It’s All About Jesus

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 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. (1 Timothy 3:14-16)

Our faith is a faith of redemption. By redemption I mean that God, as a gracious act, according to His character of mercy and love and kindness, takes what is broken and ruined and makes it whole and complete. This is true for every believer, all those who have been saved by His grace. We were ruined in our sin. And God stepped in and made us whole, and will make us perfect. He will redeem this earth. It too is cursed by sin and one day will be made whole and complete, it will be a perfect place for us to live forever. Our daily lives can be a mess and yet God takes our mess and makes good from it. He grows us, He changes us, He renews our minds, He turns our ugly hearts and our circumstances for good, because as a redeemer, He loves us dearly.

If your life is broken, seems broken, our Lord is a redeemer! If your circumstances seem too heavy, too much to bear, our Lord is a redeemer! In Him there is always hope, in Him there can be peace, in Him joy is near.

Now, here is what we need to know about redemption. There is only one way that these things happen. There is only one way that we can experience redemption. Redemption, new life, abundant life, messes turned around, all things made new, there is only one way, and that is through the person of Jesus Christ. Our faith rests on Jesus Christ. Our faith does not rest on our hard work, on our determination, or on our good intentions. We will not be changed because we are super strong and better than the next guy or girl. No, our faith, our redemption, an abundant life rests on Jesus Christ, His work for us, His love for us.

When Paul wrote to us in the verses we looked at last week and said that we as a people of God, as a church, are to be the pillar and support of the truth in this world, we need to understand that the greatest, most essential truth for us to uphold is the truth that Jesus is the Son of God, God in the flesh, and that He has come into the world to save sinners, that He is a redeemer, our redeemer.

We are to uphold the truth about our Savior, we are to make Him known in this world. This is what Paul constantly repeated, his mission in life. He, being a changed man, had been given a mission to live out and he did it well. What was his mission to proclaim? To speak of, to make known Jesus Christ. Listen to his own words…

but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23)

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. (2 Corinthians 1:19)

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5)

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

After Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was a changed man, with a new message, and that message, that he would proclaim for the rest of his life, would be that Jesus Christ has come and that He is the way to God, He is the Savior. And Paul did a good job staying on task.

One way that he was able to stay on task with his ministry message is by realizing who he had become in Christ. His whole world was re-oriented. His passions became refocused. He did not experience small, rather minor adjustments in life. I think we may consider the Christian life to be that sometimes, like, “I will keep doing all my normal things, thinking relatively the same, I just need to do some minor adjustments – pray here and there, or mention Christ on occasion, try to bring Him along with me through life.”

Paul didn’t consider his new life in Christ to be a minor refocus, but it was a major upheaval in him. Here is how I know this. Paul wrote…

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

These words do not describe minor life adjustments! Paul puts himself, figuratively, on the cross where Jesus died. He is saying, “Jesus died on the cross, and I did too.” To die on a cross is a major thing, agreed? That represents a huge change. “I am not who I once was, I died on the cross with Christ.” He is saying, “When I by faith came to Christ, I died to the old self, and it is no longer the old self who lives but Christ lives in me. And so all has changed.” He says the life he now lives he lives by faith in Christ Jesus, the one who has loved him.

Do you see this full reorientation of life for Paul? This is no minor adjustment. This is radical change. We need this constant reminder, that is, “This is not my life, this is not my life, this is not my life. I have been crucified with Christ, this life I now have I live for Him. I am here to live for His glory, to make Him known, to worship and love Him. While living in my home, interacting at school, talking with my co-worker, parenting my children, conversing with parents, facing an enemy, sitting in church, facing temptation, when I have good desires or sinful ones, in all of life, I am here to glorify Christ, I have been crucified with Him, my life is His.”

Now, what Paul does in our passage this morning is he simply repeats a common hymn that is a reminder of what is to be the primary message of the church, that is, of you and me.

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. (1 Timothy 3:16)

This is a confession for the believer. A confession for all believers. A confession of the mystery of godliness. A mystery mentioned in the New Testament is something that was hidden in days past but revealed in the New Testament. And this mystery has to do with godliness. This is a reference to Jesus. Jesus is the godly one. He is the godly one and He is the one who makes it possible for others to be godly too. Others, you and me, we get our godliness, our righteousness only through Him. Again, we don’t earn it, we don’t work hard and get it, we don’t deserve it. Our godliness comes to us from the one who is godly.

