The Mystery of Godliness
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. A MYSTERY is something kept secret, locked up from the view of men. This sense of it agrees to the doctrines of Christianity upon a threefold account.

1. As they were concealed from former ages.

2. As they are yet so from the greatest part of the world.

3. As they continue so in some degree to God's own people.The temple of God is not to be opened till we get to heaven, and there we shall see the ark of His covenant. Upon these accounts it may be said our gospel is hid; it was so to the Jews, it is so to those that are lost; and, in part, it is so to the believer him self; and therefore it may be called a mystery.

1. It is called a mystery from its importance.

2. It is called a mystery because it never could have been known but by revelation.

3. A mystery is something above the comprehension of our reason. The things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. And this leads me to —


1. The difficulty or easiness of a doctrine does not make it the matter of our faith, but we go entirely upon the sufficiency of the evidence.

2. This obtains in every part of life, and it is strange we should exclude it from religion.

3. It is no way unaccountable that the nature and the designs of God should be" incomprehensible to us.

4. It is necessary that our understanding should honour the revelation of God by a subjection, as well as our wills by a compliance.

5. These are not mysteries of man's forging, but we have them in the Book of God.

6. They are not concealed by any party or tribe among us, but lie open to be seen and read of all men. Therefore —

7. The design of preaching them is not to set up the tyranny of priests, but to lead people to a veneration for their God, a dependence upon Him, and an application to Him.

III. WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF HAVING MYSTERIES IN THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION? Why could not our lawgiver have done as others did, only laid before us a set of rules, and distributed them under the several heads of practice, without ever engaging our faith in any speculations at all? When the law is established by faith, it gets a firmness and an influence that it could never have had any other way.

1. By the mysteries of the gospel we are led to an esteem for the salvation itself that God has given us, because thus we see that it was the contrivance of infinite wisdom.

2. We have the best arguments for our duty from the incarnation, satisfaction, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

3. We have the noblest example of all practical holiness from God's being manifest in the flesh.

4. We are in particular inclined and encouraged to the duty of prayer, by this new and living way that is consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. (Hebrews 10:20).

5. We have the best hope of succeeding in the whole work of our duty, from the redemption that is now established.

6. By these mysteries the principles of all practical religion are enlarged and encouraged. It is in a meditation upon these that we stir up the grace of God that is in us.

7. We are by this means kept low in our own eyes; as we find there are things above the reach of nature, and beyond the comprehension of faith.

8. This shows us the necessity of depending upon the Spirit for illumination, as well as upon Christ for acceptance.

9. This teaches a greater value for the revelation God has made of Himself.

10. This draws out our desires towards heaven, without which there can be neither the purity nor the comfort of religion. We long to be where the veil is taken off from the object, and the fetters from the faculty.

IV. When the apostle calls this A GREAT MYSTERY, I SUPPOSE HE DOES IT IN A WAY OF PRE-EMINENCE to what is contained in other religions, more especially these two.

1. The mysteries of the heathen.

2. There were mysteries in the Jewish religion. (Psalm 111:4; Psalm 48:9), in the midst of His temple, and He was terrible out of His holy places.

(1) The mystery of godliness is in this respect greater than any among the heathen in that we learn it at once. Here are no years thrown away in a tedious preparation. There is no keeping of people in a preparatory dulness.

(2) This mystery is about matters of more importance to our final happiness. This is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. (John 17:3).

(3) These mysteries were given us by God Himself.

(4) These mysteries are to be diffused and made known.

2. There were undeniable mysteries among the Jews,

(1) Our mysteries are distinguished from those that God gave to the Jews by their continuance.

(2) Our mysteries refer us to themselves. The Jews had a respect to something else.

(3) Our mysteries come in a nobler way, in a method more agreeable to the lofty nature of a rational soul.

(4) This mystery is attended with a greater influence, both as to purity and peace. It is further said that this mystery is great without controversy.

1. It does not mean there should be no dispute about it. The natural man never did, and never will receive the things of the Spirit of God; they are foolishness to him.

2. This mystery is without controversy to all the ages of God's people.

3. This mystery is without controversy to those whom the grace of God has brought from the darkness of infidelity.

4. This is a mystery without controversy, because it still continues to be a mystery after all the ways that men have taken to explain it.A few practical directions about the use that should be made of mysteries in religion.

1. If you would treat Christianity or any particular article as a mystery, be careful to separate the doctrine from all the mixtures that curiosity or superstition have brought into it.

2. Read the Scriptures diligently, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

3. Attend the ordinances of the gospel. He that walks with wise men shall be wise.

4. Pray for the Spirit.

5. Take care of quarrelling about these mysteries, and becoming vain in your imaginations.

6. Be more concerned about the improving of a mystery than the explaining it.

(T. Bradbury.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

The Mystery of Godliness
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