by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 8 Lincolnton, NC April 17, 2005
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
There are two textual differences between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26. The first is the difference between the Textus Receptus' "God was manifest..." and the Nestle/Aland 26's "He who was manifest...". The actual difference here consists of the first two letters in the Greek word for "God". The Textus Receptus has them in its text and the Nestle/Aland 26 does not. The second is the difference in the spelling of the word translated "received up". Both spellings seem to be acceptable to the grammarians, and the meaning is completely unaffected.
I. The Six Issues Involved in the Mystery of Godliness.
A. In overview:
1. God manifest by the flesh [Incarnation].
2. God justified by the Spirit [Resurrection].
3. God seen of angels.
4. God preached among the nations.
5. God believed on in the world.
6. God received up into glory.
B. In detail...
1. God manifest in the flesh. [See the notes for April 3, 2005(051)]
2. God justified in the spirit. [See notes for April 10, 2005(052)]
3. God seen of angels.
a. Matthew 18:10 tells us that the angels continually behold the face of God. This statement by Jesus lurks like the tip of an ice berg ... suggesting a whole lot more than is readily seen.
b. Ephesians 3:10 is another tip of an ice berg -- the grammar suggests (even demands) that we see God's dealings with human beings against a larger backdrop than His intentions for men. This text tells us that God had the angelic realm in mind when He began to pursue the reconciliation of humanity.
c. 1 Peter 1:12 also just barely pulls back the veil for a brief glimpse into the impact God's dealings with men in the world is having upon the angels.
d. It is apparent from these "glimpses" that, though the biblical record is relatively silent about things beyond human need, there is a relatively large issue involved that deals with the angelic realms. If we assume that the infinity of God means universes of unrevealed realities, and that the biblical record is not an attempt to unveil anywhere near a complete picture of the near-infinite programs of God (it is only a revelation of God for humanity), it is no difficulty to understand that God's dealings with humanity through the Christ were intended to send shock waves throughout His vast creation for the sake of those who are not humans.
e. Psalm 8:5 (referred to in Hebrews 2:5-9) declares that humanity is "lower" than angels (the term there is "elohim") even though humans are the ones who shall sit in judgment upon the "world to come", and even though angels are called "ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of" the heirs of salvation. 1 Corinthians 6:3 also tells us that humans shall sit in judgment upon the angels.
f. Thus, even though not a major focus of revelation to men, the impact of the manifestation of God among men upon the angelic realm is, apparently, a rather major issue of the divine plan as it unfolds with its human focus. In other words, that God has acted with the angels in mind is a major doctrinal reality for the Truth which the local church is to maintain in its setting. It may well be of critical importance that man be aware that God's dealings in grace toward him were not all just for him (it might gender a bit of humility for man to ponder that fact). Two facts stand out: God's dealings with men are all about His revelation of His own character (not man's); and God's dealings with men are all about His revelation for the sake of non-men (not exclusive of man, but also not centered upon man). The point: it is inherent in the nature of God that He had feelings of compassion for men; it is not inherent in the worth of man that God should have had such feelings.