"O Worship the King"
1 Thessalonians 1:17
(Delivered Sunday, September 30, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
How would you define worship? It's a tough question, isn't it? Worship is one of those things that we know is very important in the Christian life, but that we might have a hard time putting into words. We typically think of it as singing music together during a particular portion of a "worship service". But that's just one of the things we do in worship; it's not enough alone to define what worship really is. True worship is a thing that's much bigger than merely "music".
Over the years, I have adopted a definition for worship that has been very helpful to me. I've refined it here and there as I've grown in my understanding; but the gist of it is this: Worship is the act of taking a careful look at God's self-revelation of who He is and what He does; and then responding, with all that we are and do, to what we see. I find that definition helpful, because it emphasizes that true worship is a response of our whole person to God's disclosure of Himself to us. It's not merely a response to Him through our voices in singing, but through every aspect of our being. This definition, I think, helps us appreciate how vast and life-encompassing a thing true worship really is.
This morning, we will look at a verse from the Scripture in which the apostle Paul demonstrates that kind of worship. It's not a very long verse, but some very important elements are found in it that help us in our understanding of what worship really is. It is, itself, an expression of worship. In it Paul says: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (1 Thess 1:17).
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Let me share with you how I recently became attracted to this verse. I enjoy reading the biographies of great Christians; and the other day, I was reading about the life Jonathan Edwards. He was a pastor who ministered in Northhampton, Massachusetts during the thirty-five years or so before our country became an independent nation.
It's sad that there are so many Christians today who are unfamiliar with Jonathan Edwards. He was not only a wonderful pastor, but historians consider him to have been the most brilliant philosopher and theologian that America has ever produced. He is such a towering figure in American Christianity that one writer has called him "America's Augustine". He served as a pastor for many years; but he eventually became President of Yale University (though he only served a few months in that capacity before he died of small pox). In his relatively short life, he produced an amazing collection of written works that theologians around the world have been studying ever since. He was a gifted man, and a truly marvelous and inspiring Christian.
Jonathan Edwards grew up in the 1700's - in a day when the culture around him was predominantly "Christian". A young man could grow up knowing the Bible, going to church, and living a relatively "Christian" life - and still remain unsaved the whole time long. This was a very common occurrence; and it was the case for Jonathan Edwards during his growing up years. He graduated with the highest honors from Yale College before he was seventeen. But even though he was training for the ministry, and had a gifted mind for theology, Edwards didn't have a sense of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. He would formulate "resolutions" and "vows" - lists of dos and don'ts - in an effort to make himself holy before God; but soon afterwards, he'd slip back into his old patterns and habits. A sense of genuine satisfaction with the Christian faith seemed always to evade him.
Then, something happened to him around the year 1721 - something that, he said, gave him a "new sense of things". He read this morning's verse; and when he did, God sovereignly opened Edward's spiritual eyes to His grace through Jesus Christ; and having given him life, God swept his heart up to Himself with a true sense of who He is and what He is like in His majesty and glory. When I read his story, the only way I can think of to describe what happened to Jonathan Edwards was that God regenerated him spiritually; and then, for the first time in his life, Edwards experienced true worship. He was never the same again. He wrote;
"The first instance, that I remember, of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and in divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, ... 'Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.' As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as those words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven; and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever! I kept saying and as it were singing, over these words of Scripture to myself; and went to pray to God that I might enjoy him; and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do, with a new sort of affection. But it never came into my thought, that there was any thing spiritual, or of a saving nature, in this.
"From about that time I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words of [Song of Solomon 2:1] used to be abundantly with me, 'I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.' The words seemed to me sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of [Song of Solomon] used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found from time to time an inward sweetness, that would carry me away in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart, and ardour of soul, that I know not how to express" (from The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990], p. xiii.)
For Jonathan Edwards, the experience of "conversion" was bound up in an experience of genuine "worship". He had an intellectual knowledge of Jesus Christ before that time; and I'm sure that he had read 1 Timothy 1:17 many times before. But on this particular occasion, as an act of sovereign grace, the Holy Spirit blew life into his soul, and opened his eyes to who God truly is. And as a result, Jonathan Edwards entered into God's saving grace in Christ through a faith that expressed itself in deep, deep worship. For the rest of his life, Edwards was utterly consumed with worshiping the majesty of God through Jesus Christ His Son. His fascination with the transcendent glory of God was the great theme in all his writings and sermons. It became the great delight of his soul. His "chief end" in life became the one expressed in the Westminster Catechism: "... to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever." Edwards himself put it this way: "Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." He didn't merely "ascribe" absolute sovereignty to God; ... he "loved" to ascribe it to Him! That's true worship!
