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1Tim.1:17 "To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen."
A God to be Honoured
We must know what God is like! So we should thankful that God has told us!
God has spoken to us in a variety of ways:
In nature, he has revealed his power and wonderful creativity
Through the prophets of the OT era he has made his concern for justice and order well known and through their predictions concerning future events he has shown something of the extent of his knowledge and ability to control affairs in the world he has made.
The prophets also tell us that the study of God is a high and noble enterprise:
Jer.9:24 "but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."
Most importantly and most comprehensively God has spoken to us through the Incarnation of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When we consider Jesus we see what God’s character "looks" like when it is fleshed out.
In addition to this we find, as we read the Bible, a number of summary statements that focus our attention upon one aspect or another of God’s. Such statements often show us how we should react to God as we gain more and more knowledge about him.
Our text this evening is one such summary statement where the apostle Paul once again shows the close and essential link between theology (the study of God) and doxology (the worship of God).
We must begin with a word of caution. It is quite possible to accept with the head the doctrinal part of Paul’s outburst – but right thoughts alone are simply not enough.
As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:
God is looking for men and women who, in addition to knowing something of the truth, have a heart-
If we are to truly worship God we must know at least something about him. The apostle Paul gives us a good example of this.
Paul's worship is informed worship – he knows who God is and his praise and worship flows from this knowledge.
When Paul wrote to Timothy he began his letter by rejoicing in the fact that God had had mercy upon him. Even though Paul had been acting in total rebellion and unbelief God's grace had poured into his life and transformed him so that Paul would never be the same again. Paul used to think that he was upright in God's sight but now his estimate was very different as he described himself as the chief of sinners. It would have been a devastating discovery had it not been accompanied by the realisation that Jesus Christ had come into the world to save sinners!
Paul had become a Christian and was so glad! Here, as elsewhere, his knowledge and experience leads him to wholehearted praise and worship!
Let us consider what he declares about God
God, the Only God, is King
Firstly, we note that Paul is not telling us something new here. We live in a world that is rapidly changing and where new things, new ideas, are constantly emerging. It is easy in such a climate to long for something new, something novel. Our spiritual need is not however going to be met by the novelty of a new idea but far more by fresh appreciations of the unchanging truths that God has already revealed to us. No, Paul, wasn’t teaching something new when he described God as a King, the OT had already done that long ago:
Ps.10:16 "The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land."
Jer.10:10 "But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King."
When we say that God is King we are not talking about a constitutional monarchy, we're not talking about him being a king in name only but without any significant power. God as King is fully King exercising the full and unlimited rights of sovereignty. He rules and reigns.
Ps 115:3 "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases."
There is no limit to this rule and reign. He doesn't have to wait quietly by until some other authority grants him permission to work. He doesn't wait until men allow him to do something – he does just what he wishes, when he wishes and when he acts he does so in full accord with his attributes so that everything he does is just and holy and true. He acts with goodness, mercy and steadfast love not just occasionally but that is what he is like in all that he does.
Small wonder then that the psalmist rejoices in him declaring:
Ps 123:1 "To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!"
This notion of kingship is picked up and reused in the NT where Jesus is referred to as a king. When Matthew records Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem he tells us that this was in fulfilment of an OT prophecy referring to the coming of a king (Mt.21:5 quoting Zech.9:9). Sometimes he is described as being the King of Israel or the King of the Jews but at other moments his kingship appears far greater. Indeed at times it is nigh on impossible to determine whether the NT writers are writing about God or Jesus Christ – such "carelessness" would be unpardonable if Jesus was not to be identified with the God of the OT.
In the opening chapter of his Revelations John prepares us for the greater declarations that will follow:
Rev.1:5 "Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth."
Here Jesus is described as the prince or ruler of kings later John will develop this description:
Rev.17:14 "he is Lord of lords and King of kings"
Rev.19:6 "Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns."
This King is eternal
And so his reign never had a beginning and will never have an end – he is the King of the ages (the same word that is translated "eternal" or "ages" appears twice more toward the end of the verse where it is rendered "forever and ever".)
