BIBLE STUDY


Paul's Letters To Timothy
by Greg Williamson (c) 2014, 2019
Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible *
( = pop-up definition)


Intro | 1 Timothy 1:1-11 / 1:12-17 / 1:18-20 | 2:1-8 / 2:9-15 | 3:1-7 / 3:8-13 / 3:14-16 | 4:1-6 / 4:7-12 / 4:13-16 | 5:1-16 / 5:17-25 | 6:1-2 / 6:3-10 / 6:11-21 | 2 Timothy 1:1-7 / 1:8-12 / 1:13-18 | 2:1-7 / 2:8-13 / 2:14-18 / 2:19-26 | 3:1-9 / 3:10-12 / 3:13-17 | 4:1-4 / 4:5-8 / 4:9-22 ** | Articles & Definitions | Sources

BEHAVING BELIEVERS
(1 Timothy 3:14-16)

14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long;
15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.

 
The church is much more than a group of like-minded people who assemble from time to time. The living God is in their midst, and the truth of God has been deposited with them! They worship the Son of God who alone is worthy of praise! Yes, it is a serious thing to be a part of a local church. Do you take it seriously? - Warren Wiersbe [ref]
 

QuoteWorthy: Church
A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. - L. L. Nash [ref]  

1 TIMOTHY 3:14 - The Reason Paul Wrote (vv. 14-15)

The natue of the church determines the nature of the pastorate. And so here we find Paul turning from pastoral qualitifications "to the church in which pastors serve." [ref] 1 Timothy 3:14-16 marks "a transition point between the positive instruction of the first 3 chapters and the warnings of the last 3. They reveal the heart of the church’s mission (1 Timothy 3:15) and message (1 Timothy 3:16)." [ref]

these things (1 Timothy 3:14)
This phrase "probably includes all that has gone before and likely Paul’s whole letter." [ref]

A
P
P
L
I
C
A
T
I
O
N
A WRITTEN RECORD

Here is Paul’s self-conscious apostolic authority. He is planning to visit Timothy in Ephesus. He says so twice (1 Tim 3:14; 4:13; cf. 1 Cor. 11:34; 2 Cor. 13:10). And when he comes he will personally regulate the affairs of the church. But he senses that he may be delayed. So he writes his instructions for the interim period. Thus by a deliberate providence of God the New Testament letters came to be written and have been preserved for the edification of the church in subsequent generations. If the apostles’ directions regarding the doctrine, ethics, unity and mission of the church had been given only in oral form, the church would have been like a mapless traveller and a rudderless ship. But because the apostolic instructions were written down, we know what we would not otherwise have known, namely how people ought to conduct themselves in the church.

- John Stott [ref]

Also see: The Canon of the New Testament

BackToText

1 TIMOTHY 3:15 - The Reason Paul Wrote (vv. 14-15) ... The Church That Requires Godly Behavior (v. 15)

Christians are duty bound: "to each other as the household of God" ... "to God as his dwelling-place" ... "to the truth as its pillar and foundation." [ref]

the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15)
"Household" (Greek oikos) "can mean either a house (the building) or a household (the family that occupies the building). And Scripture tells us that the church is both God’s house (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Pet 2:5) and God’s household (e.g. Heb. 3:5–6; 1 Pet. 4:17). ... But since in this chapter oikos has already been used three times of a household (1 Tim 3:4, 5, 12; cf. Tit. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:16), it seems likely that it has the same connotation in verse 15." [ref] Most modern English Bible versions/translations have "household" or "God's family" or the equivalent.

