1 Timothy chapter 6 vs 1 to 3 - Mystery within a Mystery - JS Gillespie 

The Plot Thickens 

Mystery of Mysteries 

Mystery inside an Enigma 

'I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma' Winston Churchill, Oct 1939. 

vs 1-2 – Encouraging The Ordinary 

vs 3 – Exhorting the Extra Ordinary 

There is a lot in these 3 little unassuming verses 

vs 1-2 – Encouraging The Ordinary 

Here we have a: 

Pattern for service 
Potential of service 

We have a pattern of Christian service in the ordinary Christian life 

To live the Christian life does not necessitate a special, peculiar set of circumstances. 

To live the Christian life does not necessitate: 

The dividing of the seas 
Calling down fire from heaven 
Slaying a giant 
Facing lions 
Surviving the fire and the flame 

In fact the: 

Pattern of scripture 
Truth of the parables 

Indicates that often times particular and privileged sets of circumstances open up only when I have been faithful and proven in the ordinary and mundane experiences of life: 

'faithful in a very little, have thou authority over 10 cities.' (Luke 19:17) 
Joseph faithful over Potiphar's house before he was placed over the whole of Egypt 
Moses caring for the sheep before shepherding souls 
Joshua the servant of Moses 
Elisha – ploughing with his oxen 

Let us not think that the sphere into which we have been placed somehow negates the possibility of service! 

Here are people in the most 'restrictive' of experiences naturally speaking, slavery (6:1). 

Their opportunity for and the significance of their service is by no means diminished. 

Illust: Billy Graham, 2.2 billion heard him preach, 2.2 million came forward in crusades throughout the world, phenomenal numbers. Great, does it get any greater? Mordecai Ham 


Mordecai Ham: 'Two young high school boys attended our meeting. They thought that everything I said was directed their way; so they decided to take seats in the choir, where I couldn't point my finger at them. They didn't pretend to be singers, but they wanted to be behind me... One night a man spoke to them during the invitation...Billy and Grady both went to the altar. Billy was saved and Brady dedicated his life to Christian service.' 

Billy = Billy Graham 

1 convert that reached 2.2 Billion!!! 

How much significance would you place on that one convert to Christ? 


Let us not think that Christian service is only possible within a narrow range of conditions – if I were in a certain place, if I possessed certain gifts, if I had fewer ties and responsibilities. 

This is not true and can be: 

Distraction (a convenient excuse for opting out) 

Service must never be: 

Something I am going to do 
Something I will do 
Something I may do 

only if … 

To live the Christian life I must live the life which I have as a Christian. 

Here are Christians within constrained circumstances, probably unable to obtain more favourable / free circumstances under the yoke (v1). 

They became embittered (v2) 'despise' 

Their constraining circumstances do not constrain God 

Omniscience – knows the circumstances which are best 
Omnipotence – He is able to bring those circumstances to bare 
Benevolence – Provides the very best circumstances or us 

To live the Christian life I must live the life which I have as a Christian! Even in the constrained circumstances of secular service and perhaps even slavery!! 

In a practical sense it is apparent that very few people who will pitch up to hear the gospel have as their first contact with the gospel, the message, almost all it is the messenger who is the first point of contact! 

This is a pattern in gospel work extending as far back as the ministry of Christ Himself, 'behold I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me.' (Mal 3:1). 

To live the Christian life does not necessitate: 

The dividing of the seas 
Calling down fire from heaven 
Slaying a giant 
Facing lions 
Surviving the fire and the flame 

Don't get disheartened or discouraged, the Christian life is equally about the: 

Faithful service of a slave girl 
Faithfulness of Joseph in prison 
Earned run by David (1 Sam 17) – delivering the bread and the cheese, the fall of Goliath being a post script to the willingness of David to run that simple errand! This was what David had come to do, this is what David had agreed to do – deliver the bread and the cheese to his brothers. 

Sometimes we are not prepared to do the small thing, the background work, the hidden quite work, but only willing to work in the foreground, take the public place. 

Washing the disciples feet 
Naaman washing in the the Jordan 
Vashti called by Ahasuerus 

Let us not be too big to be humble, too big to serve, too big to carry the cross. 

If there is no cross there is no crown! 


