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).
May 19, 2013


1) 1 Timothy 6:16-17 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


1 Timothy 6:16-17
by Tom Edwards

In speaking more of the Deity, Paul declares in 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 this doxology, Paul is not implying that man does not have a soul that will never cease to exist --  for he does; and the redeemed will also receive an immortal, glorified body when Christ returns (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-54; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).  In the account of the rich man and Lazarus, for example, when their mortal bodies died, their souls went on -- one to Paradise, and the other to torment (Luke 16:20-31).  Neither ceased to exist.  But only the redeemed will enjoy eternal life in heaven.  The lost, however, will be so far removed from that "quality life" that hell is referred to as the "second death" (Rev. 20:14) -- yet a continual experience of "eternal punishment" (Matt. 25:46), where the torment goes on "day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). 

Therefore, the continual existence of the soul is not in itself what the Bible emphasizes as immortality; but, rather, it is having that "life" that Jesus came to give "abundantly" (Jn. 10:10) and which will be ultimately enjoyed in heaven.  For the soul of man has been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and God is Spirit (Jn. 4:24); but every accountable person has become spiritually "dead" because of his or her own sin (Eph. 2:1) and, thus, needs to be made spiritually "alive" in Christ (v. 5) through obedience to the gospel, which includes being raised from the water of baptism "...so we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).  Jesus says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (Jn. 10:27,28).  So the Lord's sheep do not merely "hear," but they also "follow," which expresses their faithful adherence to God's word.  This abundant spiritual life is the immortality that God alone possesses and not only can bestow, but also wants to, and which will be ultimately enjoyed in heaven, if we will simply submit to His word while here on earth.  And for heaven, the Christian will also be given an immortal, imperishable body adapted for it (cf. 1Cor. 15:50-53).  So that is something He does not yet have.      

Thayer defines the Greek word for immortality (athanasia) as "undying, immortality, everlasting."  And though God and we will never cease to exist, yet God has always been, while we had a beginning -- just like all of creation.  Micah refers to Jesus as One whose "goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity" (Mic. 5:2).   In the thought of God "who alone possesses immortality," think, too, of Isaiah's prophesy that Jesus would be called "Eternal Father" (Isa. 9:6).  This is definitely a figurative phrase.  For Jesus is not the Father in relation to the Godhead.  Rather, He is the Son.  So in what sense would Christ be the "Father"?  "Eternal Father" can be better understood as "the Father of eternity" -- and "Father" in the sense that Jesus is being attributed as being the one who has made eternity possible. For He is the creator of all things (Jn. 1:1-3).  So this expression exalts the superiority of Christ over even eternity -- that Jesus is not merely a part of eternity, but eternity is because Jesus is!  It is His possession! 

Paul shows that the Lord dwells in "unapproachable light."  The Psalmist speaks of God as "Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, stretching out heaven like a tent curtain" (Psa. 104:2).  God doesn't need the sun and stars in order to have light, and the saved will never have need of light bulbs in heaven, nor "...have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them..." (Rev. 22:5).  During the middle of the day, Paul experienced "a light from heaven" that was "brighter than the sun," when he met the Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:13).  That he was made blind by this light (until miraculously healed by Ananias a few days later) might cause us to think of 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, in which Paul points out the need for the mortal to put on the immortal, so the redeemed will have bodies suited for heaven.  For "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (v. 50), and it appears as if that light from heaven was too much for Paul's mortal eyes.   

In 1 Timothy 6:16, Paul speaks of God as being One whom "no man has seen or can see."  Though men saw Jesus' earthly body, they never saw His true heavenly glorified state.  For that state He gave up to be born in Bethlehem (cf. Phil. 2:6-8).   The apostle John also writes that "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).  Similarly, we also don't actually see the wind.  Instead, we see what it does.  And God's divine attributes have been revealed through Jesus Christ: For "...He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature..." (Heb. 1:3).  This is why Jesus was able to say "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also..." (Jn. 14:7); and "...He who has seen Me has seen the Father..." (v. 9).  Jesus is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15).  God is also spoken of as being "invisible" in 1 Timothy 1:17. 

Paul then says in 1 Timothy 6:17, "Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy."  It appears from this that wealth can make some people arrogant.  Of course, it takes more than wealth to do that.  Rather, it is primarily due to the type of person.  Joseph of Arimathea, for example, was a wealthy man who provided the burial tomb for Jesus, which had been cut out of a rock (so was probably very expensive).  And he is described as having been "a good and righteous man...who was waiting for the kingdom of God" (Luke 23:50,51).  Also, the patriarch Job, that man of great patience, had been a wealthy man.  He had possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and "very many servants" (Job 1:3).  The same verse also states that Job "was the greatest of all the men of the east."  Yet, he was also the one whom the Lord refers to as being ranked above all others in true spirituality.  God says of him to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil" (v. 8).  In his latter days, Job became even twice as wealthy -- and it was God who made that possible: "And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning, and he had 14,000 sheep, and 6,000 camels, and 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys" (Job 42:12).   

Though I don't think Job would have had this problem, could it be that some wealthy people wrongly assume they are more spiritual than the poor, merely based on financial differences?  There are those today who preach and teach what is called the "gospel of perfect health and perfect wealth," which means that if you are a faithful Christian, then you should always be in the best of health and have an abundance of material prosperity.

