The Mystery of Godliness: He who was Manifested in the Flesh

1 Timothy 3:15-16 But if I delay, I write that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth.

16 And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was manifested in the flesh, / Justified in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Preached among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up in glory.

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Fellowship to help us know Christ and pursue Him

The apostle Paul spoke of the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh. Surely he was referring to the incarnation of Christ Jesus and to all the steps of His living, death, and resurrection. The footnotes in the Recovery Version of the Bible help us to understand godliness. Concerning these verses, it says “godliness here refers not only to piety but also to the living of God in the church, that is, to God as life lived out in the church.”

In 1 Timothy 3:16 we see that there is a particular sequence and that this sequence says something more concerning godliness:

    1. He who was manifested in the flesh
    2. Justified in the Spirit
    3. Seen by angels
    4. Preached among the nations
    5. Believed on in the world
    6. Taken up in glory.

The sequence of steps number 5 and 6 are very interesting. “Believed on in the world” comes before being “Taken up in glory”. Wouldn’t we say that Christ was taken up in glory before He was believed on in the world? Actually, because “Taken up in glory” is at the end, after “Believed on in the world”, we can see that being “Taken up in glory” also refers to the believers, and more precisely, to the church. The church taken up in glory is what will happen at the end of the church age, at the Lord’s return. Ephesians 5:27 says, “That He might present the church to Himself glorious” Again, the footnote in the Recovery Version  for 1 Timothy 3:16 makes the point clear:

According to the sequence of historical events, Christ’s ascension preceded His being preached among the nations. However, it is listed here as the last step in Christ’s being the manifestation of God in the flesh. This must indicate that the church too is taken up in glory. Hence it implies that not only Christ Himself as the Head but also the church as the Body are the manifestation of God in the flesh.”

We can see that there is a dual significance. The mystery of godliness, the manifestation of God in the flesh, started with the individual God-man Jesus Christ, but upon His resurrection and His coming to live in His believers, this mystery, this manifestation, now continues with the church. The church is the manifestation of God in the flesh!  At the time Jesus walked on the earth, if you wanted to know God, you had to go to Jesus. Today, if a person wants to know God, he must go to the church.

The following ministry sample has great examples of how we are now the members of the church and the manifestation of God in the flesh.