by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 11 Lincolnton, NC May 22, 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.
Textual Notes: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 [God's Purpose for the Church].
4. God preached among the nations [God's Greater Plan].
5. God believed on in the world [Truth being persuasive in a fallen 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. [See notes for April 17, 2005(053)]
4. God preached among the nations. [See Notes for April 24, 2005(054)]
5. God believed in the world [See Notes for May 1, 2005(055)].
6. God received up in glory.
a. The word translated "received up" shows up as a specific "event marker" in the record of Acts.
1) Luke, in summarizing the Gospel of Luke, clearly used "until He was taken up" as the "final" event of that record -- as a marker of the end of the things Jesus "did and taught" (Acts 1:2).
2) Luke, in Acts 1:11, deliberately focuses upon the event of Jesus being "taken up" and ties it to the promised future return.
3) Luke, in Acts 1:22, presented the disciples as using the "taking up of Jesus" as a "boundary" for the decision as to who would take Judas' place in the Twelve.
b. Paul, in the text before us, seems to begin "the mystery of godliness" with the incarnation (made manifest by the flesh) and ends it with the assumption (received up in glory). This, in effect, encapsulates the life of Jesus as the revelation of the mystery.
c. The "reception" was "in glory".
1) Our translators opt for "into" as the way to translate "in". This translation implies movement from one place "into" another.
2) But, the typical word for "into" is not the one used here. Paul uses this word 5 times in this one verse. In reference to "flesh", it seems to carry the idea of "means, by which" so that the manifestation "in flesh" was manifestation by means of incarnation. In reference to "spirit", it also seems to carry the idea of "means, by Whom" so that the "validation" of His identity was by means of the Spirit Who declared Him to be "Son of God" by resurrection from the dead. In reference to "proclamation", it seems to shift meaning from "means" to "realm, in which" so that the "proclamation was among the nations" (though it is possible that Paul had the shocking idea in mind that He was proclaimed by the nations as a witness against Israel according to 1 Corinthians 14:21). And, in reference to "faith", it seems also to have the "shifted" meaning of "realm, in which" as Paul's point appears to be that God was "believed on in the realm of this world" as opposed to that realm of the Heavens where disbelief got its beginning.
3) So, the question is this: Did Paul mean that Jesus was "received up into the glory of the Heavens", or did he mean that Jesus was "received up in glory" in the sense that He was "surrounded by clouds (of glory) as He ascended into the heavens"?
a) We know that the "glory" is presented in multiple places in the Bible as a "cloud".
b) We know that when that "glory" appeared as a cloud, there was no doubt in the observers' minds that God was present [Note the transfiguration records in the Gospels].
c) We know that Jesus "ascended" in order to "reassume" His "glory" as He "was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father" (as the early witness preserved in Mark 16:19 says and Hebrews 1:3; 1:13; 10:12; and 12:2 all affirm). That He would be "shrouded in this glory" as He departed from this earth is a very likely probability as His "humiliation" was completed. Paul argued in Philippians that Jesus laid aside His glory in order to take upon Himself the humiliation of humanity and the cross. Once done, He reassumed His glory.
d) We also know that whatever Paul meant, it is directly connected to the issue of the "mystery of godliness" and exists as a fundamental aspect of "the faith" which the local church is to exalt and maintain.
e) Thus, the question is this: Is it "more" a matter of "the mystery of the core content of the faith" that Jesus went back to the glory of Heaven, or that He was "clothed with glory" as He ascended up in the sight of His apostles? The two ideas are not unrelated: obviously, if He reassumed His "glory" in a visible form (the clouds) for the sake of the disciples, it was to make clear to them that He was returning to the glory He had laid aside at the incarnation.
i. How, then, shall we decide?
ii. First, Paul, by introducing the mystery with the incarnation, sets the stage for an "in this realm" unveiling of the "mystery". If this be the case, it is more likely that his "final" aspect of the mystery was also an "in this realm" event than it is a matter of the unseen, third-heaven, reality. This argues for the Acts 1:11 event -- Jesus being "clothed with His glory" as He departs from the apostles.
iii. Second, the entire issue of the "mystery of godliness", being inclusive of the final issue of "glory", involves the "question" of "how confident" the apostles were that their doctrine was absolute truth (and the tangential issue of how confident the local church is to be as it exalts and maintains the doctrines of the "mystery"). Having "seen with their eyes" (1 John 1:1-3) that Jesus was clothed in His glory at the point of His departure would put the final "peg" in place upon which to hang their future lives in this world. Note, particularly, Peter's comment in 2 Peter 1:16-18 where he confidently affirms that he was not following a cunningly devised fable on the basis of the audio-visual presentation of the "glory" on the "mountain". In other words, the "mystery of godliness" reaches its climax with the "coup de grace" of the powerful presentation of the glorified Lord ascending with the promise of a Return. This is especially poignant in light of Paul's very next statement (1 Timothy 4:1). How shall the demons deceive "the many"? By "seduction" -- the appeal to super-spirituality and relational dominance.