“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…. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:15–17

As we mature we seem to lose our sense of wonder. Life grows busy, complicated, and difficult. We grow accustomed to things sublime, significant, and satisfying to such a degree we hardly take note of them. For example: Are you a father? A mother? A husband? A wife? A student? Blessed with five senses? Employed? Living in the land of freedom? Alive? Each is a good cause for a gratitude-attitude!

Every one of these privileges, pales in comparison to the greatest privilege of all—being saved—forgiven, born again and declared a son of the Most High! Yet, even this most blessed privilege from heaven is often overshadowed, overwhelmed, and overrun by the erosive seas of earthbound life. Only a grateful heart and a steady succession of seasons of thanksgiving will maintain your defenses against the weathering effects of life’s wind and tide. Paul provides a fine illustration of this habit in the first chapter of 1 Timothy.

Verse 17 contains the doxology of Paul’s heart, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Of Paul’s many doxologies, this one is particularly memorable.

What has caused Paul’s thanksgiving? In previous verses he recounted to Timothy his own unworthiness before God and, yet, the fact that God had chosen him for service. Verse 12 starts with thanks for his commissioning to serve God. He uses three terms to describe God’s direction for him. He says the Lord “enabled” (meaning to infuse and to clothe) him. Additionally, he says Christ “counted” (to deem and consider) him faithful. Not only did God prepare and choose Paul, but He also “put” (placed in service) Paul into the service of ministry (activity where one renders service). His role in work was by virtue of God’s deliberate, careful judgment. Paul realized all he had of value was bestowed upon him by God’s sovereign grace. There is no believer on earth, including you and me, who has not been blessed in the very same manner, though certainly not to the same degree as Paul.

Verses 13 and 14 explain the reason this boon from God ran counter to all human logic. God prevailed on Paul only because God is able! Paul tells us of his nature before he was saved. He says he was a “blasphemer” (speaking slanderously of God). He says he was a “persecutor,” certainly of Jesus’s believers and servants. Paul also states he was an “insolent” man, he did not just speak evil of God, but he violently and aggressively sought to destroy the saints. These three words must have cut Paul to the quick as he remembered and willingly acknowledged what he was before God transformed him.

Even in the same breath, as it were, Paul states that his privilege was due only to the mercy and grace of God. He recounts that God’s grace super-abounded toward him and was vouchsafed through faith and love in Christ Jesus. Paul owned no other hope and no personal merit but the grace of forgiveness provided through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This same relief from guilt, as a loving father embraces a repentant, prodigal son, is the experience of every born-again saint.

Verse 15 is a mighty declaration, not only of Paul’s personal testimony, but also of his message to the lost. Trustworthy, and excluded from all doubt, is the saying that Jesus Christ’s purpose and mission was to come into the world and save sinners! This is the hope of the Gospel good news and the light of the world! As Paul states in his testimony, he palpably felt that he stands front and center as the foremost of sinners; all true believers personally know the sentiment he was reflecting. The moment you lose touch with your personal sense of unworthiness, life’s winds and tide begin to shift your foundation and your thanksgiving due to God grows weak and muted.

Paul then explains the plan of God in his life (verse 16). God worked first in him so that he might stand out as an example of God’s grace. He illustrated God’s great longsuffering (literally, long-souled, long passion). Paul was an example and a pattern of God’s prevailing grace. We too, serve as examples and patterns for saints around us to follow. Eternal life, in right relationship with the Almighty, in joyous service for Him, perfected through Christ, is the new reality for every believer! It is the gracious gift of God which we get to live and preach!

Now we come to our key verse, Paul’s thanksgiving doxology (verse 17). Let your praise begin like Paul’s praise “to the King of the Ages,” the Ruler of All Time (Psalm 145:13; Daniel 4:3, 34). God leaves all other potentates and “wannabees” in the dust! God is “immortal” (uncorrupted, imperishable). Is it any wonder that He alone can promise resurrection and incorruptible crowns and inheritance? God is invisible (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 11:27; Exodus 33:20), and “who alone is wise.” To Him belong honor (worth, value, weight) and glory forever! These “forever” attributes of God surely are a terror to a sinner, but they surely are a joy to the saint! Be thankful. Trust and obey.