1 Timothy 3:16

Note: the elements in this famous verse are not chronological and therefore present a challenge for our understanding. At one level they can be read as three sets of  parallel clauses giving contrasts – flesh v spirit, angels v Gentiles, world v glory. 

16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

a. God was manifest in the flesh,

a’. justified in the Spirit,

b. seen of angels,

b’. preached unto the Gentiles,

c. believed on in the world,

c’. received up into glory.

May they also be chiastically arranged –

Jesus was the manifestation of the character of his Father   – full of grace and truth – though sharing our flesh and blood (a) but then after the resurrection he  ascended to the right hand of his Father (a’).

Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God  and thereby justified as sinless (b);  belief in  the resurrected Christ became  the basis of the Christian faith (b’).

He was seen at his resurrection by angels – although perhaps here is meant the apostles  (c) who took the message of the resurrection to the world through their preaching (c’).

In this proposal the outer envelop is the mortal and immortal work of Christ, within which we have the principle of justification by faith (see Col 2:12), which in turn comes from the preaching of the witnesses to the resurrection of Christ.

a. God was manifest in the flesh,

b. justified in the Spirit,

c. seen of angels,

c’. preached unto the Gentiles,

b’.  believed on in the world,

a’. received up into glory.

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