Both the KJV and NKJV have "house," and some Bible commentators comment accordingly. For example: "'House' is correct here, not 'household' as in [1 Timothy 3:4-5, 12]. Believers are God's house or sanctuary (1Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) because God dwells in them." [ref] (italics in original)

Regarding our being God's household, one commentator notes well: "By new birth of the Spirit we become members of the family of God, related to him as our Father and to all fellow believers as our sisters and brothers. Although Paul does not here draw out the implications of our being God’s household or family, he does elsewhere. He emphasizes that as God’s children we have an equal dignity before him, irrespective of age, sex, race or culture (e.g. Gal. 3:26ff); and that as sisters and brothers we are called to love, forbear and support one another, enjoying in fact the rich ‘one anotherness’ or reciprocity of the Christian fellowship (e.g. Heb. 13:2–3.; Gal. 6:2)." [ref]

And as another commentator explains:

 
The Greco-Roman household consisted of different groups, duties and responsibilities, and in the larger ones stewards were given authority to see that each did her or his share so that the master's purposes might be achieved. The concept of household with its associated notions of interdependence, acceptable conduct and responsibility was so strong that Paul could borrow it to illustrate the nature of the church. It too, both then and now, is made of different groups (men and women from every level of society, parents and children, employers and employees) who must depend upon and, in love, serve one another, and it is the task of the stewards (bishops/elders, deacons) to ensure that the household accomplishes the Master's goals.

Perhaps today our idea of household is not so central to our view of life. Yet there remains another side to this concept that we can appreciate. Membership in God's household means refuge. We enjoy our Master's protection and find our identity in our relationship with him and with other believers, as we seek to carry out our responsibilities within his household. In fact, if by our commitment to one another we can even approximate the ideal of unity and cooperation traditionally connected with the household, we will present to the unbelieving world an attractive alternative lifestyle. [ref]
 

the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:15)
"The word 'church' is ekklēsia. The verb is ekkaleō, 'to call out of.' The church is therefore composed of a body of called out people, called by the sovereign grace of God into salvation. The noun ekklēsia was used in pagan Greek to designate a meeting of the citizens of a town called by the town officials to an assembly. The local church is therefore an assembly of God’s people." [ref]

Whereas the temples of Paul's day were centered around dead idols, the Church belongs to our living God. [ref] As one commentator puts it: "'God living' is the tremendous opposite of dead idols. They are placed in a temple, a house made of dead material. What more can there be? But God is living, his very being is life. His 'house' are we ourselves, we the 'church,' in all our being, as assembled and called to be God’s own spiritually." [ref]

"The title 'the living God' has a rich OT heritage (Deut. 5:26; Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:26,36; 2 Kin. 19:4,16; Pss. 42:2; 84:2; Is. 37:4,17; Jer. 10:10; 23:26; Dan. 6:20,26; Hos. 1:10)." [ref] While ancient "Israel’s consciousness that the living God lived among them profoundly affected their community life" [ref],

 
[a]n even more vivid consciousness of the presence of the living God should characterize the Christian church today. For we are ‘the temple of the living God’ (2 Cor. 6:16; cf. 3:16), ‘a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (Eph. 2:22). When the members of the congregation are scattered during most of the week it is difficult to remain aware of this reality. But when we come together as the church (ekklēsia, ‘assembly’) of the living God, every aspect of our common life is enriched by the knowledge of his presence in our midst (Mt. 18:20). In our worship we bow down before the living God. Through the reading and exposition of his Word we hear his voice addressing us. We meet him at his table, when he makes himself known to us through the breaking of bread. In our fellowship we love each other as he has loved us. And our witness becomes bolder and more urgent. Indeed, unbelievers coming in may confess that ‘God is really among you’ (1 Cor. 14:25). [ref]
 

the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
How can the Church protect and promote God's truth? Answer: By teaching it. In the words of John Calvin: "[T]he office of administering doctrine, which God hath placed in [the Church's] hands, is the only instrument of preserving the truth, that it may not perish from the remembrance of men." [ref] Moreover, God's truth must be seen as well as heard: "Misconduct and disorder in the local church weaken the support of God’s truth in the world. Godly men and women gathering together in local assemblies to worship the Lord produce an orderly church, a church that testifies to others of the truth of God." [ref]

The Church has a "double responsibility" as both the foundation and the pillar of truth: "[T]he church is responsible to hold the truth steady against the storms of heresy and unbelief. ... [and, just] as pillars lift a building high while remaining themselves unseen, so the church’s function is not to advertise itself but to advertise and display the truth. Here then is the double responsibility of the church vis-à-vis the truth. First, as its foundation it is to hold it firm, so that it does not collapse under the weight of false teaching. Secondly, as its pillar it is to hold it high, so that it is not hidden from the world. To hold the truth firm is the defence and confirmation of the gospel; to hold it high is the proclamation of the gospel. The church is called to both these ministries." [ref]

