The True Meaning of 1st Timothy 3:16

I believed for many years 1st Timothy 3:16 was speaking of God manifesting in the flesh of Jesus Christ, for those seeking the truth, this passage clearly reveals God manifesting in the flesh of believers as we shall see by looking at each line of verse 16!

The 3rd chapter of Timothy is about godliness (the conduct of believers). The great mystery of 1st Timothy 3:16 is God manifesting in the flesh of believers and his power causing them to live godly lives!

Timothy further clarifies what godliness is in 2nd Timothy 3:5; “having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people”. Timothy wants to make it clear there is a difference between God’s power bringing about godliness and people just looking and acting the part.

There are 16 other verses in the NKJV with the word “godliness”, all of which speak about the conduct of believers.

Here is a closer look at the text in verse 16

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!
“But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (25) Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Rom 4:24-25)

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
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). Peter was the first to preach to the gentiles, “Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” (Acts 15:7)

Believed on in the world
When Jesus was in the flesh the world did not believe on him; “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. (11) He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:10-11).

Received up into glory
Saints are also raised in Glory! “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. (43) it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.” (1 Cor 15:43), another verse “That you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1Th 2:12)

1st Timothy the 3rd chapter is about the “mystery of godliness” not the “Godhead”! Doesn’t it stand to reason the same power bringing about godliness in “2nd Timothy 3” is the same power of God bringing about godliness in “1st Timothy 3”?

When we see the words “manifested in the flesh” we lean towards thinking it is the flesh of Jesus, however a similar use of the phrase 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”.

At the end of the time, everyone in the world claiming to be a Christian will be deceived except for the elect (Matt 24:22 & 24). 1st Timothy 3:16 is clearly speaking of God manifesting in the flesh of Saints. The whole 3rd chapter and every other verse in the bible that includes the word “godliness” is speaking of saints!

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