The Blessed and Only Sovereign
Topic: Sovereignty of God Passage: 1 Timothy 6:15–6:16
We were made for awe. As image bearers of God, we were made for awe. Or put another way, we were made for worship. We were made to be amazed and struck with awe and reverence. It’s why 35,000 people make the inconvenient trip to the small country of Nepal in order to try to trek up Mount Everest. It’s why 4.5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year, 3.5 million go to Yosemite National Park, and 30 million go to Niagara Falls. We were made for awe.
But we are made for more than being struck with the majesty and beauty of created things, like Mount Everest and the Grand Canyon. No. God made us for himself and we are lost in the wilderness until we find our hearts in awe of him. We are to look above and through created beauty to see the majestic beauty of our God.
We need a high, lofty, big God theology. A big God theology is one that does not confine God to our understanding or our tastes, but rather has our understanding and tastes informed and transformed by what God reveals about himself in his word. Why would we want to settle for anything less? A small view of God leads to an enlarged view of us and our self-importance. It leads a small view of sin, and consequently a small view of Christ and his salvation. Certainly the bible points us in the other direction.
There are texts in the New testament, as Paul or Jude or Peter are writing, giving instruction, they break out in spontaneous praise and blessing to God. We call it doxology - the Greek word “doxa” in the New Testament. Doxology is giving glory to God. One such doxology is in Romans 11:33-36 after Paul labors for three chapters expounding on the freedom of God’s grace, he gets carried up in praise when,
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Another such doxology, perhaps my favorite, is found in the last two verses of Jude.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time, and now, and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)
What’s the point of such passages of scripture? They are not without significance. God does not waste words! It’s to strengthen our faith in the kind of God who is our Father. And it is to fuel awe-inspired worship. A small God theology can never produce such praise that leads us to glory in God as he is worthy of!
In our text this morning, we have such a doxology and I thought it would be worth a week of our attention upon it. And I think the point is this. Our call to fight the good fight of faith is great! Our God is greater! And And my prayer is that this would strengthen your faith in God. And that it would fuel your worship of our awesome God as you fight the good fight of faith and to keep doing so until our Lord Jesus Christ appears. Let’s take a look at verses 15-16 - this doxology, exalting in our great God. Here’s what Paul says,
Which he will display at the proper time - he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (v. 15-16)
As Paul magnifies God, he shines a spotlight on God’s absolute sovereignty. Every Christian confesses that God is sovereign. But one might mean something very different than another. I hope today to help give you an anchor point for your understanding of God as sovereign.
Blessed and Only Sovereign
He is the blessed and only Sovereign. (v. 15)
Paul uses the sovereign, not to describe what sovereignty is (the rest of the passage does that), but rather he uses it as a title for God. God is our “Sovereign”. Some translations (KJV and NKJV) use an interesting word instead of sovereign - one we don’t use much anymore - potentate (potent). A potentate is someone who possesses great power or sway - a prince, an emperor, a King, monarch, or a Sovereign.
Our God is the blessed and only Potentate or Sovereign. And he doesn’t merely possess some power, even great power. He possesses all power. He is not potent merely, but omnipotent. He is not mighty, but almighty. Psalm 91:1 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the most high, will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” God is our omnipotent, all-powerful Sovereign.
He uses two words to describe the kind of Sovereign that he is. He is the blessed Sovereign. The word blessed here is wonderful, but may seem kind of strange. There are two words that are translated blessed in the NT. One that speaks of praise. We might say, “God be blessed!” The other means happy. That is the one used here. God is our blessed or happy Sovereign. Paul also uses this word to describe God in 1 Timothy 1:11 when he describes the gospel as, "The gospel of the glory of the blessed (happy) God."
What does this mean that God is blessed or happy? Well certainly he is perfectly happy in himself and all of his perfections. I think it also means that he is blessed or emotionally happy in his ability to carry out his will and purposes. I hope it give you great comfort to know that our God is not wringing his hands wondering how everything got so out of control here on earth. No. Psalm 135:4-5 says,
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the deeps.
He is the blessed Sovereign. I wonder if it encourages you that the sovereign God you have been reconciled to is not moody or frumpy, but happy? Happy in the perfect work of Christ on your behalf. Happy with his choice to adopt you into his family. He is. He is the blessed Sovereign. And He is the only Sovereign. In other words, he is unrivaled. There is no doubt that we have an enemy of our souls - who like a prowling lion seeks to devour us. He is the devil or Satan. But we must never act like he is the equal of God. He is not!
God is the only Sovereign. I think it was Martin Luther who said “the devil is God’s devil.” And of course that is true. He is real and does real harm and we are to know him as our adversary. But as we see in the story of Job, God the Sovereign has the right and power to say, “You may go so far and no further.” So God is the blessed and only Sovereign. So what we need to think about now is how does God exercise this sovereignty? How does he exercise his omnipotence?