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I believe that this expression of worship from the apostle Paul led to the salvation of Jonathan Edwards. But did you know that it was Paul's testimony about his own salvation that inspired that expression of worship in the first place?
Paul was writing to his young associate, Pastor Timothy. He was encouraging Timothy to work hard to preach and defend the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ - "the glorious gospel of the blessed God," he said, "which was committed to my trust" (1 Tim. 1:11). Paul's gratitude to God for having given him the privilege of preaching the gospel moved him to write these words: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (vv. 12-14).
Paul was not always the Christ-exalting preacher of the gospel that we know and love. When we first read about him in the Bible, he was introduced to us as Saul of Tarsus - the most vicious, most violent, most hateful, most antagonistic human opponent the gospel had ever known. He was a zealous Pharisee - ferociously dedicated to the principles of Judaism. Because of this, he felt that it was his God-given duty to do whatever he could to oppose the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Jerusalem, he received the authority from the chief priests to arrest and imprison as many Jewish Christians as he could. He would be present at their trials, and cast a vote for their executions. He would torture them, and try to make them blaspheme against the name of the Lord (Acts 26:9-11). Believers, from near and far, knew about this antagonistic Pharisee from Tarsus; and they lived very much in fear of his persecution (Acts 9:13-14; 26).
Saul's excessive rage against followers of Jesus moved him to actively pursue and prosecute them even in foreign cities (Acts 26:11). And so, having received authorization from the high priest, he journeyed north of Jerusalem to Damascus to seek out and arrest the Christians that were there, drag them back to Jerusalem for trial, and see them put to death. But he was met along the way by the resurrected Lord Jesus Himself. The Bible tells us that, suddenly, a light from heaven shone all around him; and he feel to the ground. Then, he heard the voice of Jesus Himself speaking to him (Acts 9:3-4). Jesus revealed Himself to Saul in power and glory; and as a result, Saul became another man!
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;" the Lord told him. "But arise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:15-18).
And the rest, of course, is history! From then on, Paul's whole life was consumed with proclaiming "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2) - preaching His gospel, debating it's opponents, explaining it's theological truths, and teaching it's practical implications for life. In short, Paul was transformed by Jesus Himself from the greatest antagonist of the Christian faith, into its greatest missionary. For as long as he lived, and until the time he was himself put to death for his faith, Paul never got over the fact that Jesus called him - him! - who had formerly been "a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man". He never got over the fact that Jesus showered His mercy on him, and put him into the ministry of proclaiming the very gospel that he had once so viciously and so sinfully opposed.
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Now; no one would have thought that Paul was worthy of such an honor - least of all Paul himself. He didn't even deserve to be saved by the Jesus he persecuted, let alone put into a ministry of preaching His message of love and grace to others. And many people today believe that they have been too wicked and and too sinful and too evil to be saved by Jesus. Many such people believe that even if Jesus saved them, they could certainly never expect that Jesus could use such sinners as they had been to accomplish His work. But Paul goes on to say, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life" (1 Tim. 1:15-16).
When I was a little boy, my father would take me swimming at the local public pool. He would invite me out of the shallowest part of the pool and into the deeper water. I was a little nervous because I wasn't sure how deep the water was. "How deep is it, daddy?" I wasn't very tall, and I wasn't able to swim yet. I could never stand in water too deep. But my father would show me that it was all right. He'd stand in the water for me so I could see that the water went only a little ways up above his knees; and say, "See? This is how deep it is, Greg. Come on, and stand where I am."
I think of that when I think of Paul's words here. Paul is God's evangelist to sinners who think that they're too bad to be saved. He himself stands in God's grace, and invites sinners to put their trust in the Savior as he did. But when someone looks over how sinful they've been, they might think, "But, I've been a horrible sinner. Jesus couldn't save someone as bad as me." And as if in answer to that, Paul points to himself and says, "You may be a very terrible sinner; but no matter what you did, you couldn't have been a bigger sinner than me. I've been a blasphemer of the sacred name of Jesus, and a persecutor of His precious people, and an insolent and violently murderous man. I'm the chief of sinners. And look! Jesus has saved even me! He can save you too. Just take a look at me, and see how sufficient His saving grace and mercy is for even the worst sinner; and come on; stand in His saving grace. If He had enough forgiveness for even me, then He certainly has more than enough forgiveness for you!"
