Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (KJV)
What happens when you start to meditate on your salvation? For Paul, it resulted in this doxology. He poured out of his heart a few words to describe our Savior God and the response we should have in light of who He is and what He has done. When I think about my salvation, my mind has a hard time comprehending it. I know that many people don’t believe in election – that God chose me for salvation and that He didn’t chose others. I don’t know about the others, but I do know that He chose me. Paul previously said that he was shown mercy. Why did God show mercy to him, me or anyone else? There isn’t anything about me that deserves mercy. If God hadn’t chosen me, I would not be a Christian. It is as simple as that. I wasn’t looking for God – at not least consciously. It staggers my mind that the God of the universe, the creator of all things, the one who keeps all things in the universe going, would chose me. When I think of His awesome mercy and grace, I can join with Paul in proclaiming this doxology.
The King Eternal
Ps 45:6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. (NIV) God isn’t just eternal, but He is the eternal King. It’s one thing to be eternal but another thing to reign as king forever. When Israel asked for a king to reign over them, the prophet and priest, Samuel, was displeased. He took the matter to God in prayer and He responded. 1 Sam 8:7 And the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” (NKJV) It would seem that there is a contradiction. If God is king and they rejected Him, doesn’t it make sense that He isn’t king anymore? But that is the wonder and sovereignty of God. Even as the people reject Him, even if you or I don’t submit to His authority over us, He is still king. He still has the ability to do as He pleases. He still executes justice over the whole universe.
The world has always been in turmoil. Nations rise and fall. Dictators appear to be firmly entrenched in their countries then God, who is in control of it all, dethrones them as He pleases. Look at Egypt. In less than a month, a regime that lasted just short of 30 years was overturned. The protestors claim the victory, but if God were not king over all, their efforts would have been fruitless. Political analysts will talk about it for months but never acknowledge that without God’s active choice, it would have never happened. Daniel had it right when he said in Dan 2:20-21 "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.” (NIV)
There will be one more change of command for which I’m looking forward. This came from Daniel but it wasn’t his own thoughts, it was God telling him what would happen. Dan 7:13-14 "I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” (NASB) This is a time in the future when the Eternal King turns His dominion over to His Son, Jesus. There won’t be any more despots ruling on the earth. All people will serve Him and despite rebellious man’s inclinations of his heart to be independent and sinful, Jesus will prevail. After 1,000 years of His rule on earth, people who don’t love Him and know Him, who haven’t been born again, will make one last attempt to rebel. It won’t work, of course, but they will try. Sorry, I need to plug my novel here. I wrote 999 Years After Armageddon – The End of the Millennium because it is so hard to imagine why anyone would rebel against Jesus as He physically reigns on earth.
The Greek word for immortal in most other passages is translated as incorruptible or imperishable. It seems redundant to say that the Eternal King is also immortal, He can’t die or perish. Perhaps the reason Paul emphasized this is because of the Greek culture that permeated society. They believed in fallible, mortal gods that were just super men. Today, some people in certain cults have a problem with Jesus dying on the cross. They argue that if Jesus were God, then He couldn’t be killed, since He was killed, then He can’t be God. At this point, many Christians stumble because they don’t have an answer.
I have to start with what Jesus said about His life. John 10:17-18 “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (NIV) If someone were to tell me that he could die and then raise himself from the dead, I would be sure to think that the person was crazy or had been watching too many science fiction movies. What Jesus said doesn’t make human sense. And that is just the point. We can only imagine and comprehend things from a human standpoint. We can’t understand it from His perspective.
Peter made it easier for us to understand. Acts 2:24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. (NLT) As I think about this verse, the imagery is of Jesus still alive and conscious, wrapped in a cloak – death. God the Father, then unwraps Him and brings Him back from death into life. In a sense He never died because His spirit was always alive. Rather than making Him alive again, God simply releases Him from something like a prison that couldn’t keep its hold on Him. Jesus indentified Himself with the Father in such a way that the Father’s action of raising Him from the dead was no different than His own action.
Peter also explains the resurrection in his epistle. 1 Peter 3:18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. (NLT) Again, the Trinity is now visible as Jesus has asserted that He can take up His own life and Paul affirms that God (the Father) raised Him up and now, Peter says that the Holy Spirit made Him alive.
Think about our own souls. When I die, I will still be conscious. I will be taken into the presences of Jesus. My physical body may be dead but my spirit will still be alive. In Phil 1:23, Paul was completely sure that this would happen when he died. Jesus was raised as proof that He is God, that our sins have been forgiven and that we will be with Him after we die if we believe in Him.
God is immortal and because Jesus is God and He is immortal, we too have eternal life.
