Friday, November 4, 2016

1 Timothy 3:16 - Mystery of Godliness Revealed

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. -- 1 Timothy 3:16; New American Standard Bible translation

THE King James Version reads: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Other translations, such as the New American Standard quoted above, do not have the word “God”, but rather “he”, referring to Jesus as the one who was revealed in the flesh. This mystery [secret] of godliness is not very well understood by most who profess Christianity. Their doctrines often stand in the way of appreciating how great, how grandiose, this mystery is. Thus, even many who belong to Christ, but who remain "babes in Christ," are often confused by men who have taken in upon themselves to proclaim their assumptions as orthodoxy. (1 Corinthians 1:11,12; 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:13)
The Greek word “godliness” is transliterated as “Eusebeia” which means “reverence, respect, piety toward God.”* Many have read into the English word “godliness” that Jesus is the Supreme Being. Actually, Paul is talking about the mystery of godliness, of godlikeness that was revealed in, through, by means of, Jesus. Jesus was the first and only human to bring to light life and incorruption. (2 Timothy 1:10) Unlike our first father, Adam, Jesus never disobeyed his God. Although tempted to sin, even as was Adam, he spent his entire life without committing a sin. (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26) In doing so, he condemned sin the flesh**, since, he — a human like Adam — and tempted toward sin, did not sin. He proved himself incorruptible, thus bringing life and incorruption to light, thereby proving himself to be the manifestation of the righteousness of God in human flesh. — Romans 1:16,17; 2 Corinthians 5:21
*Thayer and Smith. “Greek Lexicon entry for Eusebeia”. “The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon”.
**See our study: “How God’s Son Condemned Sin the Flesh
Nevertheless, 1 Timothy 3:16, according the oldest Greek Siniatic text, tells of Christ “Who (not “God”) was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16) This glorious One, as a human, never fell short of the glory of God by sin. (Romans 3:23) Unlike Adam and the sinful flesh produced from Adam, Jesus fully had the crown of terrestrial glory as a human, and kept the crown untainted by sin. (1 Corinthians  15:40; Hebrews 2:9) He gave up the glory of humanity, in order to provide a sacrifice for Adam and the dying race in Adam, that he might taste death for every man.
Although now of a different plane of glory than he had while in the days of his flesh (John 17:5; 1 Corinthians 15:40; Hebrews 2:9; 5:7), he is the same person who, while on earth, was the Man Christ Jesus, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3) Jesus spoke of the glory he had before the world was made, which glory he did not have while he was in the days of his flesh. (John 17:5; Hebrews 5:7) Paul tells us how Jesus left the heavenly glory, how He humbled Himself to take a bondman’s form — to take the a form, a likeness, of bondage as humanity had come into bondage due to sin. (Philippians 2:7,8; Romans 5:12-19; 8:19-22) Jesus was not a “God-man”; he was not existing on two planes of sentiency at the same time. He was completely and totally that which the Bible claims that he was, a human being, nothing more, nothing less, “a little lower than the angels,” except that the Bible reveals that his body of flesh was prepared by his God, so that his flesh was not tainted with Adamic sinful flesh, a body which could be offered in sacrifice for the sinful, dying world. (Luke 22:19; John 6:51; Hebrews 10:5,10) Additionally, unlike Adam, Jesus had been with God and Father long before the world of mankind was made (John 17:5), so that he was amptly taught (John 8:28), prepared, sanctified, before the only true God sent him into the world of mankind. (John 10:36; 17:1,3) Having fully kept the law of God up until the age of 30, he was approved by his God and Father as acceptable as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. (Matthew 3:15-17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; John 1:29; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10) Having no sin, and having proven himself fully obedient, Jesus was given unlimited access to the holy spirit of his God. — John 3:34; Matthew 12:28.
Yahweh, the great Origin, or Fountain of Life, is pleased to manifest Himself in various creations. And all of His intelligent creations which He recognized as sons, were of His likeness. (Genesis 1:26; Luke 3:38) The Logos, the beginning of God’s creation, was in the Divine likeness. (John 1:1,2) Not only was He a spirit Being (as God is a Spirit — John 4:24), but more than this, He was a spirit Being in the character-likeness of His Father, His Creator. — Colossians 1:15,16.
Moreover, when the Logos became the active Agent of the Father in creating the spirit beings referred to as angels (Colossians 1:16) — the elohim of Psalm 8:5 — they were all created in the image of the Father. (Genesis 1:26) The angelic sons of God sang together and shouted for joy as they saw the creation of the world of mankind. (Job 38:7) When it came time to make the human creation, God carried out through the Logos His purpose of creating man in His own image, His own likeness. (Genesis 1:26; John 1:3,10) And God declared Himself well pleased with man, with Adam, before Adam sinned. — Genesis 1:31.
A description of the first man is given us in the Eighth Psalm: “For You have made him a little lower than the angels, [Hebrew, elohim -- gods; see Hebrews 2:7] And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen– Even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8:5-8, New King James Version) In that "all things" was put under his feet, we read in Hebrews 2:8, God "left nothing that is not subject to" man. This "all things" however is "all things" pertaining the earth, not absolutely all things in the universe. But as things are now, due to Adam's sin, we do not yet see all thing subjected to man.  Nevertheless, Adam was originally made the master, or king, of all these earthly things.
