Bad teaching is connected with bad behaviour while good teaching (sound doctrine) produces true transformation and godliness. Paul has shown how our worship, community life, leadership and ministry should testify to the truth and power of the gospel. The phrase “how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household” (v.15) reveals what was in Paul’s mind.
The church should be a living demonstration of the gospel. If it fails in this, its mission will be seriously affected. It must realise its noble role to be the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (v.15). It supports and displays the truth. Additionally, the conduct of the church and its members should convince people that it is “the church of the living God” (v.15). We are reminded of Zechariah’s prophecy, “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’ ” (Zechariah 8:23).
All these things are possible because of the “mystery of godliness” (v.16), which is all to do with Jesus. The word “mystery” in the Bible refers to truth that has not been known, but is now revealed. This mystery is about Jesus, who appeared 2,000 years ago. His life is traced in what appears to be a hymn or creedal statement. Jesus “appeared in the body” (referring to the incarnation and refuting heresies that denied His humanity). He was “vindicated by the Spirit” (through His resurrection, therefore showing His deity). He was “seen by angels” (demonstrating His victory in heaven and on earth). He was “preached among the nations” and was believed by many. We are all the result of this preaching mission. And He “was taken up in glory”. This may refer to the ascension, but because it appears as the last statement, it could also refer to the second coming of Christ in glory.Jesus is the mystery and glory of the church. Our tiny stories have meaning because of His story, which must be demonstrated by the church.
Is there any way in which the church has failed to convince others that it really belongs to the living God? How does the church guard the truth of the gospel?
Why do you think Paul used the phrase “the mystery of godliness”? Consider Colossians 1:25–27. How does the story of Jesus transform your old story into a new one?