The Scriptorium

The Mystery of Godliness (1)

We can't understand it, but we believe it. 1 Timothy 3.16

The Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy 3 (5)

Pray 102.24-27.

I said, “O my God,
Do not take me away in the midst of my days;
Your years are throughout all generations.
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will have no end.”

Read and meditate on 1 Timothy 3.16.


1. What is a mystery? Is mystery essential to faith?

2. In what sense is godliness a mystery? 

Paul says that godliness is a great mystery. He further says there’s no disputing this. This statement may be offensive to some people on two counts.

First, in our scientific and rational age, we don’t like the idea of mystery. We think we should be able to understand everything. Or at least, that we should understand something fully before we’re asked to believe it. We don’t like mysteries except as thrillers to read or watch on TV.

Further, we don’t like being told we can’t discuss or dispute something. We think everything should be open for discussion, at least until our opinion is recorded.

But Paul says godliness is a great mystery. Understanding how wretched sinners such as we can become godly in the sight of God is something only God can understand. We can’t fully explain it, but we believe it. We can understand enough of it to know that God is holy, that He requires holiness for any who would enjoy His presence, and that He alone supplies that holiness through the mystery of the Gospel (as we shall see in the next installment). And we believe this. We don’t propose other possible solutions to God, or debate with Him about the sufficiency of the Gospel. The mystery of godliness – how sinful people can be acceptable in the Presence of God – is great indeed, but it is settled once and for all by the wisdom, grace, and power of God.

We should not think that we have to be able to explain everything about our faith to the satisfaction of our lost neighbors. It’s a mystery. Our duty is to believe it, live it, proclaim it, and let the King of mysteries apply it as He will.

1. Godliness must be a mystery. It must be something only God fully understands. Why?

2. Why is the mystery of godliness “without controversy”?

3. What if someone doesn’t care about being acceptable to God? Do we still need to proclaim the Gospel to such people? Explain.

For, the grace of God—by which the entire assembly of saints has always been justified—was not initiated at the time that Christ was born but augmented. This “mystery of great compassion,” with which the whole world has now been filled, was so powerful even in its prefigurations that those who believed it when promised attained to it no less than those who received it when actually given. Leo the Great (fl. 440-461), Sermons 23.4

Lord, give me grace today, that I might live the mystery of godliness and proclaim it to…

Pray Psalm 102.15-28

The Gospel is a great mystery, but we are called to proclaim it. Pray for an opportunity to talk with someone today about the salvation of the Lord.

Sing Psalm 102.15-28
Psalm 102.15-28 (Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
Then let the nations fear the glory of the Lord!
For He shall in His Church appear to heed our sighing words.
Then let our children learn to praise the Lord above.
He hears their groans and knows they yearn to dwell within His love.

Yet let us tell God’s Name and praise His glorious grace.
Let all as one His love proclaim together in this place. 
Though now our strength is low; though shortened grow our days,
our God will not forsake us so, but keep us in His ways!

Of old You made the earth and heavens by Your hand.
Though they shall perish You endure; forever shall You stand.
They change, yet You remain the same, without an end. 
Our children shall Your favor gain, and theirs shall be Your friend.

T. M. Moore

Whatever our calling in life, we are sent to bring the joy of Christ to the people around us. Our book, Joy to Your World!, can show you how to fill your Personal Mission Field with more of the Presence, promise, and power of Christ and His Kingdom. Order your copy, as a supplement to our study of 1 Timothy, by 
clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore