"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" (1Tim. 3:16).
The wise apostle summed up the gospel for the young preacher Timothy in a most comprehensive statement. This truth of the gospel in Christ Jesus is the very pillar and ground of the truth that God's church rests upon and defends at all cost. Among God's elect these things are not debated or denied, but loved, appreciated and preached. Six distinct statements!
1). "God was manifested in the flesh!" Who is Jesus Christ? Clearly, this verse reveals His deity, He is God our Saviour (1Tim.1:1). The Lord Jesus remained what He was (holy and eternal God) and became what He was not, flesh (John 1:14). He is totally God and fully a real man in one blessed person, He truly is the God-man Mediator (1Tim.2:5). Why was He manifested and revealed in the flesh? To satisfy His own justice and to put away the sin of God's elect (Gal. 3:13; 4:4; 2Cor.5:21; 1Peter 3:18).
2). "Justified in the Spirit!" Our Lord declared Himself to be God (John 8:58; 10:30; 14;9). Such a claim needed strong and indisputable confirmation of fact. This is the chief and principal purpose of God the Holy Spirit, to display the glory of His character (Heb.7:26) and the nature of His conduct (1John 3:5; 1Peter 1:18-20). This is why the Holy Spirit has given to us the testimony of God concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1-3; John 16:13-15).
3). "Seen of angels!" The apostle mentions this to show us the greatness and truth of the gospel of Christ. The whole angelic host of heaven is taken up with the redemptive work of Christ (Rev. 5:9-12; 1Pet. 1:9-12; Heb.2:9).
4). "Preached unto the Gentiles!" Until Christ came, God incarnate, nothing was preached unto the Gentiles (Eph.2:12). But because Christ came, God sent the believing Jews to declare salvation in Christ to the lost Gentile world (Mark 16:15; Acts 15:8-11). God makes known the true gospel through preaching (Rom.1:15-16; 1Cor.1:18-24).
5). "Believed on in the world!" What a miracle of grace (Eph.2:8-9). What a privilege given to sinners, to hear the gospel and to believe it in the heart (1Thes.2:13; James 1:18). This privilege is only given by the purpose and grace of God (2Tim. 1:9; Rom.9:12-15).
6). "Received up to glory!" Because the Lord Jesus accomplished all the redemptive work given to Him (John 17:4; Heb.9:12), the Father received Him back to glory and highly exalted Him (Phil.2:9; Rom.4:25).
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