“I feel so much better since I gave up hope!” The bumper-sticker shocked me. It disturbed me so deeply, I followed the truck and asked the man, “How do you live without hope?” I couldn’t believe his cynicism – the blatant hopelessness now on display with every word and gesture. He was barely enduring life’s struggles – just surviving. This type of depression and despair is everywhere we turn. It is the end of a world without Christ, without exception. Our hope is not in politics, nor religion, nor possessions, nor accomplishments, nor relationships. True and lasting hope is only found in Jesus.
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. 1 Timothy 3:16
The matter is settled, the vote was taken, the decision was unanimous: it is without controversy. Yet, as Spurgeon said, ‘Self-evident truths will always find self-evident fools to contradict them.’ What is about to be discussed has enough proof it could fill up an entire lawyers library… the mystery of godliness. It is grand and excellent in its scope and effects. What was once hidden from prophets and Old Testament saints has now been revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. To solve this mystery is to find hope. Let us being…
‘God was manifest in the flesh.’ This phrase alone proves that Jesus is God. He is not just ‘a’ Deity or ‘a’ god – He is God (see John 1:1,14). Jesus existed before He came to earth as a baby in Bethlehem, but now He adds to Himself a body of flesh and becomes man. 100% God, 100% man, yet without sin. He came to walk among us so that we could, one day, walk with Him. Though often celebrated at Christmastime, the incarnation (revealing) of Christ brings great hope all year long.
He was ‘justified in the Spirit.’ Jesus didn’t need salvation or justification from sin but from sinners. He was accused of being a sinner Himself: a blasphemer, a devil, a partaker in evil deeds. During His time on earth, two specific events were vindicating. First, Christ was declared right at His baptism (Matt. 3:16) when the Father declared a ‘Beloved Son’ and the Spirit descended on Him like a dove. Secondly and most importantly, Christ was proven to be everything He claimed to be at His resurrection from the dead (1 Peter 3:18). The resurrection brings more hope than one heart can hold! Hope that death is not the end, hope in God’s power, the hope of eternal life!
He was ‘seen of angels.’ The eyes of Heaven were focused earthward upon Jesus. Never had the angels been able to see such a clear form of the glory which they had enjoyed worshiping for so long. They stared in awe and amazement. Angels were present at His birth, at His temptation in the wilderness, in the agony of the garden, as He hung on the cross, when He rose from the tomb, and as He ascended on the clouds! To ponder the sheer number of angels that surround us, and their working in our lives (Heb. 1:14), is a tremendous hope.
He was ‘preached unto the Gentiles.’ What angels came to know by seeing, the nations came to know by hearing. When I think that Jesus left His message with such simple men to be spread in such a simple way, I am reminded of the true power of God. Jesus came into His own world, yet His own people did not receive Him. He was a Light to all nations (Isaiah 49:6). God has a global vision of salvation. How will they be saved if they don’t believe and how will they believe if they have not heard and how will they hear without a messenger? The fact that the message has made it to me, a 21st century Gentile living 1/2 way around the world, brings hope in Jesus!
He was ‘believed on in the world.’ No greater victory was ever won that this – that Christ’s mission was successful! His preaching was not in vain, His miracles were not in vain, His death was not in vain, His resurrection was not in vain. God is still powerfully at work, doing what He loves to do: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29) Faith is growing every hour. Souls are being saved every day. What began in the book of Acts continues to this day. You might not see it in your dead church or in your Southern ‘Bible-belt’ community – but it is happening all around the world! There is hope because there is victory!
He was ‘received up into glory.’ Although His ascension actually happened before His ‘Victory’ (#5), it’s mentioned last because it is the most final. He was received up to His authority, the place which He had before time, to reign as King forever. As He had once put off His royal rights of glory and certain attributes as God, He not put that back on and assumed His deserving place at God’s right hand. He is forever vested with all power; there is no position, no title, no king or kingdom that is equal to His power. God is in control – and that brings great hope!