God has always been the Sovereign. Before the worlds came into being at the sound of his voice he was King. Throughout history as we know it he has never once abdicated his throne – he is King. When this world ceases to exist as it does today and is renewed in the consummation of all things he will still be reigning and ruling – he will ever continue as King! We speak of the majesty of God and we use royal language without giving it a second thought – he and he alone is King. He is the One True Living God and in order to be King of the Ages, King of all Eternity, the King must be fully divine.
Is.57:15 "For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy"
Everyone else we meet, everyone else we hear about, is bound by time and the ravages of time but our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is outside and above time, unaffected by it, unchanged by it. This is a God to be worshipped!
Jude 25 "to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."
This King is immortal
When Paul wrote to the Romans he also described God to as being immortal (Rom.1:23). There Paul was concerned to contrast the one True God from all other creatures that men were tempted to worship.
Now you may wonder what is added by describing God as being immortal, isn't that inevitably the case if he is eternal? Well, yes it is, but the word immortal carries a further shade of meaning that is helpful to us as we try to think about God.
Sometimes the word is rendered in English not by the translation immortal but by words such as "incorruptible" or "imperishable". The idea is not just of living forever but of undergoing not the slightest change. This God never decays, never fades but he is always solid, reliable, dependable with an ongoing unchanging beauty and value that can never ever be altered far less destroyed.
You know what I'm getting at don't you? You've seen the flowers in your garden how one week they are in full bloom and so attractive but the next their beauty has disappeared as their colours fade and their form breaks up. You've seen it when you've visited some stately home – from a distance all looks fine but as you get closer you've noticed the paint is beginning to peel, perhaps there is some dampness on the ceiling indicating a problem with the roof. Venice looks beautiful from a distance but take a boat up the canals and you soon notice that those magnificent houses are slowly sinking as the water laps into their basements.
As the hymn-
"change and decay in all around I see:
O Thou who changest not, abide with me."
This King is Invisible
The fact that God is hidden from our eyes is put in two different ways by Paul in our texts:
1Tim.1:17 "invisible" 1Tim.6:15 " whom no one has ever seen or can see"
The same truth is repeated elsewhere in the NT:
Addressing the Colossians on the subject of Jesus Christ, Paul wrote:
Col.1:15 "He is the image of the invisible God,"
The writer to the Hebrews wrote about Moses' faith in the following terms:
Heb.11:27 "By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible."
The apostle John could write in his first letter:
1Jn.4:12 "No one has ever seen God"
And yet, wonderfully, this same John could write in his gospel account:
Jn.1:18 "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known."
God is Spirit taught Jesus and he also taught that the one who had seen him had seen the Father! It is utterly impossible for us to see God with our natural, physical eyes but Jesus Christ came because God wanted himself to be known.
Invisible – hidden from our gaze by an unapproachable light – the imagery speaks to us about the perfections and the astounding purity of the One True Living God. The fact that God is invisible also underlines for us that it is impossible for us to search him out by our efforts – if we are to know this God he must make himself known to us and that is exactly what we find in the Christian faith! We may not see God and live but there is life for a look at the crucified one!
What this God deserves
To be honoured and glorified
The words used are very similar: honour carries with it the idea of reverence, the respect given to something/someone of recognised value. Glory speaks of praise and worship being brought to one who is full of magnificence, excellence, pre-
Underlying so much of the Bible's teaching about the One True Living LORD is the assumption that this God who has done so much for his chosen people should be honoured by them. When they in fact fail to do so they are rebuked:
Is.43:23 "You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honoured me with your sacrifices."
God expects his people to honour him and not to treat him with indifference, not to regard him as a hard task master, not to imagine that he will be satisfied with any old religion we might be prepared to throw his way.
May our response be like that of the Psalmist:
Ps 86:12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever."
And that is exactly what we find in our text for this evening:
1Tim.1:17 "To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen."
Again and again the joyful note of praise is sounded in the Bible and why not? The God with whom we have to do is a great God, an awesome God, the God who in Jesus Christ has become our Heavenly Father. Praise and adoration becomes him!
In this New Year 2017 be a year in which we each increasingly give God the honour that is rightfully his.