Summary: A non-musical look at one of the church’s earliest hymns about Jesus.
"THE GREAT MYSTERY OF GODLINESS"
All of us like some kind of music. Music seems to have always had a place in the church. Some I like. Some I do not like. You probably have the same feelings: But out of Christian love, we endure other types of music, knowing that others find it a blessing. Many churches that did not exhibit real Christian love have been split apart because of fights over music styles: By people who are selfish and self-centered and who want everything their way. I am so glad that you, in our church, support the need to give something to everyone, when it comes to music. I just know how you adults love today’s teen music styles. :) And how you teens love your parent’s music. :) Usually the words are not the problem(Except when I can not understand the words.) Usually the rub comes, not from the lyrics, but from the style of musical accompaniment or the style of singing.(Let me tell you something that I, a mere musical layman, taught my musician wife. She never realized that the words to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and the "ABC/Alphabet Song" were sung to the same tune!) It is not the tune. It is the message. The old Wesley saying, by all means save some, is still true.
There are no recordings of First Century Christian vocal groups, soloists, or bands for us to listen to, and discuss the merits and demerits of the early music of the church. The verse that I just read from 1 Timothy is thought to be one of the earliest hymns of the new Christian Church. The words are indelibly etched in the record of our Holy Bible: And we know that God’s Word will last forever. The music has long ago been forgotten. This song is about the great mystery of godliness. There was strong faith in the early church about the divinity, the messiahship of Jesus. "Beyond all question…" they believed that Jesus was the Christ promised by God and the prophets. When this song was inspired, there were still disciples of Jesus who were alive, plus all of their fellow church members who had been changed from sinners to saints.
The Psalms have special instructions on how they were to be sung. Many of the hymns written 200 or more years ago were sung to barroom tunes: Because people seem to remember words put to music. Lives were changed and drunks and other sinners were brought to Christ by those old, still loved, hymns. Lets take a line by line look at this old hymn sent by Paul to Timothy. 1 Timothy 3:16 "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."
I. HE APPEARED IN A BODY.
In Jesus, Spirit became flesh. Born of the Virgin Mary. The "Word" of the First Chapter of John became flesh. Jesus came to live, breath, be tempted and tried, to experience life on man’s terms, and finally die, like humankind. John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
William Barclay wrote, "Look at Jesus, and you will see the mind and the heart of God, in a form that men can understand." Jesus is "the image of the invisible God." He who was before all things, who was the King of the Ages, he who created all things, became incarnate in man. God with us. Emanuel. Isaiah 53:3 "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not." He committed no sin. The only perfect man, yet he carried our sin, and died for our sin, was buried for our sin, and rose again as testimony to his power and love to forgive our sins. Through him we see and reach the Father.
II. HE WAS VINDICATED BY THE SPIRIT.
Vindicated means, justified, endorsed, proved.
At his baptism the Holy spirit publicly descended on him. His words and miracles , and wonders convinced and convicted and converted hearts and lives. Even before his crucifixion, the disciples worked signs and wonders in his name, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Jews said he was an impostor, a blasphemer. He forgave sins and permanently changed lives. The crowds who followed him thought he was a good man, a powerful prophet. The apostles at times, thought he was Messiah. After his death and resurrection they were sure he was God.