Our Great and Glorious God
“The blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” - 1 Timothy 6:15-16
One characteristic of Paul’s writing is his proclivity to insert a word of praise that also contains significant theological exposition when a term or subject he has just mentioned brings to his mind some aspect of the glory of God. For example, his discussion of the electing grace of God, the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s people Israel, and the future salvation of the Jews in Romans 9–11 moves him to exalt the wisdom and knowledge of God in 11:33–36. We also find a poetic description of the Son of God’s humbling of Himself in His incarnation after the apostle encourages the Philippians to serve one another in humility (Phil. 2:1–11). First Timothy 3:16 magnifies the mystery of godliness after Paul calls deacons to hold firmly to “the mystery of the faith.”
Again Paul gives us doxological instruction in today’s passage as he uses “the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:14) as a springboard for expressing the perfections of God. We learn much from verses 15–16. First, we are told that Christ’s appearance — His second coming — will be displayed “at the proper time.” This reminds us that God is sovereign over the affairs of history and has appointed a day on which Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:30–31). We are to fight the good fight of faith until that day, expecting our Father to use our service to hasten its coming (2 Peter 3:11–13). God is also sovereign over men, the “ruler over those who exercise rule,” and the “lord over those who exercise lordship,” as the Greek of 1 Timothy 6:15 can be more literally translated. Ultimate authority over all human authorities, great and small, belongs to our Maker alone (Deut. 10:17; Ps. 136:3).
The apostle highlights God as the one “who alone has immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16), reminding us of His self-existence. As John Calvin comments, “We and all the creatures do not, strictly speaking, live, but only borrow life from Him.” No living person has seen the Immortal One who dwells in unapproachable light, but this is a temporary reality due to our sin, for in our glorification we will see Him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2). Calvin explains, “We must be renewed, that we may be like God, before it be granted to us to see him.”
Beauty is around us everywhere, seen in the handiwork of God in nature and in the works of the artists whom He has gifted in His common grace. But while all of these things are beautiful, they pale in comparison to the loveliness of the Creator Himself. All of the travails of this life and the sacrifices that we make to serve the Lord will be more than worth it when on that day we gaze upon His beauty.
Passages for Further Study
1 Timothy 1:17
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