Why is it important to understand that God is invisible? From a human standpoint it is important because of these verses. Jer 23:23-24 Am I a God who is only close at hand?" says the Lord. "No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?" says the Lord. (NLT) If God were visible then His presence would overwhelm the universe. There wouldn’t be room for anything else. Atheists claim there isn’t any God because they have never seen Him. They are fortunate that they have never seen Him. From God’s earliest revelations of Himself comes this warning. Ex 33:20 “But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (NIV) Since He is invisible and can’t be seen, Atheists’ claim that God doesn’t exist is without merit. Even if God were visible and didn’t fill the universe, their claim would be false since no one has been in every place in all the universe at all times to ensure that God isn’t there.
You may argue that Abraham saw God when He appeared with two other men or angels before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). In Exodus 33:22-23 God doesn’t let Moses see His face but lets him see His back. You could also argue that those who saw Jesus saw God. John 14:9 Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?” (NIV) We know that Jesus took the form of a human being when He was born. Since God is beyond time and space and is omnipotent, why couldn’t He appear as a human being to Abraham. Why couldn’t He show His back in some form to Moses? If He were a God who must follow our rules then He couldn’t. Fortunately for us, God is not bound by our ability to comprehend Him. Rather than putting God into our mold, we must worship Him as He is. The woman at the well in Samaria had the same problem. She was trying to box God in when she talked with Jesus. Jesus’ response was in John 4:24 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (NASB)
Paul emphasized God’s invisibility because it makes sure that we don’t put human limitations on Him. We must turn to Him as He has described Himself and not as we would like Him to be.
Only Wise God
Some translations don’t include the word wise, but state “the only God.” The difference comes from the original text. There are several differences between Textus Receptus (which has the word wise) and the Nestle which omits the word wise. I’ve chosen a version that includes wise since this is an attribute of God that deserves mention.
I could write about God’s wisdom in creating the universe. After all, how could He create this universe and make sure it all works without being wise. One little mistake in all the governing laws of physics and we would have physical anomalies worse than Science Fiction horror movies.
However, there is one thing that overshadows all other things regarding God’s wisdom. It is the cross of Christ. 1 Cor 1:20-24 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (NIV) Man has come up with thousands of religions. They all demand that to reach salvation, nirvana, or some other state of enlightenment or eternal state, we must do something. We must be good enough, suffer enough, be spiritual enough, or even be smart enough. It is all about us reaching for God or gods or appeasing them or even trying to become gods. All these religions are either the products of human logic and satanic inspiration to keep us from knowing the only wise God. In as much as most have a source in demonic activity, beings who would want to be god and worshiped as god, it shows that the true God is the only God and a wise God.
It is total human foolishness to think that God would become a man and die on the cross for sinful man. It is scandalous to think that a perfect and holy God would allow Himself to be tainted by sin on the cross in order to atone for the sins of His enemies – the people who hate Him and sin against Him. Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. Jews should have recognized Jesus’ sacrifice because of the system of sacrifices that they had to perform. Instead, they asked Him for miracles to prove that He was sent from God. When He offered the ultimate proof, His death and resurrection, they stumbled over it. They couldn’t believe that this is what God would do. Gentiles or Greeks – the rest of us – just can’t see the logic in it. It just seem foolish that God could or would die much less be raised from the dead. Yet our only wise God did exactly that. It is human foolishness that keeps us from accepting such a great offer of salvation through Jesus’ death orchestrated and planned by our wise and merciful God.
Honor and Glory Forever
There is only one way to give honor and glory to God. That is by giving ourselves to Him. That is more than simply believing and wanting to be saved from our sins. It is surrender and obedience that comes as a result. Many believe in God and Jesus but do not honor Him. Luke 6:46 "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?” (NIV) As parents we certainly know what it is to have our children honor us. If we tell them something and they disobey, there is no honor. It goes even further with Jesus. Jesus went on to say that people who don’t listen to Him and put His words into practice are like a house that has no foundation and is destroyed in a flood (Luke 6:47-49).
We are also a people who do not want to glorify God. We don’t glorify Him when we deny that He is the Creator. His creation shouts that there is a God. It not only says there is a God but it demonstrates His eternal power and nature. Because we live in a created world, we have no excuse for denying God and glorifying Him. Rom 1:20-23 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (NKJV) In the past, people turned to idol worship when they deny God. Now they turn to various religions that have their own concept of God. Many don’t even do that as they make themselves gods by their relativistic thinking. They set themselves up as their own authority with their truth being right in the face of the undeniable fact that God is Creator. They promote their own opinion as truth and therefore believe that if there is no heaven or hell then there isn’t. It is a downward spiral that you can see when your finish reading the first chapter of Romans.
Honoring and glorifying God requires our obedience to Him. There is no way around this. It starts with honoring and obeying Jesus. John 5:21-23 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (NKJV) If we want to have eternal life, then we must honor Jesus in order to honor God.