Wednesday, April 11, 2007

One of the greatest hymns in all of the Bible is this one found in the New Testament in Paul's letter to Timothy:

1 Timothy 3:16 16 And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Beheld by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.

Before we get into the actual hymn, the introductory line states that "by common confession." This word in the Greek, homologoumenos, is from the verb homologeo meaning "to confess" or "profess." Here the adverb, homologoumenos means "by the common consent of all," "confessedly," or perhaps even best, "without controversy." That is to say, what Paul is about to write regarding the mystery of godliness is absolutely without controversy.

The genitive euseibios ("godliness") is a subjective genitive giving it the connotation that it is the mystery that produces godliness/piety. In other words, it is this great confession that Paul is about to write that brings forth godliness. Why? If one truly understands this hymn, believes in it, clings to it, lives by it and confesses to it, then one's life will radically change to the ultimate honor and glory of God.

Let us look briefly at these six short and pithy statements regarding the life of Christ:

1) He who was manifested in the flesh. This statement first begins with the relative pronoun hos meaning "he". Some manuscripts have theos (God) which would be a tremendous verse supporting the Deity of Christ (among a myriad of others), but the textual support for this reading is not as strong. This phrase simply means that Jesus Christ was fully and completely human. He was as much of a "man" as You and I are. He was manifested in human flesh, with human limitations (cf. Phil 2:5-11; Heb 2:17-18; 4:15).

2) Was vindicated (Lit. "Justified) in the Spirit. This statement refers, of course, to the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus Christ at his baptism (Matt 4 and Luke 4) for the empowering, strength and power that He would need to fulfill his earthly ministry. Furthermore, it was immediately after his baptism that Jesus was cast into the wilderness being tempted by Satan for forty days. It was during this time that the Holy Spirit strengthened Jesus.

3) Was seen by angels. Of course, the angels attended him and observed him during his earthly ministry. They announced his birth to Joseph and the Shepherds in the gospel narratives. They ministered to him at His temptation as well as strengthened Him during those hours of prayer in the Garden of Gethsamane the night before his death.

4) Was preached among the nations. This is referring to the fact that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the whole world (every nation; John 14:6). Before his ascension, Jesus gave the disciples the great commission and told them to take the Gospel message to all nations (Matt 28:18-20). The same occurred in Acts 1:8: "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

5) Was believed in the world. Many have come to believe in this Savior as their Redeemer and substitutionary atonement for their sins. In fact, after the first public preaching of the Gospel after our Lord was ascended into heaven, over 3,000 souls believed in this Risen Jesus (Acts 2:41).

6) Was taken up in glory. Listen to the account in Acts 1:9-10:

Acts 1:9-10 9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them;

Again in Hebrews 1:3:

Hebrews 1:3 When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high;

It is this Savior who was taken up into glory after his forty year presentation after being raised from the dead.

MacArthur concludes with this comment:

"In six short stanzas, this hymn summarizes the gospel. God became man, died for our sins, triumphed over death, was honored by angels and feared by demons, and ascended into heaven. This message was preached all over the world and many believed and were saved. That is the heart of the message it is our mission to proclaim to the world." (1 Timothy, 143).

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