This seems to have been the belief that three of Job's friends had.  They felt very strongly that the main reason for all of Job's great misfortune and suffering was because of sin in his life.  But one's health and prosperity -- or lack therefore -- cannot always be equated with one's true spirituality.  Compare, for example, Revelation 3:17-19: "Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent."  These Laodiceans had actually become "lukewarm" -- or indifferent -- toward God (v. 16).

If one's spirituality would be determined by one's health, then what would you say of Timothy?  He had stomach problems and "frequent ailments" (1 Tim. 5:23).  Yet, Paul says of him that "...I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.  For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:20,21).  Timothy was a faithful Christian. 

Also Epaphroditus.  He had been "sick to the point of death" (Phil. 2:27) -- so he couldn't get any sicker than that!  Yet, notice what kind of man he was, according to verse 30.  Here Paul states about him, "because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me."  And the "because" in this verse refers back to verse 29 where Paul exhorts the Philippians to "receive [Epaphroditus]...in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard."  So Epaphroditus was also a very dedicated follower of Jesus Christ -- even risking his life to do so -- yet he had undergone a major illness. 

Another good example of this is in Luke 16:20-31 of the case of the rich man and the poor and crippled beggar Lazarus.  Where did these men end up when they died?  The rich man went to torment, but Lazarus went to Paradise.  Of course, their eternal destinations were not based on whether they were rich or poor.

Notice also in 1 Timothy 6:17 that phrase, "the uncertainty of riches."  This often reminds me of Solomon's instruction: "Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it.  When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens" (Prov. 23:4,5).  Think, for example, of the wealthy who had lost virtually everything they had because of the stock market crash in the 1930's.  In just a short time, their financial investments were all gone -- as if they flew away with wings.  This is just one of the reasons why we should not fix our hope on riches -- because of its uncertainty.  The Psalmist, therefore, gives the following exhortation: "...if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them" (Psa. 62:10).  And, as we saw recently in 1 Tim. 6:9, "...those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction."

Rather than trusting in riches, our trust is to be in God -- and always.  The psalmist declares, "On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.  Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us..." (Psa. 62:7,8).  Isaiah certainly looked to God that way: "Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation" (Isa. 12:2).  Isaiah also gives this following exhortation: "The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in Thee.  Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock" (Isa. 26:3,4). 

Note what else Paul shows about the Lord in 1 Timothy 6:17.  God "richly supplies us with all things to enjoy."  God truly wants us to be able to enjoy life.  Compare Acts 14:17: "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."  Have you ever given much thought to all the numerous herbs and  seasonings that the Lord has also provided us with?  The right seasonings can often enhance the flavor of a meal. It appears that God was even mindful of that for our enjoyment. 

In both the Old and New Testaments, we can read of instructions to rejoice in the Lord. Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice" (Phil. 4:4)!  Paul also gave this instruction to the Thessalonians in just two words: "Rejoice always" (1 Thess 5:16).  The dictionary defines the word "rejoice" as "to feel joy or gladness; take delight" (in or at something)" (Random House Webster's College Dictionary).  If we are truly rejoicing, then we are enjoying life.  And since we are to rejoice always than we should continually have an inner joy -- and another reason for that is because "joy" is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  This is not to say that we never have sorrow; but even during mournful times, God can give us that glimmer of hope, that reassuring comfort, and that needed encouragement that helps us to keep looking to Him -- even when we are sorrowful.  Think, for instance, of the believer who is undergoing a crisis.  His world is turned upside down; his dreams have been shattered; his heart is filled with grief; yet in his sorrow and despair, he knows that the Lord will somehow see him through this difficult time -- and, in that, he senses a joy and comfort in his connection with the Almighty God Himself.

So let us do as Paul instructs: to honor God, realizing his eternal dominion, and to put our complete trust in Him "...who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy" (1 Tim. 6:16-17). 


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be remembering the following people in prayer:

Janice Webb (Anthony's mother) will be having surgery May 28 on her thyroid, due to a lump.  If it turns out to be malignant, then the thyroid on the other side will also be removed.

On June 21, Penny Foley (Jackson Moon's great aunt) will be having surgery to remove a tumor in her leg. 

Virginia Fontenot has been in some pain while dealing with stage 4 cancer and receiving chemo treatments that has been difficult for her.  She has had to take pain medication every day.

Jean Calloway
, who suffered a cardiac arrest on May 8, is still in the hospital, undergoing some therapy and has been making some improvement.  She is to return home June 10, will continue with dialysis three times a week, and will also be receiving long-term care and Home Health.

Cindy Crews will be having additional surgery, due to breast cancer.

Linda Blevins, who has been diagnosed with bilateral renal artery stenosis, also was correct in her own diagnosis of having an additional kidney stone problem.  She also has hydronephrosis and recently had some more tests run.

Ashley Robertson Walters was recently hospitalized for a kidney stone, but is now back home -- though at last report, the stone was still with her.

Becky Robertson recently had to have a shot for tendinitus in her left hand and will need to wear a brace for a few weeks.

Pam MacDonald is still healing from her recent back surgery that required adding 16 pieces of metal to her spinal column.  All went well.  

Bill Barfield (Virginia's brother) is now being weened off a ventilator, though they will keep the CPAP on him for continuous airway pressure.  He has been in a few different hospitals continuously since March 2012.  

* Let us also be remembering the following in prayer: Tom Smitherman (Lee's father) who has been diagnosed with an aggressive prostate cancer; Cheryl Crews who has some chronic ailments; and Shirley Young who suffers from fibromyalgia.

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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