The Mystery of Godliness
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.”
Paul concluded this section with a confession on the mystery of godliness. This was probably a hymn well-known in first-century Christendom and often used in public worship services. Paul may have included these familiar words to provoke the listeners to evaluate their conduct and life in view of this confession.
Paul declared, He appeared in a body. This refers to the incarnation of Christ, the coming of God into the world. God and godliness were revealed to humanity as God became flesh. The Word of all time, the truth of all eternity, the wisdom of God, the very Son became like us, living in our midst.
Christ was also vindicated by the Spirit. He was declared acceptable to God in his sacrificial death for the sins of all people. He was proclaimed the Son of God through his resurrection and ascension into heaven. This was done by the Holy Spirit, who “raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom. 8:11, see also Rom. 1:4).
The next line of the hymn states that Jesus was seen by angels. In keeping with the victorious tone of the previous line, this statement is a shout of triumph. The vindicated Christ, the resurrected Lord, was shown to the angels, his ministering spirits.
Jesus was also preached among the nations. Again, the glory of the risen Christ continued as his salvation and life were communicated throughout the world. This proclamation is now the duty of the church.
The result of this preaching is that Jesus is believed on in the world. This is the continuing legacy of godliness. Salvation is perpetual in power as the living Christ is believed on by individuals of every nation, tribe, and people group. The richness of our salvation must be treasured if we are to share it with others.
Paul ended his hymn except with the declaration that Christ was taken up in glory. The Son was raised in power, and he ascended to his place at he right hand of the Father. He is Lord, reigning at the top of all the created order. He rules with majesty and power. Christ’s ascension is assurance of his return. It is the proof of his ever-present reality and power and his claims on our lives.
In this confession of the mystery of godliness, Paul called us to pay attention to the importance and calling of the church. Founded by Christ, built on him and by him, the church is called to be a preview of his kingdom. This occurs as his people serve and love in obedience to their living Lord. Let us live worthy of the call of God, serving his church.
 Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 191–192). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.