What is the Mystery of Godliness?

bible-questionsCan you explain 1 Timothy 3:16 about the mystery of Godliness?

In 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul writes, “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.” In the term “mystery of godliness” Paul refers to God’s plan to save man through Jesus. The term “mystery” was often used in the New Testament to refer to the message of the gospel as it has been revealed through God’s Son, Jesus. Romans 16:25, 26 point this out: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Paul makes it clear here that the mystery is no longer a mystery. It was mysterious, that is, unrevealed, since the world began, but now is made known to all nations so that they might obey the gospel. Ephesians 3:3-5 is also a critical passage on this point. Paul writes:

“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”

Here, Paul says that the mystery was not made known in other ages, but has now been revealed by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets. The reason for its revelation is so that the gentiles might also have salvation. Paul elaborates upon what it meant for the Holy Spirit to reveal this mystery to them in 1 Corinthians 2:7-10. He states:

“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

Again we see that the mystery was once hidden. None of the rulers of this world knew it. This mystery had to be revealed by God’s Spirit. But what are we to do with this mystery that has been revealed? Colossians 1:25-28 tells us:

“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

The mystery, Paul says, has been revealed to God’s saints so that they would know about Christ, the hope of glory. Knowing this, we are to preach, warn, and teach in all wisdom. We do this so that we all may be presented perfect (complete) in Christ.

To summarize, before Jesus came, the mystery was shut up and hidden in the words of the Old Covenant. But now that Jesus has come, the mystery has been revealed by the Holy Spirit. This revelation brings to light those things that were formerly a mystery but are mysterious no longer. The “mystery of godliness” is thus that message that was hidden in the Old Covenant concerning the coming of Jesus and God’s plan to save man.