Author: Ron Graham
Verse by verse study of Paul's first letter to Timothy. In this lesson we examine chapter 3 verse 16, looking at the common confession of the church.
Paul wants to remind Timothy of the church's common confession about which there should be no argument or controversy. This is not a creed in the modern sense. However it is a useful summary of the points of doctrine which were of concern in Timothy's situation..
Each point seems to be connected with a form of testimony to the truth of the gospel. The false teachers, who were later to confuse the church, and lead many astray, had none of these testimonies to back up their doctrine, and they may even have denied them.
By common confession,
Great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Vindicated in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory.
The testimony of Christ incarnate. God has made himself manifest to man in various ways, but the most wonderful of all is that he became one of us. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us for a while, and we beheld his glory" (John 1:14)... "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (1John 4:2). The doctrine of Christ's truly human nature is a fundamental of our faith. The true Word of Life was not some sort of theory. He was real, seen and beheld by human eyes, touched and handled by human hands, heard and listened to by human ears (1John 1:1-4).
The testimony from heaven of the Father and the Holy Spirit... Christ was much maligned and falsely accused. He "endured such hostility of sinners against himself" (Hebrews 12:3) that he was crucified. However God himself testified that his Son was righteous. "When he received honour and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was borne to him by the Majestic Glory: 'This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased'. And we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain" (2Peter 1:17). Jesus Christ, as a man of flesh and blood, was acceptable to God.
There was also an earlier occasion when the Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove at his baptism, and the same words were heard (Matthew 3:13-17 John 1:32-33).
The testimony of God's angels... The good angels of heaven look approvingly only on what God approves. In their involvement with Christ and their ministry to him, the angels add their testimony of Jesus's righteousness and glory.
The angels of glory know the Son of God. They knew and beheld him in heaven before he came. They knew and beheld him while he was here. They knew and beheld him after he went away. They will know and behold him when he comes again. We can trust the angelic witnesses.
The testimony of the apostles... There are those who try to make Christianity a mystery religion, the true knowledge of which is a secret known only to an elite. If we wish to follow Christ, they would say we must rely on those who possess special insight to guide us. Jesus Christ however was proclaimed among the nations and the whole world heard the gospel. The disciples of Christ were told to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15-16). Paul says that this is exactly what happened. He writes of the gospel that it "was proclaimed in all creation under heaven" (Colossians 1:23). It is no secret, and any person may be "filled with all knowledge" (Colossians 1:9, Romans 15:14 ). Christ "enlightens every man" (John 1:9).
The testimony of all believers... The fact that so many people attached their faith to Jesus is a testimony in itself. There were many in the world who were waiting for him, and when he came they received him (John 1:9-12). Of course in every generation there are popular religions and beliefs. But they have their day and they fade away. Belief in Christ is one of the rare beliefs that stick and remain generation after generation. It is still widespread in the world after some 2000 years. In all that time, people have been devoted to that faith, living and dying for it. A wise person will examine such a faith because its long standing and firm acceptance among many is a testimony to it.
In making that examination, a wise person will go back to what was originally believed among the first believers, rather than some new doctrine that came later. It gives great credence to one's teaching if one can show that it was believed by the first Christians in the world.
The testimony of Christ glorified... The confession comes back to Christ himself, no longer a man on earth but a man in heaven. And who is this man in heaven? None other than the King of God's kingdom and the Great High Priest of God's church. And he bears witness of himself, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last" (Revelation 1:8-18).