“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.