Note the potential recognised by Paul in every life so lived 

The potential for God 

The potential for the mundane 

The potential in: 

Naamans little maid 
Widow's handful of meal 
5 loaves and 2 fishes of a young lad 
Influence of an Esther 

It is possible to serve God in difficult circumstances 
Difficult circumstances may well be the very best circumstances for me to serve God in, they may provide the very greatest potential for me to serve God 
Serving in these circumstances may well have unexpected consequences, not only in the service for others, but equally for the servant! Service is only possible, genuine service is empowered by drawing from the resource of love. How do I love my brother? How do I love? Service, dedicated service produces love (6:2), service that cements that appreciation of 'faithful and beloved.' - 1 Co13:4-7; cf. David's mighty men (2 Sam 23:15ff) and their devotion beyond commandment. Do you want to love someone? Serve them! Here are believers moved from resentment (6:2) to esteem their brothers (6:2). 


Mystery in the enigma: 

At the heart of 1 Timothy there is mystery (1 Tim 3:16) – Great mystery, the mystery of Godliness; 'God manifest in the flesh.' 

Christ in the revelation of His Person 

'manifest' : phanero – from the word to shine 

Here is the outshining of God in a person – Christ. 

6 phrases concerning Christ; 7 truths concerning Christ: 

Deity & Humanity – Revelation and incarnation 
Resurrection / justification 
Angelic observation 
Evangelical declaration 
Ascension and session 

A noteable element missing? Crucifixion? 


This is the revelation of the person / character of Christ, rather than of the work of Christ. 

As a consequence of seeing this we note that salvation is in and by a person, not by a creed, prayer nor a statement of faith. 

It is a person who is declared to the gentiles, believed on in the world and it is a person who saves! 

Mystery in a mystery (6:3) 

'doctrine according to godliness' 

'godly teaching' (NIV) 

'teaching which is in agreement with true religion' (BBE) 

'the teaching that promotes godliness' (HCSB) 

'words of our Lord Jesus Christ' 

Certainly words in Gospels 

Particularly Luke's gospel? 

Matthews gospel would be extant too 

Marks gospel maybe a little later 

Johns gospel a good bit later 

Yet all of the scriptures in a sense fall within the remit of this phrase (1 Peter 1:11; 1 Co2:16). 

Consider the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Johns gospel: 

chp 1 to 8 – Life 
chp 8 + 9 – Light 
chps 12 ff – Love 

What is it like to listen to these words? 


Provision of Life – Regeneration (John 3) 
Satisfaction of Life – well of water (John 4) 
Proof / evidence / demonstration of life (John 4:50) 
Substance / sustainer of life (John 6:35,58) 


John 8 – Revealing Sin (8:7ff; 8:12ff; 9:39ff) 
John 9 – Revealing Christ (John 9:35ff) 


John 13:1 ff 

The 'mystery inside the enigma' 

The deep mystery of 1 Timothy 3:16: 'mystery of godliness' was God revealed in the flesh, that is the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Here is the mystery within the mystery; that the godliness of Divine character, revealed in Christ is to be revealed in His people, in our character. 

An encounter with Christ, with His word and by His Spirit is not merely educational, it is transformational. 

The effect of this is on the believer: 

Life (John 7:38) 
Light (John 12:36) 
Love (13:34 – 35; 15:12) 

The mystery of godliness: God revealed in His Son is reflected in His people. 

1 Timothy reflects the same pattern as that of the tabernacle: 

Sin and broken laws (chp 1) 
Saviour (chp 1) 
Sacrifice and redemption (chp 2) 
Holy of Holies and ark of the covenant (chp 3) 
Sanctuary service (chp 4) 
Wider service amongst the saints (chp 5) and world (chp 6) 

As a reflection of the pattern of the tabernacle, 1 Timothy thus becomes a reflection not only of a PLACE but also of a PERSON (John 1:14)! 

The Saviour of chp 1 is a Person 
The Sacrifice and redemption of chp 2 is a Person 
The Holy of Holies in chp 3 is a Person 
The lamp and loaf of chp 4 point us to Christ (4:6) 
The battle of chp 5 is for the hearts and souls of men and women for Christ (5:11,15) 

Thus in chapter 6 we are being brought to likeness to Christ (6:3).


Outline notes from a Bible teaching message in our series of systematic bible studies in 1 Timothy, available for free audio download or to listen online,  

Yours by God's grace in Christ  

Dr J Stewart Gillespie