The Glory of God
The Christian world-view is a way of "seeing" and "interpreting" reality through the lens of God's revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ as found in Scripture. What, then, does the Bible tell us is God's ultimate aim for all that exists and thus the framework within which we must make sense of life?
To put the same question in other terms: What is the pre-eminent passion in God's heart? What is God's greatest pleasure? How does the happiness of God manifest itself? In what does God take supreme delight? I want to suggest that
the pre-eminent passion in God's heart is his own glory. God is at the center of his own affections. The supreme love of God's life is God. God is pre-eminently committed to the fame of his name. God is himself the end for which God created the world. Better, still, God's immediate goal in all he does is his own glory.
God relentlessly and unceasingly creates, rules, orders, directs, speaks, judges, saves, destroys and delivers in order to make known who He is and to secure from the whole of the universe the praise, honor and glory of which He and He alone is ultimately and infinitely worthy. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, 'The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' At the heart of the Christian world-view is the fact that '-The chief end of God is to glorify God and to enjoy himself forever.'
According to J. I. Packer, "The only answer that the Bible gives to questions that begin: 'Why did God . . .?' is: 'For his own glory?' (Hot Tub Religion, 42). Everything God does is for His own glory. Everything God permits is for His own glory. Everything God pursues is for His own glory. When God acts it is for the sake of His name. And all this graciously redounds to our happy benefit. To put it more directly, the aim of God in creation and redemption is his delight in our delight in him!
I want to demonstrate this (with help from Jonathan Edwards) by citing a number of important biblical texts.
God: 'the first and the last,' the Alpha and Omega
1. Isa. 44:6 - 'Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.'
2. Isa. 48:12b - 'I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.'
3. Rev. 1:8 - "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'" (see also Rev. 1:17; 21:6; 22:13).
This same idea is found in two other texts.
1. Col. 1:16 - 'For by Him all things were created...all things have been created by Him and for Him.'
2. Heb. 2:10a - 'For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things . . .'
God's glory: the ultimate end of all He does
The term 'glory' refers to the visible splendor or moral beauty of God's manifold perfections. The 'glory' of God is the exhibition of his inherent excellence; it is the external manifestation of his internal majesty. To 'glorify God' is to declare, draw attention to, or publicly announce and advertise his glory. Piper explains that
"another term which can signify much the same thing is 'the name of God.' When Scripture speaks of doing something 'for God's name's sake' it means virtually the same as doing it 'for his glory.' The 'name' of God is not merely his label, but a reference to his character. The term 'glory' simply makes more explicit that the character of God is indeed magnificent and excellent. This is implicit in the term 'name' when it refers to God" (Desiring God, 227).
Again, there are numerous passages that support this assertion.
1. Rom. 11:36 - 'For from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.'
According to Edwards, 'the way in which all things are to God, is in being for his glory' (Dissertation, 475). As for Paul's doxological declaration at the end of the verse, "he expresses a joyful consent to God's excellent design in all to glorify himself, in saying, 'to him be glory forever'; as much as to say, as all things are so wonderfully ordered for his glory, so let him have the glory of all, forevermore" (476).
2. Isa. 43:6-7 - "I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' And to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.'
In these places, writes Edwards, 'we see that the glory of God is spoken of as the end of God's saints, the end for which he makes them, i.e., either gives them being, or gives them a being as saints, or both. It is said that God has 'made' and 'formed' them to be his sons and daughters,for his own glory: that they are trees of his planting, the work of his hands, as trees of righteousness that he might be glorified' (476).
Also, this text does not mean that God seeks his own glory as merely a means to the achieving of a yet more ultimate end, namely, the happiness of his people. Rather, in these texts the promises of happiness for God's people (e.g., in vs. 1-2, 4-7) are so that God may be glorified.
3. Isa. 60:21 - 'Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.'
Again, after noting that vs. 19-20 speak of the blessings of God's people, Edwards points out that 'all the preceding promises are plainly mentioned as so many parts or constituents of the great and exceeding happiness of God's people; and God's glory is mentioned rather as God's end, or the sum of his design in this happiness, than this happiness as the end of this glory' (477).
4. Isa. 61:3 - 'To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.'
Edwards writes that 'the work of God promised to be effected is plainly an accomplishment of the joy, gladness and happiness of God's people, instead of their mourning and sorrow; and the end in which the work issues, or that in which God's design in this work is obtained and summed up, is his glory. This proves . . . that God's glory is the end of the creation' (477).