When God made man, He made him like Himself in this particular — that he had a dominion. He also was made in God’s image. Since man was made in the image and likeness of God, God’s righteousness — his glory — was manifest in man’s sinless, incorrupt flesh. But through disobedience mankind became by nature sons of wrath, sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2:2,3) The original likeness to God has been corrupted by sin (Romans 5:12-19), so that now the world is corrupted, defiled through selfish desire (Romans 1:24,28; 8:3,21; 1 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 2:20), and thus all “fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The reign of Sin and Death has to a considerable extent corrupted these traces of God’s image, so that the human creation is now in “bondage to corruption”, from which will eventually be delivered. (Romans 8:21) And the Scriptures plainly show us that we have lost this image and likeness of the Creator, as well as the dominion originally given to man, for Paul says: “But now we don’t see all things subjected to him [man], yet.” — Hebrews 2:8.
Adam was called “son of God” because he was in covenant relationship with God; but when he became a sinner, he lost this relationship, and became a 'son of disobedience'. (Ephesians 2:2) Since that day, the offspring of Adam in general has been reckoned as the “seed of serpent”, sons of disobedience; by nature (of sin in their sinful flesh) children of wrath. (Genesis 3:15;  Romans 5:19; Ephesians 2:2,3; 5:6; Colossians 3:6) Yet God made a promise of a seed of the woman, who was to bruise the serpent in the head. (Genesis 3:15) Abraham was styled a friend of God. (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:33) Although God had approved of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Prophets and others in Israel, and indicated that a great blessing would be theirs, they were not sons in fullest sense. They still had the sinful nature in their flesh, and thus could not manifest God completely. Yet God did make a covenant with Abraham, saying: “In your seed will all the nations [the heathen] of the earth be blessed.” — Genesis 22:18; 26:4.
Everything must wait until that great antitypical Seed of Abraham should come. We have the record of how this One would come who was to be the Deliverer, the Antitypical Seed of Abraham. After reasoning about the Logos — how He was made flesh and dwelt amongst men — John declares that Jesus had the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, full of truth. (John 1:1-3,9-14) This glory was way above all others in which God was manifest. — John 1:18
When the lower animals saw Adam, they saw the very best representation of God possible to them. Nothing could be made in the flesh that would be more like God. And when the time came for God to send His Son into the world, rather than being conceived through Adam’s blood, God himself prepared the body of Jesus, and so in Mary’s womb Jesus was conceived by God through his holy spirit. (Hebrews 10:5; Matthew 1:20) Not having the nature of sin in his sinless body, God set before Jesus the great privilege of being man’s Redeemer. (John 4:42; Hebrews 9:12,26,28; 10:12,10,20; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 1 John 2:2; 4:10,14) And when He was made flesh, all those who knew Him saw the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father. (John 14:7,9) When any saw Him, they saw the Father in the most absolute sense in which it would be possible for them to see Him. But the world in darkness did not appreciatively know him, thus could not see his glory, for they thought him to be a sinner. (John 1:10,11) Thus, through Jesus, the God and Father of Jesus was revealed, not everyone, but only to a few who put faith in Jesus. (Luke 10:22; John 17:6) Likewise, Jesus himself did not reveal himself to the world, but only to those who would keep his commandments. — John 14:21-24.
God said to Moses, “You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live.”" (Exodus 33:20) Saul of Tarsus merely had a glimpse of Jesus glorified, and yet the glory was so great that if he had had a full look he would not have lived. (Acts 2:7-11; 1 Timothy 6:16) Jesus was the express image of the Father as a human, having been crowned with the glory of as a sinless human. (Psalm 8:5; Romans 3:23; Hebrews 2:9) Jesus is the express image of the Father, having again recieved from his God and Father the glory he had before coming to the earth, and even greater glory. (John 17:5; Acts 5:31; Philippians 2:9) And if no man can see God and live, then he cannot see Jesus in his exalted glory and live.
God has made a provision that when Christ’s Kingdom will be ruling amongst men, there will be earthly representatives through whom Messiah will govern and uplift mankind during the thousand years. We know that God has just such a class prepared and ready for this work — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the other ones of faith in olden times. (Psalm 45:16; Isaiah 32:1; Hebrews 11:4-12:1) Those of faith in the OT will not receive spiritual bodies in the resurrection, for no such offer was ever made to them. They have been accounted as alive due to their faith (Matthew 22:32; Mark 12:26,27; Luke 20:37,38; Romans 4:3,9,17; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23), and, since God “calls the things that are not, as though they were,” we believe that in a tentative sense they were spirit begotten, that is, they were given a tentative status of being justified and counted as alive in spirit, in view of Jesus’ coming sacrifice. They are not, of course, begotten to life on the spirit plane (indeed, the scriptures never speak of such) but were so counted as alive — begotten again — on the earthly plane. Thus, in the resurrection they are welcomed as princes — sons of the king — on the human level. We should not think, however, that they had a comprehension of their reckoned position, for the revealing by means of “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus wasn’t yet glorified.” (John 7:39; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 3:5) Nevertheless, those faithful of old, like Enoch, had merely the testimony that they pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5) Because of their loyalty to God and the principles of righteousness, some of these servants of God were stoned; some were sawn asunder; some were tempted; some were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy.” — Hebrews 11:37-40.
