by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5 Lincolnton, NC May 16, 2004
16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.
17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life.
17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
In verse sixteen the Textus Receptus has "Jesus Christ" and the Nestle/Aland 26 has "Christ Jesus" and the Textus Receptus has a word for "all" that signifies "all" in all of its generic quality and the Nestle/Aland 26 has the same word with a prefix added that signifies "the whole". The Nestle/Aland 26 is a tad more explicit with this word, but there is very little difference in meaning. In verse seventeen the Textus Receptus has the word "wise" which is omitted by the Nestle/Aland 26, whose editors claim it is an insertion from Romans 16:27 because it has very little support in the manuscript traditions from both sides of the family tree.
I. In Paul's statement about the "pattern" of "all longsuffering" there is an implication that the summons to faith that is inherent in the Gospel must have some kind of "encouragement" in it that God really will give eternal life to those who are willing to embrace the core "word" -- that Christ Jesus came to save sinners. This implication addresses one of the mindset issues in "repentance": that aspect of repentance that calls for the "raising of the valleys" (see Isaiah 40). The metaphoric speech involved implies that one attitude that humanity takes toward God is that of "despair" because He is "too holy" and I am "too evil". In its purest form, this is a minimizing of the extent of the grace of God and an admission that "I am not worthy" of forgiveness and redemption. The "I am not worthy" attitude is exactly true, but there is no foundation there for resisting the offer of the Gospel since Christ Jesus established a "precedent" in His dealings with Saul of Tarsus: He will forgive even the most wicked of men if they want to be forgiven. This issue of "want to" is, however, a sticking point since the claim "I am not worthy" is often not an honest expression of remorseful reality but a sly excuse for not responding to God's summons. There is hope for those who really would like to have a reconciliation occur between them and God whose only fear is that His longsuffering is not great enough to reach them; there is no hope for the liar whose false humility is merely a cloak for resisting the grace of God.
II. Next comes the outburst of praise from the "forgiven sinner"..."Now to the King of the Ages, deathless, invisible, and unique..."
A. Paul calls his Benefactor "The King of the Ages". The grammatical construction does not favor the translators who wish to equate "eternal" with "immortal", "invisible", and "the only God". Paul assigns a title, "King of the Ages" (which obviously involves His eternality) and focuses upon three characteristics...immortality, invisibility, and uniqueness as deity. Thus, in a sense, the title lifts a comprehensive umbrella under which three primary characteristics are highlighted.
1. First, the title: what is the sense of "King of the Ages"?
a. By "king" we are directed to the concept of rule and all of the implications associated with having the authority and power to direct a kingdom.
b. By "ages" we are directed to the concept of the progression of time through successive "ages" that are marked by certain "big" characteristics [very much the idea of dispensations].
c. The overall significance seems to be that we are to understand that our Savior [God] is the One who is creating major "lessons from time" by virtue of His dominion over the ages.
1) This raises the issue of God's "point" for "time": it appears that there are certain issues critical to the development in us of the experience of "eternal life" (verse 16) that God has determined will best develop in our understanding if He demonstrates through a portion of history a certain major thesis. This, of course, means that we must be "clued in" to the major theses of time. We cannot be historically ignorant and theologically informed. On this reality we have the biblical record of historical developments over the entire span of human history. In this biblical record we have the shifting theses of God that are established by His rule of history. When we put these theses together in harmony with each other, we enter into a better experience of eternal life than we can have if we go through time in unmitigated ignorance.
2) This makes this point: God's rule of time is "revelational" unto "eternal life".
2. Then, the major characteristics.
a. Immortality: infinity (Yahweh) of Life without degradation of any kind.
1) Man's significant fear is the degradation of his experience from enjoyment to grief.
2) Man's Creator offers His life in the context of its unassailable immutability: those who enter into His Life leave all of their fear behind.
b. Invisibility: hiddenness from 'created perceptive instruments' (eyes).
1) The invisibility of God is both a restraint upon man to keep him from developing his understanding on the basis of things he can see as well as a motivation for man to lock his understanding into the trustworthy revelation from God that is rooted not in the things that are seen but the things that are eternal.
a) Man is under a powerful prohibition regarding the production of "images" of God.
b) Man is under a terrible power of deception when his theology arises out of the tangibles of experience in this present world.
i. This is a two-edged sword in that God appeals in His special, verbal revelation to His "likeness to" certain created beings (throughout the Bible there are references to God being "like" this creature or that one) but He maintains His insistence that we refrain from "concretizing" His words in the form of solid image. It is altogether one thing to say "I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks" and a completely other thing to cast a hen from a mold and set it up as a representative of God.
ii. It is a reality of language that metaphor and simile take us from the concrete world into the invisible one...we are to be "born again" so that we might become the "bride" of the "bridegroom", etc.
2) This invisibility is, in one sense, "absolute" (no man has seen God at any time) and, in another, "relative" (having eyes, they see not).
3) The overall impression is that we are to get our theology from the lips of God and not from the senses that are given to us to enable our function in a concrete creation.
c. Uniqueness: sole Deity, not competing, or even cooperating, deities.
1) This also exists in tension because the Bible claims multiplicity of personality within God. How is this different from multiple gods? Internal tensions within Unity are a far different issue than tensions that have arisen because there are external competitors. War springs from disunity, not tension within unity.
2) There is a significant danger that men might conceive of God as inherently oppositional. Good and Evil in balance?? There is a "time bound" reality of opposition in the plan of God for the sake of "instruction" for those who are to enter into Life, but one of the "points" of the instruction is that the oppositional aspect of current reality is not the enduring reality. At the root of sin's distortion is the competition of agendas and the uniqueness of God argues that, at some point, the agenda will become one and the experience of Life will become untainted. This is the hope: evil will be destroyed.
B. Paul ascribes "honor" and "glory" to God forever without end.
1. These two are essentially one.
2. Honor is what one gives to the one who possesses the Glory.