The Four Canons: “For the Glory of God (Part 1)”

4canonsgears2016Romans 11

36b To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 16

27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Galatians 1

5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3

21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4

20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 1

17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4

18b To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 13

21c through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4

11 To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Jude 1

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.

Revelation 1

6b God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Revelation 5

13b “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

Revelation 7

12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Some years back Ron Sider wrote a fascinating and controversial book entitled Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. In it he told about a very successful mega-church pastor of the time. This pastor served a large and largely affluent congregation that met in a big cathedral-like structure made largely of glass. It gave the impression of being made of crystal, so overwhelming was it. Sider observed that, among the many luxuries of the campus, were “a series of water fountains that began spraying when the minister touched a button in the pulpit.” To his critics who questioned whether or not this church had not gone overboard in their material extravagance, the pastor explained that he was unapologetic about it. Furthermore, he said there was a reason for all the excess. Here is what he said:

We are trying to make a big, beautiful impression upon the affluent non-religious American who is riding by on this busy freeway. It’s obvious that we are not trying to impress the Christians!…Nor are we trying to impress the social workers in the County Welfare Department. They would tell us that we ought to be content to remain in the Orange Drive-In Theater and give the money to feed the poor. But suppose we had given this money to feed the poor? What would we have today? We would still have hungry, poor people and God would not have this tremendous base of operations which He is using to inspire people to become more successful, more affluent, more generous, more genuinely unselfish in their giving of themselves.[1]

“Cringe-worthy” and “absurd” do not quite capture the essence of this statement in my opinion. This pastor was essentially saying that what he was wanting was for preferably wealthy people driving by to be struck and overwhelmed by the glory of their building. The “big, beautiful impression” he was wanting to make was tied to this crystal cathedral and its fountains and manicured lawns. He was wanting to create a sense of awe, a sense of wonder.

Let me suggest that the early Church and, in our own day, churches that are truly being faithful to the Lord also want to make a “big, beautiful impression” on people. However, we realize that the only “big, beautiful impression” that matters and the only “big, beautiful impression” that has the power to draw us to salvation is the “big, beautiful impression” of what the Bible calls “the glory of God.” We believe that there is something that permeates the life of the Church when she is walking with Jesus that has the power to stop people dead in their tracks and cause them to marvel. That something is not our building and grounds. It is the glory of God revealed in and through Jesus Christ.

This is we say that we want to be an authentic family around the whole gospel for the glory of God! We want to be an authentic family around the whole gospel for God’s glory because, at the end of the day, God’s glory and all that it means for both God and humanity is the only thing that matters! We do not want to be a great church for our glory. That is illusory and self-deceptive and narcissistic and ultimately self-defeating. But to be a great church for the glory of God – a church that draws people’s minds and eyes and hearts to the glory of God and a church that makes the glory of God more and more evident through the way that we live – that is a worthy goal!

If the glory of God is this important, what, then, is it? John Piper once said that defining the word “glory” is “impossible…because it is more like the word beauty than the word basketball.”[2] A basketball is easy to define. Beauty is very difficult to define. That is true enough. But we can begin to approach an understanding of God’s glory by looking carefully at what the scriptures say about it. We do this because if we do not have a basic understanding of God’s glory then we will not understand the meaning of our third canon: “for the glory of God.”

The glory of God is bound up with the attributes of God.

We will begin by noting that God’s glory is all bound up with God’s attributes or God’s characteristics in the Bible.

Glory and Power

Consider first how God’s glory is linked with God’s power in the Bible. For instance, in Mark 13 Jesus makes this connection abundantly clear.

26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

We find the same in Revelation 15.

8a and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power

I do not say that God’s glory is God’s power. I only observe that God’s glory is tied to God’s power in scripture. We likely see glory as tied to power as well in the appearance of the angels to the shepherds in Luke 2.

9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.

They were “filled with great fear” because they could see and sense the stunning power of God!

Glory and God’s Sovereign Rule

The glory of God sits beside the power of God. And the glory of God also appears to be connected to the sovereign rule of God. In Matthew 25, for instance, the glory of Christ is linked with His authoritative throne.

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

Jesus connects His glory with His triumphant return and sovereign rule once again in Mark 8.

38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Again, in Luke 24, the glory of God is bound to His sovereign reign when Jesus speaks of entering into His glory after His crucifixion and resurrection.

26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?

What is more, Paul speaks of glory and sovereign rule by linking glory to the kingdom of God in 1 Thessalonians 2.

12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory

Glory and holiness

Glory and power. Glory and sovereign rule. The glory of God is also closely connected to the holiness of God. Twice in 1 Chronicles 16, we are told:

10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! (This exact wording is repeated in Psalm 105:3.)

35 Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

Perhaps the most well known expression of divine glory and divine holiness is found in Isaiah 6.

3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Yes! The holy-holy-holy God reveals His holiness in and through His glory! And surely the idea of holiness is found in Romans 3.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

We have fallen short of the divine intention and we have fallen short of the divine love, but we have also, through our sin, fallen short of the holiness of God!

So profound is the connection of God’s glory to God’s holiness that Dale Moody wrote, “The glory of God is the manifested Presence of God. It is his naked holiness.”[3]

The glory of God is bound up with displaying and revealing the attributes of God.

Glory, then, is connected to the attributes of God, His power, His sovereign rule, and His holiness, to name only three. Glory has something to do with who God is. Yet, it is not simply one attribute among others. In fact, theologian Wayne Grudem has argued that “this ‘attribute’ of God is really not an attribute of God in the sense that the others were, for here we are speaking not of God’s own character but of the created light or brilliance that surrounds God as he manifests himself in his creation. Thus, God’s glory in this sense is not actually an attribute of God in himself.”[4] I suspect that Grudem is overstating the case a bit, but he is right that the glory of God, while connected to the attributes of God, does seem to be somehow distinct from those attributes and should not be simply viewed as one of them (though I do not see how it would be wrong to refer to glory as an “attribute”).

