Faithlife Sermons

The Christian Religion

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1 Timothy 3:14–16 ESV
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.
(ESV)
Verse 14 is the theme verse for the whole book.
1 Timothy 3:14–15 ESV
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.
How should we behave? We should aim for love. We should accept the saying that Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. We should order our lives around the gospel. When we speak or act, especially with others, we should ask if what we say or do will detract from our ability to share the good news of Jesus Christ or aid it.
Sometimes we share the gospel. At other times we just comment on things. Those comments often reveal whether we are people of grace or condemnation. Often it is not what we say, but how we say it that either aids the gospel or detracts from it.
This totality of what we believe, “Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners…” as well as our other Christian beliefs and how we act, how we live out what we believe, defines our religion.
Many of us don’t like saying Christianity is a religion, we say it is a relationship. But our Bibles use this word.
James 1:26–27 ESV
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
The word “religion” in James similar to the idea in 1 Timothy 3:16.
1 Timothy 3:16 ESV
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.
This “godliness” is a hard word to define. It includes everything you believe about God. It also includes everything you do in response to what you believe. What we believe and how we live out our belief reveals our religion. A person who “gets religion” is someone who has had a major change in belief that is followed by a major change in actions. One commentator hinted that this verse could be translated as “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion.”
We use the word “mystery” to speak of something that we don’t know. We read Agatha Christie, a mystery writer, and wonder as we read it, “Who done it?”
Paul uses the word “mystery” to describe the person who has already read the last chapter. The mystery is what used to be unknown but is now known.
Paul grew up learning the Old Testament. He studied passages that dealt with the coming Messiah, the one who would deliver Israel from Rome. But who the Messiah would be and exactly what he would do was unclear.
It was unclear until he met Jesus! Jesus unraveled the mystery of the Messiah, the Savior and did so in a way that really surprised Paul and gave him a lot more information and understanding than he had before.
In the qualifications for deacons, Paul writes,
1 Timothy 3:9 ESV
9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
1 Timothy 3:16 ESV
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.
In 1 Timothy 3:16, Paul quotes what many believe is an early Christian hymn. This hymn highlights the Christian religion. The focus on the hymn is on Jesus. He is the subject of every line.
Christianity is not about an organization or a building. This building could burn to the ground and disband as an organization, but Christianity would not die. As long as there are people who trust in Jesus in this community, the Christian religion is alive here.
Everything he highlights from this hymn shows the greatness of Jesus.
This mystery of the faith is faith in Jesus.
Ephesians 3:1–6 ESV
1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Ephesians 5:32 ESV
32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Ephesians 6:19 ESV
19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
Colossians 1:25–27 ESV
25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
This mystery had many aspects. The Jews did not understand the equal and full inclusion of Gentiles. We do not have separate meeting places for people based on their race. Jesus unifies.
The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in both Jew and Gentile was not fully understood. Christ in you, the hope of glory!
Jesus made all of this clear. What was once unknown, what was once a mystery, was now known by the apostles, including Paul.
What is so great about Jesus? What is there about him that Paul didn’t know but came to know? What do you know about Jesus? He may be a mystery to you. Some of the significant details about Jesus are given in this hymn.
1 Timothy 3:16 ESV
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.
We are going to look at the verbs, the action words, in these phrases.

He was manifested in the flesh.

When we manifest something, we reveal it or show it. God was manifest in the flesh in the person of Jesus. When we see Jesus, we see God.
John said,
John 1:14 ESV
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus said,
John 14:7–9 ESV
7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
The core of our religious belief is that Jesus is the Son of God.

He was vindicated by the Spirit.

A person can make a claim, but making a claim does not make anything true. When a person makes a claim and it is found to be true, they are justified or vindicated at that point.
A person is on trial. They plead innocent. When the facts come out, the public finds out that they are innocent. At that point they are justified or vindicated.

Jesus was vindicated by the Spirit.

