Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great.1 Timothy 3:16b
When Paul says godliness is a great mystery, he does not mean that it is hard to understand. Some men might say today,
Women are a great mystery; we cannot understand them. By that these men mean women are difficult and obscure, hard to comprehend. (I intend this as an example, and not a point of debate.) By the word mystery, he means godliness is of supreme significance.
But it is a mystery. That does not mean a riddle you have to puzzle over. This word mystery is used in the New Testament of an insight into reality that is hidden from secular wisdom. The secular mind does not understand this mystery. It is something only revelation makes clear, so it will never be part of the human compendium of knowledge. You will not find it elucidated in any encyclopedia of human discovery; it is not to be found in our great universities, by and large, except as it is introduced by the church. It is a mystery, a secret about life that is hidden from the secular mind and made known only to believing hearts.
Yet this mystery is the answer to the puzzles of life. Anyone alive today knows that there are obvious gaps in human knowledge that keep us groping in darkness, unable to solve our problems. That is why every generation deals with the same dilemmas over and over again. We review the past continually but never learn from it.
The reason is that we are missing elements of truth about ourselves, about God, and about the universe; and those missing elements are found only in the pages of Scripture. That is what makes the Bible the most important and unique book in the world. Nothing reveals this truth except the mind and will of God through the Spirit of God. This is the heart of that mystery. So it is indeed the great mystery, a significant and important truth.
The Revised Standard Version translates this verse
the mystery of our religion. The word religion is a very poor translation. The same Greek word appears again in chapter 4, verses 7 and 8, where it is translated godliness. That is a better translation than religion. Religion does not help anybody because it is people's faltering, fumbling search through the darkness to find something beyond themselves, something greater than themselves that they can believe in. Godliness is something greater. But that does not really convey what this word means either, for actually, the name of God is not part of this word at all. It is not godliness; it is goodliness. The closest English word we could use to translate this is the word wholeness. Every human being in this world wants to be a whole person, wants to
get it all together, we say. We want to find all the elements possible within ourselves and put them together so they function properly, and we become whole persons. The secret of wholeness--that is what Paul is talking about:
Beyond all question, great is the revelation of the secret of wholeness.
Lord, open the eyes of my heart that I might comprehend the mystery of wholeness.
We all long to be an 'all together' person. When we feel locked in to our brokenness, where do we go to find the keys to wholeness?