The Dynamics of the Doxology
The term “doxology” derives from two Greek words, doxa, signifying “praise, honor, glory,” and logos, “utterance.” A doxology then, is a brief expression of praise. It has been more formally defined in the following way.
“The name is given to brief forms of praise to God (or to Christ, or to the Trinity), the models of which were taken over from Judaism” (J.A. Faulkner, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, James Hastings, ed., Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1915, Vol. I, p. 312).
Doxologies are found frequently in the Old Testament. Sometimes a doxology may begin with the term, “Blessed.” For example, Abraham’s servant, upon finding Rebekah (who would become Isaac’s wife), “bowed his head, and worshipped Jehovah.” He said, “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of my master Abraham” (Genesis 24:26-27; cf. Exodus 18:10; 1 Chronicles 16:36).
B.F. Westcott catalogued sixteen doxologies in the New Testament:
- Romans 11:36
- Romans 16:27
- Galatians 1:5
- Ephesians 3:21
- Philippians 4:20
- 1 Timothy 1:17
- 1 Timothy 6:16
- 2 Timothy 4:18
- Hebrews 13:21
- 1 Peter 4:11
- 1 Peter 5:11
- 2 Pet. 3:18
- Jude 25
- Revelation 1:6
- Revelation 5:13
- Revelation 7:12.
Most of these conclude with “Amen,” an expression that elicits assent from others (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:16). Westcott divided these doxologies into three major groups. Those addressed exclusively to God, those directed to God through Christ, and those addressed to Christ alone (The Epistle to the Hebrews, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970 Reprint, pp. 464-465).
In this brief study we will focus on just a sampling of the doxologies that adorn the New Testament. Surely they are models of the type of spontaneous praise that ought to erupt from the saint’s heart as he or she contemplates the wonderful provisions of Heaven’s plan for human happiness.
“To him be the glory for ever”
In his epistle to the Christians in Rome, Paul extols the infinite wisdom and knowledge of God. He cautions that no man can question the Creator, or even advise him, with reference to his judgments, for the intricacies of how his plan is being implemented is beyond human analysis. Let those, therefore, who are inclined to question God, lashing out with bitter tirades, reflect soberly on this amazing declaration.
In contemplating the majesty of Jehovah, the apostle concludes his exhortation with this doxology: “To him be the glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). We may not understand some of his “ways,” but can be confident that he always does what is right (Genesis 18:25), and we can understand the conditions of his will for human redemption.
“Now unto him. . . "
“Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.” So wrote Paul to the saints in Ephesus (Ephesians 3:20-21).
One point, made with great impact, is the fact that only those “in the church” are qualified to truly praise God for the energizing force that empowers their service to Christ. Those who have not assimilated his word, and submitted to his authority, have no such impetus.
In a day when many are inclined to dismiss the “church,” viewing it as merely an optional convenience, rather than an essential relationship with God, the language of the apostle’s doxology stands as a sharp rebuke.
“To whom be the glory for ever and ever”
One of the most poignant portions of New Testament scripture is Paul’s confident comment to Timothy at the conclusion of the second letter to his young friend. Numerous adversaries throughout his illustrious ministry had besieged the apostle, but his faith in the Savior never waned. He obviously embraced the Lord’s promise, as contained in the Great Commission, “I will be with you always” (Matthew 28:20; cf. 2 Timothy 4:17).
And so, with a pen of passion he wrote. “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [be/is] the glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).
Of this text D. Edmond Hiebert wrote:
“The doxology is here unmistakably addressed to Christ and is another proof of Paul’s conviction concerning the deity of Christ. The solemn ‘Amen’ seals his personal ratification of this glorious hope” (Second Timothy, Chicago: Moody, 1958, p. 123).
James MacKnight commented:
“This doxology, addressed to the Lord Jesus, is in other passages addressed to God the Father (Rom. 16:27; 1 Tim. 1:17). By introducing it here, the apostle declared the greatness of his trust in the goodness and power of the Lord Jesus, and his sincere gratitude to him for having honored him to be his apostle, and for promising him a place in his heavenly kingdom” (Apostolical Epistles, Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1954 Reprint, p. 483).
“To him be the glory both now and for ever”
At the conclusion of his second letter, Peter encourages his brethren in Christ to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And then he punctuates the exhortation with this anthem of praise: “To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).
As Guy N. Woods observed, “The doxology with which the epistle concludes ascribes glory to Christ forever, literally ‘to the day of eternity’” (Peter, John, and Jude, Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1959, p. 193).
“Unto him that sits upon the throne. . . "
Finally we would conclude this study with a doxology from the concluding book of the New Testament. In a wonderfully picturesque fashion, the entire creation is depicted as issuing forth in an exclamation of praise that is reserved only for deity.
“Unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever.
“And the four living creatures said, Amen. And the elders fell down and worshipped” (Revelation 5:13-14; cf. also v. 12).
What a tragedy it is that so many of this earth refuse to praise the Lord God, the Almighty (Revelation 4:8), and the Lamb that was slain, but stood up again (5:6).
Doxologies such as these should become a part of the fabric of every Christian’s soul, and such sacred sentiments of worship ought to be expressed frequently and fervently.