Category Archives: Bible Study

What is the Glory of God?

 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

One of the more familiar phrases among Christ followers, yet also one of the more difficult to wrap our heads around, is the glory of God.  It’s familiarity has indeed been heightened, post-Reformation, with the Latin phrase Soli Deo Gloria, to God alone be glory.  Typically when hear phrases on the glory of God it stated as, “Glory to God” or “May God be glorified” or “All things to the glory of God”.  In Scripture, we see: the heavens declaring the glory of God, blindness and subsequent healing for the glory of God, Stephen sees the glory of God, sinners fall short of the glory of God, believers are to rejoice in hope of the glory of God, that we should do all things to the glory of God, man created as the image and glory of God, and perhaps most importantly that Christ is the radiance of the glory of God and that those who witnessed His life beheld His glory.

Without question it is an important phrase, one that unfortunately has fallen into the ditch of Christianese, or Christian subculture language, but this is not where it needs to reside.  The glory of God ought to reside on the tip of ever believer’s tongue flowing out of a robust understanding of what this phrase means and signifies.  It ought also to be the fear of unbelievers that God in His glory will return to judge them for their wickedness.

In order for the glory of God to dwell deep in our hearts and to flow freely out of our mouths, we must seek to clarify its meaning.  Puritan Thomas Watson, in his magisterial Body of Divinity, indicates most helpfully that God’s glory may be understood by its twofold nature.  First, that God’s glory is intrinsic to who His is, his very character and attributes.  Second, that God’s glory is that which is ascribed to Him by His Creation, i.e. give glory to God, the heavens declare the glory of God.

Commenting on the intrinsic glory of God, Watson notes,

“Glory is essential to the Godhead, as light is to the sun: he is called the ‘God of Glory.’  Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is so natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it.”

Perhaps by way of analogy we can better understand God’s glory by considering the way that light is refracted in the most purest of diamonds.  The light emanating through the diamond of God’s being is His holiness.  The refraction of God’s holiness upon every cut, God’s attributes, is His glory.  It is this glory, the manifestation of all that God is that Moses requested to see.  It is this glory that no man, as Moses was told, can see and live.  However, it is also this glory that was veiled in humanity in the person of Jesus Christ through the incarnation of God’s Son.

[Obviously, as all analogies do, this breaks down in that God is both the light and the diamond having both glory and holiness intrinsic to His nature.  Nevertheless, the concept of the glory of God as part of who God is should be clear.]

Second, we have from Watson the glory that creation ascribes to God.  This, Watson notes as he comments upon the Westminster Catechism, is the chief end of man.  The purpose for man’s being is to glorify God.  To ascribe glory to the Creator.  This will happen whether one bows the knee to God through His Son Jesus Christ now or in the world to come, but all will give glory to God.

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10-11

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” Romans 9:22-23

Watson develops the remainder of his opening chapter on this theme of the chief end of man and what this glory to God looks like by stating

“The glory we give to God is nothing else but our lifting up his name in the world, and magnifying him in the eyes of others.”

Following upon this, Watson then enumerates four key ways in which we glorify God, namely through Appreciation, Adoration, Affection, and Subjection.  The first is nothing less than admiration of God in our thoughts as we consider His attributes, His promises, and His work.  Adoration is our worship that we give to God, which as Watson notes must by necessity be according to the pattern that God has provided in His word.  Any worship apart from this, Watson calls strange fire (Lev. 10:1).  Third, we glorify God in and through our affections.  As Watson notes, “this is the part of the glory we give to God, who counts himself glorified when he is loved.”  Finally, we glorify God through our subjection to Him as we “dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service.”

Summarizing our duty to glorify God, Watson writes,

“A good Christian is like the sun, which not only sends forth heat–but goes its circuit round the world.  Thus, he who glorifies God, has not only his affections heated with love to God–but he goes his circuit tool he moves vigorously in the sphere of obedience.”

Now, let us better understand, better appreciate, and better desire that God be glorified in all that we do, knowing that we cannot add a drop of glory to His being, yet by all that we do we desire to magnify His name in our appreciation, adoration, affection, and subjection to the God of Glory.

Standing on the Promises of God

 

Hebrews chapter 11 has long been considered the Hall of Faith for saints, particularly those who were in the Old Testament, but there is much more going on.  Yes, attention is drawn to the lives of saints as examples in our day (see also Heb. 13:7), and yes this chapter is collectively a model of encouragement for the perseverance of the saints, but perhaps more than all of this is that the central figure in this Hall of Faith is not Abraham or Moses, but God Himself, most notably through His faithfulness to His promises in the lives of His children.

The concept of promise is not new to Hebrews as we reach this 11th chapter, rather it has been an underlying theme throughout the book, particularly since the 6th chapter where the promise and oath of God was rooted and grounded in His inability to lie and His own justice (see also Heb. 4:1).  Promises emerge in Hebrews 11 out of two statements made in chapter 10, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” and “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” from 10:23 and 10:36 respectively, each of which serve as an introduction to our chapter under discussion.

Building on this, chapter 11 picks up the promise motif in 11:9 with the mention of Abraham – and the land of promise, Isaac and Jacob – the heirs of the promises, and the promise of God to Abraham and Sarah for the blessed seed.  With is in mind, four additional mentions of promises in this chapter serve to highlight the foundation of God’s faithfulness.

