1 Timothy 3.15,16 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 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.
These two verses embrace the heart of the mission and message of the church. The heart of the church’s mission comes in verse 15. The heart of the church’s message comes in verse 16.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul declared that one of his reasons for writing the pastoral epistles was in order that those who profess faith in Christ might know how to behave themselves in the house (family) of God. This term “behave” speaks of a constant consistent pattern of life, not an “occasional spark of interest” in Christ or the things of His kingdom. What Paul is saying is that one of the primary responsibilities of the church is to teach God’s people how to behave ourselves as a member of the household of God both inside and outside of the four walls of the building.
Genuine Christian living is meant to be incarnational, not just intellectual. Relational and practical, not just social and conversational.
He then goes on to remind Timothy that the church of the Living God is the pillar and ground of the truth (3:15). This church exists to uphold the truth of The Living God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” John 14:6.
He is truth incarnate so in the same sense that we uphold the truth of God’s Word, we uphold the truth of God’s Son, don’t we? That’s what we’re all about. We exist for that purpose, that’s the heart of our mission. When we sing songs, we sing songs that articulate the truth we believe. When we teach classes, we teach the truth. You come on Sunday morning and I preach to you, you come back on Sunday night and you hear the Word of God again. Why? Because we are here to uphold the truth. That’s what we are all about.
We know from the outset of this letter that Ephesus had begun to abandon sound doctrine. Some of those professing faith in Christ had begun to cultivate lives of ungodliness under the banner of grace. False teachers were teaching error that was causing the faith of some to go shipwreck. All kinds of problems had ensued in that church since the departure of the Apostle Paul in the early days.
Paul left Timothy there after his first imprisonment and told him to set things the way they ought to be. How important it is for the church to stay Word-centered, Spirit-led, God-exalting and driven by the love of Christ in all that we do. When an individual is a “podcast fed” follower of men rather than a “sitting at the feet of Jesus Christ”, he or she eventually becomes an echo of that personality’s quotes and views than “thus saith The Lord.”
Several years ago the phone rang at the office of a relatively small local church in a major city in the USA where an eager caller asked this question: “I heard that the famous preacher and author so and so is going to be at your church this Sunday, is that true? The receptionist wisely replied tongue in cheek, “I cannot promise that any man will be here next Sunday. But The Word of God will be taught, and know that The Living Christ will be here, and we believe that those things are incentive enough for you to attend.” Click.
Paul summarizes some of the great pillar truths this way:
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, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
This passage contains six points that form one of the most concise summaries of the truth of the gospel. The phrase “without controversy” translates a Greek term that literally expresses that which one confesses. Thus, it might be rendered “undeniably,” or “most certainly.” It is a declaration of absolute confidence. These are non-negotiable truths of the gospel.
Mystery. The Greek word for mystery does not refer to that which is mysterious and incapable of being understood. Rather, in Bible terminology, the word denotes that which was formerly obscured, but which has now been announced through the gospel of Christ. It has to do with the unfolding of the heavenly plan of salvation.
Perhaps the most comprehensive discussion of this matter is to be found in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, where the apostle declares that the “mystery,” which in former generations was unknown to men, has now been revealed through Spirit-inspired apostles and prophets, so that those who read the New Testament record can clearly perceive and understand the heavenly plan of redemption which is fulfilled in the work of Christ (cf. 3:1-12). In context, the mystery of godliness refers to the truths of salvation and righteousness in Christ, which produces godliness or Christ like behavior in those who embrace the truth in their hearts.
God (He) was manifested in the flesh. Not sinful, fallen human nature, but His humanness.
Certainly Paul is teaching the virgin birth of Christ, but he is also speaking of Christ’s existence before His incarnation. This reference is clearly to the Deity of Christ, who manifested the invisible God to mankind. John wrote: John 1.1,2; 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.
This affirmation of the deity of Christ was in direct conflict with certain gnostic ideas of ancient times that asserted that Christ could not have possessed a body of flesh, since flesh was intrinsically evil. This denial of the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ is labeled by John as the spirit of the antichrist. 1 John 4:2,3 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. This Jesus is The One Who in the beginning was God, was with God, and Who made all things. He came into this world as a little, helpless baby. Indeed great is the mystery of godliness.
