"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 to glory" (1 Timothy 3:16).
Paul's statement should come with a drum roll. It seems to be his grand synopsis of the whole Christian plan. But what a strange list this is. We have, understandably, the mention of Christ "manifested in the flesh," and other key events. But what is this odd detail stuck in the middle: "seen by angels"? Is that really so important that it gets one-sixth of play? Or is it really not just a detail after all?
I was thinking about the pointed mention in Colossians 2:15 that Jesus made a "public spectacle" (edeigmatizen en parresia) of the principalities and powers when he triumphed over them.
Why "public"? What's the big deal about being "seen by angels"? It is evidently important to God, so I want to know.
I have come to the conclusion that there is a public dimension to salvation that is indispensable to it. Satan and his angels sinned very publicly in heaven (Isaiah 14), and Adam and Eve sinned publicly, before many angels and demons (Genesis 3). That is, God has been defied and rebelled against very publicly in the heavenly realm; the cosmic warfare that rages between the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light has always put the glory of God at stake in a very public way.
God is interested in his public image:
"For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another" (Isaiah 48:11).
Glory is by nature a public thing. Splendor, fame, and renown imply a viewing audience before whom to be splendid, famous, and renowned.
The implication for you and me? Our faith and our salvation are not complete until they are public. Paul is very clear about that:
"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord … you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
Today you will perhaps encounter temptation by the devil. You have an opportunity to join in the public acclamation of God that somehow, mysteriously, "silences the enemy and the avenger" (Psalm 8:2). God is enthroned on your audible praise, not your quiet reticence (Psalm 22:3).
Praise God in a public way this Christmas. And audibly declare His promises over all your fears.