When God Became Man
1 Tim. 3:16
Pastor Tommy Wensil
In this portion we find Paul closing his thoughts upon the virtues of spiritual leaders with the truth of the church’s mission (1 Tim. 3:14,15). The local church is to support the truth in the world. The church’s message (1 Tim. 3:16) is composed of the worthiness of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a fitting doxology to conclude this chapter, and some even believe that the thrust of this verse was the truth of an hymn sung by the early church. This passage is a spontaneous outburst of praise for the excellence of the Lord Jesus.
Before Paul gives us this great confession, and spontaneous outburst of praise he reminds us of two important aspects of these great truths. First he reminds us that they are indisputable ("without controversy"). It seems obvious that this was one of the most crucial statements of faith found among believers in the first century. To identify with Christ as Savior and Lord one would hold to these fundamental truths for these truths were crucial to the message of Christianity both historically and spiritually. Now in the twenty first century we still have this great statement of faith, yet Satan has made an assault upon it. This passage is one of the clearest statements concerning the deity of Christ found in the New Testament record. We are not surprised that many of the perversions of the English Bible either mutilate this verse, weaken its meaning, or remove it entirely from the passage.
Second, he reminds us of the importance of these great truths. Paul reveals that this is a mighty truth for the word "great" is the Greek word megas which means exceedingly great, large or mighty. The Spirit of God desires to underscore in our hearts and minds that the truth which is being put forth is one of the most important truth’s in all of the Scripture. The word "mystery" also reminds us that it is a manifest truth. The truth of the incarnation was a mystery to the Old Testament prophets. A mystery is not something "mysterious" or eery, rather in the Scriptural sense a mystery is something that was hidden from the Old Testament prophets and writers, yet revealed to the apostles and prophets of the New Testament by the Spirit of God (Eph. 3:3-5). There are at least seven great mysteries given in the New Testament –
(1) Mystery of Godliness– 1 Tim. 3:16
(2) Mystery of Indwelling Christ– Col. 1:26-28
(3) Mystery of the Church– Eph. 3:1-11
(4) Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven– Mt. 13
(5) Mystery of the Rapture– 1 Cor. 15:51-55
(6) Mystery of Israel’s blindness– Rom. 11:25
(7) Mystery or Iniquity– 2 Thess. 2:1-12
This verse is fittingly made up of three couplets of spiritual truth. Each pair contrasts the spiritual and the physical, heaven and earth, and the great truth of Christ humanity and deity is brought into focus. The verse ends with Christ ascension into glory to be seated at God’s right hand. Thus the church presently awaits the risen Lord to return to receive His bride.
(1) God -manifest in the flesh— justified in the Spirit.
(2) Seen of angels— preached unto the Gentiles.
(3) Believed on in the world— received up into glory.
I. Incarnation– "God was manifest in the flesh"
There are three significant miracles that make up the framework of Christianity: (1) Virgin birth, (2) Resurrection, (3) Second Coming. Without the first miracle the rest would be absolute myth or fairy tale. The incarnation is the truth that God united himself with man so He could pay redemptions price.
A. Infinitely God– (2 Cor. 5:19)
God made a special arrangement when His Son was incarnated in human flesh. Jesus was God before he came to Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He is the everlasting Son of God who was "given" to us and for us according to Isaiah 9:6. He was God in glory before time (Jn. 17:5), God in Bethlehem in time and He will continue to be God for all eternity (Heb 13:8). The Lord Jesus did not begin at Bethlehem any more than he ended at Calvary– He is infinitely God.
B. Absolutely Man– (Heb. 10:5 "thou hast prepared me")
The Lord took upon himself a body of flesh just like ours without the inherent sin nature. The necessity of the virgin birth allowed the Holy Ghost to "short circuit" the sin cycle perpetuated from Adam’s seed. The Saviour was miraculously conceived in Mary by the overshadowing work of the Holy Ghost (Lk. 1:35). Thus he had Adam’s flesh and holy sinless blood so that He might give that blood a ransom for sinners (1 Pet. 1:18,19).
II. Vindication– "justified in the Spirit"
There are two significant times when the spirit of God vindicated the person and ministry of the Lord Jesus. The first was at the inception of His earthly ministry and the second was at the completion of His earthly ministry.
