1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) … “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.”
1 Timothy 3:16 is an amazing verse. An entire book could be written on this verse alone. It begins with Jesus as God and ends with Jesus in glory. It begins with His incarnation and ends with His ascension. It is truly the gospel good news in a verse.
After giving us these three powerful images of the church Paul then says, ‘Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness’ (v. 16). The mystery Paul announces here is an open secret, something which would never have been known had it not been revealed. Paul reveals 4 main open secrets to be discovered and known.
• Christ ‘was manifested in the flesh’. The Son of God became a real human being. He was like us in every way, except for our sin.
• Christ was ‘vindicated by the spirit’ This could be referring to Jesus’ resurrection or the way in which the Holy Spirit came upon him during his ministry on earth. But the point being made is that true spirituality is patterned by Christ.
• Christ was ‘seen by angels’ and ‘proclaimed among the nations.’ The angels were at the empty tomb, telling the disciples that Jesus was no longer there because he had been raised from the dead. The good news is spread because of Christ’s resurrection.
• Christ was ‘believed on in the world’ and ‘taken up in glory’. This refers to the story of Jesus’ ascension, which is found in both Matthew and in Acts.
Paul is telling Timothy and Christians, that when we set our sight on the risen, ascended Christ, then our lives are filled with a sense of purpose and it becomes fueled with a passion to tell others about the good news of Jesus.