What vindicates the claim that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh? The resurrection.
His life pointed in that direction, but was not a vindication. Others had performed miracles. Others had been good teachers.
His death did not vindicate him. All the holy men and women of ages past had died. A martyr’s death was not a vindication of his claim to be God in the flesh.
It is only in his resurrection that he was justified, that he was vindicated. Resurrection didn’t happen to Abraham or Moses. Samuel and Elijah were never brought back to life. Ezra and Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel all died. They had tombs that held their remains.
Jesus didn’t. He rose from the dead, vindicated by the Holy Spirit that he was the Son of God.
Paul had seen Jesus. He had seen him following his resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:3–8 ESV
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
This was enough for the apostle Paul.
We do not have firsthand experiences like this. We sense God’s presence, we see the results of his power, but we have not seen him physically. Paul did.
When Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus, the whole Christian faith was vindicated. He had arrested people who he thought were guilty that were actually innocent. He had mocked the resurrection and crucifixion of Jesus and found out that he was totally out of line.
Paul says in
Romans 1:4 ESV
4 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,
The core of the Christian religion is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Seen by angels

We are not sure what he is speaking about here. We do know that surrounding the tomb were angels. We also know that sometime during the three days that the tomb was sealed, Jesus returned to heaven. The angels of heaven were aware of what was happening on earth. All heaven shouts out the name of Jesus.
Two men were returning from Jerusalem after hearing of the resurrection. They met Jesus, though they did not know it was him. They said,
Luke 24:22–24 ESV
22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
Not only were there human witnesses, there were heavenly witnesses as well. Great is the mystery of godliness.

Proclaimed among the nations

Evangelism, telling the good news about Jesus, has always been a core part of the Christian religion.
Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. How will they know that Jesus will save them? Only if someone speaks up.
Jesus said to the disciples, you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and unto the uttermost parts of the world.
One big pushback against the Christian church is that people don’t want us to tell them about Jesus.
There are several reasons for this.
Some Christians have been obnoxious. They have crammed things down other people’s throats without any respect for the person to whom they are talking.
Some Christians are afraid of offending others. The world will tell you about the people they slept with, the drugs they have used and the evil way they have treated other people.
If they are going to do that to you, don’t be afraid to share the love of Jesus with them. Jesus is to be proclaimed among the nations.
I have shared stories, testimonies of what God has done in the lives of people I know. I don’t name names, but if the story fits, I will share it. People listen to stories.
Someone shared the gospel with you. Over 2000 years after Jesus’ resurrection, his name is still proclaimed among the nations.
Not only is his name proclaimed among the nations, but it is

Believed on in the world

It’s one thing to make a proclamation. It’s another for people to believe it. The annals of history show wackos and people with weird ideas who received a very cool reception from the world.
That is not true of the gospel. In every place that the gospel has gone forward, people have responded. Solid Jewish people came to trust Jesus as their Messiah. Committed communists have repented and come to Christ. Atheist, agnostics, Buddhist, Muslims, and people from every religious group in the world have responded to the claims of Christ. The gospel has been received by the rich and the poor. Prisoners who are convicted of the worst crimes as well as highly educated ministers have realized that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, and that the sinner he came to save was them.
We support missionaries in Maine, South America, and Asia. What is great about this is that this gospel was preached in East Orange, Vermont and I believed. It was proclaimed in your presence and you believed.
One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that our faith is not passed on to our children because they are our children. It is not coerced. It cannot be forced on anyone. The gospel has to be believed in order for it to have any affect.
What is wonderful about this is that anyone can believe at any time. If we are saved by our good works, people don’t have a chance. If Christ died for our sins and he offers salvation free, any person can be saved who believes.

He was taken up in glory.

The apostles saw this. Paul heard Stephen speak about seeing Jesus at the right hand of the father. He was angry at that statement until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul preached that Jesus would come again. He could not come again unless he went the first time. He is now at the right hand of the father, making intercession for us.
Great is the mystery of godliness!
Is this the Jesus you know?
1 Timothy 3:16 ESV
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.
This is the Christian religion. God wants you to put your full faith in trust in Jesus. He wants you to affirm what this hymn tells us. He wants you to trust Jesus and follow him in your life.
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