Grudem is right that God’s glory emanates from His being and character and seems particularly to be something that reveals and manifests His attributes. For instance, consider how the scriptures speak frequently of us seeing God’s glory. In Deuteronomy 5 we read:

24 And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live.

God’s glory was shown. The children of Israel saw it. And, in speaking to them, they saw “God speak with man.” The glory of God yearns to be seen. There is a revealing quality about it. This is seen most clearly in the coming of Jesus in flesh. In John 1, John speaks of the incarnation of Jesus as an event that makes God’s glory visible.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In seeing Christ, we “have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” Christ is the glory of God manifest, the glory of God revealed. In fact, in John 17, Jesus, praying to the Father, says that He wants us to see His glory!

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

What this means is that the God desires for God’s glory to be seen! That must mean that our seeing, perceiving, beholding, and standing before the glory of God does something within us and to us. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3, says that seeing God’s glory leads to transformation.

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

It changes us, this glory. To see it is to be drawn in to the presence of God Himself and therefore to be changed. The glory of God is tied up with the attributes of God but it is not simply an attribute itself. Rather, the glory of God is that which reveals God’s attributes, or, put another way, the glory of God is the attributes revealed.

Most memorably, in Revelation 21 John depicts the glory of God as the illuminating light of God that makes the sun and moon utterly unnecessary.

23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

The glory of God wants to break free, wants to rise like the morning sun, wants to display, wants to, we might say, put on a show of the grandeur of God! Perhaps now we are ready to offer a definition of the glory of God.

The glory of God is the revealed beauty of God that arises from the totality of all of His attributes.

I unapologetically speak of God’s glory as God’s beauty. The scriptures link the word “glory” with the word “beauty” more than once. For instance, twice in Exodus 28 the ideas of glory and beauty or tied together.

2 And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

40 For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty.

While those are references to the priestly garments, they are nonetheless significant in showing that glory is all bound up with beauty. The concept of glory as beauty continues in the New Testament. This can be demonstrated in an unlikely way. Listen, for instance, to how Matthew describes Satan’s temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4.

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

Taken together, the kingdoms of the world are majestic and beautiful and it was to this that Satan (wrongly) appealed in tempting Jesus. Furthermore, in Matthew 6, Jesus parallels glory with beauty in speaking against anxiety.

28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Solomon was clothed in glory. There was a regal beauty about him. But at his finest he was not as beautiful as the lilies of the field.

God, being clothed in glory, is clothed in beauty. But what is the nature of this beauty. Glory is the overwhelming beauty of God’s divine character and attributes. The glory of God is the revealed beauty of God that arises from the totality of all of His attributes.

Famed theologian Karl Barth wrote that “the divine glory” is “the sum of the divine perfections” and “the divine self-sufficiency that is a self-sufficiency which overflows and declares itself.” Thomas Oden wrote that, “Each attribute complements the others so that taken together the glory of God embraces and manifests all attributes in perfect tension, correspondence, and complementarity.” And John Piper defined the glory of God as “the infinite beauty and greatness of his manifold perfections.”[5]

To see the glory of God is to be struck dumb by the flabbergasting, resplendent beauty of who God is!

In Revelation 21, John tried to liken the glory of God to beautiful jewels.

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

That word “like” is telling. God’s glory is “like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”

The glory of God takes us beyond the explanatory power of our own language. At our best all we can do is use similes and metaphors. We have to liken God’s glory to something else because there is nothing we can say about it directly to capture what it actually is. We cannot approach it head on. It is, as Piper said, like trying to define beauty itself. How does one do it? Or love?   How does one define love?

How do we define glory? It is that about God which paralyzes us with grandeur, which smites us with beauty. It is that which causes us to tremble and then to sing praises! The glory of God is the cumulative effect of the attributes of God in their totality. It is the gloriously wonderful and terrifying moment when the transcendent God who is out there reveals Himself to be the immanent God who is right here.

In Isaiah 28, Isaiah said:

5 In that day the Lord of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people

A crown of glory and a diadem of beauty! Yes, and a revealed beauty at that! For God in His mercy has revealed His glory. He has shown us a beauty beyond all beauties. He has shown it to us in the created order and in the miracle of all that is good. He has shown it to us above all other ways in the person of His only begotten Son, Jesus.

The coming of Jesus means that the glory of God has now broken into the world, has now spilled the banks!

Let me note that it is telling to see how crucial the glory of God is in the scriptures and how peripheral it appears to be in the day-to-day life of many churches. Let me ask you on a personal note: how important is the glory of God in your own life? Are you awed by His glory? Do you see any connection between your own life and His glory? Are you drawn to the beauty of God, or is God, as you perceive Him, not fit for the word glory? If He is not, then you have a profoundly faulty understanding of God!

We must be a Church for His glory. We must live for His glory. We must be drawn to and overwhelmed by His glory!

The God of glory has come to us in Jesus. Jesus has revealed His glory. Jesus is the glory of God! As a result, we who profess to follow Him should be overwhelmed by the glory of God revealed in the Son.


[1] Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger. (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2015), p.40.


[3] Dale Moody, The Word of Truth. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981), p.102.

[4] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), p.221.

[5] Karl Barth, The Doctrine of God. Church Dogmatics. Eds., G.W. Bromily and T.F. Torrance. Vol. II, Part 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), p.652. Thomas C. Oden, The Living God. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 1998), p.39.


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