The Mystery or Secret of GodlinessVolume 3, Number 71
Created Date: June 5, 2013
Posted Date: June 5, 2013
The Mysteries or Secrets of God revealed to the Apostle Paul - Part 10:
(Defining Godliness and the Secret Thereof)
This concludes our study of the Greek word “musterion,” which actually refers to a secret or secrets but is translated either “mystery or mysteries.” (It’s found 27 times in the New Testament, 20 of which are in the Pauline epistles.) Our text today: “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.”. To understand the “mystery or secret of godliness” we of course need to understand what godliness is. When I looked up “godliness” in online English dictionaries I found the word “godly” come up listed as an adjective, defined as: “divine, pious, devout,” or “having a religious character.” The word “godliness” is listed under godly as a noun meaning a person who is godly. So much for the dictionary definition; we need to go to God’s Word to see how it is used in order to try and understand it’s Biblical meaning.
The word “godliness” is translated from the Greek word “euseb’eia,” (G2150) found 15 times in the New Testament but used only by the Apostles Peter and Paul. Peter used it five (5) times: once inwhere it is translated “holiness” and once each in , 6, 7 and 3:11. He told a group of Jews in the temple at Jerusalem that it was not his and John’s holiness (godliness) that had healed a man lame from birth, but by the faith of Jesus, see . In 2 Peter 1:3 he states that the believers to whom he wrote received all things pertaining to life and godliness by God’s inherent power. Then, he advised them that godliness is one of several attributes they should strive for in their lives, ; 3:11.
The Apostle Paul uses the word godliness 10 times and interestingly, he does so only in the 3 epistles he wrote to Pastors of the Gospel, i.e., 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. It is found most often (8 times) in 1st Timothy. A recap follows:
•Paul exhorts believers to pray for Kings and those in authority that they will keep the peace so that believers can lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty,.
•He tells believers to reject silly tales of fiction but to exercise themselves unto godliness stating that bodily exercise has little profit but exercise unto godliness is profitable in today’s life as well as in the life to come.
•InPaul warns against anyone who strays from the words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching of godliness. He states they are corrupt because they suppose that gaining riches is godliness so he exhorts believers to stay away from them.
•InHe states that godliness with contentment (with what we have) is great gain because we didn’t bring anything into the world with us and we will not take anything out. Therefore believers should be content with what they have because the love of money is the root of all evil and has caused many to error from the faith and brought many sorrows upon themselves.
•The last mention of godliness in 1 Timothy exhorts: “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”.
•InPaul warns believers about the difficult times they face, telling us to turn away or avoid the selfish and hurtful actions of unbelievers who maintain a form (a semblance or appearance) of godliness while rejecting or denying the power of God.
•Finally, Paul opens his letter to Titus: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;”.
We observe from these Scriptures that although godliness is bestowed on believers, it is something to be strived after in our daily lives. It does not involve the physical and material things of this world. It has to do with the way believers conduct their lives with a view to their heavenly hope and calling. With this in mind we go to the subject of our study, the mystery or secret of godliness and to do so we need to take note of the verse immediately prior to our main text: “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.”.
In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul tells Timothy, and all believers since then, how we are to behave “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The word translated “church” here is the Greek “ekklesia,” found 115 times in the New Testament where it is used to refer to different kinds of assemblies, including synagogues, local churches and even mobs of people. In this passage it does not refer to any particular church building, congregation or denomination; it does refer to the Body of Christ made up of all who truly believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ, the only work that can save sinful mankind. This verse refers to how we as members of the Body of Christ should live/behave. Truly, the mystery or secret of the Divinely revealed Gospel is great, as we learn in 1 Timothy 3:16:
•“God was manifested in the flesh;” which means that the second person of the Holy Trinity, The Word of God, came to earth and was born of a woman; “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.”“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” ,
•“justified in the Spirit;” Jesus Christ, was rendered just/ innocent/ righteous by The Spirit in His baptism,, and by His miracles and atoning death,
•“seen of angels;” no being had ever seen God until He was manifested in the flesh. Yes, it is true that the Word of God made Himself visible to mankind in what appeared to be human bodies several times in the Old Testament, but those appearances were not the Body He would take when conceived by Mary, nor were they the Body in which He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father as the Lord Jesus Christ.
•“preached unto the Gentiles;” He was, has been and is preached to the Nations,
•“believed on in the world;” not everyone in the world has believed, nor does everyone believe now, but there have been and are those who do believe,
•“received up into glory;” heaven received Him as the Lord Jesus Christ; He presently sits at the right hand of God.
The subject is the conduct of the believer. The Lord Jesus Christ was/is godliness personified. The Apostle Paul teaches clearly that those over the last almost 2000 years who have believed the Gospel as revealed and described in his epistles are members of The Body of Christ,; 12:5; ; 12:12 & 27; ; 4:12; 5:23; ; 2:17. Thus we take our being in godliness, and we should live like it.