The first occurs in Heb. 11:13, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

The second occurs in Heb. 11:17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son…”

The third occurs in Heb. 11:33, “who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises”

The fourth occurs in Heb. 11:39-40 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

In over-viewing the promises above, we find a bit of a conflict, a dichotomy of sorts.  On the one hand, in verse 13 we read a summary statement of the saints listed up to this point who died having NOT received the things promised.  Instead, they saw them and greeted them from afar.  Next we read that Abraham DID receive the promises, followed by another summary statement in verse 33 that these obtained promises.  Finally, we read the section summary which states that all of these did NOT receive what was promised.  So which is it?  Did they receive the promises or not?  And what are the promises?

In order to solve this mystery we need to remember that the major theme of Hebrews is to highlight the lesser, of the Old Covenant, over against the greater, of the New Covenant.  Simply put, those described in this chapter did receive the promises of God by faith, each in their individual contexts, as we read.  But these promises were only shadows, not the substance.  While they were very real promises and very real exercises of faith that received these promises, nevertheless there was a greater promise to come through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  By means of His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and now intercession at the right hand of the Father as the King-Priest after the order of Melchizedek, our Lord has instituted His New Covenant, not creating division between the saints of old and saints of new, but unifying them as one people, one flock, with One Shepherd.  Therefore, while the saints of old, those highlighted in chapter 11 of Hebrews, did indeed receive the promises of God, there was a greater fulfillment of these promises to come, in Christ, that they did not receive in their lifetime.

In Hebrews 11 not only do we see the faith of the saints on display, with no mention of their failures we might add, and not only do we see their perseverance unto death, but we find a magnificent display of the faithfulness of God in the lives of His children.  With the evidence of His faithfulness held up in fulfilling the lesser promises, we can be sure that He will continue to be faithful with the greater promises that have now come through His Son Jesus Christ.  Let us then, as our brothers and sisters before us, by faith, stand firm on the promises of God.

 

Standing on the promises of Christ my King
Through eternal ages let his praises ring
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing
Standing on the promises of God
Standing, standing
Standing on the promises of God my Savior
Standing, standing
I’m standing on the promises of God
Standing on the promises, I cannot fall
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all
Standing on the promises of God
Standing, standing
Standing on the promises of Christ my Savior
Standing, standing
I’m standing on the promises of God
– Russell Kelso Carter 1886

The Heart’s Gauge

 

During our Lord’s earthly ministry, He repeatedly pressed upon His disciples, and those who heard Him speak, that the heart and affections must be set upon heavenly, spiritual, godly things, indeed upon God Himself, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Desiring to convey both what he heard and saw from His Lord, the Apostle John provides this sentiment of proper desires in chapter 2 of his first epistle.

There are two major sections that lead into our passage under consideration in this post.  The first occurs in 1 John 2:3-6 in which the Apostle outlines the requirement of obedience to God’s commands as evidence for coming to know God.  Rather than leaving it as heartless duty, he intertwines it with love, “whoever keeps His word, in Him truly the love of God is perfected.”  With that statement he paves the road for our second passage, 1 John 2:7-11 which builds upon this concept of love.  Notably, John introduces love as a commandment, not a new commandment, but an old one, but not really an old one because it is new in Christ.  By weaving together love and obedience, John most definitely recalls the words of Christ from John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

But also our Lord’s words from John 14:15,  If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As well as His words from John 15:9-14

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

With this context in mind, providing our framework for understanding what the Apostle is aiming for in this chapter, we arrive at the passage under our consideration

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

Love continues to be the theme in this section of chapter two, though stated negatively, do not love, or we might even say dislike, or perhaps even more strongly stated, hate the world and the things of the world.  Said this way, we should be compelled to ask, what does John’s use of world here mean?  Surely not the created order that God made as recorded in Genesis?  Surely he doesn’t mean hate trees, and squirrels, and the sun?  Before unpacking this further, notice that John places a qualification on loving the world, “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  As has been typical throughout the book, there is no room for gray area here.  Love the world, then the love of the Father is not in you.  Love the Father, obey His commandments, and love the brethren, then it is incompatible to love the world.

Here we are in need of further defining the use and meaning of world.  Thankfully, this is done for us in the verse that follows

  • the desires of the flesh
  • the desires of the eyes
  • the pride of life (or pride in possessions)

Puritan Matthew Henry sheds light upon the meaning of these three phrases when he writes, “The things of the world are classed according to the three ruling inclinations of depraved nature. 1. The lust of the flesh, of the body: wrong desires of the heart, the appetite of indulging all things that excite and inflame sensual pleasures. 2. The lust of the eyes: the eyes are delighted with riches and rich possessions; this is the lust of covetousness. 3. The pride of life: a vain man craves the grandeur and pomp of a vain-glorious life; this includes thirst after honour and applause. The things of the world quickly fade and die away; desire itself will ere long fail and cease, but holy affection is not like the lust that passes away.”

In our passage we are exhorted, or better commanded, to not love the world or the things of the world.  This was preceded by a test of our affections for God and a delight in the duty of obedience.  The issue under our consideration is where do our affections lie?  We ought to consistently, even daily, consider the gauge of our hearts to determine whether it is inclined towards loving the things of the world, or whether it is inclined towards loving God, obeying Him, and loving others.  It isn’t a matter of legalistic do’s and don’ts.  It is a matter of desire, at the heart level, of where the affections of our heart rest.  That is the genuine test of a Christian and it is one that we need to apply to ourselves on a regular basis.

Soli Deo Gloria