Pastors are called to faithfully declare and defend the truth, not to win popularity contests. "When local churches turn away from the truth (1 Tim. 4:1ff) and compromise in their ministry, then the enemy makes progress. Sometimes church leaders must take a militant stand against sin and apostasy. This does not make them popular, but it does please the Lord." [ref]

Paul often refered to the Church as a building/temple dedicated to the living God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22). [ref]

"The Church is 'the pillar of the truth,' as the continued existence (historically) of the truth rests on it; for it supports and preserves the word of truth. ... Christ is the ground of the truth in the highest sense (1 Corinthians 3:11). The apostles are foundations in a secondary sense (Ephesians 2:20; Revelation 21:14). The Church rests on the truth as it is in Christ; not the truth on the Church." [ref]

As one commentator notes well:

 
[A]s the foundation supports the entire super-structure, so the church supports the glorious truth of the gospel. Cf. 2 Timothy 2:19; then Matthew 16:18. It supports the truth by:
  • Hearing and Heeding it (Matthew 13:9).
  • Handling it rightly (2Timothy 2:15).
  • Hiding it in the heart (Psalms 119:11).
  • Holding it forth as the Word of Life (Philippians 2:16).

Or, if one prefers, by

  • Digesting it (Revelation 10:9). That takes study and meditation.
  • Defending it (Philippians 1:16).
  • Disseminating it (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Demonstrating its power in consecrated living (Colossians 3:12-17). [ref]
 

D
I
G
G
I
N
G

D
E
E
P
E
R
CHURCH

Anyone may be excused for being a bit confused about the meaning of the word “church”; we use the word in so many ways. It means a particular building (e.g., “the church on fourth street”), a denomination or organized faith (e.g., the Reformed Church in America), and even a Sunday meeting (e.g., “Did you go to church today?”). None of these uses is particularly biblical. The church is a basic NT theme, and we need to understand this meaning-filled word in its biblical sense.

The Greek word and its NT usages
In Greek culture an ekklēsia was a political assembly. By the fifth century B.C. ekklēsia had come to mean an official gathering of the full citizens of a Greek city-state (polis) who were called together to make political and judicial decisions. The Greeks never used ekklēsia to refer to religious fellowships.

In the Septuagint, the word ekklēsia translates a Hebrew word most often used in the OT to indicate a ceremonial assembly of God’s covenant people. But by Jesus’ time, another term (also used in the Septuagint to translate the same word and other Hebrew terms) was in common use. This word was synagōgē, “synagogue.” “Synagogue” not only stood for the place of Sabbath meeting but in the Hellenistic world it was also identified with the Jewish faith.

The new community of Christians broke with Greek usage when it identified itself as an ekklēsia. It also broke with its Jewish roots by rejecting the term synagōgē. Ekklēsia was used in the NT in a way that infuses the word with new, distinctively Christian meaning. ... Basically ekklēsia is an affirmation of a corporate identity. The ekklēsia is God’s people viewed together as a new and whole community. Ekklēsia in the NT can encompass any number of believers. It is used of small groups that met in homes (Ro 16:5). It encompassed all believers living in a large city (Ac 11:22; 13:1; 1 Co 1:2); a large geographical district, such as Asia or Galatia, would include more than one church (1 Co 16:1, 19).

The relationship between Jesus and the church
The church and the churches belong to God (singular in 1 Co 1:2; 10:32; 11:16, 22; 15:9; 2 Co 1:1; Gal 1:13; 1 Th 2:14; 2 Th 1:4; 1 Ti 3:5, 15). Yet the ekklēsia stands in a unique relationship to Jesus. The church is Christ’s body, a vital living extension of Jesus himself. Christ is “appointed head over everything for the church, which is his body” (Eph 1:22). Jesus thus relates not only to individual believers but also to believers in community. The community as well as the individual must recognize Jesus as Lord and corporately submit to him who is “head of the church” (Eph 5:23–24).

