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16Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:

He was revealed in flesh,

vindicated in spirit,

seen by angels,

proclaimed among Gentiles,

believed in throughout the world,

taken up in glory.


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16. And—following up 1Ti 3:15: The pillar of the truth is the Church in which thou art required to minister; "AND (that thou mayest know how grand is that truth which the Church so upholds) confessedly (so the Greek for 'without controversy') great is the mystery of godliness: (namely), He who (so the oldest manuscripts and versions read for 'God') was manifested in (the) flesh (He who) was justified in the Spirit," &c. There is set before us the whole dignity of Christ's person. If He were not essentially superhuman (Tit 2:13), how could the apostle emphatically declare that He was manifested in (the) flesh? [Tregelles, Printed Text of the Greek New Testament]. (Joh 1:14; Php 2:7; 1Jo 1:2; 4:2). Christ, in all His aspects, is Himself "the mystery of godliness." He who before was hidden "with God" was made manifest (Joh 1:1, 14; Ro 16:25, 26; Col 1:26; 2Ti 1:10; Tit 2:11; 3:4; 1Jo 3:5, 8). "Confessedly," that is, by the universal confession of the members of "the Church," which is in this respect the "pillar" or upholder "of the truth."

the mystery—the divine scheme embodied in Christ (Col 1:27), once hidden from, but now revealed to, us who believe.

of godliness—rather, "piety"; a different Greek, expresses godliness (1Ti 2:10). In opposition to the ungodliness or impiety inseparable from error (departure from the faith: "doctrines of devils," "profane fables," 1Ti 4:1, 7; compare 1Ti 6:3). To the victims of such error, the "mystery of piety" (that is, Christ Himself) remains a mystery unrevealed (1Ti 4:2). It is accessible only to "piety" (1Ti 3:9): in relation to the pious it is termed a "mystery," though revealed (1Co 2:7-14), to imply the excellence of Him who is the surpassing essential subject of it, and who is Himself "wonderful" (Isa 9:6), surpassing knowledge (Eph 3:18, 19); compare Eph 5:32. The apostle now proceeds to unfold this confessedly great mystery in its details. It is not unlikely that some formula of confession or hymn existed in the Church and was generally accepted, to which Paul alludes in the words "confessedly great is the mystery," &c. (to wit), "He who was manifested," &c. Such hymns were then used (compare Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). Pliny [1.10, Epistle, 97], "They are wont on a fixed day before dawn to meet and sing a hymn in alternate responses to Christ, as being God"; and Eusebius [Ecclesiastical History, 5.28]. The short unconnected sentences with the words similarly arranged, and the number of syllables almost equal, and the ideas antithetically related, are characteristics of a Christian hymn. The clauses stand in parallelism; each two are connected as a pair, and form an antithesis turning on the opposition of heaven to earth; the order of this antithesis is reversed in each new pair of clauses: flesh and spirit, angels and Gentiles, world and glory; and there is a correspondence between the first and the last clause: "manifested in the flesh, received up into glory" [Wiesinger].

justified—that is, approved to be righteous [Alford]. Christ, while "in the flesh," seemed to be just such a one as men in the flesh, and in fact bore their sins; but by having died to sin, and having risen again, He gained for Himself and His people justifying righteousness (Isa 50:8; Joh 16:10; Ac 22:14; Ro 4:25; 6:7, 10; Heb 9:28; 1Pe 3:18; 4:1 1Jo 2:1) [Bengel]; or rather, as the antithesis to "was manifest in the flesh" requires, He was justified in the Spirit at the same time that He was manifest in the flesh, that is, He was vindicated as divine "in His Spirit," that is, in His higher nature; in contrast to "in the flesh," His visible human nature. This contrasted opposition requires "in the Spirit" to be thus explained: not "by the Spirit," as Alford explains it. So Ro 1:3, 4, "Made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." So "justified" is used to mean vindicated in one's true character (Mt 11:19; Lu 7:35; Ro 3:4). His manifestation "in the flesh" exposed him to misapprehension, as though he were nothing more (Joh 6:41; 7:27). His justification, or vindication, in respect to His Spirit or higher being, was effected by ALL that manifested that higher being, His words (Mt 7:29; Joh 7:46), His works (Joh 2:11; 3:2), by His Father's testimony at His baptism (Mt 3:17), and at the transfiguration (Mt 17:5), and especially by His resurrection (Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4), though not by this exclusively, as Bengel limits it.

seen of angels—answering to "preached unto the Gentiles" (or rather "among the nations"; including the Jews), on the other hand (Mt 28:19; Ro 16:25, 26). "Angels saw the Son of God with us, not having seen Him before" [Chrysostom].' "not even they had seen His divine nature, which is not visible to any creature, but they saw Him incarnate" [Theodoret] (Eph 3:8, 10; 1Pe 1:12; compare Col 1:16, 20). What angels came to know by seeing, the nations learned by preaching. He is a new message to the one class as well as to the other; in the wondrous union in His person of things most opposite, namely, heaven and earth, lies "the mystery" [Wiesinger]. If the English Version, "Gentiles," be retained, the antithesis will be between the angels who are so near the Son of God, the Lord of "angels," and the Gentiles who were so utterly "afar off" (Eph 2:17).

believed on in the world—which lieth in wickedness (1Jo 2:15; 5:19). Opposed to "glory" (Joh 3:16, 17). This followed upon His being "preached" (Ro 10:14).

received up into gloryGreek, "in glory." However, English Version may be retained thus, "Received up (so as now to be) in glory," that is, into glory (Mr 16:19; Lu 24:51; Ac 1:11). His reception in heaven answers to His reception on earth by being "believed on."