©Fundamental Evangelistic Association
Great Is The Mystery
"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." 1 Tim 3:16
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:"
The incarnation of the Lord of Glory was, in the Old Testament dispensations,
hidden in shadows, types and veiled promises and prophecies. But on the night
the Lord Jesus was born, the mystery of godliness was made known. That night
God became flesh (Incarnation), thereby opening the way for sinful
man to be reconciled to an all-Holy God. It is strange that some refuse to
speak of this glorious age-transforming event at a time of the year when
the whole world is making much of Christ's birth, yet understanding little
or nothing of its significance. Others are so intimidated by those who oppose
the whole concept of Christmas that they shrink from even dealing with what
the Bible has to say about the Incarnation. That is wrong. We must make the
message plain to all, at all times.
The birth of Jesus Christ may provide only sentimental imagery and religious
ceremony for multitudes, but for the one who has trusted Christ as Saviour,
the Incarnation of God the Son takes on immeasurable meaning. The commercialism
and pagan folklore which characterize the Christmas season must never captivate
the Christian, but neither should it deter the child of God from boldly proclaiming
the significance of Christ's coming to a lost and dying world.
"God was manifest in the flesh..."
An exposition of 1 Timothy 3:16 provides us with a glorious verse which encapsulates
the significance of the coming of our Lord to this sin cursed world nearly
2000 years ago. This is the message that must be told during the holiday
season, as well as every season. The Bible certainly does have much to say
about the birth of Christ, and the Christian should never yield to any form
of pressure which would cause him to lightly regard any aspect of Christ's
coming, whether it has to do with His historic first coming or His promised
The Person of Christ is of central importance. He is no less than absolute
deity after taking on the form of flesh through the virgin birth than He
was when being one with the Father from eternity past, "...whose goings
forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). Only the
sinless Son of God could offer Himself as the perfect, sacrificial substitute
to bear the eternal judgment due the sinner. The Son of God came to die so
that we, through faith in the power of His shed blood, might live. The KJV
is absolutely correct (unlike the new versions) as it says, "God was
manifest in the flesh"; the "Word was made flesh, and dwelt among
us" (Jn. 1:14). Make no mistake about it, the same Word is one with
God, and is in fact God (v. 1). The Christ Who died on the cross had to be
much more than a man, or merely "a son of God" as some say. If
He was to pay the penalty for you sin, He had to be the Incarnate Lord of
Glory, Almighty God-and He is!
"justified in the Spirit,..."
All that Christ did was in perfect conformity to the will of the heavenly
Father and was performed by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. "God
giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him" (Jn. 3:34) i.e., the Spirit
was upon Christ without measure. His ministry, life and witness while in
the form of human flesh demonstrated perfectly the "walk in the Spirit." Every
action, miracle, word, desire and thought were in agreement with His Father's
will. The unity, and yet distinctiveness, of each of the three Persons of
the Trinity is demonstrated by the walk of the Incarnate Lord before the
sons of men. God the Son, empowered and led by God the Spirit, perfectly
obeyed the will of God the Father.
The Lord Jesus Christ was no less God because he relied upon the Third Person
of the Trinity to perform His ministry. The unity and interrelatedness of
the three Persons of the Trinity are evidenced clearly in the Incarnation.
Also, the Spirit's empowering, nurturing and leading of the Saviour (Matt
4:1; Lk. 4:1; Lk. 4:18) served as an example of how following generations
of believers would be enabled to live a life pleasing to their God. The Lord
was "...justified in the Spirit" i.e., He was absolutely righteous,
perfectly correct in all that He said and did. He was the Anointed, the One
prophesied of old Who would "fulfill all righteousness," thereby
satisfying in Himself the righteous demands of the Law. We are, through Him,
delivered from the Law's curse (Matt. 3:15; 5:17-18; Lk. 4:18-21, 32; Gal.
"seen of angels,..."
Much attention is given to angels today, especially among some innovative
religious leaders of our day who suggest that we can improve our effectiveness
as Christians by tapping into the resources offered by the angelic host.
The problem with this attention to angels, however, is that it is an undue
emphasis, for the Bible never instructs the believer to summon their aid
or try to communicate with them in any way. Seeking communion with the unseen
spirit world may provide the curious inquirer with a few spiritual contacts
and surprises he had not bargained for.
God uses angels to minister to the saints in ways unbeknownst to them (Heb.
1:13-14). When so used, the angels are on a mission doing their Master's
will, not hovering around waiting for the Christian to tell them what to
do. Also, the angels' will is to direct all praise and attention to their
God, not to themselves (Psa. 103:20-21). Spurious occult and charismatic
teachings focus on the beings of the spirit world. However, the attention
of the saints should be, as is the case with the angels, riveted on Christ.
Often the Bible speaks of the angels' participation in the events surrounding
the Lord's ministry. His birth was particularly noted by them with praise
and jubilation. What a wonderful and marvelous occasion! Their Creator had
come to dwell among men. The joyous exultation of the angelic host at His
birth, and their deep interest in all things pertaining to their Lord, reveal
an attitude we would do well to emulate (Lk. 2:7-14). All glory and praise
are due to the Son.
"preached unto the Gentiles,..."
Most scripture dealing with the first advent of Christ has to do with promises
made to Israel that will yet be fulfilled when He returns to inaugurate His
earthly millennial kingdom. Texts detailing the birth of Christ Jesus in
Bethlehem's manger primarily announce peace and goodwill to the Jewish people,
as prophesied in the Old Testament, if they would receive the newborn Messiah
as their Lord and King. There is certainly no
"peace and goodwill" offered in Christ Jesus to anyone, either
Jew or Gentile, unless they first acknowledge themselves to be sinners and
humbly come, by faith, and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Sin-bearer.
The Son of God was rejected by His own, the nation Israel, and as a result
His death on the Roman cross opened the way for all men, not just the Jew,
to become members of the household of God. This is why 1 Timothy 3:16 is
such a blessed verse, and in a sense the real message, the Good News, which
resulted from the birth of the Incarnate Lord of Glory. Now both Jew and
Gentile can know the peace and goodwill of God if they only believe. Now
peace is preached to the Gentiles "which were afar off" but are
now "made nigh" by the blood of Christ (please study "Eph
2:11-18; Rom.1:15-17). Because Christ came, "whosoever will" may
come and partake of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17). Merely celebrating
the birth of Christ will not save anyone, but receiving the living Christ
as Saviour certainly will. We must herald this Good News to all and God uses
regenerated men, not angels, to do this.
"believed on in the world,..."
The vast majority of those who "celebrate Christmas" have no reason
to celebrate. On the contrary, if they have not found peace with God through
Jesus Christ, then judgment is in fact but a heartbeat away and the merriment
is ill-advised (Jn.3: 18). It is comparable to those in Ezekiel's day who
were making "mirth," were having a merry time, but who failed
to realize the precarious situation their souls were in (Ezek. 21:8-10).
Only those who have received by faith the Biblical testimony of Christ's
eternal Person and His perfect and finished work on Calvary's cross, and
have believed on Him for their salvation, can rightfully call God their Heavenly
Father and claim the promise of everlasting life. The problem with seeing
the coming of Christ as only a hope for peace and goodwill among men and
nations, and a symbol of God's grace and love extended to mankind, is that
the question of sin is completely disregarded. Yes, our text does tell us
of God's love in sending His Son, and the forgiveness afforded all who believe
and thereby receive Him as their Lord and Saviour (Jn. 3:15-17). But few
truly do believe. Why? Because men love "darkness rather than light,
because their deeds [are] evil" (Jn. 3:19, 20).
People love to talk about the "Christmas spirit," of warm feelings
and philanthropic deeds, but few see Christ's coming as the God-sent remedy
for sin. The Incarnation of the Lord of Glory demonstrated God's love for
sinful man, but man must receive God's gift of salvation through His Son
or His "unspeakable gift" will profit him nothing (Rom. 5:69; 2
Cor. 9:15). All who have not believed are not friends of God, but enemies
(Jn. 3:36). Sin is at the heart of the question-Jesus Christ is the answer!
"received up into glory."
The physical resurrection and ascension of the Lord into heaven were public
acknowledgments of the Father's acceptance of the work Christ had wrought
on behalf of sinful man. His earthly ministry was now complete, and a finished
salvation had been provided through His sinless life, substitutionary death
on Calvary's cross and triumphant resurrection from the grave. Christ was "received
up into glory"—He had perfectly fulfilled the Father's will. The
fact that the risen, living Saviour was "received up into glory" also
reminds us of our Lord's present, High Priestly ministry at the right hand
of the Father. We have an "...advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ
the righteous" (1 Jn. 2:1). Believers are perfectly represented before
the throne by their Lord. By the authority of the precious blood He shed
on their behalf, no accusation leveled against them by "the accuser
of the brethren" will stand. All "in Christ" are saved "to
the uttermost... seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb.
Christ's ascension into glory was accompanied by a promise made to those who
witnessed the event, "...this same Jesus, which is taken up from you
into heaven, shall so come in like manner (Acts 1:11). Yes, we are thankful
for His birth, His walk and His work while He lived among men, but praise
God for the Blessed Hope of His return-the same Christ Jesus who came to
die so that we might live is coming back again. It could be today!