Some other texts that identify the end or goal of God's activity as his own glory include the following.
1. Eph. 1:5-6 - 'He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.'
2. 2 Thess. 1:10-12 - "And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed - for our testimony to you was believed. To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (see also Isa. 44:23; 49:3; Jn. 17:10.
The moral character and achievements of people are designed ultimately for God's glory
1. Mt. 5:16 - 'Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.'
2. Phil. 1:10-11 - '. . . so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.'
3. Jn. 15:8 - 'By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.'
4. Rom. 15:5-6 - "Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
5. 1 Pet. 2:12 - 'Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them,glorify God in the day of visitation.'
6. See also Ps. 22:22-23; Isa. 24:14-16; 25:3; 66:19; Dan. 5:22-23; Rev. 11:13; 14:6-7; 16:9.
Again, God's glory is the ultimate end or goal of particular virtues such as faith (Rom. 4:20; Phil. 2:11), repentance (Josh. 7:19), generosity (2 Cor. 8:19), thanksgiving (Lk. 17:18), and praise (Ps. 50:23). Finally, 1 Cor. 6:19-20 and 10:31 call upon us to seek God's glory in all that we are and all that we do.
Those 'doxological outbursts,' i.e., declarations that 'give vent to the virtuous and pious affections' of the believer's heart
1. Rom. 16:27 - '. . . to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.'
2. Gal. 1:5 - '. . . to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.'
3. Eph. 3:21 - '. . . to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.'
4. Phil. 4:20 - 'Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.'
5. 2 Tim. 4:18 - '. . . to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.'
6. Heb. 13:21 - '. . . through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.'
7. 2 Pt. 3:18 - '. . . but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.'
8. Jude 25 - '. . . to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.'
9. Rev. 1:6 - '. . . to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.'
10. See also 1 Chron. 16:28-29; Ps. 29:1-2; 89:17-18; 57:5; 72:18-19; 115:1; Isa. 42:10-12.
We could also point to descriptions of the angelic host who always seem to be engaged in doxology - Isa. 6:2-3; Lk. 2:14; Rev. 4:9; 4:11; 5:11-14; 7:12. In sum, says Edwards, it is manifest that these holy persons in earth and heaven, in thus expressing their desires [for] the glory of God, have respect to it not merely as a subordinate end, or merely for the sake of something else; but as that which they look upon in itself valuable, and in the highest degree so' (483).
In particular, Edwards comments on the song of praise by the angels regarding the coming of Jesus. They declared to the shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased" (Luke 2:14). "It must be supposed," says Edwards, "that they knew what was God's last end in sending Christ into the world: and that in their rejoicing on the occasion of his incarnation, their minds would be most taken up with, and would most rejoice in that which was most valuable and glorious in it" (486).
Jesus himself seeks God's glory as his highest end
1. Jn. 7:18 - 'He who speaks from Himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the one who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.'
2. Jn. 12:27-28 - "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour!' But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name. There came therefore, a voice out of heaven: 'I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.'"
Edwards points out that this utterance of Jesus came as he reflected on his impending journey to Jerusalem and the inevitable sufferings he was to face there. He writes:
"Under this distress of mind, in so terrible a view, he supports himself with a prospect of what would be the consequence of his sufferings, viz. God's glory. Now, 'tis the end that supports the agent in any difficult work that he undertakes, and above all others, his ultimate and supreme end. For this is above all others valuable in his eyes; and so, sufficient to countervail the difficulty of the means. That is the end which is in itself agreeable and sweet to him, which ultimately terminates his desires, is the center of rest and support; and so must be the fountain and sum of all the delight and comfort he has in his prospects, with respect to his work" (484).
3. Jn. 17:1 - "These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, 'Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee.'"
'As this is his first request [in the great prayer of John 17],' notes Edwards, 'we may suppose it to be his supreme request and desire, and what he ultimately aimed at in all. If we consider what follows to the end, all the rest that is said in the prayer seems to be but an amplification of this great request' (484).
4. Jn. 17:4-5 - 'I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.'
5. Jn. 13:31-32 - 'Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.'
God's glory is the purpose and end of His redemptive work in Christ
1. Ps. 79:9 (cf. Isa. 44:23) - 'Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name; and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name's sake.'