These, although they had received God’s Promise as a hope, never received the fulfillment of those promises. (Romans 4:13) For instance, God had promised Abraham: “All the land which you see, I will give to you,.” (Genesis 13:15) Abraham “obtained the promise”, but “didn’t receive the promise” in its fulfillment. (Hebrews 6:15; 11:39; See also Hebrews 11:13) Abraham must have a resurrection in order for God’s promise to come true. He must get that land. But there was no suggestion to Abraham of glory of life in the heavens — no suggestion to him of becoming a joint-heir with Jesus. (See Acts 7:5; Hebrews 11:17-19) He will be amongst those men on earth whose spirits will then be made perfect. — Hebrews 12:23.
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul spoke of “God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:8-10, New Revised Standard Version) This gives us a hint of the mystery of godliness that Paul had earlier spoken of. In stating here that this grace of God was given to us “in Christ Jesus”, we see a revealing of God in Christ. The Greek word translated “in” is Strong’s #1722, which, when used as it is here, is in the sense of an “through”, or “by means of”. Likewise, God was manifested, or revealed in the flesh of Jesus through Jesus’ sinless life and his complete obedience. The word translated “immortality” should actually be translated as “incorruption.” Mankind, through Adam, had fell into a “bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21, King James Version) and became “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Ephesians 4:22, New King James Version), thus a need for an escape from “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) Jesus, by his sinless and obedient life, displayed what incorruption is, thus by the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, his faithfulness even to death, his sacrifice, life and incorruption has been brought to light, and that light offers a beacon to mankind of hope for a new life, without sin and its impairments. The time for the application of the benefits of this sacrifice is in the age to come, when Satan will be bound, and all who are in hades will be released from that death condition for judgment, not according to Adam’s deed as in this present life, but according to their own works that they do at that most favorable time, whether for good or whether for bad. — Psalm 96; 98; Isaiah 2:2-4; 26:9,10; 35:5-10; Revelation 20:1-4,11-15; See also our study on: “Mankind’s Course to the Day of Judgment”.
Jesus, however, gave his hearers the hope of being “sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44) He told his disciples: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36) He spoke of being saved through him and the words he spoke. (John 3:17; 5:34; 10:9) The salvation he spoke of was the deliverance from sin and death, the condemnation received through Adam which we have spoken of earlier. Paul wrote of this great salvation, saying: “Which salvation began to be spoken by our Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him.” (Hebrews 2:3.) But the faithful ones of old (often referred to “ancient worthies”) had the faith to believe God, to trust His promise and to wait for the fulfillment of that Promise. They merely had the intimation that God would roll away the curse. And Abraham’s Seed — Jesus and the church — was to be the glorious channel of God’s blessing — “In you and in your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed.” So the apostle Paul tells us that they did not receive the things promised them, “God having provided some better thing concerning us [the church of present age], so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” — Hebrews 11:40.
From Paul’s statements we conclude that the faithful ones of old cannot get their blessing before the church of the Gospel Age is made perfect. The heirs of the present age must be glorified before any of the faithful of the past can come in and get their blessing. Then forthwith the Kingdom will be established. And then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the other faithful ones of the past will be the among the first children of Christ in the age to come. Instead of being the fathers, they will be the children, and He will make them princes, rulers, in all the earth. (Psalm 45:16) Their spirits being made perfect, they will be the perfect images of God. (Hebrews 12:23) In each one of these faithful ones God will be made manifest in the flesh. They will be princes at that time and rule the earth, under Christ’s Kingdom.
Jesus corroborated this thought when He said to the unbelieving Jews, “you [will] see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and yourselves being thrown outside.” (Luke 13:28) Of himself Jesus said, “Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more; but you will see me."; (John 14:19) If the disciples should not be changed to spirit-conditions by the power of our resurrection, they would not see Him any more than others who will continue on the human plane. The dead in Christ rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17), and those “who are alive and remain,” will, at His manifestation, if they made their calling and election of the high calling sure (1 Peter 1:10; Philippians 3:14), be made like Him, be “changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” At the moment of their change they will see not only their Lord, but all the holy angels, all on the spirit plane, who are now invisible to us. They, being invisible spirit beings, can see humanity, but humanity cannot see them, except that they be made manifest in some way, by vision, or by assuming a form of human flesh as angels have done in the past..
Thus seen, God’s righteousness was manifest in the flesh; first, in the case of Adam — before he sinned, but because he sinned, Adam did not fully manifest God's righteousness; second, in the case of Jesus, who by the power of the holy spirit in him never sinned; and third, His righteouness will be manifest in the flesh of those Ancient Worthies, who will be reckoned deserving of a better resurrection than the rest of the world. Fourth, we also believe God will be manifested in the flesh of all those Christians who pass through the destruction of Satan’s empire, and finally (fifth), at the end of the millennial reign of Christ, in the flesh of all mankind who have, by means of the power of the holy spirit in that age (Hebrews 6:5), perfected their characters in the image of God. Thus, eventually, all of God's earthly human creation that will then exist will be manifesting their Creator in the flesh.
