especially at His resurrection.
5. At the day of Pentecost.
6. In the conviction of sinners.
7. In the consolation of believers.
IV. HE WHO IS THUS JUSTIFIED IN THE SPIRIT IS NO OTHER THAN THE MOST HIGH GOD.
V. THAT IT IS A MYSTERY OF GODLINESS.
1. It is a thing mysterious in its own nature, that He who was manifest in the flesh should be justified in the spirit.
(1) One testimony given to our blessed Lord was concerning His death; and you may look upon it as a mystery that He should take such a way to carry on His design, as all mankind imagined would be fatal to it (1 Corinthians 1:25).
(2) It is a mystery that He should be owned by the Father at the same time that He thought Himself forsaken.
(3) Another mystery is this, that the very thing which seemed to hinder the faith of men should afterwards encourage it. I mean the death of our blessed Lord.
(4) It is still further a mystery that He who appeared at His death, as if He was entirely in the enemies hands, should soon after declare His own power at the resurrection.
(5) The manner of the Spirit's justifying Christ in a soul that was filled with prejudice against Him is very mysterious. Application:
1. If the justification of Christ in the Spirit is such a mystery, it is no wonder that the honour of our Lord is so much struck at.
2. This shows us how vain all the ways of promoting the knowledge of Christ will be that are not agreeable to the Spirit.
VI. You will see that it is a mystery of GODLINESS, by considering the influence it has upon the following principles.
1. By this we learn to approach with reverence to Him with whom we have to do.
2. If God is justified in our spirits it will fill us with a care to please Him.
3. This gives us humble thoughts of ourselves.
4. This inspires us with charity to others.
5. Another principle that the testimony of the Spirit has an influence upon is, that peace and hope that runs through the lives of believers.
6. It prepares him for a dying hour; he dare trust his soul to the care of a Redeemer at last. Lord Jesus receive my spirit.
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.