Society of Fellows
Today, I want us to look at the song of the victor. If you’re going to fight a fight, then you win from time to time. And when you win, there is a song of victory. Paul, in I Timothy, writes several verses that we get much of out hymnody from. One of those is our text this morning. I Timothy chapter 1 and verse 17. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” There’s the word. Don’t you miss that word. Because sometimes we’ve let that hand clapping get in the way of a biblical response. I am not telling you that it is wrong to use your hands. That is one way of giving affirmation. But sometimes, we need to sit on our hands and loose our tongue to say that when the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, when He gets honor and glory forever and ever, we just need to say, “Amen.” And that is God’s word to us today.
Opinion polls tell us that 92% of Americans, when asked, will answer in the affirmative, “I believe in God.” However, when you begin to delve into their mind and in their answer, they do not all believe in the God of the Scriptures. We have today a rainstorm of gods in our America that everyone is worshipping and many of those are deities of our own choice. It is not so much a theology, as it is a me-ology. It is what I perceive God to be. It is not what God has said He is unto me. It kind of reminds me of the apostle Paul walking through the streets of Athens. If you have never been to Greece, I hope you get to go one day. It is wonderful to visit in Thessalonica. Go down and see Corinth, and then walk through the streets of Athens where we are going to have the Olympics this next time. Paul was walking down the corridor of Athens and he saw an altar to this god, and an altar to this god, and an altar to that god, an altar to that god. And when he spoke in the Areopagus in Acts 17, Paul was preaching to the people and he said, “I found one inscription that said, ‘an altar to the unknown god.’” Just in case we left any out, they inscribed one to the god we don’t know and we just put them all in that pile. Friend, that’s America today. Gods on every side. It’s an amazing culture that we live in, in America where God is so spoken of and yet so unknown in our world.
When Paul was writing this verse, verse 17, he was writing it to Timothy. Timothy was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ephesus. And there at the First Baptist Church of Ephesus they were right in the middle. As a matter of fact, it was the only Baptist church in Ephesus. They were planting these little house churches, and they became first and second and third and fourth and fifth Baptists. And in the middle of that culture, Paul said, “There’s only one God.”
Now in Ephesus, they were known for worshipping two things. First of all, they were known for the temple of Artemis. Artemis was the Roman counterpart to Diana, or the counterpart to Diana of Rome. Artemis and Diana, the god and goddesses of fertility. And when you see Artemis, you study archeology, you will find in the temple what most people think is a multi-breasted god, with breasts all over her, showing fertility. Others think that they are ostrich eggs that they have put all over. Either way, it is showing multiplication and fertility. They would bow down to this goddess of fertility in Ephesus. But also, when you read the book of Acts in chapter 19, you find that when they came to Ephesus there was an acropolis, and in that place, there was emperor worship. Whoever the emperor of Rome was, you would bow down unto him. So there is the fertility goddess, Artemis, Diana, and on the other side there is the worship of the emperor, believing that Caesar was Lord, that he was God when he was crowned. And in the middle of all of that, Paul wrote to Timothy and he said, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Now friend, in our world today, in the midst of all of these gods that everybody’s talking about, if you are Christian and believe the Word of God, there is only one God and you must give Him glory in the midst of a pagan culture that we reside in today.
Well, I want us to look at this verse and I want to share with you two things out of this text. Number one, when we think of God in this song of victory that is a praise unto the Lord, I want you to see first what I am simply calling His royalty, these four words that identify the King. He is royal. First of all, it says he is the eternal King. That means He’s the King of all the ages. He is in the beginning and He will be in the end. He is the alpha, He is the omega, He is the A, He is the Z. He gives all life. God gives us in eternity, first of all, eternal life.
Hear me, friend, there is not eternal life in anyone else other than eternal God through Jesus Christ, His Son. You can go to heaven and live forever in eternity with God if you come to know Jesus Christ. For the Bible says in John 3 and verse 36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.” And friend, if you do not believe in Jesus, you are condemned already. He is eternal King and He gives eternal life. Don’t you want to go to heaven and live forever? Today everybody is talking about they want to live forever here. I have been here for fifty years and I already know I don’t want to stay forever. Now if you die, they say, “Well, we can freeze you and you can come back.” Hey, I am coming back and I don’t have to be frozen. I just have to be saved to come back. I am coming back. I am coming back on a white horse and I’m not an equestrian. I don’t even like horses. But the Bible says He’s going to be on a white horse and all His people with Him and I’m going to saddle up and ride. Why? Because I have eternal life, not because I’ve been frozen, but because I’ve been saved.