Three images found in Ephesians help us greatly to understand the corporate entity that is the ekklēsia. They also help us examine how believers function as constituent elements of God’s special faith community.

The church as a body
Three major NT passages portray the ekklēsia as a body (Ro 12, 1 Co 12, Eph 4). ... Each passage stresses interdependence, spiritual gifts, allegiance to one another, and love.

Members of the body of Christ, like parts of a human body, have different functions (Ro 12:4, 5; 1 Co 12:4, 5; Eph 4:11). God the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts -- divine enablements for ministry -- so that each person in the body can function in a ministering way toward other body members (Ro 12:6–8; 1 Co 12:7–11; Eph 4:11). Each member’s contribution is essential (Ro 12:5; 1 Co 12:14–26): only as each believer’s ministry is performed will the body grow and “build itself up in love” (Eph 4:14–16).

The image of the body in the NT teaches us that the ekklēsia is to function as an interdependent, ministering community, gathered so that the members can serve one another, and in this way the individual and community will grow to maturity.

The church as a family
The family is the second major image in Scripture that helps us understand the ekklēsia. Ephesians tells us that our corporate identity as family is derived from God’s nature as Father (Eph 3:14). ... In becoming children of one Father, each believer has been drawn into God’s universal family of faith and thus into family relationship with one another. ... As children of the same Father, each believer is to love other believers as brothers and sisters (1 Th 4:9; 1 Pe 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11–15; 4:7–21).

The church as a temple
Christ is the cornerstone in this image of a building being erected by God, rising to “become a holy temple in the Lord,” a “dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph 2:21–22). Peter uses the same image, calling believers “living stones, … being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pe 2:5). The image of the temple portrays the relationship of the ekklēsia to God. The believing community is to be holy, in this way reflecting the very character of the Lord. Only as a holy people can we serve God as believer-priests.

The relationship between the church and Israel
The NT portrait of the ekklēsia as a real spiritual entity, a living body of which the risen Jesus is head, has led many to emphasize differences between the church and Israel. The church, they say, began at Pentecost with the Spirit’s coming (cf. Ac 2:1–4; 1 Co 12:13). The church thus functions as a supernational entity, while Israel functioned as a nation. The church has a unique destiny as Christ’s bride, while Israel has a unique destiny as Yahweh’s wife.

Others have stressed the similarities between the church and Israel. They insist that there are not two communities of faith, but one. Israel and the church were both intended to function as faith-communities. Each looks to Abraham as father (Gal 3:6–9; Ro 4:9–17). Each enjoys covenant relationship with God, and the new covenant governing Christian experience is the same new covenant promised to Israel (Jer 31:31–34).

Actually, both differences and similarities do exist. The church is not the same as Israel, and OT passages relating to Israel should not be spiritualized or forced out of context in an attempt to apply them to the church. But at the same time, emphasizing the differences at the expense of many vital similarities is wrong.

The form of the local church
We know a little of the form of the local NT ekklēsia. Early believers did not meet in public buildings (“churches”) for at least the first 120 years of the Christian era. The typical meeting of the church was in a home. When such a congregation met, “everyone [had] a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (1 Co 14:26). Individuals shared, and others would “weigh carefully what [was] said” (1 Co 14:29). In part because of the relatively small size of the group, the people could “all prophesy in turn so that everyone [might] be instructed and encouraged” (1 Co 14:31).

The relatively small size of the congregation in the early church had advantages, but it also had disadvantages. On the positive side, individuals were not isolated members of a silent mass, seated on wooden pews, observing. Each person was expected to contribute and to serve others with his or her spiritual gift(s). Each would also be served by the concern of the community and spurred on to personal growth and commitment. On the negative side, the smaller groups could become factions -- splinter groups, seeking separate identity by following some leader or by emphasizing a particular doctrine (cf. 1 Co 1:10–17; Col 2:16–19). The corrective to this is seen in the NT’s stress on love and on the unity of the body of Christ (e.g., Eph 4:1–6). It also appears that maintaining unity was a task of the leaders and part of guarding the flock of God.

