The Glory Of God
“Why was I born? Why am I living? What have I got? What am I giving?” These questions are not new — men have asked them since time immemorial. What is life and living really all about? Is there rhyme and rhythm, meaning and purpose in existing? Or, is life simply the rotating of the roulette wheel? Round and round it goes ~ but where it stops, nobody knows. Must man play the hand he is dealt? Is life, after all, simply blind fatalism?
To such questions, many theologians have a ready answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God.” And with this, the Scriptures agree: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). But what IS the glory of God? The psalmist said, The heavens declare the glory of God … (Ps. 19:1). Fine, but what is it that the heavens are declaring? Both angels and ascended saints proclaim, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power . . . “ (Rev. 4:11). But what is it that God is receiving? What IS the glory of God? It seems reasonable to assume that if the purpose for man’s creation is to glorify God (and it is), then the understanding of that glory should be mankind’s highest intellectual pursuit, and its outworking his greatest priority. In light of that, it seems strange that so little is said about the glory of God. How many articles have you read on the glory of God?
When was the last time you heard a sermon on the glory of God? As a matter of fact, have you EVER heard a sermon on the glory of God? No theme is loftier and no subject more directly related to your life.
A recently taken poll of friends, pastors, Bible teachers and church congregations showed little agreement and only a vague understanding on the subject of the glory of God. Some suggested that God received glory through the saving of souls; others made reference to the Shekinah glory of God mentioned in the Old Testament; stili others quoted verses that made reference to the glory of God but could not define what it is. A few thought that the glory of God related in some way to the holiness of God. All were inadequate answers. A major theological reference book gave this definition: “God’s glory is that which makes Him glorious.” But that doesn’t help much. You can’t properly define a word by using the word in the definition.
Again, the question is asked: Since man was created for God’s glory, what (IS the glory of God? A close friend suggested this helpful definition: “God’s glory is the sum and substance of His intrinsic, eternal perfection.” “Intrinsic” underscores the fact that God’s glory emanates wholly from within His own being. That is, it is not dependent upon anything external to Himself. “Eternal” emphasizes the longevity of God’s glory — there was never an instant in the past, nor will there be in the future, when the universe is without God’s glory. “Perfection” refers to both the qualitative and quantitative ingredients that compose the divine Being. These include His existence, essence, personality, sovereignty, decree and attributes. Large words, these — but take a closer look at them.
The divine EXISTENCE – God is.
The divine ESSENCE – God is one spiritual Being in three Persons.
The divine PERSONALITY – God is one spiritual Being in three Persons possessing intellect, – God is one spiritual Being in three Persons possessing intellect, emotion and will, who does things according to His own good pleasure.
The divine DECREE – God is one spiritual Being in three Persons possessing intellect, emotion and will, who does things according to His own good pleasure, and therefore originates and executes, either actively or permissively, all that comes to pass.
The divine ATTRIBUTES – God is one spiritual Being in three Persons possessing intellect, emotion and will, who does things according to His own good pleasure, and therefore originates and executes, either actively or permissively, all that comes to pass in perfect harmony with His own character.
The character of God is often referred to as God’s attributes. These are innate qualities which are “attributed” to God. These divine attributes can only be known to their fullest extent through God’s self-disclosure in the Bible. On the basis of that revelation, it can be said that God is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, righteous, just, loving, good and faithful. God must always and ever function in perfect harmony with His attributes, for God never changes.
While God’s glory is intrinsic because it belongs to Him like light and heat belong to the sun, it is the divine plan that His glory be both proclaimed and demonstrated on the stage-of the planet Earth and through the outworking of human history. Not by man — because he can add absolutely nothing to an infinite Creator — but through the instrumentation of man, God is making His glory known.
But, it should not be inferred that because the glory of God is the pinnale and consummation of aSI things, that God is Himself self-seeking or self-centered. Rather, since God by His very nature seeks the highest and best, and since He IS the highest and best, He must bring all things to completion in Himself (Rom. 11 :36).
Man was created to glorify God and that is accomplished as man allows his life to be an instrument through which the intrinsic, eternal perfection of God is displayed. In the light of this truth, the fundamental problem of mankind, from which all else springs, can be summed up quite easily. The most often used word in the English language is “I”. It should be “Him.
Man is self-centered instead of God-centered. His frame of reference is all wrong. His philosophy, his values, his deeds are all directed toward self-gratification and contrary to his Creator and the purpose for which he was created.
It was God who breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul. For those from among humanity who know and submit to the will of God, there is perfect peace, joy unspeakable and highest destiny. For those who reject the will of God, there is only distress and eternal anguish.
But now, back to an earlier quotation: “The heavens declare the glory of God.. . .” In what way do the heavens declare God’s glory? First, they reveal His existence — creation requires a Creator. Second, they reveal His wisdom ~ design requires a Designer. Third, they reveal His power — movement requires a Mover. And fourth, if, as some scientists suggest, the universe is endless, the heavens reveal His infinity.
The gaze of man, however, should be centered not so much on the heavens above — but on the earth below. For on this planet, the fullest reflection of the glory of God is to be seen. The heavens may reveal His existence, wisdom, power and infinity ” but His holiness, justice, love, mercy, goodness and faithfulness are proclaimed and experienced on earth.
It: was the holiness of God from which Adam and Eve fled after sinning in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8). And in the clothing of the first couple in the skin of animals, the justice of God was exhibited (Gen. 3:21). Blood had to be shed — one had to take the place of another — punishment had to be meted out. God could only forgive sin on the basis of His justice. The entrance of sin through the permissive will of God and man’s direct disobedience was essential if certain of the divine attributes, such as holiness, justice and mercy, were to be displayed.
