Eternal, immortal, invisible
by Glenn Pettit
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1 Timothy 1:17
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The letters of the apostle Paul are peppered with reflections on the attributes of God the Father, but I think we often gloss over them. Verses like the one above from First Timothy seem like something just tossed in there, and we read right through them and PAST them as if they weren't even there, seeking what we think are the "deeper" truths of Christian doctrine beyond those verses. So today let us reflect on the simple and profound statement above, and let's, as they say, take time to stop and smell the roses as we read our Scripture.
Today's verse is a beautiful and simple doxology. In just a few words, Paul shifts focus away from Jesus and onto the Father, bringing up several very important attributes of our God.
• "The King eternal": God is literally the "ruler of ages" - both ages long past and ages yet to come. Existing outside of time, God is not just the ruler of the world in all ages, He is also the ruler of time itself, its very Creator. God has no beginning and no end, and although He died in the physical form of Jesus, He yet rules even over the seemingly finite realm of death.
• "Immortal" - It is interesting that this is stated as a negative - literally "without corruption" or "without decay." We follow the early church fathers in translating this as "immortal" - "without death" - but the literal translation carries such deep meaning, because we understand that death isn't just an end to life, it is a corruption of God's original plan. God meant for us to be "in His image" - incorruptible, immortal - but our choice to sin ruined that and set the world on the course to decay and death. God is still incorruptible and without death, and He wants that for us again.
• "Invisible" - Again we have a negative: "not seen." Jesus compares the work of the Holy Spirit to the blowing of the wind: we do not see the wind, only its effect on the world around us. (John 3:8) Further, Jesus tells us that God is Spirit, not physical that we should worship some image of Him in some particular place. (John 4:21-24) By calling God "invisible," Paul is not only invoking the idea that God is Spirit, but he is also reminding us that even though we don't see God, He always sees us and is always with us. As Spirit, God is everywhere, omnipresent and omniscient.
• "God who alone is wise" - There seems to be some conflict between the early manuscripts, as some simply say "one God" and others "one God [who is] wise." In either case, Paul is bringing us back to Deuteronomy 6:4:
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!"
Which is, of course, followed by the Great Commandment:
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."
By invoking the idea that there is but ONE God, Paul is reminding Timothy and us that we ought to love the Lord our God with all that we have. God alone is worthy of all our heart and soul and strength, and He alone is wise and eternal and incorruptible.
To this God - the King of eternity, the incorruptible Lord, the invisible Spirit - we must offer all honor and glory. To Him alone belongs all praise, for He IS the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End.
• "Forever and ever" - Just as Paul began this sentence by describing God as the eternal King, so now he ends the thought by saying that the honor and glory are His throughout all eternity. We ourselves do not give that honor and glory to God: they exist for Him before we speak and after we are gone. Honor and glory are His throughout all ages.
• "Amen" - This is an ancient Hebrew word that has remained in our vocabulary in every language. Even when people pray to God in Indonesia or in Japan or in Chile, while the body of their prayer may be in their local language, they always end in "Amen." It is the language of God's first chosen people. It is a word that closes the thought and releases the prayer to God. "So be it" or "surely" or "it is established," we are saying.
"Amen" is our punctuation, our invocation, our signal to the eternal, immortal, invisible Lord God that we are giving this to Him now. "Amen" is the moment we say to Him, "This adoration is Thine, this confession is Thine, this thanksgiving is Thine, this supplication is Thine. To Thee, Lord God, belong all honor and praise and glory. All Thine and never mine. To Thee the eternal, to Thee the immortal, to Thee the invisible and almighty God." Amen indeed.
Lord God, our blessed Father and Creator, truly all honor and glory are Yours. Blessed be Your name in all ages. Bring me Your peace, O Lord, and show me Your mercy and love. Teach me to fear and honor You and You alone. Let my love for You be my only end, with all my heart and soul and strength. Amen and Amen.
© 2010 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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