It is most likely that elders in the NT church served as a team to oversee the life of a wider community and were not “pastors” of a home-sized congregation. Thus the “elders of the church at Ephesus” were probably not leaders of household groups but overseers of a number of such congregations within the city.

While there are many unanswered and unanswerable questions about the way the NT church functioned as community, it is clear that the ekklēsia truly was a functioning community. It was marked by close-knit relationships and by the active ministry of each member to others.

Summary
Books have been written about the church, and many more will follow. Yet when we read the word ekklēsia, we need to clear our minds both of our own culture’s idea of “church” and of most of the issues that theologians rightly debate. As used in the NT, “church” is a technical theological term. It does not reflect either Greek or OT meanings but is given fresh meaning by its use within the Christian community. This technical meaning can be summed up quite simply: ekklēsia calls us to see believers-in-community. The community is formed by God and exists as a spiritual reality. The spiritual reality of the ekklēsia finds expression in the gathering of believers to function as community.

To live together as Christ’s church calls for the development of close personal relationships, for the ministry of members to one another, for the experience of family love, and for maturing in holiness. The believing community is to learn how to relate to Jesus corporately and is to build a lifestyle that reflects corporate as well as individual commitment to our Lord.

- Lawrence O. Richards

Also see: The Church

QuoteWorthy: Friendship
They who have loved together have been drawn close; they who have struggled together are forever linked; but they who have suffered together have known the most sacred bond of all. - Anonymous [ref]

BackToText

1 TIMOTHY 3:16 - The Mystery Behind Christianity

 
In this short hymn, Paul affirms the humanity and divinity of Christ. By so doing he reveals the heart of the Good News, "the great mystery of our faith" (the secret of how we become godly). "Revealed in a human body" -- Jesus was a man; Jesus' incarnation is the basis of our being right with God. "Vindicated by the Spirit" -- Jesus' resurrection showed that the Holy Spirit's power was in him (Romans 8:11). "Seen by angels" and "taken to heaven" -- Jesus is divine. We can't please God on our own; we must depend on Christ. As a man, Jesus lived a perfect life, and so he is a perfect example of how to live. As God, Jesus gives us the power to do what is right. It is possible to live a godly life -- through following Christ. [ref]
 

D
I
G
G
I
N
G

D
E
E
P
E
R
HYMNS & SPIRITUAL SONGS IN PAUL'S WRITINGS

The Pauline churches that meet us in the pages of the NT were worshipping communities of believing men and women. This is clear from the statement of Paul in his letters (notably 1 Cor 10–14). It is therefore only to be expected that these letters will contain some allusion to a specific part of the Christian cultus, namely, the worship of God in religious song since, in both the Jewish background and the religious ethos of the Greco-Roman world, hymns to God or gods were well known.

Background
The data for hymns and songs lie mostly beneath the surface of the text and have to be explored by the biblical discipline of form criticism as applied to the NT letters. But there are, in addition to certain explicit references to Christian hymns (in 1 Cor 14:26; Col 3:16; Eph 5:19–20), some encouragements of an inferential character.

First, the origin of the church in the womb of the Jewish faith made it inevitable that the first followers of the risen Lord Jesus, themselves Jews by birth and tradition, who formed the nucleus of the Jerusalem community, would wish to express their religious devotion in a way to which they were accustomed. This would include the use of religious song.

Then, as the message spread to confront the world of Hellenism, Gentile converts entered the church from a religious world which sang hymns to the deities of Greco-Roman religion. There are some superficial correspondences between the literary form and language used in both pagan and Christian hymnody, but on the more serious levels of theological content and human aspiration there are fundamental differences.

Much of the NT hymnology stands in the OT tradition of confessional statements (e.g., Deut 26:5–8; Ps 105) which celebrate the mighty acts of God in salvation history. Pagan prayer as expressed in personal hymns is largely self-centered and does not break out of the circle of egocentricity.