He gives eternal life. But I want you to understand, this eternal King not only gives eternal life, He gives abundant life. John 10:10 says that, “The thief has come to kill and destroy, but I have that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” The happiest people in all the world ought to be believers that are forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Friend, we know where we come from, we know whose we are, and we know where we are going. We ought to be abundant, happy people. I was standing out in the foyer this morning and I was kind of whistling a little tune and people were walking by. Somebody came by and said, “Pastor, you seem to be awful happy on this Sunday.” I said, “Well bless the Lord, I’ve got a lot to be happy about. My sins are forgiven. My wife’s stayed with me. My children are almost gone. Man, I’m telling you, it’s a day of days.”
Oh, abundant life! Yet some of you sit there today with cancer in your body. I want you to know that there is abundant life even when cancer comes. Some of you sit there looking at a bypass surgery, yet you can have abundant life. Some of you sit there and your children have run amuck. They have left the faith and the fold. I’m here to tell you, your abundance does not depend on what your children do. Your abundance of life depends on how faithful God is to you. We ought to be abundant life people.
God is eternal and He gives eternal life, He gives abundant life. But I want you to understand, God also gives physical life. He’s the giver of life. Psalm 139:13 – David is speaking and he said, “For thou, O God, didst form my inward parts; thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”
God knew you before you were born, and when you were in your mother’s womb, God was forming you and making you and shaping you. God gives life. Now the question, dear friend, on this abortion issue is just one. Is the baby in the womb a real person? If the baby in the womb is not a person, kill it and you are fine. That particular picture has riveted us. A surgeon’s hand on top and he is doing surgery on a baby in the womb. And when they opened that womb, one little hand came out and the doctor put his finger down and the baby in the womb grabbed the finger of the doctor. Now you answer the question, if that’s not a human reaching to another human then kill it and you are okay. But if that is a human pre-born and you kill it, that is murder and you will stand before God for it. And any nation that would vote for it is on the very edge and precipice of the judgment of Almighty God. And any church that would not stand against it does not have the favor of God resting on it.
We must speak boldly. Our country has voted. Our court system has said you can. For thirty some odd years, they have said yes. I am here to tell you it does not make it right. It is still wrong according to the Word of God and we must stand. It is so important that we understand life comes from God. He is eternal King.
Now there are some who sit in this room today who have been to the clinic and aborted the pre-born. I know you. Some of you I do not, but you are here. “Pastor, what should I do?” Confess what you did as sin unto God and receive His forgiveness. For our eternal King is a gracious God. And if he can forgive the very apostle Paul who penned this letter and this verse we read who himself was a murderer of Christians, God will in turn forgive you and use you as He used the apostle Paul. This is not unpardonable sin. It is a heinous crime, but God will forgive. If you are a young couple or a single or a teenager, never let it come into your mind that you might abort when your girlfriend or your wife is pregnant. Don’t do it. They don’t tell you the horrific stories of guilt and consequence that people walk through when they have walked in that clinic and out again. God is the giver of life and it is a serious thing, a dangerous thing to fall in the hands of Holy God with blood on your hands.
He is eternal and life is His. But not only is he eternal, this text says about his royalty, he is immortal. He is immune from death, decay, or corruption. You see, God never dies. Back in the 60’s, there was a pronouncement, “God is dead.” Well, they missed it. Before he ruled and reigned in the sixties, he lived through 70’s, he was alive in the 80’s, the 90’s and even after 2000, God is alive today in 2004. He is not dead but the ones who made the pronouncement, they are dead. Yet God lives for he is immortal. He never dies. One day, the Bible says in I Corinthians 15:53, “Your mortality must put on immortality.” Everybody in this room is going to face death. And when you face it, you will need to put on immortality. If you do not put on immortality, you will put on death for eternity. The only way to be clothed in immortality is to be clothed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I look back over the year 2003 and the funerals we had here. Of course, not long back our good friend Brother Doug that worked for us put on immortality. He is in heaven today bouncing around in glory. He did not have to worry about the temperature in this room this morning. Where he was, the temperature was perfect. All taken care of. I walk back through and look at those files of those funerals I have done. Every time when they breathe their last, the mortal puts on immortality.
