1 Timothy 3:16 (The Mystery of Godliness)

1Ti 3:16
In the previous verse Paul said his purpose for writing to Timothy and the Ephesian church under his care was so that they might know how one is to conduct himself in God’s household.  And yet because Paul had previously spent 3 years ministering in Ephesus and Timothy was one of Paul’s most trusted associates who had served with the apostle for more than a decade it is clear that his words should be understood as more of a reminder than something new they would not have been aware of.  What do the first few words of this verse teach us about why Paul considered it necessary to write such a lengthy reminder to those already grounded in these truths?  See also 2 Pet 1:12-13.  What (or who) is the mystery of godliness to which Paul refers?

[1]In what two ways was/is Christ revealed or made manifest in the flesh?  See Jn 1:14, Phil 2:7-8, Heb 2:14, 1 Jn 1:1-2; Col 1:25-2:3, 1 Jn 3:5, 8, 4:9.  How do these two incarnations of Christ parallel our justification and our sanctification?  Has the life of Christ been made manifest in our flesh?

In what sense was Jesus vindicated (justified, declared righteous) by the Spirit?  See Mat 12:28, Lk 3:22, 4:1, 14, 16-21, Jn 5:36, Rom 1:4, 1 Pet 3:18.  In what way does the Spirit continue to vindicate Jesus?  See Jn 15:26, 16:13-15, Acts 5:32, 1 Cor 2:4-5, 1 Thess 1:5.

Note: “beheld (or seen) by angels” is better translated “appeared to angels” as the passive form of the Greek word is translated everywhere else in the NT.  Just as Christ was made manifest in the flesh to men, in what way and with what significance did He appear to both holy and fallen angels?  See Heb 1:3-4, 2:9, 1 Pet 1:10-12, Eph 1:9-10, 20-22, Col 1:16, 19-20; Eph 4:8-10, Col 2:15, Jude 1:6, 2 Pet 2:4, 1 Pet 3:18-22; Phil 2:6-11.

What is the great significance that Christ was “proclaimed among the nations”?  See Eph 2:14-16, 3:4-6, and note that the word for “nations” is the same as that used for “Gentiles” (as the KJV translates it).  What does this early creed teach us about the success of the early church in fulfilling the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20)?  See also Rom 16:26, Col 1:23.  Why is it significant that Paul penned these verses to churches he had never visited?  As instrumental as Paul was in spreading the gospel to a large part of the Gentile world—and especially in bringing to light the administration of God’s grace for the establishing of the church in truth—can it be said that the gospel was spread almost exclusively by his ministry?  In what primary manner did the gospel spread in the first century and does it continue to spread today?  See Mark 4:26-28, Acts 2:5-12, 41, 8:4, 11:19-21, 15:35, Rom 15:20.  Does the work of proclaiming Christ among the nations and making disciples belong solely to people like Paul who are specially called by God, or is it the responsibility of each one of us to be a gospel witness?

Why is it significant that not only was Christ proclaimed among the Gentile nations, but he was also “believed on in the world”?  With what sort of message and with what response would the first century Jews have expected the Messiah to be proclaimed among the Gentiles?  See also Acts 14:27, 2 Thess 1:10, Rev 7:9.

What is the three-fold significance that Christ was “taken (received) up in glory”?  See Mark 16:19, Rom 8:34, Heb 7:25, 8:1-2, 9:24; Jn 16:7, Acts 2:33; Mat 26:63-64, Acts 1:9-11.


1. The difference between the KJV “God was manifest” and the newer translations “he who was revealed” comes from a scribal error in copying the relative pronoun which was written as OC and the word for God (theos) which was always abbreviated as
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to conserve space in writing since “paper” was so expensive.  See also Phil 2:6 and Col 1:15 for the same Greek construction used to introduce a creedal hymn.

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