Meditations in 1 Timothy: 38: Before God
1 Tim 6:13-16 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time–God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.
To catch the full import of this we need to backtrack a little to the beginning of verse 13. In these meditations we often comment about needing to note the context in which a verse appears but, if you like, these verses say, watch the bigger context in which all these things are said. As we have noted previously Paul is saying to Timothy, “I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame,” (v.13,14) and the command was to go all out to fulfil his calling from God.
We also noted that Timothy was to do that and fearlessly hold to the truth in the same way that Jesus did before Pontius Pilate (v.14b) and to carry on doing until Jesus returned (v.14c) which, Paul observed, “God will bring about in his own time.” (v.15a). This charge Paul brought, “In the sight of God.” (v.13a) In such a way he added weight or significance to the charge.
Once we take out those things we have already dealt with we are left with Paul’s description of this God before whom he charged Timothy: “God the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.” (v.15,16) God thus becomes the backdrop or overall context in which Paul speaks. It is like Paul says, “I do not make this charge casually but I stand in God’s presence and make it as His ambassador or His representative and so it is important for you to remember just who is this God who I represent.” That is the strength with which this charge comes to Timothy for fulfil his calling. It is God who called Him and who now, through Paul, exhorts him to go all out to fulfil it. So let us examine now the descriptions Paul uses of God in this context as he seeks to create a context for all he is saying.
It starts out, “God the blessed,” which sounds slightly strange. When a person is blessed in Scripture it means that good has been done to them by God. Noah declared, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem!” (Gen 9:26) which perhaps might be rendered, “How good is the Lord, the God of Shem who has blessed him.” Melchizedek blessed Abram, and declared, “blessed be God Most High,” which can be rendered, “and may God Most High be praised for His goodness to you” in its meaning. Perhaps, therefore, Paul’s words may be simply put, “God who is good in every way in Himself.”
He continues the description: “and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” This elevates the Lord above any other, He is the ONLY ruler. There may be kings, but He is the King of them all; there may be lords, but He is the Lord of them all. No one rules without His say-so; He is the only true ruler in the universe, because he is the all-powerful Creator of all things and all things only exist and continue to exist because of Him. This is who we are talking about here; this is who Paul stands before, the One who makes plans and fulfils them, the One who calls people and enables them. Because of this, as His emissary, Timothy need have no fear. We can have the same thinking here as David had when he approached the giant, Goliath and asked, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” and then declared to the giant, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sam 17:26 & 45). The talk of him being an “uncircumcised Philistine” refers to his lack of relationship with God and not being part of God’s people. Thus David, as God’s representative had no fear of him. The same is true in the present case: Timothy need have no fear because he is the representative of the almighty Lord of all.
Paul continues his description of the Lord: “who alone is immortal.” (v.16a) Human beings die, God does not. He goes on for ever and ever. That makes Him unique, that makes Him scary and perhaps because of that, “lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” (v.16b) The light, of course we know from elsewhere in Scripture is the glory of God, but what that actually is, we really don’t know. It was the same light, denoting the presence of God that filled the Tabernacle when it was finished (Ex 40:35,36) and when Solomon’s temple was completed (1 Kings 8:10,11). There is something about the presence of the Lord that means no one can see Him and live. Moses had asked, “show me your glory,” but the Lord had answered, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Ex 33:18,20) At various times in Scripture there had been ‘representations’ of the Lord as He appears to make Himself known but the reality is never actually seen.
Thus he finishes with praise to the Lord: “To him be honour and might forever. Amen.” i.e. this is how the Lord is, so honour and praise Him for who He is and live out your life and calling in the awareness of His presence. Is that enough to keep you going Timothy? Is that enough to keep us going? It should be!