One of our fine men is right across the street over here at the hospital and his wife thinking, “Am I going to have to take him off of this machine, so that when I do he’s going to step from this life into the next?” Let me tell you, friend, when he ceases breathing here, that man, because he knows Christ – and I know he does because I have asked him about it – he will step from mortality to immortality. On his own accord? Oh no. Friend, everybody doesn’t go to heaven. Only those who are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This mortal will put on immortality. Why? Because God’s there waiting for you. He never dies.
He is the King eternal. He is the King immortal. The Bible says there is thirdly the King invisible. I love the story that Ark Linkletter used to tell. He walked down the hall one day in the studio, and he saw a little girl and she was drawing a picture. He said, “What are you drawing?” She said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” Ark Linkletter said, “Well, nobody knows what God looks like.” She said, “Well, they will in just a minute.” She was about to tell us. Friend, no man’s ever seen God and lived. He’s invisible. You don’t see him.
How do we know God who’s invisible? There are two ways that we know him. They are found in II Corinthians 4. Just listen to this. II Corinthians 4, verses 6 and 7. The first way we know Him is Jesus Christ. “For God who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” How do we know God? We know Him by the glory that was in Christ Jesus when he came. You say, “Preacher, that’s good. We know God by looking at Jesus, but I can’t see Jesus. He’s not here.” That’s right. The only way we know God is through God’s body. You see, the only way you know me is through my body. This is really not me. Me is inside. But the only way you know me is by my body. The only way you know God is through His body, through Christ. The only way you know God today is though His body, and what is His body today but the Church of the Lord Jesus. He says right here in verse 7, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” You see, we have got this treasure, Jesus, in an earthen vessel, that is us, and the embodiment of God today, the incarnation of God is God in us. Emmanuel. Christmas. God with us. Calvary. Jesus dying. God for us. Pentecost. God in us.
Hear me, church. The only way this world knows God is through you. It’s a book. Paul said we are like a book they read. We had better be writing the right chapters, hadn’t we? You ought to be a part if the church today. Why? You ought to be a part of the bride of Christ, the body of Christ. You ought to be right here. This treasure is in an earthen vessel. It is in us. How do we know God? How do we see God? We see him in the face of Christ and we read about him in Holy Scripture. But you can’t see Jesus today. Some of you have said, “Well, I have had a vision. I have seen Him.” Well, you have had bad pizza too late at night. You know God through the Word of God. But how you know Him through His church is when you see Him at work in the body.
He is the King eternal. He is the King immortal. He is the King invisible. Look at this. He says, “He is the King, the only God.” Now some of you are reading the King James Version and it says the only wise God, but the oldest manuscripts say the only God. The only wise God is not bad because in Romans 16:27, in the oldest manuscripts, it says the only wise God. So He is the only wise God, but what Paul was saying here is that He is the only God. Hear me. There is no competitor for God. Nobody is on his level. He is unique. There are some who want to be God but nobody can get in His class.
We have these golf tournaments and so they ask you what flight – are you in the A or the B or the C or the D. If you’ve got a certain handicap, you are in the A and the B, and so on, where you fit. Let me let you understand today that God is in a class that nobody else fits in. He is by Himself. He’s the only God. He is the only wise God, but He is the only one.
I had a preacher tell me a story awhile back. He was on an airplane and he sat down next to a lady. He looked over and she had a cross around her neck. He said, “Ma’am, it is good to see you today. How are you?” He said, “I love your cross. We do have a wonderful Savior don’t we?” She said, “Well that’s what some of say but…” She moved it back and underneath the cross she had another necklace on. It was the Star of David. Then, she moved it back and she had another one on which was a symbol of the Hindu alms. She had all her bases covered. he said, “Well, I just wear these as relics, and they are symbols, but they mean nothing to me.”
I want you to hear me today. There is one God. There is not a bunch. There are not two. There are not three. There is one. That’s what Jesus said in Mark’s gospel, chapter 12, when they asked him, “Lord, what is the greatest commandment?” And Jesus said, “The greatest commandment is this. The Lord our God is one. And you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind.” Jesus said, “There is only one God.” Friend, He is the only one. Hallelujah! This is not a cafeteria plan for deity. You don’t go down and get a little of this and a little of that and a little over here. But that is the way Americans do it today. We just take a little bit of all gods. Let me tell you, He is the only one. He is the only wise one. He is the only eternal one. He is the only true one. He is the only one. Don’t you ever get confused. When you walk into a comparative religion course – and if you go to a state school they offer them – they will talk about all the different gods. You learn all you can about them, but just remember this. There is only that has ever come, lived, died, and come back again. Jesus is His name. He is the only wise, true, eternal God. Only one. It is His royalty.
