The Mystery of Godliness -- By: Martin O. Massinger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 096:384 (Oct 1939)
Article: The Mystery of Godliness
Author: Martin O. Massinger


The Mystery of Godliness

Martin O. Massinger

“And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness:
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.”
-1 Tim 3:16 (free translation).

It will be our purpose in this paper to examine the above passage to discover what is meant by “the mystery of godliness.” What is this mystery, this truth “which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men,” but which “hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph 3:5). We shall first briefly consider the context in which this verse is found, and then examine the verse in the light of the context.

The preceding verses are a discussion of the qualifications of church officers. Bishops must be blameless, deacons must be grave. In verses 14 and 15 Paul states that he intends soon to come to Timothy, but that he is writing these things so that, in case his coming should be long delayed, Timothy may know how one should behave oneself “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” He then exclaims, in the verse which we are examining, “And confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness.” The connection with the preceding passage is quite clear. Timothy is to pay particular attention to the appointment of church officers and to good

order in the church, for the church is God’s witness on earth, and only in the message of the church will the unsaved masses of humanity come into contact with the truth of God. And this message which has been committed to the church is no small matter, for “confessedly [or, “without controversy,” “by consent of all”-Thayer] great is the mystery of godliness.” The importance of orderly church life and the greatness of the mystery which has been committed to the church is further pointed out in the passage which follows in the fourth chapter of Timothy, in which the apostasy of the latter times is set forth. In view of the fact that Satan’s emissaries are so diligent in spreading false doctrine, how important it is that the church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, should conduct itself in an orderly way, and should treasure the mystery which has been committed to it. It is of great importance that the context be kept in mind as we proceed to exegete the verse itself, and particularly when we draw our conclusions ...

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