The Scriptorium

The Mystery of Godliness (2)

The mystery of godliness is Jesus. 1 Timothy 3.16

The Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy 3 (6)

Pray 102.1, 2.

Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And let my cry come to You.
Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble;
Incline Your ear to me;
In the day that I call, answer me speedily.

Read and meditate on 1 Timothy 3.16.


1. How would you explain the “mystery of godliness” to an unbelieving friend?

2. Who is the focus of this verse? What do we learn about Him?

Paul unpacks “the mystery of godliness” – at least, to the extent that we can understand it.

Godliness, as we might expect, begins in God. That’s mystery enough, we might suppose. Who can fully understand or explain God? Godliness is “God-likeness.” And godliness is what God is all about.

God “was manifested in the flesh.” That’s pretty mysterious. The reference here is clearly to Jesus. We can explain why the incarnation happened, and a little bit of the how, but not all the wondrous spiritual details of it.

The incarnate God was “justified in the Spirit.” His work was finished, and His claims were proved by the Spirit’s anointing and raising Him from the dead. He was “seen by angels” – who, it seems, are ever curious about the mystery of godliness (cf. 1 Pet. 1.12) – that is, worshiped and adored at His ascension. He has been proclaimed and believed throughout the world. Who can explain that? People believe what they cannot see, declare their belief to others, and they believe, too. That’s certainly a mystery. 

And as Christ was “received up in glory,” so are all those who believe in Him, devoting themselves to Him, participating in His Body the Church, seeking His Kingdom, and living for His glory in every aspect of their lives.

Godliness extends from God through Christ and the Spirit to all who believe in Him and live for His glory.

Great, indeed, is this mystery of godliness!

1. How do you experience the mystery of godliness?

2. Why must we insist that godliness is central to the Gospel?

3. To whom does the duty fall of proclaiming the mystery of godliness? How should we do that?

Behold the Savior’s greatness. It extends to all the world.… Go up to the heavens. See how he fills the celestial regions, “He appeared to the angels.” Go down in your mind to the nether world. See that he went down there, too.… Ponder the Lord’s power, how it has filled the world—that is, the heavens, the earth and the nether regions. Origen (185-254), Homilies on Luke 6.9-10

Lord, You have called me to live and proclaim the mystery of godliness, and today I will as I…

Pray Psalm 102.1-14.

We are always in need of a greater measure of our great salvation. Let these verses guide you to seek it today.

Sing Psalm 102.1-14.
Psalm 102.1-14 (Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
Lord, hear my prayer and cry; hide not Your face from me!
In my distress and tears I sigh – Lord, hear my earnest plea!
My days like smoke blow past; my bones are scorched with sin.
My heart, like wilted, withered grass bends low to earth again.

With loudest groans and cries, and leanness in my soul,
No shelt’ring place arrests my eyes, no rest to make me whole.
My enemies grow strong; I weep with bitter tears.
My days are like a shadow, long; God’s face is no more near.

But You, O Lord, abide forever in Your place.
Arise and stand on Zion’s side and lavish us with grace!
Revive Your Church, O Lord! Let all her dust and stones
be strengthened by Your mighty Word, and compact be as one.

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.