And so with that introduction to this hymn, Paul gives brief stanzas of explanation.

“He was manifested in the flesh”

This means Jesus came to us from heaven as man. He came to live with man on this earth as a man. He entered our world. He took on flesh, a human body. Now, all we know is humanness, right? All we know is what it is like to be human, ever since our coming into being we have been human. So for us this is normal, this is all there is. But what must it have been like for Jesus to go from heaven, not bound by a body, to this? From all of His glory as creator of all things to humanness? We are so restrained by physical limitations, aren’t we? I think that is why we like superhero movies, to see people-like creatures doing extraordinary things. We long, don’t we, to be more physically able than we are. To be like those superheroes, to have lasting energy and strength, even to perhaps transport ourselves from here to there, no more long drives across Texas, just say a word and be there. No more aches and pains. Our bodies hold us back, they constrain us.

Jesus did not have to deal with any of these things until He took on human flesh, came to earth as a man to live as a human for our benefit, for our salvation. Who would do that for us? Who would stoop so low? Jesus would and Jesus did. He was manifest in the flesh. Because He did this we have this truth from Hebrews 4…

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Our Lord identifies with us, He can sympathize with our weaknesses.

“vindicated by the Spirit”

Vindicated means to be declared righteous. Romans 1:4 says, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” In other words, Jesus was proven to be, declared to be righteous by His resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection means that He was qualified as the sinless one to be our Savior. Had He ever sinned, He would not be an acceptable sacrifice for sin and would have stayed in the grave. But His resurrection proved otherwise, it proved that God was pleased, that God did accept Him as the substitute for our sins. He was vindicated, proven righteous by the Spirit.

“seen by angels”

Paul continues these short descriptions of Jesus, of His life lived for us. Jesus was seen or beheld by angels. His ministry was marked by attendant angels. The angles were there at His birth, announcing His arrival, they were with Him when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness after His baptism, they ministered to Him just prior to His crucifixion. They watched Him, were with Him. Remember it was an angel who rolled away the stone from His tomb and spoke to the ladies who came early that morning. The angels were there when He ascended into heaven. They were always near, this was the Son of God, the Lord who had come for the purpose of redemption, a world altering, human altering event was under way, and so no wonder the angels too would be involved.

“proclaimed among the nations”

He told His disciples as He prepared to leave and ascend into heaven these words…

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20)

It is not one nation or a few privileged nations who would benefit from the life and work of Christ, no. He was and is to be proclaimed to all the nations.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

And from John 4:42, after the Samaritan woman had witnessed to her people: “They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.””

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

All the nations are to hear the message that Jesus has come, not just Americans, not just Europeans, all nations. There are ugly, evil prejudices all around, people groups opposing and looking down on other people groups. This has been happening almost since time began. Somehow many have believed that some are not worthy of the gospel. Well, here is the truth: none of us are worthy of the gospel. It is the height of arrogance to say the gospel is good enough for me or I am good enough for the gospel and you are not. That is an arrogance that God hates and it has no place in the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to save sinners, and this is what all people have in common, this is what makes us equal: we are all sinners.

Jesus is proclaimed to all the nations. There will be diversity among people groups in heaven and on the new earth like none of us have ever experienced before. Jesus is proclaimed to all the nations.

“believed on in the world”

So many began believing in Jesus. The gospel of Christ was preached and almost immediately thousands began being saved. And since the first century millions more have and continue to believe. The message has continued. Faith is being exercised. Many in the world even now are turning to Him. The church continues to grow.

Lastly, Paul finishes this hymn with a final truth…

“taken up in glory”

9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Can you imagine being there? Can you imaging seeing Jesus ascending into heaven, lifted up and a cloud taking Him away? He returned to glory, was taken up to glory.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3)

When Jesus was seen ascending, this was not the end of Him. We know He will come back as He went up. We will see Him, He is coming back!

And so in these short statements we see the life and work of Jesus, we see redemption at work, we see the gospel of salvation. He came to save.

And so, like Paul, we can take these truths and we can make them known. We can say, “I too have been crucified with Christ,” and we can now live this life for Him, making Him known in whatever sphere of influence God grants to us, because we are here for Him!

And so, let’s do that, let’s proclaim Him. And here is the message…

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. (1 Timothy 3:16)