Presence of Hymns in the Pauline Corpus
The detection of hymnic forms in the literature of the NT is a product of comparatively recent scholarly work, and includes the results of an analysis of the literary features which are present in the documents. Direct witness to the presence and use of such liturgical compositions comes in Colossians 3:16 (cf. Eph 5:19–20). There the designations “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (i.e., songs inspired by the Spirit) could well refer to different types of composition. “Psalms” would be based on OT precedents; “hymns” might well be a specifically Christian genre devoted to the praise of the risen Lord (a “Christ psalm,” in Hengel’s description), while “songs of the Spirit” could reflect the spontaneous outburst in rapturous praise or else a song with hortatory appeal; evidence for the last-named comes in Ephesians 5:14 with its address to the newly baptized. Many interpreters, however, are reluctant to see a rigid demarcation in this way, and, taking the adjective “spiritual” to refer to all three nouns -- psalms, hymns, odes -- regard the list as not indicating different genres of song but simply employing the most important terms found in the LXX for religious song in general (Hengel).

Classification and Function of the Hymns
Sacramental. Here parts of Ephesians (Eph 2:12–19) and the Pastorals (Tit 3:4–7) have been designated as baptismal. Ephesians 5:14, the clearest illustration of a NT hymn, also falls in this grouping.

Meditative. Ephesians 1:3–14 is a good example of a Christian rhapsody on the themes of trinitarian faith and redemption.

Confessional. The nature of the Christian life comes to vivid expression when believers are called upon to attest their faith in time of trial. Passages of the Pastorals (e.g., 2 Tim 2:11–13) read like hymns of the martyrs’ confession and illustrate the strenuous quality of Christian living which was expected in the early church in its incipient conflict with the persecuting state.

Christological. Here we touch the heart of the matter, for as we have seen, the NT teaching on the person of Christ is virtually contained in its hymns. Outstanding specimens in Pauline literature are Philippians 2:6–11, Colossians 1:15–20 and 1 Timothy 3:16.

Let it suffice to extract a modicum of common teaching. The Christians’ Lord is depicted in a cosmological role in the double sense of that adjective. First, his pre-existence and pretemporal activity in creation are made the frontispiece of the hymns, and from the divine order in which he eternally exists, he “comes down” as the incarnate one in an epiphany. Second, at the conclusion of his earthly life he takes his place in God’s presence by receiving the universal homage and acclamation of the cosmic spirit powers, which confess his lordship and so are forced to abandon their title of control over human destiny. His saving work is seen as that of bringing together the two orders of existence (the celestial and terrestrial), and his reconciliation is described in a cosmic setting. The hymns are essentially soteriological in their purpose, and set forth the person of Christ in relation to his world as reconciler and world ruler.

Ethical/Paraenetic
Much recent discussion has centered on the role Pauline hymns played in illustrating and enforcing his ethical appeals. The chief crux interpretum has been Philippians 2:5–11 in which the introductory verse 5 paves the way for a recital of the (preformed and self-contained) hymn in Philippians 2:6–11.

The issue turns on whether Paul is moving at verse 5 from a statement of pastoral problems at Philippi in Philippians 2:1–4 to a display of ethical qualities seen in the incarnate and exalted Lord, notably his humility and selflessness, with a view to providing a pattern for imitation. Or, as a rival view, Paul is basing his pastoral call to have done with pride and self-centeredness (in Phil 2:1–4) on the Christians’ way of life “in Christ” (see NEB at Phil 2:5), that is, as members of his church, and more pointedly on their adherence to his lordship (expressed in Phil 2:9–11). [And it is possible Paul is doing both.]

- Ralph P. Martin [ref] (condensed/extracted from longer article)

By common confession (1 Timothy 3:16)
Only the Christian Church knows and acknowledges the great mystery of godliness. [ref]

great is the mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16)
This phrase could be translated: "great is the mystery of the [Christian] religion." [ref]

"The word 'mystery' denotes a secret previously hidden in God, but now revealed and made widely known (cf. Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 4:1; Ephesians 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27; 4:3)." [ref] And "[g]odliness refers to the truths of salvation and righteousness in Christ, which produce holiness in believers; namely, the manifestation of true and perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ." [ref]

