|Photo credit: Metro Praise International Church|
As Christ's church we preach the truth. As members of the His church we testify to the truth, defend it, support those who proclaim it and seek to live it out in our daily lives.
But what is this truth we’re called to proclaim and guard? What kind of teachings should be our forte? It should be the apostolic teaching which centers on the gospel, the good news of salvation in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
After testifying that the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, Paul goes on to say, “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).
In this verse, we have what scholars call an early Christian creed that contains the gospel in a nutshell. It’s not the whole apostolic doctrine but a good summary of what they proclaimed. This summary is about Jesus Christ and it contains six truths about Him. (By the way, Paul emphasizes the person and work of Christ a lot in 1 and 2 Timothy. It's probably because it was the doctrine under great attack in the church of Ephesus).
Notice in 1 Timothy 3:16 that what is about to be said is “the mystery of godliness” which is great and is commonly confessed. “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness” as the other version says. In other words, it's a common creed of the early believers. Every point of this creed is indeed true!
It is called “the mystery of godliness” not because it is something that is puzzling that no one knows or understands it. Rather, it really means something that was once hidden and has now been revealed. The question is not “What is this mystery?” but “Who is this mystery?” Verse 16 tells us that it is Jesus Christ, the true revelation of godliness – and He has been revealed to us in the pages of the Scripture.
Paul tackles six things here that are at the center of the Christian faith. Briefly let's take a look at these truths.
First, Jesus Christ was manifested in the flesh. Many cults and world religions challenge the basic tenets of Christianity, including the incarnation of Jesus Christ. But what a remarkable fact that Jesus Christ is the living, eternal God in human flesh. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us!
Second, Jesus Christ was vindicated in the Spirit. It means His resurrection. The ultimate vindication of Jesus took place when He was raised from the dead by the Spirit of God (Rom.1:4). It could also mean that Jesus was vindicated in His spirit. In other words, although He was fully man, He was sinless and perfect (Heb.4:15).
Third, Jesus was seen by angels. Throughout His earthly ministry, angels ministered to Him. They announced His birth. They ministered to Him during His temptation in the wilderness and they strengthened Him in Gethsemane. They also observed him during His death and resurrection. After He was put in a tomb, the angels rolled way the stone at the door of His tomb and they announced His resurrection and ascension. Angels were involved in His earthly ministry from beginning to end. This statement could even have in mind the worship given to the ascended Christ by angels in heaven.
Fourth, Jesus was proclaimed among the nations. After His resurrection, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. He commanded them to proclaim the message of His salvation to every tribe, nation and tongue. This is taking place. The gospel is being preached all over the world. This is our calling as the church and we fulfill our identity as “pillar and foundation of truth” as we do our share in making disciples from every nation, calling everyone to bow down before King Jesus, and teaching those who would heed the call to obey all the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fifth, Jesus was believed on in the world. At the first public preaching of the gospel of Christ after the pouring out of the Spirit to the first disciples, 3,000 people believed and were saved. In the days that followed, thousands more believed. The gospel was spreading and God has ordained that everyone who believed in Jesus Christ will be saved. We proclaim faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only means by which man can be saved. Not by good works or faith plus good works. Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is our message.
Sixth, Jesus was taken up in glory. This refers to the bodily ascension of the risen Christ. It shows that God was satisfied with His atoning work. Hebrews 1:3 says, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Now He is at the right hand of the Father, with all authority in heaven and earth. And that authority He shares with the church by His Spirit.
This is the gospel in a nutshell. God in Jesus Christ became man. He died for our sins, triumphed over death, was honored by angels and feared by demons, and ascended into glory. This message has been preached all over the world and many have believed and been saved and empowered to live in holy obedience and service to Jesus Christ.
As believers in this day and age, you and I are proofs that Jesus is believed on in the world. That is why we ought to take the church seriously, to be strong in our proclamation of Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
God's church is the chosen instrument to proclaim the saving truth of Christ. This is our identity. So let us consider seriously that as Christians, as people called and redeemed by God through faith in Christ, you and I are members of that institution that is the pillar and foundation of the truth. That’s our identity in Christ. And we ought to live accordingly by the power of the Spirit who is in us to bear witness for this truth.