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1 Timothy 6:15 (NIV): which God will bring about in his own time--God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

What does Paul mean by "the blessed and only ruler, the king of kings"?

Did he mean God the Father, or God the Son, or the Holy Trinity?

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  • @user33515 thank you for your helpful answer. – salah Mar 15 at 23:07
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The word God (θεός - Theos) does not actually appear at all in the Greek text either verse 15 or either of the verses before or after it. The literal Greek of verse 15 probably reads closer to something like the NKJV:

14...that you keep [this] commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing,

15which He will manifest in His own time, [He who is] the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords

It may be that the NIV translators were troubled by verse 16:

who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see ... (NKJV)

leading them to conclude that the King of kings and Lord of lords had to refer to God the Father and not God the Son, who had become Incarnate.


Apparently this was somewhat ambiguous even for Greek readers. John Chrysostom, a Byzantine Greek, wrote in his 4th century commentary on this verse:

Of whom are these things said? Of the Father, or of the Son? Of the Son, undoubtedly: and it is said for the consolation of Timothy, that he may not fear nor stand in awe of the kings of the earth.

He goes on to explain, however:

But he says only [who alone] either in contradistinction to men, or because He was unoriginated, or as we sometimes speak of a man whom we wish to extol.

Who only hath immortality. What then? hath not the Son immortality? Is He not immortality itself? How should not He, who is of the same substance with the Father, have immortality?

Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto. Is He then Himself one Light, and is there another in which He dwells? is He then circumscribed by place? Think not of it. By this expression is represented the Incomprehensibleness of the Divine Nature. Thus he speaks of God, in the best way he is able. Observe, how when the tongue would utter something great, it fails in power.

Whom no man hath seen nor can see. As indeed [i.e. with respect to His Divine Nature] no one hath seen the Son, nor can see Him.


Gregory of Nyssa (4th c.) explained this passage in a similar way in his arguments against Eunomius, head of an extreme 4th century Arian sect that denied the divinity of Christ:

“God,” he [Eunomius] says, “Who is without beginning, eternally, without end, alone.” Once more understand, ye simple ones, as Solomon says, his subtlety [Prov 8:5 LXX], lest haply ye be deceived and fall headlong into the denial of the Godhead of the Only-begotten Son. That is without end which admits not of death and decay: that, likewise, is called everlasting which is not only for a time. That, therefore, which is neither everlasting nor without end is surely seen in the nature which is perishable and mortal. Accordingly he who predicates “unendingness” of the one and only God, and does not include the Son in the assertion of “unendingness” and “eternity,” maintains by such a proposition, that He Whom he thus contrasts with the eternal and unending is perishable and temporary. But we, even when we are told that God only hath immortality, understand by immortality the Son. For life is immortality, and the Lord is that life, Who said, I am the Life [John 14:6]. And if He be said to dwell in the light that no man can approach unto, again we make no difficulty in understanding that the true Light, unapproachable by falsehood, is the Only-begotten, in Whom we learn from the Truth itself that the Father is. Of these opinions let the reader choose the more devout, whether we are to think of the Only-begotten in a manner worthy of the Godhead, or to call Him, as heresy prescribes, perishable and temporary (Against Eunomius II.4)


Thus, I think, these writings from antiquity show that the interpretation of the NIV may be technically correct, but it may not perhaps be the way the verse was understood by "mainstream" Christians in the first few centuries.

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In 1 Timothy 6:15 did Paul mean God the father or God the Son? What does Paul mean by the blessed and only ruler, the king of kings...?

1 Timothy 6:14-16 (NASB)

14 "That you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which He will [a]bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen."

These words apply to the one whose appearance they describe, namely, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (1 Timothy 6:14) In comparison with mortal humans who rule as kings and as lords, Jesus is the only Sovereign and he alone has immortality. (Daniel 7:14, Romans 6:9) Since his ascension to the invisible heavens, "no man has seen or can be seen."

Daniel 7:14 (NASB)

14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every [b]language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed."

The first one described in the Bible as rewarded with the gift of immortality is Jesus Christ. That he did not possess immortality before his resurrection by God is seen from the inspired apostle’s words at Romans 6:9. Compare Revelation 1:17-18

Romans 6:9 (NASB)

9 "Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him."

Revelation 1:17-18 (NASB)

17" When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I [a]was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades."

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  • 1
    You don't need to date your post, the bottom of every post shows the date it was posted already. – curiousdannii Mar 16 at 5:10
  • Noted, thanks, it was done in error. – Ozzie Ozzie Mar 16 at 10:21

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