by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 10 Lincolnton, NC May 1, 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 [God's Greater Plan].
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. [See Notes for April 24, 2005(054)]
5. God believed in the world.
a. The issue of God being believed in the world is no small matter seeing that disbelief first occurred in the heavens.
b. The issue of God being believed is first an issue of "love" ... i.e., "faith" is a natural "follower" to "love" as the "choice of method" always follows after the "choice of objective".
1) The greatest commandment has to do with "whom do you love?".
2) The greatest "problem" has to do with "what do you trust?".
c. The questions are several...
1) What is "belief"? [Is it a "feeling" or a "know so"?]
a) The Scriptures only acknowledge the presence of "faith" in a setting of actions pursued to fulfill a legitimate objective.
b) The Scriptures acknowledge the tension of "terror" in the "weakness" of faith, but refuse to call the lack of strength of conviction that does not produce corresponding behavior, "faith".
c) The Scriptures, thus, argue that "faith" is a "strength of the conviction (that a certain content of 'truth' is true) that sponsors a behavior that is compatible with that 'truth' in the pursuit of a legitimate objective".
d) The Scriptures deny that "faith" is the sponsor of actions that have the designed intent to "force the presence of faith". Such actions are a cloak of the desire to impress (glory-seeking), or to coerce, and, as such, are deceitful; not faithful. An example is the person who "acts" on what is professed, not out of conviction of truthfulness, but out of the desire for a thing to be true so that he may receive his desire (for acclaim, security, or physical pleasure).
2) What determines the "content" of faith? [Is it 'of man' or 'of God'?]
a) Biblically, God is the only legitimate object of "faith".
b) Biblically, God only seeks to be "trusted" in what He declares to be true.
c) Conclusion: God's verbal declarations determine all content of faith. Nothing is "faith" that is not rooted in something God has meant by the words He uses to express His truth. Thus, it is never "faith" when we respond to an "idea" that pops up in our minds that cannot be determined to be the "word" of God by subjecting it to the words of God. It is simply our "exploration" of the possibilities. If the "idea" is not contradicted by God's known words, we are free to act on it, but we are not free to call it "God's word". God is not "into" attempting to get us to "act on possibilities" (His known words are "whatsoever is not of faith is sin"). If an idea that pops up can be determined to be the word of God by the words of God, the "idea" is simply His bringing of "truth" to consciousness so that we may see how to act in a given situation -- truth we already know, but do not have at our finger-tips.
3) Whence comes faith? [Is it 'wilfull', or 'determined'?]
a) Since it is God Who wishes to be believed, it is God Who speaks with sufficient power to convince.
b) God is not interested in men "creating" faith by their own determination; He is, rather, interested in men responding to Him as He speaks so that they are "determined" by His words, not their appetites.
4) What is the result of faith? [God in action to accomplish]
a) Everywhere in the Scriptures, "faith" moves God to act according to His meanings as expressed by His words. Thus, the "result" of faith is divine activity.
b) Nowhere in Scripture is man's activity equated with God's activity. When man's actions are God's "will", they are always "wrought by God" in man, not "produced by man" in man [See John 3:21 in conjunction with the doctrine that only the Spirit of Jesus can produce the life of Jesus in us and make His glory known through us. The entire purpose of the "gifts of the Spirit" is to permit the Spirit of Jesus to produce the expressions of the life of Jesus through His people]. Man's actions are the secondary results of God's actions. Thus, man has no foundation for "pride of accomplishment".
c) Everywhere in Scripture, man is exhorted to "cease resisting the Spirit" so that He is free to work through him. He is not exhorted to "generate" faith, but to "submit" to it.