by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 9 Lincolnton, NC April 24, 2005
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
There are two textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. The first is the difference between the Textus Receptus' "God was manifest..." and the Nestle/Aland 26's "He who was manifest...". The actual difference here consists of the first two letters in the Greek word for "God". The Textus Receptus has them in its text and the Nestle/Aland 26 does not. The second is the difference in the spelling of the word translated "received up". Both spellings seem to be acceptable to the grammarians, and the meaning is completely unaffected.
I. The Six Issues Involved in the Mystery of Godliness.
A. In overview:
1. God manifest by the flesh [Incarnation].
2. God justified by the Spirit [Resurrection].
3. God seen of angels [God's Purpose for the Church].
4. God preached among the nations.
5. God believed on in the world.
6. God received up into glory.
B. In detail...
1. God manifest in the flesh. [See the notes for April 3, 2005(051)]
2. God justified in the spirit. [See notes for April 10, 2005(052)]
3. God seen of angels. [See notes for April 17, 2005(053)]
4. God preached among the nations.
a. Here Paul, using the exact phraseology as in five of the six descriptions of the "mystery of godliness" (passive verb followed by "in" followed by a noun), seems to switch gears just a bit...
1) The "in" can be taken consistently in a couple of different ways, but the translators do not do so. It could be taken to indicate the "realm" in which a thing took place (the action described by the passive verb); or, it could be taken as an indicator of the "instrumentality" of the noun as it fulfills the verbal idea.
2) The "in" can be taken to signal different things, depending upon the nature of the verbal idea. I have taken the "in" preceeding both "flesh" and "Spirit" to indicate how the verbal idea transpired (manifest by the flesh; vindicated by the Spirit), but with the phrase before us in this study, it seems a bit of a stretch to think that Paul is saying that the "preaching" was done "by" the nations (though this is clearly a New Testament concept of "mystery" in that the Jews were shocked by the speech about Yahweh that was done in the languages of the nations through the gift of tongues at the beginning and then later by those Gentiles who believed and began to proclaim Him among their own). Thus, we are left with the idea that the "mystery" was that the message about Yahweh was proclaimed "among" Gentiles. This "mystery" seems to be Paul's major thesis in Ephesians 3 where he gives clear indication that it was a great, hidden truth that "Gentiles" should become equal to "Jews" in the outworking of the plan of Yahweh to bring reconciliation to the whole of creation (Ephesians 1:9-10).
b. This aspect of the "mystery" is the "preaching" that is done in respect to "Gentiles".
1) The "preaching" was proclamation. It had, as its content, "the mystery of godliness". It had, as its objective, to bring Gentiles into the reconciled Body of humanity known as the Church. It had, as its 'mysteriousness' the entire corpus of Old Testament revelation which was so "wrapped up in" Yahweh's dealings with Israel that there was "nothing" really to indicate that there was to be as great a focus upon the nations in God's plan for history as there had been upon Israel during the Old Testament era. Israel's view of God's plan was an on-going development of the Nation until the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom. As it has turned out, God, yet in specific focus upon the Messiah's kingdom, turned to the nations to call out a "bride" for His "Jewish" Son who was to be His co-ruler over that Kingdom. Thus, something the Old Testament simply did not address, has now taken over 2,000 years to develop. A great "mystery".
2) The "arena" of the proclamation was "Gentiles". Paul is here magnifying his ministry as "apostle to Gentiles", but he is also hinting that Israel was going to take a back seat in Yahweh's plan during the "mystery" era.
a) The Old Testament presentation of history in respect to "nations" was that the first 2,000 years (Creation to Abraham) was generally focused upon humanity without any specific national titles. Then, the next part of the program was the 2,000 years from Abraham to Christ in which the Old Testament focus of information was upon Israel. This was the Old Testament focus.
b) With the advent of Christ and the Nation's rebellion against God, a new era began which no one in the first century would have dreamed would last for the next 2,000 years. We who are at this point in world history look back upon the fact; the Old Testament gave no one in the first century any hint that this 2,000 year long block of history was coming. The long anticipated Kingdom of Messiah was going to be anticipated even longer than anyone thought.