1st Timothy 3:16 is often quoted as God manifesting in the flesh of Jesus Christ. The New Testament affirms the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus Christ bodily (Col 2:9), however this is not the focal point of this verse. As we investigate each line of the verse it can bring us to its true meaning!
The context of the 3rd chapter of 1st Timothy is about godliness and the conduct of believers. The great mystery of 1st Timothy 3:16 is God manifesting in the flesh of believers and them living out godly lives!
A similar use of the phrase “manifested in the flesh” is also seen in 2nd Cor 4:11; “for we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh”.
Here is a closer look at the text in this verse …
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness
“godliness, denotes character and conduct determined by the principle of love or fear of God in the heart” (Int’l Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
God was manifest in the flesh
The word “manifest” is the Greek word “phaneroo” which means; “appear or show”. It is used many times in the Bible with the primary meaning of “appearing or showing” something.
Justified in the Spirit
Believers are justified! (Rom 3:24)
Seen of angels
Angels took a special interest in the Gospel when it was preached by those whom the Holy Ghost had fallen (1st Peter 1:12).
Preached unto the Gentiles
Believers preached to the Gentiles after the resurrection. Jesus was clear about his mission during his time on earth and it did not include the Gentiles (Matt 15:24). He warned his disciples not to preach to the Gentiles (Matt 10:6).
Believed on in the world
Jesus was rejected by his own during his ministry on earth (Luke 17:25). It was after his resurrection he was believed on in the world!
Received up into glory
Jesus was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God (Matt 16:19), believers are also raised up and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6), and (Col 3:1).
1st Timothy the 3rd chapter is about the “mystery of Godliness” not the “mystery of the Godhead”. The word “mystery” is also used in verse 9; “holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience”.
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