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…
These words are added to answer an objection that may rise from the former. He was "God manifest in the flesh." He veiled Himself. He could not have suffered else. He appeared to be nothing but a poor man, a debased, dejected man: a persecuted, slandered, disgraced man in the world. He was thought to be a trespasser. It is no matter what He appeared, when He was veiled with our flesh; He was "justified in the spirit," to be the true Messiah; to be God as well as man. "Justified." It implies two things in the phrase of Scripture: a freedom and clearing from false conceits and imputations, and declared to be truly what He was; to be otherwise than He was thought to be of the wicked world. "In the spirit." That is, in His Godhead: that did show itself in His life and death, in His resurrection and ascension. He was "justified" in a double regard.
1. In regard of God, He was justified and cleared from our sins that He took upon Him. He "bore our sins upon the tree," and bore them away, that they should never appear again to our discomfort. Now, the Spirit raising Him from the dead, showed that the debt was fully discharged, because our Surety was out of prison. All things are first in Christ and then in us. He was acquitted and justified from our sins, and then we.
2. And then He was justified by the Spirit from all imputations of men, from the misconceits that the world had of Him. They thought Him to be a mere man, or a sinful man. No. He was more than a mere man; nay, more than a holy man; He was God-man.The reason why He justified Himself to be so.
1. It was the more to strengthen our faith. All His miracles were but so many sparkles of His Divine nature, so many expressions of His Divine power; and —
2. To stop the mouths of all impudent rebellious persons. "Justified in the spirit."Then first of all —
1. Christ will at length justify Himself. This is a ground of faith. However He be now as a sign set up that many speak against and contradict, yet the time will come when He will gloriously justify Himself to all the world. That is our comfort. Now, as it were, His offices are darkened: His kingly office is darkened and His prophetical office is darkened; but at length it will appear that He is King of the Church, and all kingdoms will be Christ's. There are glorious times coming, especially the glorious day of the resurrection. Christ at length will be cleared, He will be justified. The sun at length will scatter all the clouds. Again, as Christ will justify Himself, so He will justify His Church and children, first or last, by His Spirit. His children are now accounted the offscouring of the world. Therefore in our eclipses and disgraces let us all comfort ourselves in this. How do we justify Christ?
(1) We justify Christ when, from an inward work of the Spirit, we feel and acknowledge Him to be such an one as He is: Christ is God.
(2) Those that have Christ illuminating their understandings, to conceive the mysteries of religion, they justify Christ to be the Prophet of His Church; because they feel Him enlightening their understandings.
(3) Those that find their consciences pacified, by the obedience and sacrifice of Christ, they justify Him to be their Priest; for they can oppose the blood of Christ sprinkled on their hearts, to all the temptations of Satan, and to the risings of their own doubting conscience.
(4) In a word, we justify and declare and make good that He is our King, and put a kingly crown upon His head, when we suffer Him to rule us and to subdue our spirits and our rebellions; when we cherish no contrary motions to His Spirit; when we rest in His word and not traditions, but stoop to the sceptre of Christ's Word. In particular, we justify Him, that "He rose from the dead" when we believe that we are freed from our sins, our Surety being out of prison. In the next place, for our direction; as Christ justified Himself by His Spirit, by His Divine power, so let us know that it is our duty to justify ourselves, to justify our profession, justify all Divine truth. Let us make it good that we are the sons of God, that we are Christians indeed; not only to have the name, but the anointing of Christ; that we may clear our religion from false imputations; or else, instead of justifying our profession, we justify the slanders that are against it. How shall this be? The text saith, "by the Spirit." For as Christ "justified" Himself, that is, declared Himself to be as He was "by His Spirit," so every Christian hath the "Spirit of Christ, or else He is none of His" (Romans 8:9).
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.