“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:13
Why do I call myself an evangelical agnostic? I am totally and unswervingly committed to the Evangel - the Good News in Jesus Christ - for I am held in its firm grasp. Yet I am agnostic as to the means with which we - the modern evangelical church - represent it. This essay is an odyssey into a concern that is a - or even the - central theme of the Evangel which unfortunately is often relegated to the dust bin of ages past - the Glory of God. And as will be seen, much of my appeal to this splendor will be from voices of previous generations. The peruser may detect an element of redundancy. It is there for an emphatic purpose.
To God be the glory, great things He has done;
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life gate that all may go in.
Why does God rescue even a single one of Adam’s race? There is ultimately one reason and one reason alone. For His Glory! The purpose of our salvation is not what is in it for us–it is about what is in it for Him. I believe we get this decidedly backwards resulting in ineffectiveness. Many decry rightly, “Why is the church not more effective as salt and light in the world?” It is because we believe amiss–our motivation is constrained in the wrong direction.
In expositing on "The Lord our God hath shewed us His glory.” Deuteronomy 5:24 Charles Spurgeon addresses this issue. GOD'S great design in all His works is the manifestation of His own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of Himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man's eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honour, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord.
Glory is the providence of God and God only - “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1Cor 1:29 This is the operation of the Father and the Father alone: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:44 Mankind can only be its recipient as result of the a priori action of God the Father.
That He has a perfect knowledge of all persons and things, and sees them all, even that which is most secret, at one clear, certain, and unerring view. Matthew Henry
Man cannot regenerate himself - he cannot initiate it, sustain it or bring it to completion. This is the charge of the Father in the Son. Nearing the conclusion of his earthly sojourn Paul desired to bequeath this unfailing hope to his young disciple: “I am convinced (persuaded) that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12
The Glory of God draws mankind back into the original relationship - children of God. This is the Adamic blessing and it is what was forfeited - and could only be regained by the One and Only Son of God. “No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son-- the One who is at the Father's side-- He has revealed Him.” John 1:18 HCS We also read: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:3
“the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;” Nicene Creed
The Glory of God comes by a revelation of God given and sustained by God. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30 This is the ultimate and singular purpose - nothing plural here - a company of the elect in the Son glorifying the Father.
At a recent large gathering of evangelicals one of the plenary speakers referred to the preceding verse - Romans 8:28 - “who have been called according to his purpose(s).” I was horrified! There is no accurate translation that makes purpose plural. If it is plural, it is toward the glory of man - if sui generis (unique) it is the Glory of God.
since he is the image and glory of God; 1 Corinthians 11:7
Our current evangelical message is often a setup for ineptitude - for its focus is not on the Glory of God, but on the welfare of man. The ultimate welfare of man is found only in the Glory of God - we must not get these backward. Even in distress the Glory of God remains our sole hope. When Christ was confronted with the news of the illness of His friend Lazarus He replied: "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." John 11:4 He was so constrained by the Father’s purpose that He stayed where He was two more days. Upon arrival He was confronted by the grief of Lazarus’ sisters: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” The compassion was so strong in Him that He wept, yet He was never dissuaded from the Father’s sole objective.
What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Westminster Shorter Catechism
A similar instance occurred when He along with His disciples encountered a man born blind. Immediately the disciples appealed to the temporal: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:2 The Son was quick to refocus them on His mission: "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3 He knew He was to glorify the Father by doing the works of the Father - that is, what the Father had told Him to do. “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” John 17:4
Fanny Crosby found her ultimate and complete satisfaction in the Glory of God: It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.
Mike Bickle has taught us that prayer is telling God what He has told us to tell Him. In this is God glorified. The kingdoms of this world cannot stand against the Glory of God. If we ask otherwise, we ask out of futility and our asking will be amiss: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,...” James 4:3
The authentic Glory can only give expression to the Son - “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 The test of eternal veracity lies at the feet of this passage. No matter how persuasive the speech, nor the seeming demonstration of the miraculous - if the attention of the hearer or recipient is not rapt upon the Glorious Son of God there is no validity. Its illegitimacy will fail this proofing every time: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” 1 Peter 4:14 We must beware adulation for it will betray the testimony of the Savior for it is He that said: “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” Luke 6:26
Turning again to the insight of Charles Spurgeon: It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why He bringeth His people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when He comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God.
The means of glory is omniscient initiative - “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13 Just heard a Christian radio commentator assert that God has given everyone a freewill and then he went on to pray that God would change the will. What?! Our message is so confused that genuine seekers find great difficulty in determining its credibility.
The hymnist Fanny Crosby wrote: “Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, And my will be lost in Thine.”
Modern evangelicalism has largely deserted this call for a self-centered concept of me-ism: What is in it for me. The glory of the creator has been exchanged for an image of the created. How often have we heard, “Well, my god would not do that.” By saying this they are creating God in their own image.
The Reformers hit this issue head-on: It is affirmed that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone. It is denied that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self- fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel. Glory to God alone (Soli Deo Gloria)!
The issue of glorious believability will finally be settled at the consummation of all things: “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.” 2 Thess 1:10 On that day the full impact of the High Priestly Prayer of the Son as found in John 17 will be fully realized: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” 17:24
At the last it shall be clearly seen that in every chosen vessel of mercy, Jehovah did as He willed with His own; and that in every part of the work of grace He accomplished His purpose, and glorified His own name. Charles Spurgeon on Ephesians 1:11
May we concur with the prayer of A.W. Tozer the answer to which can only be found in the providence of our Eternal God:
“O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”
As a fitting seal of earnest may our amen concur with this confession of timeless truth from the Second Centennial of the Church Age:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.
Gloria Patri - Author Unknown