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…
First of all, there must be a dispensation of Christ. See the equity of this even from things among men. It is not sufficient that physic be provided; but there must be an application of it. It is not sufficient that there is a treasure; but there must be a digging of it out. It is not sufficient that there be a candle or light; but there must be a holding out of the light for the good and use of others. It was not sufficient that there was a "brazen serpent," but the brazen serpent must be "lifted up" that the people might see it. It is not sufficient that there be tapestry and glorious hangings, but there must be an unfolding of them. What it is to preach.
1. To preach is to open the mystery of Christ, to open whatsoever is in Christ; to break open the box that the savour may be perceived of all. To open Christ's natures and person what it is; to open the offices of Christ. And likewise the states wherein He executed His office. First, the state of humiliation. But it is not sufficient to preach Christ, to lay open all this in the view of others; but in the opening of them there must be application of them to the use of God's people, that they may see their interest in them; and there must be an alluring of them, for to preach is to woo. And because people are in a contrary state to Christ, "to preach Christ" is even to begin with the law, to discover to people their estate by nature. A man can never preach the gospel that makes not way for the gospel by showing and convincing people what they are out of Christ. This preaching is that whereby God dispenseth salvation and grace ordinarily. And God in wisdom sees it the fittest way to dispense His grace to men by men. Why?
(1) To try our obedience to the truth itself. He would have men regard the things spoken, not for the person that speaks them, but for the excellency of the things.
(2) And then God would knit man to man by bonds of love. Now there is a relation between pastor and people by this ordinance of God.
(3) And then it is more suitable to our condition. We could not hear God speak, or any more excellent creatures.
(4) And it is more proportionable to our weakness to have men that speak out of experience from themselves that preach the gospel, that they have felt the comfort of themselves. It works the more upon us. Let us therefore set a price upon God's ordinance. There must be this dispensation. Christ must be "preached." Preaching is the chariot that carries Christ up and down the world. But then, in the next place, this preaching it must be of Christ; Christ must be "preached." But must nothing be preached but Christ? I answer, Nothing but Christ, or that that tends to Christ. The foundation of all these duties must be from Christ. The graces for these duties must be fetched from Christ; and the reasons and motives of a Christian's conversation must be from Christ, and from the state that Christ hath advanced us unto. The prevailing reasons of a holy life are fetched from Christ. Now Christ must be preached wholly and only. "we must not take anything from Christ, nor join anything to Christ. Christ must be preached; but to whom? "To the Gentiles." Here lies the mystery, that Christ, who was "manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit," etc., should be "preached to the Gentiles." But why did God suffer the Gentiles to "walk in their own ways"? (Acts 14:16). "Why did He neglect and over look the Gentiles, and suffer them to go on "in their own ways," so many thousand years before Christ came? Were they not God's creatures as well as the Jews? I answer, This is a mystery, that God should suffer those witty people, that were of excellent parts, to go on "in their own ways." But there was matter enough in themselves. He need not call God to our bar to answer for Himself. They were malicious against the light they knew. They imprisoned the light of nature that they had, as it is Romans 1:21. They were unfaithful in that they had. It is God's sovereignty. He must let God do what He will. Therefore we cannot be too much thankful for that wondrous favour which we have enjoyed so long time together under the glorious sunshine of the gospel. Hence we have a ground likewise of enlarging the gospel to all people, because the Gentiles now have interest in Christ; that merchants and those that give themselves to navigation, they may with good success carry the gospel to all people. There are none shut out now since Christ in this last age of the world; and certainly there is great hope of those western people.
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.