I TIMOTHY 9
“GREAT IS THE MYSTERY OF GODLINESS”
When I read a statement like Paul made at the end of chapter 3 of his epistle to Timothy, I always pause to ask myself what he could mean by such a statement. Paul proceeds to give us a synopsis of the coming of Jesus Christ, His miraculous deeds attested to from above, the faith which He inspired while here, and His ultimate ascension to heaven. This is what he was referring to with the statement, “Great is the mystery of Godliness”.
These are the facts of Jesus’ history, but what is the “mystery”? I
feel that the answer to this question demands our attention, because this course is for the purpose of examining important concepts in the text, and I can think of none more important than this.
Prior to the coming of Jesus Christ, man’s knowledge of God was very primitive. The Pagans, outside of the Jewish community, could not conceive of a god great enough to have created everything, or to control everything in the universe. As a consequence they had a god for everything: the moon, the stars, war and peace, love and hate, and every thing in their scope of knowledge. The result was that they had hundreds of gods to whom they gave human characteristics so that they imagined them having sex, fighting and all the other human activities.
Even the Jews, to whom God revealed Himself, through Abraham, Moses and the other patriarchs, saw God as an awesome being to be feared. They related to Him through the Law and felt that the only way to please Him was by strict observance of the Law. Few of them, like David, were able to see Him as a loving Shepherd.
So man was unable to even conceive of a God who loved them so much that He was willing and even anxious to forgive them and to have a loving personal relationship with them. This was beyond any human logic, and unimaginable. So, Paul was referring to this as a “mystery” to man which the coming of God in the form of Jesus Christ resolved. He brought, in the person of a man, not only the message of God’s love, but the possibility of a companionship between God, the
Creator, and man, the created. His resurrection proved to man that there could be life after death. Therefore, in the life of Jesus Christ, the “Mystery of Godliness” was resolved. That which was inconceivable to the logical mind of man was shown to be not only possible but real.
It is interesting to note that even the primitive man had a built-in sense that there was a living source for his existence. His picture of that source was flawed, but, as Paul mentioned to the Athenians in his speech on Mars Hill, when he said that God made man to seek Him and reach out for Him, man was created with a built-in desire to find his Creator. It seems strange that only after man has become so sophisticated in his thinking, that many have decided that it was all an accident, and that God does not exist. No wonder Paul says that
“Thinking themselves wise, they became fools”. David used this word in Psalms 14 and 53. I feel very sorry for anyone who lives without hope, for anyone who does not believe in God is in that sad
Faith is allowing the evidence, cited by David when he said, “The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth showeth His handiwork”, to make him believe that a mystery, illogical to the mind of man, can be made a reality by the God who made it all.