The New Testament reveals that Jesus was manifest in the flesh for the following reasons:
- He became flesh so that men might see a visible commentary on Deity. John affirmed that Christ came to “declare” the nature and will of The Father. Thus, to view the Lord was to comprehend something of the nature of His heavenly Father John 14:8,9 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father.
- He became flesh to identify with us. Having lived in human form, and thus been subjected to temptation, Jesus is able to effectively function as our high priest, hence, come to our aid when we are tempted Hebrews 2:17,18 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted Hebrews 4:15,16 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need
- He was manifested as man to provide us with a model for living John 13.12-17 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
- Since it is impossible for Deity, as a spirit being, to die, Jesus Christ became flesh so that He, as The Lamb of God, might be subjected to death, hence qualified to put away sins.
1 Peter 2:21-25 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
Two examples that Jesus provides for His church are that of suffering for righteousness sake and servant hood.
Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
1 John 3:5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
Finally, we read in 1 John 3:8 For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. The devil destroys lives. Jesus came to give us life and that more abundantly.
Justified by the Spirit. We must note that the word justified does not suggest that Christ at one time was sinful, hence, at some point, was pardoned or justified from sin. That cannot be the meaning, because Jesus knew no sin and committed no sin.
The term denotes a vindication. Though Jesus was manifested in the flesh, and “put to death in the flesh” by His enemies, God Almighty vindicated the Lord, raising Him from the dead. 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. Romans 1.4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
Seen by angels. Angels had an interest in the Savior from His conception to His ascension. An angel announced the conception to Mary. Angels proclaimed His birth to the shepherds. Angels ministered to Him after His temptation in the wilderness. An angel strengthened Him in His agony in the Garden. Angels proclaimed His resurrection at the tomb. Angels addressed the disciples at Christ’s ascension. Angels testified to his resurrection (Mt 28:2) and to His ascension back to heaven (Ac 1:10).
Proclaimed among the nations (nations). See Matt. 24:14 26:13 28:19–20; Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8. God’s way of saving souls is by creating faith in men’s hearts is by the proclamation of the gospel.
There is only one gospel message for all people and every nation, and that one gospel is that 1 Cor. 15:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. Acts 20.20,21 And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
Believed on in the world. Repentance and faith in God is the only means that God has ordained for every person to receive the gift of eternal life. Acts 16.30-32 Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
Acts 8.35-38 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Taken up in glory.
Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Mark 16.19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
Christ’s ascension and exaltation showed that the Father was pleased with Him and accepted His work fully. Today Jesus Christ is at God’s right hand. You have a Lawyer in heaven, Jesus Christ our Advocate!!
The Mystery of the Incarnation gives purpose and meaning for the existence of His church
The most significant event in all of human history was when the living God took on human flesh and lived among us as the Lord Jesus Christ to bear our sins. And since His bodily resurrection and ascension into heaven, His church is now commanded to go into the entire world and preach this gospel to every creature.
Thus, the task that The Lord Jesus has given to the church is more important than the tasks that are given to all the governments and universities of the world combined. There is nothing to compare with the mission and message of the church. Since the eternal destiny of every person on earth depends on his or her being rightly related to Jesus the coming King and Judge of all the earth, nothing could be more crucial this hour than the message given by Christ to the church! Do you believe that? How do you know that you believe it?
It is because of the mission and message given to the church that makes every aspect of being a part of the church important. The primary mission and message of the church is not about joining a religious social club. The primary mission and message of the church is the greatest news on earth, not the greatest show on earth. What a staggering job description! Nothing could be of greater importance!
For those who have never received Christ as Lord of their lives
The Lord Jesus Christ is not just one the “good ways” to Heaven. Jesus is not even the best way to Heaven. Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven. Jesus is not just one more Savior. If Jesus is not the only Savior, then Jesus is no Savior at all because He said He was the only one. And if He said He’s the only one, and He’s not the only one, then He’s a liar, and a liar is nobody’s Savior.
If the gospel we preach does not exalt God, magnify Christ, and humble man, it is not the gospel. Steve Lawson
Apart from Jesus, there is no salvation.
Isaiah 45.21-24 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.