A. His Baptism– (Mt. 3:16; Jn. 3:34)
Christ was not baptized as a signification of repentance and faith. Our Lord made it clear that He was baptized to "fulfil all righteousness" (Mt. 3:15). Our Lord was a prophet, priest and king. As a priest he must be washed and anointed. The Lord was symbolically washed in the Jordan river and anointed upon the head by the Holy Ghost from heaven as a priest after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 7:10-21).
B. His Resurrection– ( Romans 8:11; 1:5*)
During our Lord’s earthly ministry he was accused of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God. Therefore the Jews instigated His crucifixion. Yet God vindicated the Lord Jesus by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). Paul also reveals that Christ was marked out by the Holy Ghost to be the Son of God by the vindicating work of the resurrection (Rom. 1:5). He was justified or vindicated through His resurrection so that we may be justified through His resurrection (Rom. 4:25).
III. Observation– "seen of angels" (1 Pet. 1:12 "to look into")
During the course of our Lord’s earthly existence he was the focus of the observation of Angels. There must have been an unusual curiosity among the angels concerning the activities of God incarnate. Peter tells us they desire to "look into" the things which concern the gospel and the salvation of sinners.
A. Holy Angels–
It is doubtless that the holy angels must have wondered at every aspect of God incarnate, our Saviour, who worked out His father’s will for the salvation of all mankind.
1. His Incarnation– (Lk. 1:26-38; 2.9-15)
2. His Temptation– (Mk. 1:13)
3. His Intercession – (Lk. 22:43)
4. His Resurrection– (Jn. 20:12)
5. His Ascension– (Acts 1:10)
Guy King gives his fitting observation upon this phrase:
"Doubtless, angels had watched His departure to this earth, watched with wonder His human growth from childhood to manhood, watched with bated breath His battle-royal in the wilderness, watched with delight as He went about doing good, watched over Him when His intimates could not watch with Him one hour in the garden, watched, as "the winged squadrons of the sky," for the signal that never came to rescue Him from the infamous arrest, watched with veiled faces throughout the excruciating hours of Golgotha– all this, in all likelihood."
(A Leader Led, commentary on 1 Timothy, pg 66)
B. Unholy Angels–
Jesus Christ was also observed by unholy angels– demons. The powers of darkness were in league together to bring about the crucifixion of the Savior. The Lord triumphed over Satan in the wilderness, and every attempt of the powers of Hell to thwart his ministry and mission to the world. Paul reminds us repeatedly that Christ was victorious over the spirit world (Phil. 2:9,10; Col. 2:15).
IV. Declaration– "preached unto the Gentiles"
After Calvary and the resurrection of Christ we learn through the book of Acts that the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10:. The Lord ordained the preaching of the Cross for the salvation of the Gentiles.
A. Exclusion of the Gentiles–
The Epistle to the Ephesians reveals that the Gentiles were without–
1. Without A Covenant– "strangers ... covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12)
2. Without Consolation– "having no hope" (Eph. 2:12b)
3. Without Christ– "without Christ...without God" (Eph. 2:12)
The message of the New Covenant sealed with Christ’s blood.
B. Inclusion of the Gentiles–
Christ split the veil in the temple and opened our way of access to God. Now we are able to come boldly to the presence of God by a new and living way (Heb. 10:19,20). We are the "other sheep" that Christ spoke of in John 10:16. The Hebrew Christ had become the Christ of the nations and the Savior of the world!
V. Reception– "believed on in the world"
It is marvelous that 2000 years later the message still goes forth and sinners are still believing on Christ.
A. On Him–
We notice the language is purposefully personal and accurate. For many today believe about Him as one who was a historical figure, others believe in Him as one would believe any other mythical fairy tale. Yet there are those who have believed on Him as Savior and Lord!
B. In the World–
The preaching of the gospel has found its reception in many languages, and peoples. As believers we have family in almost every part of the known world. It is marvelous to meet missionaries, and other believers from every part of the world and in just a few moments find a kindred spirit and common bond in the fellowship of Jesus and family of God. From Africa to the Phillippines, from Alaska to Mexico the Gospel goes forth and sinners believe the story of Jesus and His wonderful love.
VI. Ascension– "received up into glory"
The rabbis used the phrase "Shekinah glory" to refer to the radiance of God’s presence. In this portion the word "glory" is used in reference to the Lord’s ascension into heaven. This verse ends with the ascension of Christ to be seated at God’s right hand. Now the church awaits the second coming of Christ in the clouds to rapture us out of this world.
We must never forget that at this time of year we celebrate the fact that "God became man."