Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)
It is of no consequence that Paul places the phrase “believed on in the world” after the phrase “proclaimed among the nations.” The proclamation of the gospel leads to salvation for all those who believe. Jesus was believed on in the world because he was proclaimed in the world. No proclamation, no salvation. As Paul wrote to the Roman believers, How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:14-15 ESV)
It is true that many of the Jews in Christ’s day did not believe in him, especially among the religious leaders. However, many did (John 12:42). Many believed in Jesus because they saw the signs he was doing (John 2:23; 7:31). While others believed on him because of the words he spoke (John 4:41; 8:30). But, as Jesus stated, all who believed on him believed because God the Father granted it to them (John 6:65). Luke echoed Jesus’ words when he wrote, “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
Jesus told his disciples that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:9). And it was in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost that Peter preached and 3000 people believed. On another occasion at the preaching of Peter and John 5000 people believed in Jesus. After Pentecost the Lord added to the church daily those who believed (Acts 2:47).
When persecution arose after the stoning of Stephen, the church was scattered through out the regions Judea and Samaria and many more believed in Jesus (Acts 8:1-12, 25) Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:19-21 ESV)
A Pharisee named Saul, the leader of the persecution of the church, also came to believe in Jesus. And even though the Gentiles, through Peter, heard the gospel and believed, it was Saul called Paul who became the apostle to the Gentiles and took the gospel “to the end of the earth” (Acts 9-10). At Iconium both Jews and Greeks believed (Acts 14:1). At Lystra and Derbe many believed through the ministry of Barnabas and Paul. At Philippi a jailor and his household believed. At Galatia, Ephesus, and Corinth many Gentiles came to believe in Christ. In fact, the Gentiles coming to faith in Christ was part of the mystery of the great gospel scheme (Ephesians 3:1-6).
What does it mean to believe? The Greek word used by Paul in 1 Timothy 3:16 means to have faith in a person or thing, to commit to and put in trust with. To believe in Jesus is more than a mental assent that he existed. It means to entrust him with our spiritual well being, to rely on a cling to him as our treasure.
Have you believed? Have you entrusted Christ with your life?
Scriptures for meditation:
2 Thessalonians 1:10