Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17)
This prayer of praise is Paul’s response to the grace he has received, even though he was the “worst of sinners.” And what a praise it is!
In the study of God, one of the words we use to describe His nature is “attributes.” God has many attributes, but Paul captures some of the most basic ones here: He is “eternal”, “immortal” and “invisible.” He is also “King” and the “only God”.
The “eternal” nature of God is one of those concepts that eludes us. Personally, I find it easier to comprehend God’s eternal nature moving forward since He already “is.” But it is much harder for me to think in reverse and grasp how He always “was.” The only thing that keeps me from going crazy as I contemplate this point is the fact that there could not possibly have been a time when either nothing or no one existed. Even those who believe we are here by chance presuppose forces, processes or elements that were before what was to come. In other words, something had to be eternal moving backward, and the best explanation I find is that it was a creative someone, even God, the King.
God is “immortal” in that he is indestructible. He does not get old and his body does not decay or suffer illness. People have long sought immortality through science, mystical powers, and contributions to society. Athletes who win championships often refer to the immortal nature of victory, since their names will be remembered long after they are gone. But in truth, every human is mortal. God, however, is immortal. And because He doesn’t age, or suffer illness, He has no fear. Of course, Jesus came in the form of mortal flesh, and died. Yet, in reality, He did not die, just as we do not die when we pass into eternity and receive a new body.
God is also “invisible.” But, I believe this is only because He chooses to be. His hand moves in ways we cannot predict and He works in ways we cannot see. God is Spirit and is not confined to an earthly body. Will God still be “invisible” when we get to heaven? Personally, I don’t think so. How discouraging would that be to get to heaven, only to discover we can’t see God? I believe our nature will be such that we will see Him as He is (and the scripture indicates the same). But in this life, we don’t see Him. We see God’s handiwork, but not His person. If we were to see Him, His holiness would turn us to a cinder!
And God is the King over everything. He is the only God of the universe.
Only this kind of God could reach down in human history and save the worst of sinners. No one else could write the story that included Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles and weave in everything that came before it, and everything that was to come after it. Creating the tapestry of history is an impossible task, it seems: but not for the “eternal, immortal, invisible” God.
In Paul’s mind, no one else could be responsible for the change he had experienced in his life. How could anyone think he was a product of his own self-righteousness? How could we? What do you suppose the “eternal, immortal, invisible” God is doing right now? God only knows.
Dear God, I praise You for who and what You are! In Jesus’ name, Amen.