When in derision the soldiers placed upon the head of Jesus a crown of thorns and arrayed Him in a purple robe, and led Him into the judgment hall, Pilate looked upon Him in admiration, and exclaimed, “Behold the Man!” or (see Strong’s Concordance) “Behold the countenance!” He was a Gentile and not of Jewish race. But he seemingly esteemed that the Jews had sent to him for sentence the most glorious Jew on earth! None can have a really beautiful character without the inner beauty being reflected in the face. If a man be a vicious character, he cannot hide it from his features. If he be of a loving disposition, it will show in his face. What then, shall we think of our Lord! His face must have been one of marvelous beauty! No wonder the people flocked to see Him because of His graciousness of speech and His wonderful beauty — the image of God!
The Psalmist has asked, “What is man, that you think of him? The son of man, that you care for him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, For you have made him a little lower than God, And crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:4,5.) But man has fallen into sin, alienation, darkness! The Satanic influence works sin and has brought about man’s fall from the image and glory of his Creator. (Romans 3:23) It is God’s great purpose to bring humanity back from sin and imperfection. He will uplift all those who desire to be righteous.
“We do not yet see man restored to his original dominion today. (Hebrews 2:8; Genesis 1:26,28; Psalm 8:6-8) We do, however, see, by the eye of faith, Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor [the glory of a sinless nature in the flesh]; that He by the grace [favor] of God should taste death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9) We see the broad basis of God’s Plan laid in the redemptive work at Calvary. We see that it must be the Redeemer’s life that would be the price of human redemption. “For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as all in Adam die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ [The Anointed, The Messiah] the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming [Greek, parousia, during his presence." (1 Corinthians 15:21-23) Jesus says, "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him one thousand years." -- Revelation 20:6.
So, then, godliness, holy living toward God, was clearly exhibited in the Man Christ Jesus in His sinlessness, and his character-likeness to his God and Father, as well as in his steadfastness in his obedience. But such devotion was specially and more particularly manifest in the flesh of Jesus when He presented Himself to John at Jordan as He reached the period of thirty years of age, and there to offer Himself as the Lamb of God to be sacrificed. Thus John the Baptist said: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" And Paul records Jesus as saying: "Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of me) To do your will, God." (Hebrews 10:7) There He offered Himself without spot (1 Peter 1:19), in harmony with God's will. And the Divine acceptance was indicated in the form of a dove coming upon Him -- not that the Holy Spirit is a dove, but that God gave the outward manifestation so that John would have some means of identification of the Messiah, so that he could say, "I have seen the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him." -- John 1:31.
From the time of Jesus' baptism God dwelt in Him in a peculiar manner. As the apostle John says of the true believer, God dwells in us and we in God. (1 John 4:16) The Father took up His abode in Jesus, and qualified Him to make known the Divine Plan. Our Lord said, "The Spirit of [Yahweh*] is on me, Because he anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim release to the captives, Recovering of sight to the blind, To deliver those who are crushed, And to proclaim the acceptable year of [Yahweh].” — Luke 4:16-21.
*Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 61:1,2. There we find the holy name, Yahweh (Jehovah), in its Hebrew form.
How much of the divine plan Jesus understood before his baptism when the holy spirit descended on him, we cannot say for sure. We do read that he “grew strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” (Luke 2:40) We know that even after his baptism and the holy spirit had descended on him, he still did not know some things. (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32) We also know that Jesus was begotten in Mary by means of the holy spirit. (Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:35) This spirit-begettal allowed him perfect and sinless life on the human level. Jesus did not receive from his mother any inheritance of sin, because we read that it was God who prepared his body (Hebrews 10:5), thus he was never a “natural” [Psuchikos] man, as that term is symbolically used in 1 Corinthians 2:14 (see also the usage of Psuchikos in James 3:15; Jude 1:9), as one by nature a child of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3) Thus, we recognize that Jesus was spirit-begotten, on the human level, before being offered to receive any spiritual reward on the spirit plane. Yet he had no sin, and was not a child of wrath as other men were.
Nevertheless, we have reason to believe that from the time the holy spirit descended on him, he began to understand matters that he did not understand before. We know he evidently did remember many things that he had been taught by his father before coming to the earth. (John 8:28) However, after being baptized, we read that God’s spirit “immediately … drove him out into the wilderness.” (Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1) He spent 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. Whether he received any special enlightenment during these 40 days the scriptures do not say, but it is quite possible that he did. At any rate, both Jesus and John the Baptist knew he was to give up his human life in sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He, being perfect in mind and body, surely had the entire Scriptures in his mind, in his memory. From childhood He had been in the habit of attending the synagogue; and with His perfect mind, the Scriptures would be thoroughly engraved there. He could quote Scripture ad libitum. So when Satan quoted the Scriptures, Jesus understood them.
