God is a mystery, Christ is the mystery of God, and the church is the mystery of Christ – this means that if we want to know the church, we will be mind-blown since we will get to know a little about the mystery of the mystery of the mystery of the mystery of the universe.
In Paul’s Epistles there are many indicators and metaphors showing what the church is, and in 1 Tim. 3:15-16 we see that the church is the house of God, the pillar and base of the truth, and God manifested in the flesh. Without the church to uphold and support the truth there is no reality and no truth in the universe.
The Triune God is the truth, the reality, and when Christ was on earth, He was the truth (John 14:6); now, God has put the truth to rest on and be supported by the church.
Also, the church manifests God in the flesh – the mystery of godliness is that God is again manifested in the flesh, seen by people and angels, preached among the nations, and eventually taken up in glory.
We need to come to the Lord and ask Him to make all the local churches on the earth the upholders and bearers of the truth. Also, we need to pray that God would be manifested in us and through us wherever we are, so that others would see God in us.
This is what God desires: to be expressed and manifested in a corporate group of people who have God in them!
The Church is the Supporting Pillar and Holding Base of the Truth
In 1 Tim 3:15 we see that the church is the pillar and base of the truth; this means that the church is the supporting pillar and the holding base of the truth.
If there’s a local church in a city, that city can see the truth being upheld and manifested. A city without a local church is in darkness and doesn’t have the truth being upheld. We need to recover the proper expression of the church, and we will have the support and the base for the truth.
What is truth? Truth is not “a set of commonly agreed principles”, and truth is not even “that which is true”. Truth is the Triune God Himself, and more specifically, Christ and the church, God’s economy.
We uphold not a creed or a set of doctrines; we uphold a Person, Christ as the mystery of God, and the church as the mystery of Christ. Without Christ and the church there is NO TRUTH, and any other truth is not a truth. Christ and the church are the reality, and we hold forth the reality of Christ and what the church should be.
The truth is the Triune God, having Christ as the embodiment, center, and expression, to produce the church as the Body of Christ, the house of God, and the kingdom of God (see Col. 2:9; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:16; 1 Tim. 3:15; John 3:3, 5).
The church bears Christ as the reality, testifying to the whole universe that Christ, and Christ alone, is truth and reality (see John 1:14, 17; 14:6). We as the church testify the reality of Christ as the mystery of God and the church as the mystery of Christ (Col. 2:2; Eph. 3:4).
It is humanly impossible to fully understand what the church as the mystery of Christ (which is the mystery of God, who Himself is a mystery) is, and we don’t fully comprehend what’s the relationship between God and Christ and between Christ and the church.
But we know that God is embodied in Christ and Christ is the mystery of God, and God is now manifested in the church and the church is the mystery of Christ! God is one with Christ, and Christ is one with the church.
These mysteries are mind-blowing, and we Christians as members of the Body of Christ, the church, are mysterious people upholding the truth to the entire universe.
The Church is God Manifested in the Flesh – the Mystery of Godliness
1 Tim. 3:16 continues the thought in v. 15 with, “And great is the mystery of godliness…” Since verse 15 was speaking of the church, this means that the mystery of godliness refers to the church! The manifestation of God is Christ as the individual embodiment of God and the church as the corporate enlargement of Christ.
The mystery of godliness today is the living of a proper church which manifests God in the flesh before man. First, Christ manifested God in the flesh in an individual way when He lived on earth (see Col. 2:9; John 1:1, 14). Now, today, in the church age, God is manifested in the church as the enlarged corporate expression of God in the flesh (Eph. 2:19; 1:22-23).
Not only Christ as the Son of God is the manifestation of God in the flesh, but the church today is also God manifested in the flesh in an enlarged and expanded way. We as believers in Christ and part of the church are God manifested in the flesh (we are NOT God in His Godhead, but God in life, nature, and expression).
God has been manifested in every age for the past over 2000 years through the church, and today God is manifested again on earth through us. He doesn’t desire to be manifested through the angels, but through men of flesh, people like you and me. We may have problems in the church, but the church is God manifested in the flesh today!
We today are the continuation of the mystery of godliness, expressing God in the flesh in the principle of incarnation. Just as Christ was Emmanuel, God with us, 2000 years ago, and people saw God when they saw Christ, so today we are the corporate Emmanuel, God with us, among people at work, on the street, at home, in the church, and everywhere!
This is Christ lived out of the church as the manifestation of God – God manifested in the flesh in a wider, more enlarged and expanded way, according to the New Testament principle of incarnation (see 1 Cor. 7:40; Gal. 2:20).
In a nutshell, “the great mystery of godliness is that God has become man so that man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead to produce a corporate God-man for the manifestation of God in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; 1:3-4; Eph. 4:24)” (Witness Lee).
What a high view of what the church is, what we are on earth as Christians, and what the function of the church on earth is today!
Lord Jesus, open our eyes to see the church the way You see it. Make us in reality the supporting pillar and the holding base of the truth. We want to know You as the reality and live out in a corporate way the reality which is in Jesus, so that all the world may see and know the truth! Lord, be manifested in us! Thank You for making us Your enlargement and expansion, and now God is manifested in the flesh through the church. Thank You for becoming a man so that man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead, so that a corporate God-man may be produced for the corporate manifestation of God in the flesh!
References and Further Reading
- Inspiration: Bro. Andrew Yu’s sharing and portions in, The Conclusion of the New Testament (msgs. 13, 16, 26, 231), as quoted in the Holy Word for Morning Revival on, “The Completing Ministry of Paul“, week 5 entitled, Five Aspects of the Church.
- Buy this HWMR book via LSM online here.
- Further reading:
# The Economy of God, ch. 23;
# Life-study of 1 Timothy, msg. 6;
# 1 Tim. 3:15-16 with the footnotes in the Recovery Version (very enlightening).
- Hymns on this topic:
# Godliness is a living that expresses / The divine reality, / An expression of God in all His riches; / His Body corporately.
# Oh, soon that blessed day shall come— / All tongues these words shall peal! / But in the local churches now / We have a foretaste real. / O Lord, our Lord, how excellent / Thy name in all the earth! / Let every people, tribe, and tongue / Proclaim its boundless worth.
# See the local churches, / ’Midst the earth’s dark night; / Burning in the Spirit, / Shining forth with Christ.
- Pictures credit: instagrams from here and here.