Christianity 201

November 7, 2014

The Great Mystery of Christ

Today we introduce you to Ros who has been blogging at Seven Notes of Grace since December, 2011. You’ll find a number of tabs at the top with different categories and links, many of which are devoted to music. Simply click the title below to read at source and then take a few minutes to look around the site.  This post is in a series on the “three-sixteens” in scripture…

The mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16)

mystery_of_godlinessAs we arrive at 1 Timothy 3:16 (in the Three Sixteen series) Paul tells Timothy about the importance of godliness in the church, the church being the pillar and foundation of the faith. The church has been entrusted with the Gospel, with proclaiming Christ to the world. Paul lays down guidelines for selecting overseers and deacons in the church, for teaching, for prayer. Then he includes this apparently random summary statement about the great mystery of Christ:

“Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs* is great:
He appeared in the flesh,

    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.”

This is a great summary about Jesus, his life and purpose, and makes a great 3:16 verse! But Paul is actually quoting lines from a well known hymn of the early church. The IVP New Testament Commentary has some good insights about the relevance of Paul’s words:

Now Paul’s citing of part of what was surely a well-known hymn in the course of writing instructions for behavior in the church is to bring his readers to the point of corporate response. The hymn itself, like many in the New Testament, celebrates Christ’s appearance and ministry on earth. The introductory phrase is a call to consider the implications of this grand event, to evaluate our conduct on the basis of what we confess. . . . Consequently, this phrase ‘the mystery of godliness’ forms a connection between the appearance of Christ, which the hymn celebrates, and Christian living: the mystery is the essence of godliness. It was critical for Paul to remind the readers of this principle, for the false teachers were successfully driving a wedge between belief and behavior with damaging results. In our day of institutionalized atheism and the popular heresy of humanism, the church faces the same danger. Even if dangers of this sort seem remote, we easily forget the practical implications of what we believe and profess to be true.” 

So this is a great verse not just because it celebrates Christ’s work, but because it connects his glorious saving work with our behaviour. We are to walk worthy of Christ’s saving work for us.  His work is finished, we don’t have to earn it! But we are called to live godly lives that point to Him as we, the Church, safeguard and pass on the Truth of His Saving work.

(*Note: if you look at other versions of this verse you may find that it simply says “the mystery of godliness” or the “mystery of our faith” – but the newest NIV translation seems to have hit the proverbial nail by phrasing it “the mystery from which true godliness springs”. True godliness will grow in us when we have build our life on Christ!)


Click here to read more blog posts in the Three Sixteens series.

May 24, 2011

Who Is Truly Godly?

We sometimes call people irreligious; and surely, to be irreligious is bad enough: but to be religious is not good enough.  A person may be religious yet not be godly.  There are many who are religious; as touching the law outwardly they are blameless: Hebrews of the Hebrews, Pharisees of the straitest sect.  They neglect no rubric, they break no law of their church, they are exceedingly precise in their religion; yet, nothwithstanding this, they may rank under the class of the ungodly; for to be religious is one thing, and to be godly is quite another.

To be godly, then — to come at once to the mark — to be godly is to have a constant eye to God, to recognize him in all things, to trust him, to love him to serve him.  And the ungodly person is one who does not have an eye to God in his daily business, who lives in this world as if there were no God; while he attends to all the outward ceremonies of religion, he never goes to their core, never enters into their secret heart and their deep mysteries.  He sees the sacraments, but he sees not God therein; he hears the preaching, he comes up to the house of prayer, into the midst of the great congregation, he bows his head, but there is no present deity to him, there is no manifest God.  There is no hearing of his voice, there is no bowing before his throne…

Why, you have been the last six days about your business, occupying all your time — and quite right it is to be diligent in business — but how many of you have forgotten God all the while?  You have been trading for yourselves, not for God.  The righteous many does everything in the name of God, at least, this is his constant desire. Whether he eats or drinks, or whatsoever he does, he desires to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.  But you have not recognized God in your shop.  You have not acknowledged him in your dealings with your fellow men.  You have acted towards them as if there had been no God whatever.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, ‘The Chaff Driven Away’
Sermons of  C. H. Spurgeon of London (undated)

as quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Meditations
Hannah Ward & Jennifer Wild, ed. (Westminster John Knox Press)pp 328-9