At the end of the forty days, when Jesus was weak from fasting, was the most favorable time for the adversary to tempt him. When he had before him the thought of all the shame and ignominy connected with his sacrificial death, it would be enough to make any one’s heart quail! Jesus realized that he was to be counted as a blasphemer, and contrary to God, and that he had a work to do before his time was to come, thus before Jesus began his ministry was the most opportune moment for Satan. And the Father permitted Him to be tempted — permitted the Adversary to tempt Him at this particular time.
The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” — Matthew 4:30; See also Luke 4:3.
The tempter knew Jesus, having had acquaintance with him in the past. Thus the tempter spoke the truth when he said that Jesus is the Son of God, but he acknowledges this truth to further his aims, evidently to deceive Jesus by temptation. (The tempter does not recognize Jesus as the Most High; if the tempter had thought Jesus was the Most High Yahweh, he would have known that it would have useless to tempt Jesus.) The tempter was also aware of the Jesus’ mission. Satan’s greatest deception is make himself appear to be good and on your side. He will try to identify himself as in harmony the goals of the believer. Satan, in effect, was telling Jesus: “I know you are the Son of God, and that you have great power. All you have to do is to command these stones to turn to bread.” This must have been a temptation to Jesus, and Jesus, although sinless, was yet corruptible, that is, he could have obeyed the tempter as did Adam. If this were not true, then Satan was simply wasting his time in trying to get Jesus to obey him. But Satan appears to be saying here: “You have a great work to do; I will help you. But before you can do your work, you should have something to eat.”
Jesus knew Satan — he knew that Satan was the anointed cherub, spoken of under the type of the King of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:11-19) and the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4-23), who had rebelled against the Divine Government, and who was imprisoned on this planet. (Luke 10:18) When Satan appeared to Jesus, we may be sure that he tried to appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and to pretend that he wished to be on God’s side, and that he now wished to cooperate with God. But Jesus knew that His power was not given Him for the purpose of sustaining His life, and he knew that he could not serve two opposing masters (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13), and he would not yield to the temptation. Thus he stated: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” — Matthew 4:4.
Therefore Satan next took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him how he — Satan — was “the prince [ruler] of this world” (John 12:31) and all the kingdoms thereof. In effect, he said:
You see, then, that I have the power to help you. Can you afford to be without such assistance? I am in sympathy with you. You will save mankind and deliver them all from death. Instead of your having to suffer, as God’s plan is, we will work together, and you will not need to suffer. But first, you must acknowledge me. That was the way I started out. I wanted to show what kind of a kingdom I could set up. I said, “I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High,” (Isaiah 14:13) I will have an empire of my own. I advise you to come in and share with me. I will give you all the glory you could ask. I intend to be the prince of this world. Do you not see that everything is in my hands?
But in these temptations Jesus conquered. And the victory was so complete that Satan thought it would not be worth while to tempt Him again! He thought that if he could not move Jesus when He was on the verge of starvation, it was of no use to try any further. So he never made another attempt, so far as the record goes.
After this, as Jesus went about doing good, healing the sick, and preaching to the people, everything was in perfect conformity to the Father’s will. If the Father had been there incarnated in a fleshly body, He could not have done His own will more perfectly. But Jesus was not incarnated, as that word is used in the doctrine of incarnation, that is, that Jesus was simply clothed with a body of flesh while he himself remained the Supreme Being. This doctrine of incarnation of our Lord is only a theory invented during the apostasy, the “Dark Age” when no man was able to work the works of truth. (John 9:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12) For Jesus humbled himself to not only to become a  outwardly a bondservant, as though he were under the curse of sin and death as a man,, he also became “obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [made so by his God and Father -- Acts 2:36], to the glory of God, the Father.” — Philippians 2:8-11.
It was Jesus, not directly God (as it reads in the King James Version), who was “vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.” God has never needed to be taken up by God in glory, but the Son of God was exalted by his God. — Acts 2:33; 5:31; Philippians 2:9.
With the understanding of the “mystery of godliness” as given above, we can see, however, that Jesus did make manifest his God in the flesh. In Jesus, God himself was being manifest, make known, in the flesh, since Jesus did the works of God. Additionally, God is vindicated in the spirit through the works that Jesus did. This is not speaking about being justified from sin, for neither Yahweh nor his Son are sinful. But Jesus did vindicate of the justness of God as seen in the works of Jesus. God himself was being justified as just in the spirit of obedience that Jesus displayed, obedience even until death. The “righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets”, for Jesus perfectly kept the law and fulfilled the portion pertaining to his first advent as foretold in the prophets. (Romans 3:21) It is because of the righteousness of God seen in the man Jesus that the God of Jesus set him “forth to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done before, in the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:25) Thus the God of Jesus, Paul says, demonstrated “his righteous [through his Son] at the present time; that he [the God of Jesus] might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.” Thus God is seen by those of faith as being justified in the spirit of the words Jesus said and works that Jesus did, which works he accomplished through the leading of God’s holy spirit. — Isaiah 11:2; 61:1; Matthew 4:1; 11:27; Luke 4:1,17-21; John 1:18; 3:34; 4:34; 5:36; 9:4; 10:22,25; 14:6,7-11; 17:4.
