Great Is the Mystery of Godliness :: by Gene Lawley

When Paul made that declaration to Timothy in his first epistle to his “son in the faith,” he was not thinking of the type of mystery the “whodunit” novelists write about, where clues are unraveled to conclude with a solution that identifies the allusive culprit. It is the type of mystery that still baffles the mind with how it could happen even after it has happened conclusively.

In the passage of Scripture he wrote this:

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

He even erases any argument of that fact by saying it is “without controversy,” no question about it! But to mortals on this side of eternity, it is difficult for to visualize people suddenly disappearing before our eyes, including ourselves if we are believers; and leaving those physical attributes behind—clothing, eye glasses, hearing aids, rings and watches.

Perhaps the main point of this mystery is how Jesus was able to live as a mortal man and not exercise His deity when tough times came upon Him. Paul writes of this in Philippians 2:6-8 when he tells us of Jesus Christ making that transition:

“…who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Look ahead to His struggle in the garden the night of His arrest, when He shed drops of blood like perspiration, struggling to say, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 24:42).

In reality, it may be more of a mystery that God would do what Paul says, outright—“God was manifested in the flesh.” Two reasons for that come to mind—one, that God would care to do it at all and why, and two, that He would, knowing the all-out rejection he would receive from the greater part of mankind.

We are reminded often of the rejection of Jesus by the Jews with their cry of“His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25), and God turned to the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. But don’t fault the Jews over the Gentiles, for there are multitudes of Gentiles who clearly reject Him, as well. Their track record is obvious for all to see.

The spirit of Cain found its nexus in the Tower of Babel syndrome and continues to this day in the New World Order format. They are proponents of the impossible—a vision of a “world of law and order, not the law of the jungle,” but they carefully avoid telling us that their “end justifies the means,” and the means is that of the jungle, murder and mayhem, as necessary.             But that should be expected when “there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18).

In that one verse to Timothy, Paul summarized the span of the life of Christ on earth. But why did He not come in on a great white horse as a sovereign King? He could have, you know, but in that way there would have been no redemption for sinners like you and me. He identified with the human race He was going to offer Himself for their redemption. In Hebrews 2:10-11 and 14-18:

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren….

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.

“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people, for in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”

Then we see in Hebrews 4:15:

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

It was John who wrote of Jesus as having come from eternity as the physical expression of God to a world of sinful people, saying, “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In verse 14 of that first chapter of John, he writes, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

It is interesting how God has become more and more revealing of Himself and His message and purpose in these latter years since that first advent of Christ into the world. Notice how that stands out in Hebrews 1:1-4:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

Then in his first epistle, John tells us more:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:1-4).

John was a great witness and wanted others to share in that fellowship he had with the Lord. He also gives us a peep into that life out yonder beyond the veil by writing in 1 John 3:1-3, this:

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”

When Stephen was being stoned to death (Acts 7:56), Luke writes that Stephen cried out, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

And as we read from John above, “We shall see Him as He is.”

John sums up his gospel with this, in John 20:30-31:

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

In that seemingly never-ending discussion with His disciples about who He really was, Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” And Jesus responded, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” (John 14:8-9).

And He baffled and infuriated the Jewish leaders when He declared to them, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).

It would appear, then, that those who insist that there must be more ways to heaven than just through Jesus Christ are not honestly considering the true identity of who Christ is—God in the likeness of mortal man. The One they deny is the very One whom they will be appealing to for entry into heaven!

After all of this analysis, we still have a mysterious situation, but we do have a “whodunuit” after all! You see, Jesus was not born of Adam, so He had no sin nature. All of the above Scriptures testify to that. Also, John 5:26 tells us plainly the source of His life: “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself….”

So, how could He die as mortal men of Adam do? Yet, He did do so. And it was not an accomplishment of mankind, for Jesus said of His own life, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). He was—IS—both God and man, and the mystery is solved in this quotation from 2 Corinthians 5:21:

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The man, Jesus, died because of our sins laid upon Him by God, the Father.