Sent in Humility: Manifested in Glory

Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

The word of the day is “God.”   In our reading of 1 Timothy 6:11-16, St. Paul offers a doxology of praise to the Lord of lords and King of kings who is immortal, and invisible, and in glory hidden from human eyes.

Pau’s hymn of glorifying God is appropriate for this day after the Feast of the Nativity.  On this second day of the Feast,  all that we have said and done now blend together in a song of honor, adoration, and worship of the “ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, and incomprehensive” God (“Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom,”  St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1984).

Lord of Lords, King of Kings

The passage may have been a doxology that the Ephesians used in worship. Here Paul inserts it into his letter’s closing when he speaks of the return of Christ.  In our reading, note that the titles “Lord of lords” and “King of kings” do not describe the Son of God.  They declare the praise of God the Father.

The apostle says that God would “manifest” the coming of Christ “ (vs. 6:15). The word translated “manifest” means “to show” or “to exhibit” in the Greek text (Strong’s #1166, 63).  Yesterday, we learned that God (the Father) “sent forth” His Son (Galatians 4:40).  Now we hear a parallel thought. As God the Father “sent forth” His Son into the world in humility, so He will “show” Him to the world in glory when He comes again.

The apostle says that God will do this “in His own time” (vs. 6:15)   That time is the Father’s alone.  The Risen Christ said, “It is not for you to know time or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). And again, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father” (vs. Mark 13:32).  Whether this statement is figurative or not (OSB fn. Mark 13:32), it is clear that the timing of the Lord’s Second Coming is in the Father’s hands.

Understanding In Its Context

It is true that the Book of Revelation speaks of Jesus Christ as the victorious Lamb who is “Lord of lords” and “King of kings.”  A similar phrase speaks of God in the Old Testament,  “For the Lord, your God is God of gods and Lord of lords” (Deuteronomy 10: 17). Again, the Psalmist wrote, “Give thanks to the God of gods…” and “give thanks to the Lord of lords” (Ps. 136:3).  Given these differences in applying this phrase, we must understand the term in its context. Thus, when the apostle says, “who alone has immortality… whom no man has seen or can see…” (vs. 6:16), we immediately think of the ancient tradition that human eyes cannot see God.  According to Exodus, no one can see God’s face and live (Exodus 33:20). Therefore, the phrases “Lord of lords” and “King of kings” apply here to God the Father.

The Gospel of John’s Prologue gives the formula for understanding how the Son reveals the Father.  It says, “No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only Son who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known (vs. John 1:18, OAB).  The Greek word “see” can be used metaphorically.  But here it means “to see with physical eyes” (Strong’s #3708, 181).  The incarnation of the Son of God has not made the “God of gods” visible to our eyesight.  It has  “made Him known” (OAB)  or “declared” Him (OSB).   The Greek word for “known”  or “declared” is based on the thought of “leading out.” The translation that best captures this sense is “to unfold” (Strong’s #1834, 92).  Like we do when we open a fold-up Christmas card, the Incarnate, Son of God, opened up the heart of God.  By that revelation, we do not see Him.  But far better, we know Him.  We have a person-to-person relationship with Him whose love for humankind is everlasting.

For Reflection

For a brief moment, we enjoy a brief respite of pure praise as we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Yet, it is astounding how fast the Gospel narrative moves on from this joy to tell events that reflect the world’s struggles.  Tomorrow we will hear the account of the
‘Flight into Egypt” and the terrible story of the “Massacre of the Innocents.”

Yet, as we see in our reading, the narrative goes from praise to praise.  The story begins with the praises of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the Virgin Mary, the angels, shepherds, and the Wise Men.  They glorified God the Father who “sent forth His Son” into the world.  But the story goes on to tell of how the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished the work of our salvation.  So we continued with the praises of those who witnessed the crucifixion, resurrection, and Ascension of the Lord.   And in our reading, we hear that the story will end with the glorification of God the Father who will “show” the appearance of the Son of God in glory.

 

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