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It was because he was so moved by the saving grace of God through His Son Jesus - particularly as he himself had experienced it - that Paul to burst forth in this beautiful expression of worship: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (v. 17). That was his song of thanks and praise to the merciful God who saved him.
And one of the great truths Paul would have us learn about worship - a lesson that one of Paul's greatest students, Jonathan Edwards, would most certainly say "Amen" to - is that 'gratitude for salvation' and 'genuine worship' are inseparable. The greatest and purest motivation for worship is our own salvation experience; and the proper response to God's saving grace is to give Him our worship.
Let's look at the details of Paul's expression of worship in this verse; and let's learn together some of the things it has to teach us about true, heart-felt worship. First, notice that it teaches us ...
1. WHO WE ARE TO WORSHIP.
Paul says, "Now, to the King eternal ..."
When we read the word "king", we're usually accustomed to thinking about a man in robes, seated on a throne, with a crown and a scepter. We're usually thinking, in such a case, of someone filling a role of political leader over an earthly realm. And of course, the word that Paul uses here means that. The Greek word is basileus; and Paul uses it in this very same letter when he says, in 1 Timothy 2:2, that he wants prayers to be made for all men; including, "for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." In that case, he's speaking of a political leader in terms of his authority - a ruler who holds the highest human authority over a political realm.
But there's a deeper significance to this word translated "King" as Paul uses it in this morning's verse. Here, it speaks of One who possesses absolute sovereign authority and transcendent power; and it emphasizes His splendor and majesty as God of all creation. At the very end of his letter, Paul breaks forth in another "doxology" - one very similar to this one; and in it, he speaks of God as "He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:15-16). The word "Potentate" means "the Sovereign one" - the One who possesses absolute strength and power. Such a One is a King who rules above all other kings, and a Lord who rules over all other lords. He isn't merely a king among kings, or lord among lords; but rather the One who holds total authority and dominion over all other kings and lords. Here, Paul is using the word "King" in terms of absolute, sovereign power over all creation.
And it's this sense that Paul speaks of the object of his worship as "King". He's speaking of the One who saved him as the absolutely sovereign, absolutely transcendent, all-powerful ruler over all things in heaven or on earth.
What's more, Paul speaks of as such a King "eternal". In the original language, he calls God "the King of the ages", or "the King of the eons". Other kings are kings of - at best - only one generation. Certainly, no earthly king could ever be a king over an "age" or an "eon". But Paul says he worships "the King of the ages" - that is, a King who rules over a plurality of ages. He was the only sovereign King before the world began; and He will be the only sovereign King throughout eternity; and He is the only sovereign King in every generation between. As Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, eventually declared, "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation" (Dan. 4:3). He isn't simply the King of some other era than our own. He stands above "time"; and so, He is eternally relevant, and as eternally sovereign in our time as in any other. He is the King of this generation, and - at the same moment - the King of all other generations.
I read about a man who was watching a broadcast of a Billy Graham Crusade on television who felt led to apply this truth in a remarkable way. The actual crusade had occurred several months before he was watching it. But as he watched the video tape of Dr. Graham giving the invitation, and watched all the people who came forward, he prayed something like this: "O God; I pray that many would have come forward as a public profession of their faith in Christ."
In other words, this man was praying in the present that God would hear his prayer, and would act to do something that had already been settled in the past. And He prayed this, believing that God, who could hear his present prayer from the past, was able to perform in the past that thing he was asking in the present! (Did you get all that?) Such a thing would be a crazy, bizarre thing to pray - if it weren't for the fact that our Savior is "the King of the ages", who stands above time, and for whom all eternity is one eternal "present". Such a thing boggles our minds, because we must live "in" time; but it presents no problem at all for the King of the ages, who lives "above" time.
Paul was saved by this King. This sovereign, almighty King of the ages loved Paul before the world began. He was so powerful, and so mighty a Savior that He could even turn Christianity's greatest antagonist into its greatest evangelist and missionary. Only a mighty King such as God could do this; and that's who Paul worshiped.
And if He has saved you, He has saved you as King of the ages too. He has loved you before the world began; and He was fully able to move heaven and earth, if needs be, to save you when the time was right. He sovereignly worked to save you - even you, whom He chose for salvation from before the world began - and to surround you with the circumstances and situations that ultimately led you to Him. He has sovereignly sent His Son to die on the cross for you; and has sovereignly opened your eyes to His love and grace; and is sovereignly able to keep you in His grace until you are in His glorious presence forever.
