The Mystery of Godliness
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen of angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16
Before the Messiah’s premier in Dublin, Ireland, in 1742, its librettist Charles Jennens added the inscription shown above, penned by the apostle Paul. These texts introduce the Messiah’s three-part structure, which centers on the themes of:
- The promised Messiah, the Prince of Peace
- Christ’s death and resurrection and the preaching of his gospel
- The resurrection of his people and the life everlasting.
In keeping with the Advent theme, this devotional focuses on excerpts from Part One of the Messiah alone.
Messiah presents the whole drama of redemption from sin through the work of Christ—a drama written not by G. F. Handel, Charles Jennens, or even the apostle Paul, but rather composed by God himself, which is why the Bible refers to it as “the mystery of godliness” (I Timothy 3:16).
The Greek word for mystery (musterion) does not refer to an unsolved enigma but instead to something long hidden but now revealed. In the Bible it means God’s secret plan of salvation, which is no longer a secret because God has disclosed it (Colossians 1:26-27).
The mystery God has revealed is the Messiah in all his marvelous ministry. Every aspect of his work calls for a response.
Since the Messiah “was manifested in the flesh,” let us serve him with our bodies. Let us use our hands to help the needy, our arms to carry the weak, and our mouths to encourage the disheartened.
Since the Messiah “was justified by the Spirit,” let us pray that God will justify us on the day of judgment and raise us up in glorious resurrection bodies.
Since the Messiah was “seen of angels,” let us join the angels and the apostles in their worship around his throne.
Since the Messiah was “preached among the Gentiles,” let us make a personal investment in the worldwide work of the gospel, sharing the good news so that all nations might sing Messiah’s praises.
Since the Messiah was “believed on in the world,” let us believe in him with our whole heart. Let us trust Jesus, not only for salvation, but also for everything else we need.
Last of all, since the Messiah was “received up in glory,” let us wait with eager expectation for his soon return, when we will be raised with him and received into his glory.
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