One of the first sermons I preached here at FBC was entitled “The Conduct and Confession of the Church,” a sermon from 1 Timothy 3:14–16. Since we looked at this text in the recent past, I thought it be best to give a summary of it here and move ahead to 1 Timothy 4:1–5 today as we continue in our Sunday morning series on 1 Timothy.
Paul emphasizes the conduct of the church in 1 Timothy 3:14–16a. This conduct is noted in his statement that specifies his purpose for writing the entire letter of 1 Timothy: “I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God” (1 Tim 3:14–15). The immediate context of this statement shows that this behavior at least involved how to pray as a church (2:1–8), who was to teach and exercise authority (2:11–15), and the requirements for pastors and deacons (3:1–13).
This conduct is also emphasized in the phrase Paul uses to describe the gospel, “the mystery of godliness” (3:16a). A biblical mystery is some truth that was previously unknown but has now been revealed to God’s people (cf. Col 1:25–26). The mystery of the gospel was revealed more fully with the preaching of Christ and the apostles. Understanding what a mystery is, we can better understand what Paul meant when he called the gospel “the mystery.” What is important for the moment, however, is that it called the gospel “the mystery of godliness.” One could say the gospel is inherently tied to godliness because those who believe the gospel will inevitably reflect this belief by living a godly life (cf. Eph 2:8–10).
Paul also emphasizes the confession of the church in 1 Timothy 3:16b. He gives six lines from what appears to be a fragment of a hymn sung by the early church. There are several ways one could suggest as to how one should understand the cadence and theological ties between each line, and it seems the best understanding is to see the first five lines as a chronologically ordered summary of the gospel and the sixth line as how we should emphasize Christ today. God the Son (1) became human (cf. John 1:14; Rom 1:3; Phil 2:7–8), (2) was vindicated by the Spirit concerning His claims about Himself and His resurrection in that the Spirit brought Him to life from the dead (cf. Rom 1:4; Heb 9:14; Rom 8:11), (3) ascended into heaven where He was seen by angels (cf. Heb 1:6), was proclaimed among the nations (cf. Acts 1:8) which (5) brought about the belief of many in the world (cf. Rom 16:25–26). In all of this, we could say that (6) Christ was taken up in glory, that is, He ascended to be exalted and proclaimed to all so that many could believe in order to worship and glorify Him (cf. Acts 1:2, 11, 22; Eph 1:20–21). These six lines summarize some of the core truths of the gospel and were part of the confession of the church. Such a confession would lead to godliness.
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