Day 4

The Mystery of Godliness

from the 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus reading plan


1 Timothy 3:1-16, Romans 9:15-24

BY Andrea Lucado

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).

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Post Comments (62)

62 thoughts on "The Mystery of Godliness"

  1. Megan Wood says:

    I love how you feel like you know a passage in the Word. You think understand it and you think you know it by heart. Then all of a sudden you read it again and you learn something new. Today these passages made me realize that God can do the same thing to us. We think our lives are secure and we are who we are. But then God changes things and he shows us something new.

    1. Cori S. says:

      How true this is!

  2. Erika Zane says:

    I love how you explained that Evelyn. I’ve had debates with friends about how God could tell us we have free will if there is predestination. I’ve always felt that we just won’t ever fully understand because we’re still like children in so many ways. There are things we just aren’t capable of understanding yet, but that doesn’t change who our God is or what He offers.

  3. McCall says:

    I think it is so important as women that we have at least a few close friendships with other women who are rooted in Gods word that can speak truth into us when we are unable to do it for ourselves. Life is beautiful & hard all at the same time & there are days – maybe even seasons – in life when God’s words & truth maybe distant or at the very least foggy. This is where those friendships come in – women who can speak truth in, over & to you. There may not be immediate change in your circumstance, but God’s truth is powerful & His promises will shine through exactly when they need to. So find your tribe of God-fearing women – your tribe may only be one, but all it takes is one person grounding you in truth to bring out God’s light.

    1. Gina Glennon says:

      You are so right! We have seasons of life, some so difficult and we need those kindred spirits to remind us of what we know is truth. Praise God for our sisters in the Lord!

    2. ashley says:

      Bless you!

  4. Heather Shores says:

    The passage in Romans was awesome! I’ve known for quite some time that God was keeping a relationship from blooming. I didn’t know how to voice that thought or even if it was right. So when the relationship severed finally I could look back and see Gods hardening of our hearts in unexplained ways. The behaviors and circumstances just continued to confuse and baffle and not make sense. He wants my heart to be completely for him. He’s got my attention. I’ll continue to lean on him now for deliverance and recovery. I hope you are having a good morning.

    1. Evelyn Fahle says:

      We’re in the exact same boat Heather! God has continuously shown grace and mercy for me to do things when I could not and sometimes even refused not to do for myself! Including closing the door on a relationship

    2. Pamela says:

      Oh Heather and Evelyn. I am right there with you. The love of my life died Feb 5, 1998. I have had an on again off again relationship with someone ever since. I could never figure it out but you just opened my eyes. Thank you so very much. I needed to hear that to understand.

    3. Becka says:

      Wow, Heather, I’ve been struggling with recovering from a relationship that ended a few months ago and I couldn’t understand why it had to happen or why it wasn’t blooming. Now, what you said has opened my eyes and I thank you so much for that! I have realized so much more about who God is and how he is working in my life since I’ve been out of that relationship than when I was in it. It did make me take a step back, but I never thought that it was God’s hardening of our hearts in unexplained ways. I know that it was a blessing in disguise and that God is good, but it just still hurts from time to time. However, now my heart is continuously being transformed to where I am seeking and desiring Him. I am able to focus more on Him, His desires and am still leaning on him for healing.

  5. Abby says:

    I love that Paul says “the mystery of godliness is great.” He knows, and reminds us, that we cannot, with our finite understanding, grasp in totality the holiness of God, and how he has already made us perfectly like his Son, even though we still struggle with sin. And then he starts writing those basic and profound truths about Jesus. I’m also listening to CS Lewis’ The Last Battle, and I’m struck by a similarity between that book and these passages, and our times right now.

    In the book, a false Aslan comes to Narnia and begins enslaving Narnians. Whenever they question the orders or want to see Aslan, they are basically told they are bad followers. To be honest, I think the same thing happens today. “If you love Jesus, you will…” and so many people follow things from the pulpit or from pundits, or from Facebook, that are supposedly Christian but really are based out of fear and trying to control others. There are so many things out there that are lesser things but are being promoted as essential if you are a Christ follower.