Second, I want to share with you in quitting and concluding, not only His royalty, but I want you to see in this text our response. What is our response to this only God, to His royalty? Well, Paul says it here. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God,” be two things: “honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Be honor and glory. Now the words honor and glory are really interesting stuff. Honor and glory. Honor speaks of what we do privately. Glory speaks of what we do publicly. Honor speaks more of a bowing before God and glory speaks more of a shouting before God. This word honor speaks of our reverence of God and the word glory speaks of our giving majesty unto His name. You see, the clearer you see Him, the clearer you will see yourself. The more crystal gaze you get of true God, the more you will know who you are and you will say just one thing, “Woe is me.” For when you see His purity, you will understand your sinfulness. And when you look into His eyes, you will know your eyes are filled with sin and you need a Savior. You will give him honor and you will give him glory.
The second thing that will happen is that the better we know Him, the more fervently we will worship him. I just want to let you in on a little secret when we go to church. There are a lot of folks that come, they do not know Him. They just do not know Him. Friend, there is no honor and there is no glory. But if you ever got a glimpse of who God is, it will turn your world upside down. Now it says that you give him honor and glory. How long does it say in that verse you’re supposed to give it to Him? Forever. And then he concludes with, what’s that word? Now that word “Amen” is a great word. I just want to talk to you about “Amen” for a minute. I want us to become a more amen-ing church. That’s why I asked you to sit on your hands. You did fair. Its hard.
The word “amen” in the New Testament literally means “so be it.” I vote for it, I like that, I’m for it. hen the folks this morning read in the paper that the President at Auburn had resigned because of what he had done with a football coach – there are a lot of people at Auburn in Baptist churches all across Alabama who said, “Well Amen!” and then the preacher went in and preached and said, “Jesus rose from the dead” and they said, “Well good.” There is no glory and honor in that. As a matter of fact, it may be there is some idolatry taking place. Don’t leave me now. We could go down to Tallahassee or Gainesville and talk over there if you want to. Or we can go up to Ole Miss and Mississippi State if you want to go over there. We can go to Knoxville. They can say, “Well, Phil Former’s been cheating on my team. Amen.” We get all fizzed up about all that. Somehow we missed that He rose from the dead. Somebody comes and gets saved and we say, “Well, that’s good.” We ought to say “Amen!”
Do you know the last word in the Bible is Amen? As a matter of fact it is in the last two verses, Revelation 22, verses 20-21 says, “I’m coming quickly. Amen.” You go down to that last verse and it says, “And grace be to all of you.” And the last word in the Bible says “Amen.” It means so be it. I vote for it. I’m on that side. Amen. Amen. Amen. You see, when the preacher’s preaching and he says something you like, then you say that word “amen.” That means you are on board. He says, “Jesus rose from the dead” and you say, “Amen.” He’s coming back again and you say, “Amen.” You just voted for it. And when you walk down the aisle to say yes to Jesus you are saying “Amen. I believe him.” When you go in the baptistery to be baptized and identify with the Lord Jesus you are saying Amen. He died for me. Amen. He rose for me. Amen. Affirming and saying, “Lord God, God eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, I’m on your team. Amen. Amen.”
So this morning, I am going to ask a couple to get up and walk down here and take me by the hand and say, “Preacher, Amen.” I am going to ask a child to come and trust Jesus as his Lord and Savior this morning and say, “Amen.” I am going to ask a young single to come and join this church and say, “Amen.” I am going to ask somebody that has been saved and never baptized, get up out of that balcony and walk down here and take me by the hand and say, “Pastor, I am coming today to be baptized. Amen. I am affirming the truth of almighty God. I am coming to sing the victory song of what Jesus has done for me. I just want to say amen, amen, amen. I am on the Lord’s side.”
I want us all to stand together. I Timothy 1 and verse 17 “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever Amen.” You come today. You can be the “Amen” of commitment, of conviction, of membership in this dear old body called Olive Baptist.
Written by: Dr. Ted Traylor
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Traylor has been pastor of Olive Baptist Church since 1990. He was inducted into the R. G. Lee Society of Fellows on October 9, 2003 and delivered this message to his congregation on January 18, 2004. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Samford University, a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Elizabeth have two children, Rachel and Bennett.