Moses was about to climb Mount Sinai for the second time. He needed a fresh glimpse of God — a renewing in the inward man. He requested, “Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight . . . (Ex, 33:13). Moses wanted to know what God was like. He continued, “. . . I beseech thee, show me thy glory (Ex. 33:18). God told Moses that no man could look on His face and live — to view the fullness of His glory, which included holiness, would mean certain death. But, God placed His servant in the cleft of the rock — He would pass by and let Moses see His back, His non-consuming attributes of mercy, grace, long-suffering, goodness and truth (Ex. 34:6). Moses needed no more incentive. He would descend from the mount with the reflection of the glory of God on his face, ready for the task ahead (Ex. 34:29).
God chose to manifest His glory to Israel in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and later in the Temple at Jerusalem. This was a self-disclosure of His presence and perfection among His people (Ex. 40:34; 1 Ki. 8:11).
In time, the age of law gave way to the age of grace. The Old Covenant gave way to the New Covenant. A people were called into being called the Church, the body of Christ. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the believer is in a unique position to be a vessel fit for the Master’s use. Attributes of God such as grace, mercy, love, holiness, justice and omnipotence were demonstrated at the place called Calvary and are discernible in the lives of true heirs of God’s redemption.
The glory of God has been revealed in the Garden of Eden, on the face of Moses in connection with the giving of the law, in the Tabernacle, in the Temple and in the believer. But, only the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are called by God, “My glory”. He declared, “… I will place salvation in Zion for Israel, my glory (Isa. 46:13). The fullest reflection of the intrinsic, eternal perfection of God is to be seen in His relationship with Israel, not in degree but in comprehensiveness. The world has little understood this fundamental truth. God’s existence, essence, personality, sovereignty, decree and attributes are showcased most completely in the election, dispersion, preservation and future restoration and glorification of His chosen people.
The author could only wish there were ample space to substantiate so bold a claim. This, however, is beyond the scope and space allocated to this article, it must be said in this regard, however, that every spiritual blessing which the Church possesses is provided for within the framework of the New Covenant which God made with Israel (Jer. 31:31-40) and which the Lord instituted in the Upper Room only hours before His crucifixion (Mt. 26:26-29).
There is, however, one further way whereby God’s glory is preeminently seen. The beloved Apostle John wrote, “… the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory . . .” (Jn. 1:14). Of course, he was referring to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In this same vein, the Apostle Peter said, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). Both John and Peter were speaking of the occasion when they were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, and His eternal glory shone out of His humanity (Mt 17:2). The writer to the Hebrews, speaking of Christ’s unsurpassing glory, said that He was the very effulgence (brightness of the glory) of the Father. That is, unlike other manifestations of God’s glory which were mirror-like reflections, He was the exact reality and substance of that glory, for Jesus was God in flesh (Heb. 1:3). For that reason, He could say “ . . . He that hath seen me hath seen the Father…” (Jn. 14:9). And again, “I and my Father are one” (Jn.10:30).
How, then, should the child of God respond to the paramount truth of his Father’s glory?
First, he should respond as did the Prophet Isaiah who, when confronted with the glory of God, cried out, “. . . Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5). Men only see themselves as they are when they first see God as He is. The intrinsic, eternal perfection of God (His glory) is the only platinum yardstick by which to measure life. Here is the absolute standard by which every thought and deed may be appraised.
Second, he should purpose in his heart to fuffifi the design for which he was created. The Apostle Paul identified that purpose succinctly when he wrote, “Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). And again, “For to me to live is Christ [that is, by word or action, to show forth His glory], and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).
Third, he must obey divine priorities. Since the chief end of man is to glorify God, the chief end of man cannot be to win souis. They are not synonymous. The latter is only one of many streams that flow out of the former. The pastor who preaches fifty-two varieties of “John 3:16” each year may win converts, but he is not making disciples. He is guilty of dual error. He is not fulfilling one of the purposes for which God has called him (to preach the whole counsel of God, Acts 20:27), nor is he feeding the sheep entrusted to his care. Every week, millions of people with hurting hearts wend their way to church, hoping to hear the Word of the Lord from a man sent by God. They rightfully expect to hear a man who speaks with authority from a hot heart, because it has been touched by coals from off the altar in the divine presence. All too often, what is heard is the voice of a man with little authority and even less fervor. The harried pastor has spent his time and energy on lesser matters because his priorities are out of sequence. And, multitudes leave the “house” of the Lord with the same hurting hearts with which they entered, not having been exposed to new glimpses of the divine glory.
Fourth and finally, the child of God should fall prostrate before the divine wisdom, remembering that, “. . . my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
Unregenerate man is an enemy of God and under divine condemnation (Rom. 1:1 -3:19). By grace through faith in Christ’s redemptive work, he is justified (Rom. 3:20 – 5:21). As he yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit, he is being sanctified (Rom. 6:1 – 8:27). And one day he is going to be glorified (Rom. 8:28-30). God never leaves things half done. What He begins, He finishes. He begins with a condemned man — molds and shapes him, until he is one day conformed to the glory of God. He takes a man who was an enemy and makes him an exalted, eternal son. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “ . . whom he did predestinate, them he called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
When God completes His work in and through His redeemed child, that child will reflect fully and perfectly his Father’s intrinsic, eternal glory. It is in this potential that the dignity, nobility and worth of man is to be seen. Jude, the half brother of the Lord, summed it up this way: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24- 25).
What fathomless grace is this!