2. Eph. 1:6,11,14 - '. . . to the praise of the glory of His grace, . . . to the praise of His glory, . . . to the praise of His glory.'
3. Phil. 2:11 - '. . . to the glory of God the Father.'
God's glory is the ultimate end of his providential government of the world
The purpose for the establishment of public worship and the ordinances of the Mosaic Law was to glorify God: 'Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,' says the Lord (Haggai 1:8).
The purpose for the fulfillment of all promises in Christ is the glory of God, as stated in 2 Cor. 1:20 - 'For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.'
The purpose for the execution of divine judgments against the wicked and unbelieving is the glory of God: Ex. 14:17 - 'And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.' So also Ezek. 28:22 - ". . . and say, Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I shall be glorified in your midst. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I execute judgments in her, and I shall manifest my holiness in her;" and Ezek. 39:13 - '"Even all the people of the land will bury them; and it will be to their renown on the day that I glorify Myself," declares the Lord God.'
The ultimate purpose for Christ's return, the day of the consummation of God's moral government over all His subjects in heaven, on earth, and in hell, is His glory (see 2 Thess. 1:9-10).
God's glory is the end for which the realm of nature was created
1. Ps. 8:1 - 'O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth, who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens.'
2. Ps. 104:31 - 'Let the glory of the Lord endure forever; let the Lord be glad in His works.'
3. Ps. 148:13 - 'Let them [i.e., all aspects of creation] praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven.'
The exaltation and praise of God's name is the end and goal of creation, redemption, indeed, of all that God does
1. 1 Sam. 12:22 - 'For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself.'
This declaration by Samuel comes on the heels of the demand made by Israel that God give them a king. Samuel repeatedly reminds them that to demand a king is evil and wicked. He warns them of the disastrous consequences of not being satisfied with God as their king.
Nevertheless, despite their stubbornness in demanding a king, God declares, through Samuel, that He will not abandon them (1 Sam. 12:20-21). Israel is told not to fear. On what basis is this exhortation made? They are not to be afraid, says Samuel, because God will not cast them away. But why will God not cast them away? The answer is: "for His great name's sake." The fundamental reason for God's commitment to His people is His prior commitment to his own name. But why is it that God's commitment to his own name results in his not casting away his people" Look again at v. 22b. The point is that God's name is at stake in your destiny. What happens to you reflects on the glory of God's reputation. That is why he will not cast you away.
2. Ps. 23:3 - 'He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.'
3. Ps. 31:3 - 'For Thou art my rock and my fortress; for Thy name's sake Thou wilt lead me and guide me.'
4. Ps. 109:21 - 'But Thou, O God, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Thy name's sake.'
Edwards points us to several texts in which the purpose for God's having forgiven us is said to be the praise and glory of His name.
1. Ps. 25:7 - 'Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Thy lovingkindness remember Thou me, for Thy goodness' sake, O Lord.'
2. Ps. 25:11 - 'For Thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.'
3. Ps. 79:9 - 'Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name; and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name's sake.'
4. Jer. 14:7 - 'Although our iniquities testify against us, O Lord act for Thy name's sake!'
5. 1 Jn. 2:12 - 'I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.'
'These things seem to show,' observes Edwards, 'that the salvation of Christ is for God's name sake. Leading and guiding in the way of safety and happiness, restoring the soul, the forgiveness of sin, and that help, deliverance and salvation that is consequent thereon, is for God's name' (493).
It is also likely that the redemption and deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and then again from Babylon, were types or figures of our redemption and deliverance from sin. If so, we should take note of numerous texts in which the former is said to have occurred for the sake of God's name or glory.
1. 2 Sam. 7:23 - 'And what one nation on the earth is like Thy people Israel, who God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself.'
2. Ps. 106:8 - 'Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known.'
3. Isa. 63:12 - 'Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name.'
4. Ezek. 20:9,14,22 - 'But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. . . But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, . . . But I withdrew My hand and acted for the sake of My name.'
5. Isa. 48:9, 11 - 'For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, and for My praise I restrain it for you, in order not to cut you off. . . . For my own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.'
6. Ezek. 36:21-23 - "But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore, say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name. . . . Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight.'"
7. Ezek. 39:25 - 'Therefore thus says the Lord God, 'Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel and I shall be jealous for My holy name.'
8. Dan. 9:19 - 'O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.'
Several texts portray the purpose of human virtue and holiness as the glory and praise of God's name.
