Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-16, Romans 9:15-24
The hymn “In Christ Alone” has been my church’s unofficial anthem for several years now. I say “anthem” because whenever the worship leader begins to play the familiar chords, the energy in the room changes. Everyone’s attention seems to become more focused, both forward and upward. People stand without prompting, and by the end of the song, we’re all sort of yell-singing our favorite line: “Up from the grave He rose again!” We are declaring in this anthem what we believe. We’re reminding each other of what’s true, and the power of this is tangible in the room.
Perhaps this is why Paul slipped a hymn into his instructions for Timothy. “The mystery of godliness is great,” he says in 1 Timothy 3:16. He then explains what that mystery is by using lines from what some scholars believe was a popular hymn of his time.
“He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (v. 16).
They are the basic tenets of Christianity—truths Timothy knew well. Paul understood our human tendency to forget the truth and simply begin to follow a religion or set of rules for the sake of following something. Using the power of an anthem—his “In Christ Alone,” shall we say—Paul reminds Timothy of the gospel before diving into further spiritual instruction. We need the same thing.
There’s a method to our godliness, and it’s crucial to understand the reason behind what we do and Who we live for if we’re going to stand strong in our faith.
In almost the same breath that he declares the mystery of godliness, Paul also delivers a warning to Timothy, saying that in later times there will be false teachers, deceitful spirits, and many who depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
Paul was right. Heresy, deceit, and hypocrisy are not only things of the future; they are rampant in our world now. Knowing, understanding, and believing the mystery of godliness—the gospel of Jesus Christ—is more crucial than ever. Without God’s truth as our anchor, we will float from here to there with each person who enters our lives touting a new philosophy or theology (James 1:6). But with our anthem close to our hearts, we remember who Jesus is and we can distinguish His truth from the lies.
Just as Paul did in his letter to Timothy, we must remember and remind one another of what is true. We declare our anthem to one another again and again, “giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20).