The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
January 6, 2013


1) 1 Timothy 1:17-19 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Timothy 1:17-19
by Tom Edwards

In giving praise to God, Paul uses the following doxology in 1 Timothy 1:17: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 

After having spoken in the previous verses of God being the one who makes salvation possible, it does seem quite fitting that Paul then offers this grateful homage unto God.  For He truly is the one who is to be honored, glorified, and greatly thanked for that.   James Burton Coffman points out that "This grand doxology is not addressed to 'the Father,' but to God in His compound unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."  In that sense, there is only one God.  As Jesus states in John 5:44, "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?"  Though three persons -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- they each make up the one Godhead.  And this plurality of distinct individuals is also seen in the first verse of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  "God" in this verse is from the Hebrew word "Elohim," which is the plural form of God.  It is also in that first chapter that God says, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" (v. 26), which indicates the other two persons of the Godhead: Jesus (Col. 1:15,16) and the Holy Spirit (Psa. 104:30).

Paul speaks of God as being "eternal" (1 Tim. 1:17; cf. Rev. 22:13).  What an amazing truth!  God had no beginning and will have no end.  For just as He has always been, even so, He will also always be -- and, throughout all eternity, never aging nor diminishing to even the slightest degree.  As the Psalmist declares, "Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."  Notice that it does not say, "You were" ("from everlasting to everlasting") or "You will be" ("from everlasting to everlasting"); but, rather, "You are."  God at this present moment is "from everlasting to everlasting." 

Since also Jesus is God (Jn. 1:1-3,14; Heb. 1:8), He, too, is just as eternal as the Father.  For while all of us can trace our beginning back to that day in which we were conceived (though our years are normally said to begin at the time of our birth -- that particular day), notice what is said of Jesus in this following verse: "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity" (Mic. 5:2).  Jesus also expresses His eternal nature in John 8:58 by saying, "...'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born I am.'"   Notice that the Lord does not say, "I was" (before Abraham was born); but, rather, "I am."  Jesus is the great "I am," just as His Father also is.  For when Moses asked God what name should be used to refer to Him to the children of Israel, the Lord said to tell them, "I Am has sent me to you" (Exod. 3:13,14), which expresses God's self-existence and His unchanging, eternal nature.  In Isaiah 9:6, where Jesus is referred to as the "Eternal Father," among other things, this does not mean that Jesus is the Father; but it can be thought of as Jesus being the "Father of Eternity."  For all things have originated from Him -- all matter, space, and time -- the "visible and invisible" (Col. 1:16).  Therefore, we also think of eternity itself existing because of God.  For His duration is eternal.

Paul also speaks of the Lord as being "immortal," which is translated from a Greek word that means "uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable" (Thayer).  The same Greek word is used in Romans 1:23, where Paul refers to God as being "incorruptible"; and in 1 Corinthians 15:22 where it is said of the deceased Christians that they will "be raised imperishable"; and in 1 Peter 1:4 to describe the Christian's inheritance as being "IMPERISHABLE and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you."  Also in that same chapter, Peter uses this term to refer to the imperishable nature of the "living and abiding word of God" (v. 23).  Though "Heaven and earth will pass away...My words will not pass away," Jesus declares in Matthew 24:35.  Think, too, of the contrast between the images the heathens worshiped and the true and the living God.  For all those images would eventually perish, but the Lord is imperishable.  The same can also be said of all the various reigns of all the kings of earth, whose rule was temporary; but God's reign is eternal.  To Him will be honor and glory forever and ever.  

Paul also includes in his doxology that God is "invisible."  This, too, we can contrast with the heathen images of worship.  For while those man-made idols could be seen, that was not so of the true and the living God.  As John writes, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (Jn. 1:18). This, therefore, also sets Jesus apart from other men.  For no one has seen God the Father except for Jesus.  In John 6:46, the Lord states, "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father."  Consider also 1 Timothy 6:16:  "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen."  In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is referred to as being "...the image of the invisible God...." 

So just as the wind can be seen through its affects on things, God has also made Himself known through Jesus Christ.  Plus, God's reality has also been made known through the creation itself.  For instance, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Psa. 19:1).  There is precision and balance in the universe.  Creation, with all its complexities of different life forms, attests to the need for an intelligent and eternal Creator.  For example, if you found a computer out in the woods, you would realize that it just did not merely evolve on its own -- regardless of the number of years involved.  Rather, it required an intelligent designer and maker.  And though computers can be very helpful, just your mind is more advanced than one.  Consider also Romans 1:19,20: "because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."  The creation shows that the second theory of thermodynamics is true.  Everything in the physical universe tends to wear out and come to naught.  So the universe is not eternal. Therefore, it required something that always was, in order to bring it about.  Creation, therefore, indicates the eternal nature of God, as well as His wisdom and power.  Paul also declares of the Lord, "and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17).  I'm sure there are many different kinds of foods you enjoy.  God has made this all possible, and He has also provided us with numerous kinds of seasonings, so that we can even fine-tune a meal to our palate's preference.   The Lord truly does think of everything.  So these are all reasons why we can "see" God with the eyes of faith, just as Moses did.  For "...he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen" (Heb. 11:27).  As the writer says in the beginning of that chapter, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (v. 1).