Additionally, through Jesus, God is seen by angels in a way that they could not have seen him before. Only through the works of God that Jesus did, including his willfull sacrifice of his flesh on behalf of mankind, could the angels see such love, both of Jesus and the God of Jesus.
Jesus did indeed, declare, or made known, the father: “The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father living in me does his works.” (John 14:10, KJV) “I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear I judge.” John 5:30 “As the Father hath sent me, so likewise I send you [disciples].” “The works which I do in my Father’s name bear witness.” “I am come in my Father’s name.” “Whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” “My Father is greater than I.” (John 10:25, 5:43; 12:50; 14:28, KJV) Jesus came in his God’s name, and spoke the words for Yahweh. — Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 5:43.
Jesus meant for his disciples to understand that it is impossible for man (a fleshy, earthly being) to see God, a spirit being. Thus the Apostle John testified, “No one has seen God at any time: the Only-Begotten God–the One existing within the bosom of the Father — he interpreted [him].” (John 1:18 — Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible Translation) He meant them to understand what Yahweh declared to Moses, “No man can see my face and live:” and hence that if the Father would show himself to humanity, it could only be either by miraculously opening man’s eyes to discern the spiritual glory (thus exposing man to death), or else by God’s manifesting himself in a body of flesh; — in such a manner that men could discern something of his character by contact and intercourse. And was not this exactly what God did do? God’s mind, God’s will, was fully represented in his Only Begotten Son, our Lord, when he was made flesh and dwelt amongst men. He therefore was the best, the closest, the most positive representation of God that it was or ever would be possible to give to mankind. In seeing and knowing the Lord Jesus intimately, Philip and the other Apostles knew the Father in the most absolute sense possible for humanity to know him. There never was, there never would be, there never could be, a clearer, a more absolute, a more complete manifestation of God to man than in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; for when “made flesh” he was the manifestation of his God in the flesh. But note this: similarly the Apostle declares of the Church, the faithful members of Christ — We are delivered unto death, “that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest [Greek, rendered apparent] IN OUR MORTAL FLESH.” — 2 Corinthians 4:11
Jesus is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15) While in the flesh Jesus did make known his God, figuratively, he “made visible” the invisible God by faithfully proclaiming the words of Yahweh and carrying out his works. — Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Matthew 11:25-27; Luke 10:22; John 1:18; 5:30; 6:38; 8:26,42; 12:49,50; 14:20; 17:3,6,8,26; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 1 John 5:20
We know that the New Testament writings have come to us from the Greek manuscripts. However, amongst the manuscripts, there are three variant readings as to the one “manifest in flesh”: (1) God – THEOS (2) who – HOS (3) and which - HO. There is much manuscript evidence to support “who”, as well as evidence from versions and the “church fathers.” There is some early evidence for “which”. The reading of “God” – THEOS has very little support before the fourth century. The Codex Sinaiticus provides a hint has to how this verse may have been changed from “who” to “God”. We find in this text what appears to be a scribal correction attributed to the twelfth century where THEOS was added to above the line.
We realize that many will deny that this text was corrupted from its original. Many, often in ignorance and zeal (Proverbs 19:2; Romans 10:2), make all kinds of claims against translations that do not read “God was manifest in the fleshs”. Some call these translations Satanic, some poke fun at the translations and/or those who translated these. Nevertheless, the context, as well as the earlier manuscripts, do testify that it has been corrupted. Additionally, the entire Bible is consistent with the translation as rendered in the New American Standard translation. The testimony of the scripture in general is distinguish between the God of Israel, Yahweh, and the one whom Yahweh sent, the Son of God. (See our study on “Jesus is not Yahweh”.)
We first want to note that most the translations that render this verse in a manner similar to the New American Standard are produced by scholars who believe in the trinity. They are not trying to oppose the trinity, as some have claimed, but are honestly trying to give the proper rendering to reflect what was originally written by the apostle Paul.
Here is a list of how various translations and versions have rendered this verse:
  • English Standard: Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit,seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
  • The New King James Version (footnote rendering): And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: who 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.
  • The Holman Christian Standard Bible – And most certainly, the mystery of godliness is great: He was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
  • New International Version: Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, 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.
  • The New Living Translation: Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ* appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and was announced to the nations. He was believed on in the world and was taken up into heaven.
    *{footnote} Greek Who; some manuscripts read God.
  • The New Revised Standard Version: Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He* was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.
    *{footnote} Gk [Who]; other ancient authorities read [God]; others, [Which]
  • Revised Standard Version: Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
  • Good News Translation: No one can deny how great is the secret of our religion: He appeared in human form, was shown to be right by the Spirit, F6 and was seen by angels. He was preached among the nations, was believed in throughout the world, and was taken up to heaven.
  • Douay-Rheim Bible translation: And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory.
  • The Message translation: This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough: He appeared in a human body, was proved right by the invisible Spirit, was seen by angels. He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples, believed in all over the world, taken up into heavenly glory.
  • The Complete Jewish Bible: Great beyond all question is the formerly hidden truth underlying our faith: He was manifested physically and proved righteous spiritually, seen by angels and proclaimed among the nations, trusted throughout the world and raised up in glory to heaven.
