Summary: As powerful a verse as I Timothy 3:16 is, it seems out of place with verses around it. That is, it seems out of place until we understand "the mystery of godliness". What is the "mystery of godliness?"
OPEN: 5 year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn’t want to go alone.
“It’s dark in there and I’m scared.”
She asked again and he persisted. Finally she said, “It’s OK-Jesus will be in there with you.”
Johnny walked slowly to the door and opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to turn around - when suddenly an idea came to him. He opened the door again – peaked inside – and said: “Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup.”
APPLY: The question for little Johnny was this: “Was Jesus there?”
I. The apostle Paul had written a personal letter to a young preacher named Timothy and basically told him to make sure JESUS WAS “THERE” at the church he served.
Timothy was told to be sure to:
· “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:13
· He was NOT to permit “false doctrines” or “controversies” in the church
· Instead he was to make sure that the people lived “peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” I Timothy 2:2
· that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone” I Tim. 2:1
· Paul wrote about how men should behave themselves. How women should conduct themselves. How young men and young women should treat other people.
And then Paul wrote in I Timothy 3:14-15 “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
In other words, if the church that Timothy served followed the instructions in Paul’s letter they would truly be a church that honored God. And Jesus would be "there."
II. But there’s a mystery here
Right after Paul makes this dramatic comment stressing the importance of what’s in this letter he writes: “Beyond all question, the MYSTERY of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
And as I read that verse in context it suddenly occurred to me that this verse seemed out of place. It didn’t seem to fit! It seemed to have absolutely no bearing on the verses immediately preceding it nor with those that follow.
One moment Paul’s writing about the instructions the church needs to follow to be pleasing to God, and the next, he’s talks about some “mystery” about Jesus.
ILLUS: It would be something like me telling you all about my daughter. I’d be telling you how much she loves horses and how she loves to dance and sing. How she enjoys…
(looking skyward) “oh, aren’t those pretty stars up there!”
On the face of it, that’s how disconnected verse 16 appeared to be from the verses surrounding it. But then, I looked a little closer at the first few words of that verse… and suddenly it all began to make sense.
You see, this letter to Timothy was all about “godliness”. It was all about how we ought to LIVE as God’s people. And if I OBEY the instructions of godliness in this letter then I am assured of pleasing God. And so Paul writes: “The mystery of GODLINESS is great”
(pause…) What’s a mystery?
A mystery is something that you can’t quite understand. If you could understand it, it wouldn’t be a mystery would it?
ILLUS: I once read the story of 3 men who were talking together in a hotel lobby:
One of the men said "I will not believe anything that I do not understand."
And the 2 men that were with him agreed that it would be foolish to believe something they couldn’t understand.
Sitting nearby there was another man who looked up from his paper and said:
"Gentlemen, on my ride this morning I saw some geese in a field eating grass; do you believe that?"
"Certainly," said one of the 3 listeners.
"I saw the pigs eating grass; do you believe that?"
"Of course," Said the 3.
"I also saw sheep and cows eating grass; do you believe that?"
"Of course," was again the reply.
"Well, the grass turned to feathers on the backs of the geese, to bristles on the backs of the swine, to white wool on the sheep, and to hair on the cow; do you believe that, gentlemen?"
"Certainly," they replied.
"But do you understand it?"