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…
After "preached to the Gentiles," he joins "believed on in the world," to show that faith "comes by hearing." Indeed, "preaching" is the ordinance of God, sanctified for the begetting of faith, for the opening of the understanding, for the drawing of the will and affections to Christ. Therefore the gospel unfolded is called "the Word of faith," because it begets faith. God by it works faith; and it is called the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18), because God by it publisheth reconciliation. As preaching goes before believing, so it is the blessed instrument, by reason of the Spirit accompanying of it, to work faith. We see the excellency and necessary use of this grace of faith. How is Christ to be believed on?
1. We must rest upon no other thing, either in ourselves or out of ourselves, but Christ only.
2. And whole Christ must be received. We see here Christ "believed on in the world" — the world that was opposite, that were enemies, that were under Satan. Who shall despair, then?Now, I shall show how this is a mystery.
1. First, if we consider what the world was, an opposite and enemy to Christ; and under His enemy, being slaves to Satan, being idolaters, in love with their own inventions, which men naturally doat on; here was the wonder of God's love and mercy, that he should vouchsafe it to such wretches. It was a mystery that the world should believe. If we consider, besides their greatness and wisdom, the inward malicious disposition of the world, being in the strong man's possession, for these men to believe the gospel, surely it must needs be a great mystery.
2. Again, if we consider the parties that carried the gospel, whereby the world was subdued — a company of weak men, unlearned men, none of the deepest for knowledge, only they had the Holy Ghost to teach and instruct, to strengthen and fortify them — which the world took no notice of — men of mean condition, of mean esteem, and few in number: and these men they came not with weapons, or outward defence, but merely with the Word, and with sufferings.
3. Again, if we consider the truth that they taught, being contrary to the nature of man, contrary to his affections; to enforce self-denial to men that naturally are full of self-love.
4. Again, if we consider another circumstance, it adds to the mystery; that is, the suddenness of the conquest.
5. Again, it is a wonder in respect of Christ, whom the world "believed on." What was Christ? Indeed, He was the Son of God, but He appeared in abased flesh, in the form of a "servant." He was crucified. And for the proud world to believe in a crucified Saviour, it was a mystery.
6. Lastly, it is a great mystery, especially in respect of faith itself, faith being so contrary to the nature of man.
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.