Q&A: Justified in the Spirit
Having read Seen of Angels, I wonder if you could explain a bit more on the things that follow "the mystery of godliness"; that is, "God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory"?, with specific focus on "justified in the Spirit"?
My understanding although unclear is a justification that is connected to conduct/behavior and godliness in the life that now is. 1 Timothy 3:14-16 seems to be an encapsulation of what he has talked about from the first chapter that is, the doctrine unto godly edifying especially starting in chapter 2, in connection with one's conduct and behavior whether it be "leading a quiet and peaceable life", "men praying everywhere", "women professing godliness" thus dressing a certain way, or the bishop and deacons conducting themselves in a godly manner that meets the godly qualifications to fill such offices.
Then comes the statement, "that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." Which is followed by the greatness of the mystery of godliness summarized as it is:
"God was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit,
seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles,
believed on in the world,
received up into glory."
I understand this to be a summary of godliness according to the mystery and is speaking of godliness effectually working in those that believe and behaving consistently; that is, those who have the truth are able to behave godly and thus God is manifest in our fleshly bodies as Paul describes foundationally in Romans 6:11-13, 8:10-11, and Galatians 2:20. Justified in the Spirit seems to summarize the righteousness that ought to come from God manifest in the flesh as it relates to our conduct and behavior from godliness; that is, Romans 8:4 we fulfill the righteousness of the law by not only living in the Spirit, but walking after and in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25) and thereby we are justified or made righteous as it relates to our walk that is in the Spirit. I also think of the word of God via the Spirit sanctifying and cleansing us to be a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, but holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:26-27), and being unreproveable and unblamable in His sight (Col. 1:22). I don't think it is necessarily speaking of the judgement seat of Christ, but the righteousness that comes from walking in the Spirit as God is manifest in the flesh through us who live godly in Christ Jesus now.
Therefore, when God is manifest in our flesh through godly edifying He is, through us, justified in the Spirit that is declared righteousness by virtue of godliness in the conduct and behaviour that stems from the Spirit.
There are many ways to approach it, and things to be appreciated about it, but I think that pretty much nails it. I would only add that it is fundamentally God being justified by what is occurring with the saints. It is our life in Christ (both positionally and practically), in relation to God and his glory purposes, that is in view. Our sonship life in relation to God is seen primarily in terms of his justification (Luke 7:29,35; Rom. 3:4,7). God is true regardless of what we do. Whether we justify him or not in our walk, however, is another matter. Each part of the passage in First Timothy flows from the previous part. He is justified, or not, in connection with what is currently being manifested by the Spirit's new testament mystery ministry today with the Gentiles. This justification, and corresponding mystery glory, is primarily in connection with it being "seen of angels". There is potentially blame, shame, reproach, etc. on the part of his saints in connection with this (1 Tim. 5:14-15). In light of what is being made "manifest" today, there are those who may, and do, question God about the wisdom of what he is doing in the Spirit today with the new testament, both redemptively and dispensationally (Rom. 16:25-27; 1 Tim. 1:15-17). We, therefore, play a major role in this. We, therefore, not only affect the justification of God now but the glory that Christ will have through us as joint-heirs in the future.
It has pleased God to subject himself to a sonship relationship with us whereby we justify him. God has linked his glory with his sonship work. God is justified, or "grieved", in connection with his work of conformity today (Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 2:4). Our ongoing sanctification is seen in terms of this larger justification and what we have the privilege of "proving" (Rom. 8:30-31; 1 Cor. 6:11). I deal with this in The Fulness of Christ, and will be getting into this more in the Romans commentary, but simply put, it means we have been given great responsibility in connection with being able to justify God with our sonship position in Christ. This justification was perfect with the "Firstborn". We, therefore, should "let that same mind" be in us, be "followers of God as dear children", and manifest the conformity work that God is seeking to accomplish with the "many brethren" today who have been predestinated to a certain glory.
What Paul says in First Timothy regarding this is nothing new. It is a summary of his entire epistolary ministry concerning what God is doing during the mystery. The things identified in First Timothy leading up to this are some of the particular manifestations of this larger "manifestation" of God today. God's life being manifested in the flesh is what godliness is all about. Unlike Christ, we are not God in the flesh. We are not the "Word" made flesh. We do, however, have the ability, by the new testament ministry of the Spirit today, to manifest the divine "words" in the flesh. Both were true of Christ as the "Son". Only the latter is true of us as "sons". Christ is the "only" begotten in connection with the former. He is the "first" begotten in connection with the latter. We have been given a position of liberty "in Christ". With respect to the circumstances of this present world, our eye is always to be on the "prize" of the glory to come, and our appreciation that it is inseparable from the conformity work going on with us today. We are joint-heirs. This has ramifications for both us and Christ. This is why he and the Father are so passionate about our conformity to the image of the one new man that God wants to be manifested today. This is an image which is currently being "seen of angels" in connection with God being "justified in the Spirit" per Paul's "separate" sonship ministry of the new testament in accordance with the revelation of the mystery. Hope this helps.
Seated in heavenly places with him,