    Let us remember that Christ calls people of every tribe (political or geographical) , tongue, and nation, and we will not all follow him the same. What is important is that Jesus came in the flesh, was crucified and raised again, sacrificing himself once and for all for the nations, for us, Amen! Hebrews 10:11-18

  6. Kelly Chataine says:

    As I read I Timothy 3:16, I thought that seems like a song or poem. When my husband was heavily sedated and not with it, I sang to him. In Christ Alone. Mary Did You Know. How Great Thou Art. I sang a bunch of Third Day songs to him, as well. Now, we begin each day with a song that most would say is a child’s song but that is what we want, faith like a child. As he and I face hurdles, I find that another hymn or song is full in my mind. What a gift and blessing. I am, we are so thankful for God’s provision.
    Good morning God, this is Your day.
    I am your child, show me Your way.

    1. GramsieSue says:

      Love this, Kelly. ❤️ Prayers continue for you and hubby

  7. Churchmouse says:

    Paul reminds Timothy of the proper credentials for overseers, deacons and their wives. It seems almost like a checklist for appropriate leadership. It’s orderly. Then, as Andrea points out, Paul shares a doxology of sorts. It’s as though he also wants to remind Timothy of the responsibility and privilege associated with the qualifications of serving in leadership : all must point to Christ. He is the focus. Not just good behavior. The checklist, the requirements, exist so that nothing distracts from God being glorified and recognized. That is the purpose behind all they are to do. May I never lose my focus as well. In Christ alone. All for Jesus.

      1. Cheryl says:

        Churchmouse, I love reading your comments! Your knowledge is amazing!

        1. Pamela says:

          Cheryl, I am right there with you. I always scroll down to find Churchmoises’ input. It is always so awe inspiring. Thank you Churchmouse for so faithfully giving your input on every days scripture.

          1. Cheryl says:

            Amen. Churchmouse, you are so blessed with knowledge, vision and words.

    1. Kelly Chataine says:

      Yes, so that nothing distracts from God being glorified and recognized. Yes!

    2. Gina Glennon says:

      Amen!

      1. Tanis Stewart says:

        I find it very confusing when some say that many of our current female leaders in the faith are false teachers because they are women. I wholeheartedly disagree that these leaders are false teachers ( many of whom are my spiritual mentors, even though I have never met them). It seems like “they” might use this scripture to prove their point.

        1. Churchmouse says:

          I have been so blessed by tremendously gifted and Spirit-filled women mentors (Anne Graham Lotz immediately comes to mind). I look at their ‘fruit’ for evidence that they are following God’s calling on their life – that is more important to me than any man – given title. I have sat under Godly male and female pastors who preached the Truth and discipled me. I know there are some strong opinions on how to apply these Scriptures but I keep my eyes on Jesus, look for good fruit and give the Holy Spirit room to do His thing. He will expose the false teachers, be they male or female.

        2. Debi says:

          It is a bit comforting to be a female where I can listen to anyone speaking and not have to be concerned! I believe men should not sit under women teachers, as we learned yesterday in 2:12. So men have to be more discerning.

          1. Churchmouse says:

            I’m thinking of the Bereans who listened to Paul and then studied to see if what he said corresponded to the Scriptures. I believe men and women must be both concerned and discerning when sitting under anyone’s teaching. It is easy to have the ears tickled by Scriptures selectively chosen – withthe result that Truth is distorted. So important to pray for wisdom!

    3. Debbie Bratton says:

      Thank you for your insight, Churchmouse. It’s almost as if the instructions for overseers and deacons were glossed over and the focus was just on the mystery of godliness and this hymn. Thank you for helping me tie it all together. It all points to Christ, and He will use the godliness of these church leaders to bring about salvation in whomever He wills.
      I’m loving the theme in the study so far, that we never know who God has chosen to save, so we should be proclaiming the gospel to all, trusting God’s will to be done. That’s a mystery in itself. I’m thankful that we can trust Him to do the saving work in the hearts we encounter for Him.