Christ's greatness was a common theme within the early Church (Acts 2:22-36; 4:11-12; 10:38-43; 13:26-41; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 15:1-20, 56-57; Ephesians 1:20-23; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:12-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8; 2:8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:1-4; 7:23-8:2; 9:24-28; 10:5-25; 12:1-3; Revelation 5:6-14; 12:10-12; 19:6-8). [ref]

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory

(1 Timothy 3:16)

The remainder of this verse appears to be "an early hymn about Christ" [ref] or a "creedal hymn." [ref] As one source explains:

 
[T]he hymn consists of three couplets, in each of which there is a deliberate antithesis: between flesh and spirit, between angels and nations, between world and glory. The first couplet speaks of the revelation of Christ (he appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit). Here are the human and divine aspects of his earthly life and ministry in Palestine. The second couplet speaks of the witnesses of Christ (was seen by angels, was preached among the nations). For now the significance of Jesus Christ is seen to extend far beyond Palestine to all the inhabitants of heaven and earth, to angels as well as humans, to the nations as well as the Jews. Then the third couplet speaks of the reception which Christ was given (was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory). For heaven and earth did more than see and hear him; they joined in giving him recognition and acclaim. [ref]
 

Put differently: lines 1-2 = the conception of the mystery; lines 3-4 = the communication of the mystery; lines 5-6 = the conclusion of the mystery. "Paul's readers are reminded of their confession that the first advent of Christ introduced a new way of life in the present age. The hymn combines snapshots of important points of that past appearance (lines 1, 2, 3, 6) with references to the salvation introduced by that event (lines 4, 5). The appearance of the God-man is the essence of the new lifestyle (godliness) that, Paul urges, must characterize the church as it gathers for worship and when it relates with the world. Our confession of Christ is our acknowledgment of the call to service and godly living." [ref]

The sinless Son of God added to himself a fully human body (John 1:14; Romans 1:3; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 2:14).

"Our Lord was manifest in the flesh. The word 'manifest' [KJV; NASB: 'revealed'] is phaneroō, 'to make visible.' He said to the Samaritan woman, 'God is as to His nature, spirit.' That is, God is incorporeal being. He does not have a physical body. He is therefore invisible. But in the incarnation, the invisible Son of God became visible as He took upon Himself a physical body." [ref] Paul expressed this same thought "elsewhere of the incarnation (Romans 16:26; Colossians 1:26) as well as of the second coming (Colossians 3:4)." [ref]

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory

(1 Timothy 3:16)

"Vindicated" (Greek dikaioō) means "to demonstrate that something is morally right -- ‘to show to be right, to prove to be right.’" [ref] In other words, to declare righteous [ref], and the Scriptures repeatedly refer to Jesus' righteousness (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 John 2:1, 29). "Christ's miracles, climaxing in his resurrection, were demonstrations of his deity, sure evidences that he was the sinless Son of God." [ref] [ref]

D
I
G
G
I
N
G

D
E
E
P
E
R
OBEDIENCE

Greek and Hebrew words view obedience as a response. One hears, grasps what is communicated, and acts on it. Thus, obedience is essentially linked to God’s revelation. God initiates by speaking; creatures respond by obeying.

In both Testaments, obedience is also closely linked with relationship. It was God’s intention to guide his OT people to blessing by speaking to them in statute and commandment. If they obeyed, they would find the blessing he yearned to give. If they disobeyed, they would find only tragedy and necessary discipline. Thus, the call to obedience in the OT is God’s loving invitation to blessing, and not some cold, impersonal command.

In the NT, obedience is further demonstrated and analyzed. Jesus lived a life of obedience and in so doing demonstrated the exaltation that comes at last to the person who obeys God. Jesus’ teaching linked obedience to love; only the person who loves God will obey him. The NT goes on to link obedience with faith; only the person who trusts God will obey him. Thus, biblically speaking, there is a definite and vital connection between faith in God, love for God, and obedience to God, and all are a result of God’s work in a person’s life.

The NT testifies that today as well as in sacred history, an obedience that is motivated by love and exists as an expression of faith is necessary in order to stay close to God. We live in fellowship with God only as we obey him.

