๐Ÿ‘‘ A Case of Mistaken Identity

Did you hear about the 911 operator who one day answered a call from a frantic-sounding man who said, โ€œMy wife is in labor and her contractions are only a minute apart!โ€ When the operator asked, โ€œIs this her first child?โ€ the man replied, โ€œNo, you idiot, this is her husband!โ€ A clear case ofย mistaken identity!

We often see another case of mistaken identity when men read Paulโ€™s words in I Timothy 3:16:

โ€œAnd 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.โ€

Most commentaries insist that Paul is speaking about the Lord Jesus, and itโ€™s true Heย wasย God โ€œmanifestโ€ in the flesh (John 1:14). But it wasnโ€™t a โ€œmysteryโ€ that God would be manifest in the flesh of the Lord Jesus, it had been prophesied (Isa. 7:14 cf. Mt. 1:23). Paul is actually talking about โ€œthe church, which is His Bodyโ€ (Eph. 1:22,23). Today God is manifest inย ourย flesh (II Cor. 4:10,11). This was โ€œa great mysteryโ€ (Eph. 5:32), hence โ€œgreat is the mystery of godliness!โ€ The word โ€œgodlyโ€ meansย God-like,ย and Christ wasnโ€™tย likeย God, Heย wasย God!ย Weโ€™reย the ones who are supposed to be godly! This understanding fits the context better too, for Paul had been talking about the church (I Tim. 3:1-14),ย notย the earthly life of Christ.

Those who believe Paul is speaking about Christ here say that God was โ€œjustified in the Spiritโ€ in Matthew 3:16. But the Lordโ€™s baptism didnโ€™tย justify God, itย identified Christ! (John 1:31-34). But Godย wasย justifiedย in us.ย You see, for thousands of years men thought God wasย unjustย in saving adulterers and murderers like David. But our apostle Paul explained how God could be โ€œJust,ย andย the Justifier of him which believethโ€ when He explained how Christย paidย for our sins by becoming our โ€œpropitiationโ€ (Rom. 3:26).

Itโ€™s true that Christ was โ€œseen of angelsโ€ (Matt. 4:11; Luke 22:43; Acts 1:9,10) but this was no mystery either (Ps. 91:11 cf. Mt. 4:6,7). Itย wasย a mystery, however, that the Body of Christ would evenย existย (Eph. 3:1-9) let alone be seen of angels (Eph. 3:10). In addition, God was definitelyย notย โ€œpreached unto the Gentilesโ€ when Christ was here on earth (Matt. 10:5,6; 15:24; Rom. 15:8). But Heย wasย preached to the Gentiles by Paul (Rom. 15:16; Eph. 3:8 etc.), and by members of the Body of Christ ever since.

Finally, God wasnโ€™t โ€œbelieved on in the worldโ€ when Christ preached Him, but He was believed on in the world through Paul (Col. 1:6). And while God was โ€œreceived up into gloryโ€ in Christ (Mark 16:19), the Lordโ€™s ascension was no mystery (Ps. 68:18). But itย isย a mystery thatย weโ€™llย be received up into glory (I Cor. 15:51,52). I know Paul says God โ€œwasโ€ received up into glory, and we havenโ€™t yet been raptured, but Paul wasย a prophet,ย and the prophets saw future things so clearly they often spoke of them in the past tense (cf. Isa. 53:5-12).

There areย plentyย of verses that teach the deity of Christ (Isa. 9:6; John 1:14; 10:30; Col. 2:9), so donโ€™t try to force that precious doctrine onย thisย verse! Instead, remember that in the dispensation of grace, if God is not manifest inย yourย flesh, He is not manifest inย anyoneโ€™sย flesh. So live your life in such a way that others will question their disbelief in God. source

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