Some versions refer to the Lord as being "the only wise God" (1 Tim. 1:17), but the term for "wise" isn't in all manuscripts.  We do find it, however, in Romans 16:27.  And who would doubt the Lord being wise?  On a scale of one to a trillion, with God's wisdom represented by the trillion, where would we place our wisdom?  Even the most intelligent among us would come closer to matching up to the "intelligence" of the heathen idols than to that of God's wisdom.  And here is what the psalmist says about man-made idols: "... Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man's hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat.  Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them" (Psa. 115:1-8).  In Isaiah 44, we read of a man who would grow trees for himself; and with these trees, he could build a fire to keep himself warm and to cook with.  But from the same wood, he also makes an idol god, as vv. 5-7 show: "He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it.  Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied.  He also warms himself and says, 'Aha!  I am warm, I have seen the fire.'  But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image.  He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god.'"  Though an idol god has no sense at all, at least it isn't doing the foolish things that the one who worships it is -- and foolishness isn't wisdom.  

Paul then closes verse 17 with the word "Amen." This word varies in meaning, depending on where it is used in the sentence.  When it is used in or near the beginning, rather than its end, it means "surely, truly, of a truth."  For instance, the Lord uses the phrase "truly, I say to you" 50 times in Matthew through Luke; and 25 times, the phrase "truly, truly, I say to you" in John's account of the life of Christ.  But when used at the end of a sentence, or how it is often used by itself, "amen" means "so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled."  Thayer also goes on to show that "It was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own."  So its use has been around for many centuries.  The first place we find "Amen" being used in the Bible pertains to a method that was used in the Old Testament to detect whether a woman had been guilty of adultery or not.  In Numbers 5, if her husband had a spirit of jealousy toward his wife, he could bring her to the priest; and he would give her holy water to drink.  If she were innocent, she'd be immune; but if guilty, the water would bring a curse upon her.  Numbers 5:22 states that it would "'...make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.'  And the woman shall say, 'Amen, Amen.'"  So that takes it back to about 3,453 years ago.  We next find it used in Deuteronomy 27:15-26.  All the people were to say "Amen" to all the curses that would be pronounced upon those who had committed various transgressions mentioned in this section.  So from the reading of these verses, we can easily see how that the use of the word "Amen" was also a way of expressing a hearty agreement.  

In 1 Timothy 1:18,19, Paul then gives the following charge to Timothy: "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith."  The phrase, "This  command," refers back to verses 3-5, where Paul charges Timothy to remain at Ephesus and "instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies...."; but, rather, that they aim for the goal of the gospel's instruction, which is "love from a pure heart, and a good conscience and a sincere faith."

Notice, too, what could give Timothy some assurance and encouragement toward this. Paul shows in 1 Timothy 1:18 that what he is charging Timothy is "in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you."  It appears that prophets had foretold the work of Timothy as being successful, so Paul is bringing that to Timothy's attention, assuring him and exhorting him to fight that good fight of faith; for if he does, these accomplishments will be obtained.  As B.W. Johnson writes, "Timothy was selected for the ministry by divine direction. One so chosen was chosen according to prophecy, the ordinary meaning being simply a declaration of the divine will."  We can also compare this to 1 Corinthians 12:28: "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues."

Paul  says, "that by them," which is pertaining to the prophecies, "you fight the good fight."  Paul was certainly one to speak, for he had also been a good example in this.  In 2 Timothy 4:7, for instance, near the close of Paul's life, he states, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."  He then repeats this exhortation to Timothy in the same letter: "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim. 6:12).  

It is also believed by some that it was at the same time that the prophecies were made concerning Timothy that he was also endowed with miraculous gifts from the Holy Spirit.  Corresponding to this, note what Paul urges Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14: "For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God."  "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you."  

The phrase "keeping faith" (1 Tim. 1:19) is rendered as "holding faith" in the KJV.  This latter phrase might remind you of Ephesians 6:16, where in speaking about the Christian's armor, Paul mentions in this verse: "in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

Faith is something that needs to be kept; for it can sometimes be lost.  Consider, for example, Hebrews 3:12-14: "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end."  We also can see this in 1 Timothy 6:20,21: "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge" -- which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you."  And note what Paul points out a couple chapters prior, in 1 Timothy 4:1: "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."  

In view of these passages, can a person lose faith?  Obviously, yes!  Yet, how many religious people today teach that as an impossibility?  They might say that anyone who fell away never really believed to begin with, but that is not what the Bible shows.  Compare Psalm 106:7-12.  This passage speaks of miracles that God worked for His people when bringing them out of Egyptian bondage.  Verse 12 says, "Then they believed His words; They sang His praise."  This all sounds very well and fine, but now notice what the chapter goes on to say: "They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But craved intensely in the wilderness, And tempted God in the desert. So He gave them their request, But sent a wasting disease among them..." (Psa. 106:13-29).  

May we each, who are Christians, strive to maintain faith and a good conscience -- lest we make shipwreck of our faith -- and give the honor and glory to the only true and living God for His wondrous, eternal nature and being the God that He is.  May we also continue to show our love and gratitude toward the Lord by living according to, and teach others as well, the truth of God's word that has been entrusted to us, that we might remain on the road to eternal salvation and please our Father in heaven, all along the way.  


News & Notes

Bill Barfield (Linda Blevins' uncle of Memphis, Tennessee) is going to be transferred to a rehab center in Slidell, Louisiana.  He is 86 years old, on dialysis, a ventilator, and had also fractured some vertebrae in his neck from a recent fall.  He has been hospitalized since last March, where it began in ICU and then to a room that would be somewhere between ICU and a step-down unit.  His wife has been staying with him around the clock.  But the rehab center in Slidell won't allow her to stay the night.  So she will have to find a room or place to rent in the area for about 2 months.  Let those of us who are Christians continue to pray for Bill and also his wife Wilma.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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