A Pauline Doxology!

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

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A doxology is an expression of praise to God that is sometimes sung as a short hymn. Perhaps the most famous doxology is the Latin hymn Gloria in excelsis Deo, which is Latin for “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). When I was a boy, I sang this doxology as part of a Christmas music program at my public school. To help us remember how to pronounce the title, my music teacher said, “If someone were throwing egg shells at you, you would naturally cry out, ‘Egg Shells Cease!’” Now that’s the sign of a good teacher. She helped me remember how to pronounce a Latin phrase fifty years later!

After confessing to being the chief of sinners (I Tim. 1:15) and discussing the “mercy” and “longsuffering” that the Lord exhibited in saving him (v. 16), the Apostle Paul naturally broke out in a doxology all his own!

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (I Timothy 1:17).

In the context, “the King” here must be the “Him” of the previous verse, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is described as “eternal” (cf. Micah 5:2) and “immortal,” a word which means to be incapable of dying. Of course! “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more!” (Rom. 6:9). The Lord wasn’t “invisible” when He was here on earth, but now in Heaven He is invisible in the same sense as God the Father, who said, “there shall no man see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:20). But that doesn’t mean our blessed Savior will be invisible to us when we get to Heaven, for in that day we will have “put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:53,54), and you will be able to gaze into the Savior’s face to your heart’s content. He is also “only wise” (cf. Jude 1:25), but not in the sense that the Father is not also “only wise” (Rom. 16:27), but only in the sense that He is the only wise God among the other “gods” mentioned in Scripture (I Cor. 8:5).

When Paul draws this doxology to a close by insisting that to Him “be honour and glory for ever and ever,” this brings us full circle back to the reason the apostle began praising God in the first place, for “worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive… honour, and glory” (Rev. 5:12). All of the Lord’s other attributes are wonderful, but this is the crown jewel of this and every other doxology.

If you are looking forward to joining the choir who are singing that doxology, don’t overlook that they are singing it to “a Lamb as it had been slain” (v. 6). This indicates that the Lord still bears the open wounds He invited Thomas to touch (John 20:27), wounds He will bear for all eternity so we never forget the price He paid for our redemption. It is wonderful to sing of gazing into the face of the Lord, but it takes our breath away to remember that His face will still be “marred more than any man” (Isa. 52:14). As Isaac Watts wrote, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

To the Reader:

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