    Our comment: This is not a translation produced by Jews, as some have thought, but is a translation produced by Christians for Jews.
  • New Century Version: Without doubt, the secret of our life of worship is great: He was shown to us in a human body, proved right in spirit, and seen by angels. He was preached to those who are not Jews, believed in by the world, and taken up in glory.
  • God’s Word translation: The mystery that gives us our reverence for God is acknowledged to be great: He F8 appeared in his human nature, was approved by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was announced throughout the nations, was believed in the world, and was taken to heaven in glory.
  • The Bible in Basic English version: And without argument, great is the secret of religion: He who was seen in the flesh, who was given God’s approval in the spirit, was seen by the angels, of whom the good news was given among the nations, in whom the world had faith, who was taken up in glory.
  • Today’s New International Version: Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in a body, 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.
  • New International Reader’s Version: There is no doubt that godliness is a great mystery. Jesus appeared in a body. The Holy Spirit proved that he was the Son of God. He was seen by angels. He was preached among the nations. People in the world believed in him. He was taken up to heaven in glory.
  • Darby Translation: And confessedly the mystery of piety is great. God* has been manifested in flesh, has been justified in [the] Spirit, has appeared to angels, has been preached among [the] nations, has been believed on in [the] world, has been received up in glory.
    *{footnote}: I do not enter on the criticism of this text. It very likely should read ‘He who has,’ &c.
  • Weymouth translation: And, beyond controversy, great is the mystery of our religion– that Christ appeared in human form, and His claims justified by the Spirit, was seen by angels and proclaimed among Gentile nations, was believed on in the world, and received up again into glory.
  • The Amplified Bible translation: And great and important and weighty, we confess, is the hidden truth (the mystic secret) of godliness. He* was made visible in human flesh, justified and vindicated in the [Holy] Spirit, was seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, [and] taken up in glory.
    *{footnote}: Some manuscripts read “God.”
  • New Life translation: It is important to know the secret of Godlike living, which is: Christ came to earth as a Man. He was pure in His Spirit. He was seen by angels. The nations heard about Him. Men everywhere put their trust in Him. He was taken up into heaven.
  • Easy to Read Version: Without any doubt, the secret of our life of worship is great: He (Christ) was shown to us in a human body; the Spirit proved that he was right; he was seen by angels. {The Good News about him} was preached to the nations (non-Jews); people in the world believed in him; he was taken up to heaven in glory.
  • The Emphasized Bible translation: And, confessedly great, is the sacred secret of godliness, – Who was made manifest in flesh, was declared righteous in spirit, was made visible unto messengers, was proclaimed among nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
  • The Wycliffe Bible (1395) translation: And opynli it is a greet sacrament of pitee, that thing that was schewid in fleisch, it is iustified in spirit, it apperid to aungels, it is prechid to hethene men, it is bileuyd in the world, it is takun vp in glorie.
  • The Peshitta Lamsa Translation: Truly great is this divine mystery of righteousness: it is revealed in the flesh, justi- fied in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory.
  • International Standard Version: By common confession, the secret of our godly worship is great: In flesh was he* revealed to sight, Kept righteous by the Spirit’s might, Adored by angels singing. To nations was he manifest, Believing souls found peace and rest, F25 Our Lord in heaven reigning!
    *{footnote}: Other mss. read God
  • New Jerusalem Bible translation: Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed: He was made visible in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.
  • 2001 Translation - an American English Bible: Admittedly, this sacred devotion is a great mystery. For, He was shown in the flesh, was called righteous in spirit, appeared to [God's] messengers, was preached about among the nations, was believed in the world, and was taken up in glory.
  • Concordant Literal Translatin: And avowedly great is the secret of devoutness, which was manifested in flesh, justified in spirit, seen by messengers, heralded among the nations, believed in the world, taken up in glory.
  • Ferrar Fenton’s Translation: And the mystery that is in the true worship is admittedly great. HE who was manifested in a body; Justified in Spirit; Guarded by angels; Proclaimed among the nations; Believed on in the world; Was take up into glory!
  • J B Phillips New Testament translation: No one can deny that this religion of ours is a tremendous mystery, resting as it does on the one who showed himself as a human being, and met, as such, every demand of the Spirit in the sight of angels as well as of men.
Given time, we could probably list a lot more translations.
Nevertheless, we will point out that there is nothing in this verse about three persons in God; such a thought has to be added to what is said, and then read into what is said. The only reason, however, we can see for wanting to accept the corrupted rendering as given in the King James Version is to have the scripture at least appear to support some theory that Jesus is Yahweh. Nevertheless, it becomes circular in reasoning, which we will demonstrate in this way: We believe that Jesus is God, thus we believe that this scripture should read “God was manifest in the flesh”, and thus the scripture is proof that Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Nevertheless, we must admit that there is no 100% certainty as to which translation is correct. The "mystery" is related to godliness, the believer's piety toward god, which is then described in the words that follow.