      1. Tanis Stewart says:

        Thank you for all the responses about women in the church. It has confirmed what I had been feeling was true. The fruit in our lives are good measures and ALWAYS going back to the TRUTH, God’s Word.

  8. Lauren Demos says:

    Beautiful. I love the reminder to hold the gospel truth paramount as we try to live in godliness. But—Can someone please explain the tie-in to the Romans 9 scripture?

    1. Jamie says:

      I was wondering the same thing..

      1. Cathy says:

        I wonde if the tie to Romans comes from the reminder in verse 16 where it states, “so then, it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy”?

    2. Bobbie says:

      I’m thinking that the tie in might be that each one of us is created and chosen for a purpose. We are each useful in God’s kingdom work. The whole first part of 1 Timothy 3 lists the qualifications for pastors, deacons and their families. Romans 9 is telling me that God creates to “make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy,whose he prepared in advance for glory-even us, whom he called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.” (Romans 9:23-24)

    3. Evelyn Fahle says:

      I think it’s just another example of the great mystery of godliness…like predestination and free will- they are both true- but we aren’t always going to figure out exactly what God is doing in and through ourselves and others. But the number one thing to hold tight is God’s holiness and sovereignty and to look to THE CROSS for every answer.

      1. Gina Glennon says:

        Good thought Evelyn!

    4. Fiona De La Motte says:

      ^^ and also, the passage in Romans addresses some who may resent or gripe about Paul’s description of elder-ship. Romans 9:21 “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” We are all saved by mercy and grace equally, but God in his sovereignty gets to choose the work he has for each of us and we’re not to be bitter about it, but to serve with joy. Some are chosen to be elders, some are chosen to serve in junior high ministry. :)

      1. Annebet Pettit says:

        As a long time junior high teacher, I loved this. First, I, too, was struggling to tie them together and what you said makes sense. Second, I am obviously called to work with teenagers — they give me life and joy — and other people are called to work with those scary kindergartners! :-0 And sometimes, realistically, we’re called to work in the nursery even if we don’t really like it because God will do a good work in and through us there. And while I work in a field I love, I’m often called to minister in ways I do not love or feel equipped for, and I think those are the times I question the Potter. But he says his power is perfected in my weakness and I can see him doing good work in my areas of weakness.

      2. Elaine says:

        your comment helped put these verses in a good perspective for me, thank you.

    5. Debbie Bratton says:

      A big theme I’m noticing in this study so far is that we never know who God plans to save and use for His glory. Remember in Acts 9 when Ananias was hesitant to go to Saul when God instructed him to go, God tells him “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Isreaelites.” Can you imagine if Ananias refused, based off his own opinion feelings toward Saul for persecuting Christians?
      Romans 9 is a great passage that supports God’s sovereignty over salvation. This should drive us to fervently share the gospel with as many people as we can, and remind us never to doubt that God can save a person based on their wickedness apart from Him. We should look at our own selves and humbly thank God for saving such a sinner, just like Paul in our memory verse this week, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and I am the worst of them.” If he saved me, he can save anyone else He chooses and I am to be obedient in proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Christ to all, regardless of what I think of them. “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
      ‭‭Romans‬ ‭9:18 ESV

    6. Jamie Oleka says:

      Thank you for these ties!

    7. Annissa Hackney says:

      I also think that the verses in Romans remind us of what will happen if we ignore the gospel. Paul warned Timothy of the false prophets and those who would sin against God & try to bring others with them. The verses in Romans are clear examples of God’s mercy and wrath if we utilize our free will to intentionally sin against him. We must remember the Gospel and share it with everyone. We must also live it out not just talk about it.

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