The Mystery of Godliness.
2 Chronicles 13-14, 1 Timothy 3
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. – 2 Chronicles 12:1 ESV
We have already had more than enough evidence of the sinfulness of man. At one point in human history, things had gotten so bad, that God destroyed everyone on the planet, except Noah and his immediate family. The sad state of affairs that led to this devastating consequence were as follows: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). And even after the flood, when mankind was given a second chance, the descendants of Noah ended up in the same sad condition – living in sin and in disobedience to God. So God chose Abram, in order to create a nation with whom He would have a unique and special relationship, dwelling among them and allowing them the privilege of experiencing His presence and living as His chosen people. But even the people of God would find themselves living godless lives more often than not. And yet, along the way there were a few glimpses of goodness and godliness along the way. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). The book of Hebrews describes Abel as a man of righteousness, Enoch as having pleased God, Abraham as obedient to God, and Moses as a man of faith who “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26 ESV). There have been men and women throughout history who have been faithful to God and who have lived their lives, according to the book of Hebrews, “by faith” in the promises of God. Many of these individuals never had the pleasure of seeing the ultimate fulfillment of the promise for which they waited. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 ESV). Their faith was in God, the one who made the promise, not the promise itself. They were willing to trust God to fulfill what He had promised to do, because they believed in His character and relied on His faithfulness.
What does this passage reveal about God?
It should amaze us when we read about a man like King Asa. “And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment” (2 Chronicles 14:2-4 ESV). This man was like a breath of fresh air in a stagnant, polluted land. His reign would be marked by peace, and it was the direct result of his faithfulness to God. God was blessing Asa for doing what was good and right. Unlike his predecessors, he removed the idols to false gods. He commanded the people to “seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandments” (2 Chronicles 14:4 ESV). Asa placed his faith and hope in God, because he knew that he and the people of Israel were totally dependent upon God. “And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, ‘O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you’” (2 Chronicles 14:11 ESV). And we’re told that the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. God responded to the faithful, dependent call of Asa. He graciously stepped in and rescued the nation of Israel from the threat of possible annihilation at the hands of a much superior enemy. All God was looking for from them was godliness. In other words, He wanted His people to be focused on Him, dependent upon Him, and faithful to Him.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Godliness was not impossible in the days of Noah, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David, or even Asa. But it was not easy. Only on rare occasions did some of these men enjoy the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. So much of what they had to do was dependent upon them. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that they had to live by faith. They had to place their trust and hope in God, based on nothing more than the promises of God. Asa didn’t know whether God would save he and the people of Israel, but he knew that God could. So he turned to God. Again, the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:32-38 ESV). These people all placed their faith in God and were able to endure great trials and accomplish great deeds on God’s behalf. They key was the object of their faith: God. He was the source of their strength and salvation.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes of the conduct of the people of God, stressing how believers “ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15 ESV). He writes about offices of elder and deacon, stressing a man selected for either of these roles should be “above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV). They “must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain” (1 Timothy 3:9 ESV). Paul was describing godly conduct within the church, the family of God, the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 ESV). But then Paul gives the secret to godly conduct. He says, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16 ESV). Then he goes on to describe this great mystery. It is the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. In other words, it is salvation made possible through faith in Jesus Christ that makes possible the life of godliness. Man cannot achieve true godly behavior apart from Christ. Man’s salvation and redemption is made possible solely through the work accomplished by Jesus on the cross. And His sacrificial death and atoning sacrifice was proven worthy and acceptable to God by His resurrection from the dead. God raised Him back to life because His sacrifice had accomplished its objective. Jesus was “vindicated by the Spirit” through the restoration of His life by the power of the Spirit. Angels were the first to see the resurrected Christ at the tomb. Men were given the unique privilege of seeing Him alive after having seen Him die. They proclaimed this great news to anyone and everyone who would listen, saying, “He is risen!” And because He is risen, we have been given the power to live godly lives, through the power of His Spirit living within us. We can conduct our lives in a godly manner because we have been given God’s own Spirit. All because of what Jesus Christ accomplished on our behalf. God has done for mankind what we could never have done for ourselves. He has made possible the life of true godliness. And when we live in His power, as the people of God, we become the pillar and buttress of the truth, displaying the love and faithfulness of God to a world that desperately needs to see it.
Father, I cannot live a godly life without Your help. But by Your power, You have given “to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 ESV). Thank You for sending Your Son to not only save me, but to provide the means by which I can live a life that is pleasing to You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men