Advent Devotional: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Blessed Son of God Woodcarving Nativity Scene

The Mystery of Godliness

December 23, 2018

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness. —I Timothy 3:16

If the church is a pillar and buttress of truth, then we need to know what the truth is, and it turns out that the truth is a great mystery. When the Bible uses the word “mystery” it is not referring to something that is unsolved, but to something long hidden that has now been revealed (cf. Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Tim. 3:9). In Holy Scripture, the mystery is the secret plan of redemption that is no longer secret because God has divulged it.

The mysteries concerning Jesus the Blessed Son of God and his birth, death, and resurrection are profound; they are great “beyond all question” (1 Tim. 3:16 NIV). The greatness of the mysteries of the gospel is demonstrable and without doubt. They are great by common consent.

Almost certainly, Paul’s affirmation of God’s greatness was another attack on the goddess Artemis, who was not so great. During Paul’s first visit to Ephesus, Demetrius and the other silversmiths were so threatened by Paul’s missionary work that they sent the city into an uproar. They shouted so long and so loud that their words were still ringing in Paul’s ears when he wrote this letter.

Paul knew the meaning of true greatness, however, so he wrote: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16). Paul’s very phrasing helps convey the glory and grandeur of the gospel, for the mystery is Jesus himself, the Blessed Son of God. This is the truth that the church is called to uphold in the world: the saving mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We uphold this truth during Advent by remembering the first coming of our King in his birth at Bethlehem. We also uphold it by longing for the mystery that will be fully revealed when he comes again in great glory.

Like the silversmiths of Ephesus, do we continue to cling to any vestige of our old idols?

Let Us Pray

God of joy and exultation, we confess the great, unknowable and saving mystery of your godliness. Keep us faithful in your service until the Second Coming of God’s Blessed and only Son. Amen.

Back to Third Sunday in Advent  |  Forward to Christmas Eve and Day


Download a PDF of this devotional.