Tuesday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

1 Timothy 3:16

Great Is the Mystery of Godliness

And now that Paul has informed Timothy of the necessity of a church to protect and cherish the gospel of Jesus Christ from compromise with the world—indeed, it’s very pillar and bulwark—Paul now crystallizes exactly what that gospel is.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is not something we may change, nor it is not something which we may “make relevant” to contemporary ears.  It is not a “narrative” for me to appropriate in some personal way that speaks to me and my situation.  The gospel of Jesus Christ has a definite content, and in these few verses, the Apostle tells us plainly what it is.  Scholars think for good reason that Paul is actually reciting a hymn.  If so, it is one of the earliest examples of a church hymn we have.  (Paul is writing this letter in the early 60s, and so the date of the hymn would be earlier.)  And (Wow!) could those early believers write hymns!  And so what is the gospel:

1) “He was manifested in the flesh.”  This speaks to our Lord’s Incarnation—that the Son of God came down from heaven at a specific moment in time and assumed the humanity of an unborn child in Mary’s womb prepared by the operation of the Holy Spirit upon her.  This was so that he could be the spotless and sinless Lamb who would be our substitute taking the wrath of God upon Himself.

2) “Vindicated by the Spirit.”  This speaks to his resurrection as the one who conquered death and the grave.  “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and he had not sinned.  Thus, he was unjustly condemned and so must be justly vindicated.  His resurrection does just that.

3) “Seen by angels.”  Though more difficult to interpret this seems to suggest his ascension forty days after his resurrection.  Of course, he was seen by angels throughout his ministry (e.g., Mark 1:13), but such an occasion as his enthronement at the Father’s right hand would no doubt demand the attendance of the entire heavenly court.  To understand this line as referring to his ascension also follows chronologically from the first two.

These three events (Incarnation, resurrection, ascension) are the hinges upon which the gospel and all Christian theology turn.  They are understood as historical events in Scripture and must be so understood by us as well.  And even Paul would say that without them, what happened on that road to Damascus was a mirage (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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