Do you worship Him for this? Do you adore the King of the ages? Oh, how much you should!
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Paul has told us who he worshiped. And now, he tells us ...
2. WHAT HE IS LIKE.
He says, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise ..."
Notice that he, first, affirms that God is eternal. That's what it means that He's "the King of the ages". This phrase not only speaks of the transcendence of His sovereignty, but also of His eternality. He has no beginning, and will have no end. He is, as the Bible tells us, "the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity" (Isaiah 57:15). "Known to God from eternity are all His works" (Acts 15:18). His kingdom is "an everlasting kingdom", and His dominion "endures throughout all generations" (Psalm 145:13). As the psalmist says, "Before the mountains were bought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God" (Psalm 90:2).
And think of this amazing statement: "... The mercy of the LORD" (not just the Lord Himself, but His mercy!) "is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:17). He had it in His heart to be merciful to us in eternity past; and it's His intention to be merciful to us in eternity future. This can only be true because He, Himself, is from everlasting to everlasting. We worship a Savior who always was, and who will never, ever cease to exist - an eternal Savior! Only an eternal Savior can save us eternally!
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Second, notice that God is immortal. The word in the original language means that He is incorruptible. He will never change, nor diminish in His essential glory, nor become corrupted or tainted by anything. Therefore He is absolutely, perfectly enduring in all aspects of His holy character. We can trust that He will never be less in the future than what He is today; nor is He in any way different today from what He has always been. "The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary" (Isaiah 40:28). He is the Father of lights, "with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).
This means that we, like Paul, can entrust our salvation to Him; "for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day" (2 Tim. 1:12). This means that we, like Peter, can trust Him to keep an inheritance for us that is "incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven" for us (1 Peter 1:4); and trust Him to keep us for that inheritance (v. 5), because He is immortal - forever enduring in His nature, character and being. "I am the LORD, I do not change ..." (Mal. 3:6).
We can only hope for an eternal salvation from a God who will always be what He says He is. And that's our God. We worship a Savior who will never change; and so our hope in Him will never fail. And so, neither should our worship of Him ever diminish either.
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Third, notice that God is invisible. This emphasizes that He is Spirit and that He is unspeakably holy. The Bible tells us that "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things" (Acts 17:24). "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). He dwells in "unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see" (1 Tim. 6:16).
We could never trust our salvation to a God who was dependent on us to do things for Him, or who needed us to give Him advice, or required anything from us physically. But we worship the "invisible" God. He is the supreme God over our realm; but He Himself dwells supreme in a realm different from our own. He cannot be tainted by our sins, or hindered by our limitations, or slowed down by our lack of resources. We can't even see Him in order to make a physical representation of Him. All we can do is look to Jesus - who is "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15) - and worship our God through faith in Him. "... Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
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Finally, notice that God is unique. He is, as Paul says, "the only God". Some translations have it that he is "God who alone is wise". Paul says elsewhere, "... To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen" (Rom. 16:27). He certainly is alone in His wisdom. But whether or not the idea of wisdom was meant by Paul to be included in this particular case, Paul is still, nevertheless, affirming that He is the "only God".
This speaks of His exclusiveness. There is no other God but Him. "I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no savior" (Isaiah 43:11). This also emphasizes His deity. He is the only "God" - a being in a class of His own. "I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God" (44:6). "Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one" (44:8). "Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand" (Deut. 32:39). He has no competitors to His cause. He has no advisor to His plans. He is the only God there is.
We have a personal interest in all these attributes of God, because the security of our salvation is dependent upon God being what He is - eternal, immortal, invisible, the Only God. And our personal interest in these realities of God's being should move us to deep, deep worship and adoration of Him.
When was the last time you got alone with God and spent time talking to Him about Him? How long has it been since you've spent quality time meditating on the splendor of who He is, and thanking Him for His attributes one by one? We have enough truth in this verse alone to spend an eternity worshiping Him!
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Paul has told us who it is that he worships, and what He is like. Now, he tells us ...
3. WHAT IS TO BE ASCRIBED TO HIM IN WORSHIP.
Paul says, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory ..."
