I have a difficult time keeping surprises under wraps. I often give my children hints as to what their birthday and Christmas gifts will be. Even worse, my wife and I have a history of revealing gifts for one another before the proper time. There is excitement in knowing that giving the gift will result in bringing joy to the receiver—it’s almost too much to bear. Especially when the receiver is someone I love dearly.
It is no surprise that Paul exudes joy when he declares that “the mystery of godliness is great” (1 Timothy 3:16). The entirety of world history is riddled with religions where godliness is not a gift to be received, but a wage to be earned. It is staggering to think that millions of people have religiously worked throughout their lives to earn the title of “godly.” But the gospel, a gift from our good Father, explodes with earth-shattering news for weary people like you and me.
According to Paul, godliness is not something we earn; it is a gift we receive. And at the right time, Jesus Christ came to offer this gift to those He dearly loves. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul declares, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is the mystery of godliness! This is the content of the previously hidden, unwrapped gift. The gospel is God’s greatest gift to us, finally revealed: His plan for salvation through Jesus Christ.
One of the beautiful truths about this gift is that God gives us hints of it in every human heart. If anyone has ever tried to earn the title “godly” by their religious works, I would wager that deep down inside they know they do not measure up. There is the ever-present reminder of our failure. However, the mystery of godliness from the gospel brings a deep inner peace and joy that religious work cannot earn.
In this sense, “the mystery of godliness” means more than the initial good news of salvation. This is a gift that keeps on giving. Every day the gospel provides both salvation from our sin and peace from our failed efforts, but also the motivation to pursue godliness by God’s power and not our own. Our godliness does not earn our salvation. Our godliness is evidence of our salvation. We don’t rely on our works for salvation; we trust in Christ’s perfect work on our behalf. This is great news!
To put it another way, godliness is evidence that we are in Christ. It comes freely, flowing from Christ’s work in us. Once we grasp the goodness of this gift, we should all have a difficult time keeping this mystery under wraps. Think about it: God holds out to us the greatest gift that we could ever imagine! Reach out and receive joy and peace forevermore.
Written by Matt Capps