How God Exercises His Sovereignty
Over the events of human history
Which he will display at the proper time… (v. 15)
The return of Christ will happen at the proper time. According to whom? God. A more literal translation would say, “which he will display in his times…” (Acts 1). God is sovereign over all the affairs of human history. He sent forth his Son into the world “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4). When Christ walked the earth and made enemies because he claimed to be God and they sought to kill him. But they couldn’t. John 7:30 tells us why when it says, “They were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”
However, later when the time of his crucifixion had come, Jesus said, “The hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Mark 14:41). And our text says that God has appointed a day on which Christ will come to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:30-31). Human history is in God’s hands. Now, you might say only Christ-related events. Well let’s talk about our lives…
Psalm 139 says that all the days of our lives are written in God’s book. He is the Author of the book of History. Proverbs 16:33 says that God is sovereign even over seemingly random events: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
As God’s children, this is meant to give us great security and comfort. Comfort in God’s good intention toward us. Comfort in God’s timing of things. John Stott said,
Our confidence in God’s perfect timing, and our consequent willingness to leave things in his hands, arise from the kind of God we know him to be.
This is not fatalism! Fatalism is impersonal. But we believe that the blessed and only Sovereign is a personal God who happens to be our Father. He exercises his sovereignty for our good. And so we are to fight to the good fight of faith and to do so until God’s perfect time of Christ’s return or his perfect time of our departure from this world - whichever is first. God is sovereign in the events of human history. God also exercises his sovereignty over kings and lords.
Over kings and lords
The King of kings and Lord of lords (v. 15)
More literally this phrase says, “The Ruler over those who exercise rule. He is the Lord over those who exercise lordship.” There are kings and lords, governments and judges, parliaments and congresses. And our God is King over all of them. They all owe their allegiance to him. Of course, godless kings and governors and presidents and prime ministers don’t like to hear that. Do you remember Herod’s response when the wise men showed up in town looking for the new king who had been born? He was disturbed, troubled, terrified.
At the time Paul wrote this, Nero was the emperor. He was a murderous thug, who demanded submission as lord. And citizens of the ever expanding Roman empire were required to burn a pinch of incense and say the words “Caesar is Lord!”
Christians were not forbidden to worship God. They were free to worship any god they chose. Romans were tolerant, so long as Christians also pledged their allegiance to Caesar. Christians would not and could not! And we must not either!
Ungodly kings, lords, and governments always seek for the kind of homage that is owed to God alone. Francis Schaeffer said, "If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God."
But even ungodly rulers and lords are subject to God. And he rules over them. Not passively. God is not just a figurehead. He exercises dominion over kings and rulers for his own purposes. Proverbs 21:1 says,
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
King Nebuchadnezzar understood this. After being warned that his pride would lead to God’s judgment, he continued. And so God judged him and made the most powerful man in the world behave like a wild beast for seven years. At the end of this ordeal, Nebuchadnezzar confessed the following about our God who is sovereign:
34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:34-35)
Our blessed and only Sovereign is the ruler of those who exercise rule. He is the Sovereign over the president of the United States. He is the Sovereign over the Supreme Court. He is the Sovereign over the congress and all the laws they pass. He is the Sovereign over any and all who may seek to put together a one world government. [Hallelujah Chorus: “King of kings and Lord of lords. And He shall reign forever and ever.”] John Newton (Amazing Grace), “There is one political maxim that gives me comfort: The Lord reigns.” Our Sovereign is the King of kings and Lord of lords. Finally, our blessed and only Sovereign is the Sole Possessor of Unending life.
Sole Possessor of Unending Life
Who alone has immortality (v. 16)
God alone possesses intrinsically, by right, as part of his essential Being unending life. Deathlessness. He will not, he cannot die. The life that we possess is borrowed life. For “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) There is no life outside of God. He gives life and breath to everything. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everyone and everything. But this is talking about immortality, unending life.
Eternal life is a gift from God to be received by faith in Jesus Christ - the One who possesses the power of an indestructible life. The opposite of eternal life is not ceasing to exist, but it is called “perishing”. I think it is accurate that we call it a kind of eternal dying. Think about how hell is described: “outer darkness”, “weeping and gnashing of teeth”, it is the place where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched”.
But for those who are in Christ by faith, he shares his unending life with us! When Jesus returns, we are told that we will be clothed with immortality. Listen to how Paul describes it:
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1 Corinthians 15:52-54)
And it is more than merely breathing and having a beating heart. Eternal life, immortality is when death is swallowed up in the great victory of Jesus Christ and we will be with our happy Sovereign forever.
To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (v. 16)
So fight the good fight of faith… with your eyes fixed on your great God who will help and empower you and fueled by the worship of this great and glorious God.