1 Timothy 3:16 - And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. -- American Standard.
This version does not have the word "God", but rather it states "He who". It is important to focus on what what Paul was describing, as most seem to fail to connect mystery of the believers' godliness with the words that follow. Paul is talking about the mystery of the Christian's godliness (piety), devotion to God. This great mystery is described in the phrases following. While this godly devotion is a great mystery to the world, it is attainable to the Christian through the work that Jesus did. As it reads in the American Standard, and several other translations, this mystery of godliness is "he who" was revealed, manifested, or appeared in the flesh (of Jesus). Jesus was indeed the exemplar of this godliness, this devotion to God, especially since he was the first human to have completely and fully obeyed God.
1 Timothy 3:16 - Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, 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. -- New International Version.
This version speaks of Jesus as appearing in a body. It still, however, does not say that Jesus *is* God in the flesh. Of course, Jesus, having a body specially prepared by God (Hebrews 10:5), and thus not being condemned to sin and death as are all who are dying in Adam (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22), and having learned of his God and Father, and with the help of God's holy spirit, Jesus was indeed the exemplar of godliness (devotion to God). This, of course, does not mean that Jesus is his God to whom he held this godliness.
1 Timothy 2:15 - Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and was announced to the nations. He was believed on in the world and was taken up into heaven. -- New Living Translation.
This rendering also does not say that Jesus is God in the flesh. While this is rendering is not very literal in translation, the thought is given that Christ appeared in the flesh. The "great mystery of godliness" is changed to "the great mystery our faith." Jesus was shown to be righteous (he absolutely never sinned!). What an example of godliness (devotion to God). Of course, nothing here means that Jesus is his God, or that he was his God Himself in the flesh.
1 Timothy 3:16 Truly great is this divine mystery of righteousness: it is revealed in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory. -- Lamsa Translation.
This translation (based on the Aramaic Peshitta) also does not say that "Jesus is God manifest in the flesh." This rendering would place the "mystery of godliness" as an "it" that is revealed in the flesh. This would seem to fit the context, since "godliness" would be referred to as an "it". Of course, the way that righteousness was revealed in the flesh was by means of Jesus. It was Jesus, by means of righteousness, his devotedness to his God, who brought life and incorruption to light.
1 Timothy 3:16 And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory. -- Douay-Rheim Bible translation.
This is based on the Latin Vulgate. This additionally more correctly fits the context than either "he" or "God", since it describes the Christian's piety toward God as "which".
1 Timothy 3:16 - And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. -- King James Version.
Again, we do not find any expression that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh, but this translation does say that "God was manifest in the flesh." Of course, through Jesus, God was indeed made manifest in the flesh of the one sent by the only true God. This does not mean that Jesus' flesh was God Almighty, or that Jesus possessed two levels of sentiency at once. "The mystery of godliness" -- of devotion to God -- would be applicable to, and distributed to, the entire expression following. As it read in the KJV, this godliness is due to the fact that God was indeed made manifest, revealed, in the flesh of Jesus. Jesus flesh, however, did not need to be justified, since it was sinless. The mystery of the Christian's godliness is that, due to Jesus' death, the believer is justified in -- by means of, the spirit. (1 Corinthians 6:11) The mystery of the Christian's godliness is that this mystery of godliness is seen by angels. (1 Corinthians 4:9) The mystery of the Christian's godliness is that this mystry has been preached to the Gentiles and believe on amongst many in the world. The mystery of the Christian's godliness is seen in that the believer has been lifted up in glory; the glory that the first Christian is first lifted up to is that of sinless glory that Adam had before Adam sinned. -- 1 Corinthians 15:35-47.
Jesus, of course, since his flesh was never sinful to begin with, did not need to be justified from sin, but Jesus did maintain the justified condition by means of God's holy spirit -- never falling short of the glory of God, unlike Adam, and all condemned in Adam. The angels themselves had a keen interest in Jesus' devotion to God, which is still a "mystery" to the world. The devotion of Jesus to his God was preached to the heathen, and many in the world did believe in him. Jesus continued this devotion even after having died in the flesh, sacrificing his terrestrial body and had been received into the glory of a celestial body.
Many trinitarians, as well as some others, may prefer the way it reads in the KJV since they would find it easier to add their doctrines to this, and read their doctrines into what is said. Many trinitarians also are very fond referring to 1 Timothy 3:16 as speaking of the mystery of the godhead, when, in fact, there nothing in any of the variants about any mystery of an alleged "godhead." What such does is misread, or change the meaning, of "godliness" to force it to mean "godhead."
Of course, the reason for different words used in translation is because of the variant readings of manuscripts. As stated, we cannot be 100% certain as to which reading is correct. Regardless of the differences in the manuscripts, NONE of them say that Jesus is God Himself manifested in the flesh. The best rendering that we can see that actually fits the context is either "it" or "which" renderings. From the standpoint of harmonization with the rest of the scriptures, what we can say about KJV translation of 1 Timothy 3:16 is that God was manifested in the flesh of Jesus, since Jesus was fully devoted to God, the human expression of godliness (piety) while Jesus was in the days of his flesh. (Hebrews 5:7) This does not mean that Jesus was or is his God, who was being manifested -- revealed -- through Jesus.
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