So obedience, properly understood, is never a cold or impersonal thing. God’s call to obedience is a loving invitation to experience his best. Our response flows from a growing love for God and expresses our confidence that God is living and able. Only in a deep and loving relationship can the biblical import of obedience be understood.

- Lawrence O. Richards [ref]

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,

Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory

(1 Timothy 3:16)

While the holy angels did indeed witness "[Jesus'] every move, such as His birth (Lk 2:9), temptation (Mt 1:13), Gethsemane (Mt 26:53), resurrection (Mt 28:2), and ascension (Acts 1:10)," [ref] quite possibly the main idea here is Jesus' resurrection from the dead. [ref]

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,

Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory

(1 Timothy 3:16)

"See Matt. 24:14; 26:13; 28:19,20; Mark 13:10; Acts 1:8." [ref]

A
P
P
L
I
C
A
T
I
O
N
THE AUTHENTICATION OF SCRIPTURE

Why do Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God, sixty-six books that together reveal God’s redemption through Jesus Christ the Savior? The answer is that God Himself has confirmed this through what is called the “inward witness of the Holy Spirit.” In the words of the Westminster Confession (1647):

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth, and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts (Westminster Confession 1.5).

The Spirit’s witness to Scripture is like His witness to Jesus, which we find spoken of in John 15:26 and 1 John 5:7 (cf. 1 John 2:20, 27). It is not a matter of imparting new information, but of enlightening otherwise darkened minds to discern divinity through sensing its unique impact -- the impact in the one case of the Jesus of the gospel, and in the other case of the words of Holy Scripture. The Spirit shines in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), but also the light of His glory in the teaching of Holy Scripture. The result of this witness is a state of mind in which both the Savior and the Scriptures have evidenced themselves to us as divine -- Jesus, a divine person; Scripture, a divine word -- in a way as direct and immediate as the way tastes and colors impress themselves on our senses. As a result, we no longer find it possible to doubt the divinity of Christ or the divine origin of the Bible.

God Himself authenticates Holy Scripture to us as His Word, going beyond human argument (strong as this may be), and the church’s testimony (impressive as this is). God does it, rather, by opening our hearts and enlightening our minds to perceive the searching light and transforming power whereby Scripture evidences itself to be divine. This impact is itself the Spirit’s witness “by and with the Word in our hearts.” Argument, testimony from others, and our own particular experiences may support and clarify this witness, but the imparting of it, like the imparting of faith in Christ’s divine Saviorhood, is the prerogative of the sovereign Holy Spirit alone.

- The Reformation Study Bible [ref]


This is why liberal scolars can know the Bible in minute detail and yet remain unconvinced that is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God. Without the Spirit's witness, for them the Bible is nothing more than a fallible religious book with little, if any, relevance for today. And this is the same reason so many lost people refuse to accept the truth of Scripture; without the Spirit's witness, they are able to disbelieve and reject the Bible. - AC21DOJ

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,

Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory
(1 Timothy 3:16)

"Here is an almost miraculous truth stated with utter simplicity. After Jesus had died and risen again and ascended to his glory, the number of his followers was one hundred and twenty (Ac 1:15). All that his followers had to offer was the story of a Galilaean carpenter who had been crucified on a hilltop in Palestine as a criminal. And yet before seventy years had passed that story had gone out to the ends of the earth and men of every nation accepted this crucified Jesus as Saviour and Lord. In this simple phrase there is the whole wonder of the expansion of the Church, an expansion which on any human grounds is incredible." [ref]

He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,

Taken up in glory
(1 Timothy 3:16)

"Having been manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, and having issued the order which resulted in the proclamation of his name among the nations and the outgathering of a spiritual harvest from the world, he 'was taken up.'" [ref] That is to say, "the glorious and glorified Jesus was gloriously received up." [ref]

Why is there no mention of Jesus' promised return? "Though we might have expected mention of the return of Christ in the closing line of this salvation-hymn (as we find in many contemporary hymns), the purpose of this piece was to ground the reality and presence of salvation in the past, historical appearance of Christ. So the hymn concludes by alluding to the point that marked the close of Christ's earthly ministry (including resurrection appearances) and the beginning of the age of the Spirit." [ref]

BackToText

*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe