"Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith:
Christ was revealed in a human body
and vindicated by the Spirit.
He was seen by angels
and announced to the nations.
He was believed in throughout the world
and taken to heaven in glory"
(1 Timothy 3:16, NLT)
After Paul wrote about "how people must conduct themselves in the household of God" (v.15), he now focuses on what is at stake and why it is important to do so (v.16). He begins by saying "without question" or without contradiction. It gives the thought of something that cannot be denied, "…this is the great mystery of our faith." Mystery? This is not like a mystery novel, unknown or secret truth. Rather, as H. A. Ironside, a Bible teacher and preacher, said that it is "a secret revealed only to initiates." He continues, "This mystery is that of the incarnation – that God came down to earth, taking into union with His Deity a human body, a human spirit, and a human soul so that He was both God and Man in one blessed, adorable Person." This is the great mystery of our faith; this is the foundation on which our faith stands; this is the foundation of the truth (v.15) – Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour! He is the One in whom is centered the "mystery of our faith." Here are six-fold descriptions about Christ:
#1 Jesus is Fully Human: "Christ was revealed in a human body..." If anyone wants to know what God is like, they can look at Jesus. "No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart. He has revealed God to us" (John 1:18). Again, in John 1:14, "[The Word] became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son." And so, "God was in Christ" revealed in a human body.
#2 Jesus is Fully God: "…and vindicated by the Spirit." Jesus was God manifest in the flesh or revealed in a human body by the revelations of the Holy Spirit on several occasions in His earthly life such as during His baptism, transfiguration, and so forth. During His baptism, for example, God the Father opened the heavens above Him, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father's voice was heard declaring, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy" (Matthew 3:17). Thus, Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit. As you read the gospel stories, you can see that behind His humanity there lies His divinity. He healed, He preached, and He forgives sin all by "the Holy Spirit's power" (Luke 4:14).
#3 Jesus is Greater than Angels: "He was seen by angels…" Do you know that angels – these mighty creatures – were present at the very high points of Jesus' early life and ministries such as His birth, temptation, agony in the garden, resurrection, and ascension? If you read Hebrews 1-2, the angels were there when God the Son was with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven. H. A. Ironside puts it this way, "Before God became incarnate in Jesus Christ He was invisible to created eyes. God the Father was invisible; God the Son was invisible; God the Holy Spirit was invisible. Angels could look only upon the glory of God but could not see the invisible One. But when the Lord Jesus Christ came down to earth… they knew they were looking into the face of the God who had created them. As He walked on earth angels were beholding the wondrous works wrought by God manifest in flesh." Angels are created beings, God is the Creator. Therefore, Jesus is greater!
#4 Jesus is the Message of Salvation for All: "…and announced to the nations." Because of Jesus the Son, God was no longer to have one people (the Jews) separated from the rest of the nations (the Gentiles) but His love could go out to all mankind. "Call him [Jesus] Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us'" (Matthew 1:23). This is the message to the nations, "In Jesus Christ, God is with us! Not against us!" All may be saved who turn to Him in faith.
#5 Jesus is the Saviour of the World: "He was believed in throughout the world…" This is a missionary statement. Soon and very soon, the whole world will believe Him. I don't mean that all will believe in Him and be saved. What I mean is that the world will know that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. Jesus prayed for His disciples to the Father that "they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me" (John 17:21). Either the world will believe in Him in faith or rebellion, the Bible is clear all will: "At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11).
#6 Jesus Came to Be Rejected but He Returned in Glory: "…and taken to heaven in glory." Jesus Christ, the Man-God is now in heaven or as Paul say "in glory." What Paul wanted to emphasize here is not so much about where He went but the way in which He went "…in glory." For about 30 years, Jesus walked humbly on earth like one of His own creation. He never did anything but good. He healed people, raised the dead and loved the sinners. Yet He was despised and rejected. Finally, He bore the ultimate rejection through suffering, pain, and death. But as you and I know that was not the end of the story. This is the redemption story: Jesus was raised back to life! He has risen! He appeared in splendor and glorious body! He was lifted up in glory!
It took me about 2 hours to finished writing this article. Every description of Christ in this one verse in 1 Timothy 3:16 is precious and worth to consider and meditate upon. Take your time today to praise and thank Him for who He is and for what He had done for you and me. Amen.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.