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. I am to explain the thing itself that is here said of Christ Jesus, that the God who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, and seen of angels, is now PREACHED UNTO THE GENTILES. What is the import of the expression that He was preached? The word signifies the office of a herald, or, as some think, of an ambassador.
1. To preach Christ is to declare that He is the only Mediator between God and man; and when this is preached among the Gentiles, it is to turn them from the error of their way, and the vile abominations they were got into.
2. When we preach Christ, we represent Him
as sufficient to answer all the danger that our souls are in.
3. Preaching Christ is telling these things in the plainest and most open way we can.
4. We preach Christ as One who is willing to seek and save that which is lost.
5. Our preaching of Christ signifies the pains we are at in persuading people to come to Him.
6. We assert His authority over the whole creation, and especially over the Churches; that He has the government upon His shoulder; that all power is given to Him in heaven and in earth.
7. In this preaching of Christ we have an eye to that state where His glory shall be seen and ours complete.
II. The other part of the truth contained in this text is, that He was preached unto the Gentiles; by whom we are to understand all the rest of the world, who had been, by the providence of God, a long while distinguished from one particular people.
1. You will see, by going over some historical accounts, that until the gospel came to be preached in this last and best edition, religion confined and drew in itself by every new dispensation. As, for example —
(1) When God had revealed that promise, which was the blooming gospel, that the seed of the woman should break the serpent's head, as it was delivered to our first parents, so it equally concerned all their posterity.
(2) After the flood, when our whole nature consisted of no more than what came out of the ark, Noah had three sons — Shem, Ham, and Japhet — and it is only the first of these among whom the true worship was maintained.
(3) Here is still a farther narrowing of the Divine interest; for though Abraham's whole family were taken into an external covenant during his own days, yet one-half of them are cut off afterwards.
(4) Here is a farther limitation; for though Isaac had the promise renewed to him — that in his seed should all the families of the earth be blessed — yet that is only to be understood of one-half.
(5) Jacob's whole family, indeed, remain possessed of the true religion, and all the twelve tribes are brought out of Egypt; but in Jeroboam's time ten of them fall off both from their king and their God.
(6) Whether the ten tribes returned with the two or not — as to me it seems probable they did — yet you find in a little time they revive the old prejudice. The Samaritans were supposed by the Jews not to be of the stock of Israel; but it is plain they always claimed it.
(7) There seems to be a yet narrower distinction; for the people who lived at some distance from the temple, though there was no dispute of their lineal descent, are accounted afar off.
2. From that period the Divine mercy entered into other measures. You may then see how religion widened in pursuance of ancient prophecies.
(1) Our Saviour was a Minister of the circumcision, and only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel: but yet even then He gave a dawn of His being preached among the Gentiles.
(2) Accordingly, at His death, He took away all that which had kept up the distinction between Jew and Gentile, and so laid the foundation for their having the gospel.
(3) He gave orders to His disciples, soon after the resurrection, that they might be witnesses for Him in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and to the uttermost ends of the earth.
(4) For this He gives them qualifications. They are endued with power from on high; the Holy Ghost came upon them.
(5) He did it in accomplishment of His ancient prophecies. The Book of God is full to this purpose. Promises are made to those people who seemed the farthest off from mercy.
II. He who thus distinguished Himself by an honour that had not been known for many ages could be no other than the Most High God. Jehovah is to be King over all the earth; and in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one.
1. We can preach no person to the Gentiles as the only Mediator between God and man, but one that is God as well as man.
2. In preaching Christ Jesus, we represent Him to the world as sufficient to answer all the necessities of their souls, both by way of atonement for them and of conquest over them; that He paid a full price, and that He is possessed of a complete fund. We durst not say of a creature, let him be never so glorious, that by one offering he has for ever perfected them that are sanctified.
3. I told you that in preaching Christ Jesus we are to make a public discovery of Him. We must not conceal His righteousness and His truth from the great congregation, and in that are to run all hazards; but this is more than we owe to a creature.
4. In preaching Christ Jesus we declare His willingness to save them that are lost.
5. Our preaching is persuading sinners to come to Him, that they may have life.
6. We proclaim Him as the great Head over all things unto His Church.
III. We are to consider this branch of our religion as a MYSTERY.
1. It is mysterious that the Gentiles, who were neglected for so many ages, should have Christ Jesus preached among them.
2. These Gentiles were no way prepared to receive the news of a Saviour when He came to be preached among them (Acts 14:16).
3. It is still more mysterious that the Jews should reject a Saviour who was to be preached among the Gentiles.
4. After His disgrace from the Jews, He is made the subject of our ministry.
5. That Christ should be preached to the Gentiles is what He Himself put a bar in the way of. He acted all along as a Jew, as a minister of the circumcision.
6. This was a thing never to be conceived of by the Jews.
7. It is what the apostles themselves came into very unwillingly; their thoughts were of a national cast as well as others; and this stuck by them a long time.
8. It is some part of the wonder that the preaching among the Gentiles should be put into such hands. "Are not these men that speak Galileans? and how is it that we hear among them in our own tongues the wonderful works of God"?
9. The persons He employed were no way prepared by education for that life of public service into which He called them (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
10. It is still farther a mystery in the way that God took to spread this gospel among the Gentiles; that He should raise up these men to run all manner of dangers, who might have lived secure and protected (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).
11. The great wonder of all is, that they should be qualified with the gift of tongues.
12. He called most of them to seal this truth with their blood, which was the highest testimony that nature could give to what grace had taught.
IV. I am now to show you that this branch of Christianity enjoys the same beautiful character that is given of all the rest; that it is a mystery of godliness, and promotes a pure and undefiled religion before God and our Father.
1. That minister who preaches up the Divinity of Christ, and tells the world plainly that He is no other than the Most High God, is likely to promote religion among men, because he speaks out. We see, we know what he means.
2. They who preach up Christ as the Most High God do insist upon such an object of their ministry as deserves to be so.
3. When we preach Christ as God, it answers the demand of your duty to Him.
4. This agrees to the nature of your dependence upon Him. Our gospel tells us there is salvation in no other.
5. This provides for all the comfort that we can stand in need of. The application of this is what I have but little room for; I will there. fore confine myself to these three particulars..
(1) If it is God whom we preach to the Gentiles — a God manifest in the flesh — then you may be very sure we have no reason to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.
(2) Let us, upon this account, recommend ourselves to your friendship and hearty prayers.
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.