First, he says that honor should be ascribed to God. To ascribe honor to a thing means to acknowledge the precious value and worthiness of that thing. And to ascribe honor to a person means to treat him or her with appropriate respect, and to give him or her what is due to them. Children, for example, are told to "honor your father and mother" (Eph. 6:2); which means that they are to give their parents obedience. "Honor widows who are really widows", Paul writes (1 Tim. 5:3); meaning that the church is to provide for their needs. Faithful leaders in the church, who rule well, are to be "counted worthy of double honor" (1 Tim. 5:17); which means, they are to be paid for their labors. Husbands are commanded to dwell with their spouses in an understanding way, "giving honor to the wife" (1 Peter 3:7); which, in this case means to value their wives as precious, and treat them courteously and in a well-mannered way. We're to even honor our rulers - "honor all people," Peter says; and adds "honor the king" (1 Peter 2:17).
When we honor someone, we treat them in accordance with their true value. When we honor them for something that they've done, we celebrate the value of their action, or the importance of their contribution. We don't make light of who they are or of what they've done for us; but treat these things with the utmost regard, and their persons with reverence and resect. Similarly, when we ascribe honor to God, we're acknowledging His precious value and worthiness, and celebrating Him accordingly. We're taking inventory of who He has revealed Himself to be, and what He has revealed Himself to be like; and we're responding to that self-disclosure by expressing whole-hearted agreement with what we find. We treat the things we learn of His character and works, and we treat them with the respect for which they are due. We take full pleasure and delight in those things, and celebrating it in our worship of Him.
And second, Paul says that we should ascribe glory to Him. To glorify God means to reflect back to Him, as His creatures, the splendor of who He is and what He has done. It means to put God's majesty and greatness on display - to lift it high, as it were, so that others may join us in our praise. The Bible tells us that this is one reason why He saved us: " ... that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). God Himself says, "Whoever offers praise glorifies Me" (Psalm 50:23).
The purpose of our worship is to glorify God. In fact, our own purpose, and the purpose of everything about us, is to glorify God. We certainly do this when we sing to Him with worship songs, or in expressions of praise. But we're also to do this in the way we live our lives. We glorify God when we live in the way that is pleasing to Him - not just with our spiritual worship, but also with our day-to-day actions. "For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body ..." (1 Cor. 6:20).
Now understand: We cannot, in any respect "give" or "add" honor and glory to God. To "ascribe" these things to Him doesn't mean that we give Him something that He doesn't already have. Rather, it means that we recognize and celebrate the honor and glory that is already true of Him. To ascribe or attribute "honor" and "glory" to God is simply a matter of taking a look at Him and seeing what is already true of Him. It means seeing the truth - that He is the King of the ages, who is eternal, immortal, invisible in His being; the only God there is - and then, responding to that truth by confessing, with our whole being, that "honor" and "glory" truly do belong to Him in the highest degree.
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This leads us, finally how it is that we ascribe these things to such a God. Paul tells us ...
4. HOW HE IS TO BE WORSHIPED.
Paul says, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." Literally, Paul says that we ascribe these things to Him "unto the ages of the ages". We are to never, ever cease to ascribe honor and glory to God in this way.
This reminds me of what it says in Revelation 4:13. There, we're given a picture in heaven of "every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying, 'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!'" But this isn't only to be true in heaven. It's even to be true of us on earth - and even during times of hardship and trial. Even then, God Himself doesn't change; and neither should our praise of Him cease. Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, "Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flocks may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls - yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
Our Savior will never cease to be what He is in all the perfection of His being. And so, we should never, ever cease to ascribe honor and glory to Him. And truly, we never will; because He has saved us eternally through His Son Jesus, and has made it possible for us to honor and glorify Him forever.
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Paul's closing word to all this is "Amen" - "It is true!" Worship is the act of taking a careful look at God's self-revelation of who He is and what He does; and then responding, with all that we are and do, to what we see. True worship is a dynamic "Amen!" to the self-disclosure of God. Are you able to look at these truths about God our Savior and say "Amen" to it all as well?
If you feel that your sense of worship toward God has grown cold, I suggest that you rekindle the fire of worship in your heart by spending time thinking about His work of salvation. Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior by faith? Has He redeemed you from your sins, and washed all your sinful past away under His all-sufficient, atoning blood? Has Jesus wrapped His arms of love around you, and put His Holy Spirit in you as a guarantee that you will share in His heavenly glory? Were you once in rebellion against Him; but have you now been made into His devoted follower? Did you once count Him your enemy; but has He opened your eyes, so that you now love Him as your greatest and most precious friend? Did you once fight against His cause; but has He now enlisted you into His service?
If all of this is true, then what should your response to Him be? What can it be but deep, profound, grateful worship? What could you ever give Him in return for saving you but your worship? If you have been saved by Him, then you've got the greatest motivation in the world to say, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!"
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is prohibited.)
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