1 Timothy 3:16
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.

Written in the larger context of the “Pastoral Epistles”, Paul has just concluded his major premise for his writing to Timothy “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1Tim 3:14-15) Listed officially as an early church hymn, this contains the major themes of Jesus Christ, save His return. Though most commentators disagree as to the structure of the hymn there seems to be an agreement as to content. We will look at the structure as Fee and the NAC commentators have:

“There is agreement that the first line, “He appeared in a body,” is a reference to Jesus’ incarnation. The term “body” (literally “flesh”; sarx) is a reference to all that belongs to our human nature (except sin; cf. Rom 8:3). Paul was asserting that in Christ, God himself had appeared in a human body.
There is similar agreement about the content of lines four and five. Line 4, “preached among the nations,” refers to the proclamation of the gospel among the nations of the known world by early Christians. Line 5, “believed on in the world,” describes a response to the previous proclamation. Christians preached the gospel throughout the nations of the world, and commitment to Christ was the result.
This interpretation of the content of lines 1, 4, and 5 suggests that the hymn is a story of salvation, somewhat along the line of J. Wilbur Chapman’s gospel song “One Day.” If this is correct, then we can understand the more difficult lines by relating them to the story of salvation.” **

This is where the disagreements begin. Is line 2 speaking of the Holy Spirit or of Jesus spirit? Ya, let that sink in for a second. As I believe Scripture interprets Scripture I would just have you look at Rom 1:4 and 1 Pet 3:18 to make your decision.
Line 3 has a couple issues that my Greek skills (or lack thereof) may or may not help. The problem with this line in the original is it is 2 words ὁράω (horaō), seen in the English and ἄγγελος (angelos) or angels in the English. “Seen angels” leaves a little room for speculation as to value. The Greek thankfully gives us 2 clues as to the content. “Seen” is an aorist passive which means it is translated in the past tense and the substantive angels is receiving the action. Angels is a “dative/locative/instrumental, so since the sentence is missing a preposition it could be “was seen either ‘to, on or by’ angels”. I will let you have some verses to interpret our verses as to Jesus appearance and what He accomplished and you be the judge (1Cor15:5-8, Col 2:15, Heb 1:6 and 1 Pet 1:12)
Lines 4 and 5 express His proclamation and acceptance and line 6 describes His ascension (Acts 1:2, 11, 22).

So to summarize this portion of Scripture we know that Paul was expressing how those in the church were to conduct themselves and to merely sing words of a hymn with no life change would be hypocritical. To quote Arnold Fruchtenbaum “Spiritual life is impossible without good doctrine, but good doctrine without spiritual life is dead.” To conduct a life pleasing to God there must be certain things to which we affirm. Jesus incarnation, resurrection and exaltation are foundational to a life lived for a God’s glory.

**Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 125). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.