Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 6 2020 - 1 Timothy 3:1-16 – The mystery of godliness

Jesus told his disciples that the models of leadership commonly found in the world are not to be adopted by his people. Jesus himself is our model; our leader and Lord, and yet one who came not to be served but to serve and to give himself utterly to the needs of others. We are called to follow Jesus, and to follow him in the way in which we seek to lead others in following him. You cannot lead in a path which you are not prepared to tread for yourself.

The apostle Paul says that it's good to aspire to being a leader of God's people. But it's important to keep in mind the distinctive model of leadership that Jesus has laid down for his people. It's not about status and control. It’s not about being a charismatic or forceful personality. It’s not even about being a good preacher and teacher. It's about shaping the lives of others through the example of a life brought under the control of the Spirit of God and by gentle teaching that comes from a deep awareness that we are all made of the same stuff.

The world desperately needs such leaders – but so also does the church of God. Indeed, the church, as “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), is to present a different model for human society – it is to model the kingdom of God and display to the world a better pattern for leadership and government.

So Paul lays great stress on how potential leaders behave in their day-to-day life; how they behave in the home and with their family; what kind of reputation they have gained amongst those who know them. It’s all about godliness.

And godliness – the life of God shining through a simple human life – finds its ultimate model and source in the Lord Jesus. Timothy is ministering in Ephesus, famed for its great temple to Diana (or Artemis). The cry “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” was often heard in its streets (see Acts 19:34). Far greater, says Paul, is the ‘mystery’ or paradox of godliness – of the life of God lived out in a human life;

He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory. (3:16)

Jesus is God come to be among us – he appeared in the flesh. Few recognised who he was – he was despised and forsaken and crucified. Yet he was vindicated by the Spirit – by God’s Spirit at work in him and through him during his earthly ministry and by his Spirit now poured out from heaven demonstrating that Jesus Christ is Lord. He is being preached among the nations and many are now recognising him as Lord. The glory into which he has entered at God’s right hand is a glory that will one day flood all the earth as he shares his glory with his people.

Christian leaders are to be Christ’s followers: showing the character and glory of God in a life of humble service; leaving God to vindicate them and bring glory to his name through the work of his Spirit in them and through them. They – and we – are to demonstrate the mystery of godliness.

Living God, you are our Father and have made us members of your family. We own that we have no God but you and no Lord but Jesus. We pray for those to whom you have given roles of leadership within your people. May they learn from Christ to be servant leaders who always encourage your people in the life of discipleship. Equip them by your Spirit for the task to which you have called them. May the glory of Christ be displayed in the fellowship of your people.

Peter Misselbrook