The Mystery of Godliness

By Michael Garrison

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 (1 Tim. 3:16).

The phrase “without controversy” means there is and can be no doubt. No one should have any doubt about Jesus Christ being the Christ. He fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18).

But, did he really fulfill all the Law? In Luke 24:44-48 we have the answer: “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise form the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Joseph P. Free reports, “There are three hundred and thirty-two distinct prophesies in the Old Testament which have been fulfilled in Christ.” He said, “The chances of all of these prophecies being fulfilled in one man are so overwhelmingly remote that it is strikingly demonstrated that they could in no wise be the shrewd guesses of mere men, but were given by God to holy men who ‘spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Pet. 1:21)” (Archaeology and Bible History, 284).

The title of this article is “The Mystery of Godliness.” The word “mystery” means “that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those who are illumined by His Spirit” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words) So, the prophets and apostles revealed that which was once a mystery. The mystery is that 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. ” Let us examine each part of the “mystery of godliness” which is so important.


This means deity. The subject of this verse is Jesus Christ. He is God! John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:1, 14). The apostle Paul informs us that though Jesus was “in the form of God, (He) thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion of a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).

In Hebrews 1:8, God the Father calls his Son, God! And in Acts 20:28, we learn about “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood, ” which is a clear reference to Jesus the Christ.

Yes, Jesus is God – He is not the Father, but God the Son.

“God Was Manifest In The Flesh”

Jesus was manifested – or made known – in the flesh. God the Son took upon him human flesh. See Philippians 2:6-8 again. In human flesh, Jesus became able to understand what it is like to be human. We are told in Hebrews 4:15 that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. ” So, Jesus knows what it is to suffer in the flesh, because he humbled himself unto God the Father and came to earth in fleshly form.

“God Was Justified In The Spirit”

“To justify one means to declare and prove him to be what he claims to be, and to disprove all false accusations that may be made against him” (E.M. Zerr Commentary). Jesus was once and for all time “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Also, read Acts 13:26-39.

“God Was Seen Of Angels”

Angels have always had an interest in things pertaining to man’s salvation. Peter wrote, “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow, unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven: which things the angels desire to look into ” (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Angels were present at various time while Christ was on the earth. In Matthew 4:11, after Jesus was tempted by the Devil, “angels came and ministered unto him. ” In Luke 22:38-43, as a result of his prayer to the Father before his betrayal, false accusations, crucifixion, and death, “there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. ” On the day of His resurrection, “the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (Matt. 28:2). So, Jesus was indeed “seen of angels!”

“God Was Preached Unto The Gentiles”

Jesus is the Savior of all who will obey his gospel. Jesus instructed his apostles, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19). By the time Paul wrote to the saints in Colosse, he could tell them that the gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven – (Col. 1:23). So, the Jews and Gentiles had an opportunity to learn what to do to escape ungodliness and worldly lust.

“God Was Believed On In The World”

As the apostles went everywhere preaching the gospel, many believed and obeyed the gospel. In Thessalonica, when the gospel was preached, “some of them believed and consorted with Paul and Silas” and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few” (Acts 17:4). When the unbelieving Jews realized what was happening, they went to the rulers of the city and said, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6). So, many people were believing the saving gospel and Jesus was being believed on in the world.

“God Was Received Up Into Glory”

After Jesus had made it possible for sinful humans to escape ungodliness and have sins washed away in his blood (Rev. 1:5), he returned unto His Father in heaven. In Acts 1:9, the apostles saw Jesus “taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.” This fulfilled Daniel 7:13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him, and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. So, He went back to glory (Jn. 17:4-5).

In light of the six items above, no one has any excuse for not believing and obeying Jesus Christ. Do you believe? Have you obeyed? If not, why not do so as soon as possible? If you have fallen away from God, why not return to Him in humble obedience? He wants to save you and everyone else.

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 8, pp. 244-245
April 16, 1992