1. Mt. 19:29 - 'And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life.'
2. Rom. 1:5 - '. . . through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake.'
3. 3 Jn. 7 - 'For they went out for the sake of the name.'
4. Rev. 2:3 - '. . . and you have perseverance and have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary.'
Judgments against the wicked are for the sake of God's name.
1. Ex. 9:16 - 'But, indeed, for this cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.'
2. Neh. 9:10 - 'Then Thou didst perform signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants and all the people of his land; for Thou didst know that they acted arrogantly toward them, and didst make a name for Thyselfas it is this day.'
God pursues His own glory and praise in all He does
Texts that speak of the goal of God's deeds as the declaration that He alone is God, Lord over all, include 1 Kings 8:59-60; 2 Kings 8:59-60 (Edwards lists 11 additional texts). What we are now going to see is that God acts in a variety of ways to declare himself as alone God, as alone the Lord, who does such mighty things. In other words, these passages that speak of God acting so that all would know he is God are simply another way of saying God acts for the glory and praise of who he is. There are more than 65 such verses just in the book of Ezekiel that make this point. Permit me to cite only a few.
1. Ezek. 6:7 - "The slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord."
2. Ezek. 6:10 - "And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them."
3. Ezek. 6:13 - "Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when their slain are among their idols all around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountain tops, under every green tree, and under every thick oak, wherever they offered sweet incense to all their idols."
4. Ezek. 6:14 - "So I will stretch out My hand against them and make the land desolate, yes, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblah, in all their dwelling places. Then they shall know that I am the Lord."
5. Ezek. 7:4 - "My eye will not spare you, Nor will I have pity; But I will repay your ways, And your abominations will be in your midst. Then you shall know that I am the Lord!"
6. Ezek. 7:9 - "My eye will not spare, Nor will I have pity; I will repay you according to your ways. And your abominations will be in your midst. Then you shall know that I am the Lordwho strikes."
7. Ezek. 7:27 - "The king will mourn, The prince will be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the common people will tremble. I will do to them according to their way, And according to what they deserve I will judge them; then they shall know that I am the Lord!"
8. Ezek. 11:10 - "You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."
9. Ezek. 11:12 - "And you shall know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor executed My judgments, but have done according to the customs of the Gentiles which areall around you."
10. Ezek. 12:15 - "Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I scatter them among the nations and disperse them throughout the countries."
11. Ezek. 12:16 - "But I will spare a few of their men from the sword, from famine, and from pestilence, that they may declare all their abominations among the Gentiles wherever they go. Then they shall know that I am the Lord."
12. Ezek. 12:20 - "Then the cities that are inhabited shall be laid waste, and the land shall become desolate; and you shall know that I am the Lord."
13. Ezek. 12:25 - "For I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious house, I will say the word and perform it, says the Lord God."
14 Ezek. 13:9 - "My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God."
15. Ezek. 13:14 - "So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar,and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."
16. Ezek. 13:21 - "I will also tear off your veils and deliver My people out of your hand, and they shall no longer be as prey in your hand. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."
17. Ezek. 13:23 - "Therefore you shall no longer envision futility nor practice divination; for I will deliver My people out of your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord."
18. Ezek. 14:8 - "I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."
19. Ezek. 15:7 - "and I will set My face against them. They will go out from one fire, but anotherfire shall devour them. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I set My face against them."
20. Ezek. 16:62 - "And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."
Are 20 texts in the book of Ezekiel alone sufficient to make this point? I certainly hope so. Clearly, God's principal motivation in all he does is to magnify and make known who he is in all his glory. If you desire even greater confirmation of this truth, open your Bible to the book of Ezekiel and read 20:5,7,12,19,20,26,38,42,44; 22:16; 23:49; 24:24,27; 25:5,7,11,17; 26:6; 28:22,23,24,26; 29:6,9,16,21; 30:8,19,25,26; 32:15; 33:29; 34:27; 35:4,9,12,15; 36:11,23,38; 37:6,13; 38:23; and 39:6,7,22,28. God is determined to make his point!
God secures praise for himself in all he does
1. Isa. 43:21 (cf. Isa. 60:6; 66:19) - 'The people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise.'
2. 1 Pt. 2:9 - 'But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.'
Edwards cites an additional 57 texts which assert the same thing!