In an article published in Touchstone magazine entitled “Doorkeeper & Ascension Day!” James Kushiner describes a fascinating Easter tradition in the Antiochian rite Orthodox Church.
Psalm 84:10 reads: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
There is, in fact, a liturgically designated doorkeeper for the Paschal service of the Orthodox Church in the Antiochian rite. He remains behind in the church, while outside the congregation, having processed around the church singing of the Resurrection, awaits entry into the newly lighted church. The church had been in darkness earlier when the congregation left it, bearing only their newly lit paschal candles.
Now outside the church, the priest pounds on the doors three times, saying: “Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!” (Ps. 24:7)
The doorkeeper shouts from inside: “Who is this King of glory?” (24:8)
Reply: “The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.”
The priest again pounds on the door, twice more with the same words and dialogue with the doorkeeper, after which the doorkeeper opens the doors to the congregation, which enters the church for the joyous Paschal matins.
That is a beautiful and powerful image: the doors of the church are opened for the King of glory to come in! As we approach our third canon, “for the glory of God,” and its covenant components, I cannot help but ask myself this question: have the doors of our church been opened to the God of glory or have we diminished our understanding of Him to the point where we do not even understand what His glory means? Can we see the glory? Can we feel the glory? Truly, wherever the God of glory is present, the hearts of His people should know it and celebrate it. Toward this end we move now to the third section of our covenant:
As a body of born again believers,
We covenant to become an authentic family by
loving one another as Christ loves us,
praying for one another,
speaking truth to one another in love,
being patient with one another,
protecting one another,
considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We covenant to embrace the whole gospel by
studying God’s Word faithfully,
learning the gospel together in family worship,
giving ear only to sound doctrine,
living out the gospel in our lives,
embracing the whole counsel of God.
We covenant to bring glory to God
As we begin to unpack the glory of God and how we as His children bring glory to Him, let us first ask for some basic definitions so that we can understand that about which we speak.
God is glorious and intends for all that He has made to reflect His glory back to Him.
We begin with the basic biblical and theological statement that God has glory, that God is glorious. To get at a good definition of glory, consider this helpful background from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:
The principal word in the Hebrew for this concept [i.e., glory or the glory of God] is kabod, and in the Greek doxa…These two meanings account for the two main lines of significance in classical Greek, where doxameans opinion (what one thinks for one’s self) and reputation (what others think about that person), which may shade into fame or honor or praise…Since kabodderives from kabed, “to be heavy,” it lends itself to the idea that the one possessing glory is laden with riches (Gen. 31:1), power (Isa. 8:7), position (Gen. 45:13), etc. To the translators of the LXX it seemed that doxawas the most suitable word for rendering kabod, since it carried the notion of reputation or honor that was present in the use of kabod. But kabodalso denoted the manifestation of light by which God revealed himself…At times kabodhad a deeper penetration, denoting the person or self. When Moses made the request of God, “Show me your glory” (Exod. 33:18), he was not speaking of the lightning cloud…rather, he was seeking a special manifestation of God that would leave nothing to be desired (cf. John 14:8).
We see then that “glory” has to do with one’s character and the demonstration of that character.The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Termsputs it more succinctly when it defines “the glory of God” as “the divine essence of God as absolutely resplendent and ultimately great (Rev. 21:23).These are basic definitions and the word “glory” is used in many different ways in scripture. Even so, these are good definitions and I would suggest that the many uses of “glory” in scripture bear the truthfulness of them out. For our purposes, it would not be inaccurate to define “glory” precisely in these terms:
The glory of God is the revealed beauty of God shining out from the totality of all of His attributes.
In other words, God’s glory is the revelation of Himself that leads inevitably to fear and/or awestruck-wonder. It results in the slack-jawed amazement of humanity wherever it is demonstrated in an unveiled way. God’s glory is His character displayed and seen. That He has glory is abundantly clear in scripture. For instance, the Bible speaks frequently of the glory of the Lord “filling” the tabernacle or the temple or the house of God (Exodus 40:34, 35; 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 5:14, 7:1-2; Ezekiel 43:5, 44:4).
In Moses’ song from Exodus 15, Moses and the children of Israel sing:
11Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
There God’s glory is tied to his revealed deeds. The conclusion is that God is majestic, holy, awesome, and wonderful. Truly there is no one like our God!
All of this leads us to a second consideration of the glory of God. If our glorious God created the world, and if all that has been created has His fingerprints upon it, that means that all that has been made was intended to reflect God’s glory. More than that, it was intended to reflect God’s glory back to Him in praise. This idea is captured beautifully in Psalm 29:
1Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 6 He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. 8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” 10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. 11 May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Notice the strong emphasis on God’s glory and on creation’s offering of God’s glory back to Him in praise. The heavenly beings, the waters, the thunder, the cedars of Lebanon, the flames of fire, the wilderness of Kadesh, the deer, the forests, and then, above all others, all who are in his temple. Did you notice the basic order of the created elements alluded to in Psalm 29: water, trees, animals, then people. That is the order of creation we find in Genesis 1. In other words, it was for God’s glory that He created all things and all things should reflect that glory!
That the description ends with “his people” is most telling. Men and women alone bear the image of God. We are stewards of glory. We were intended, yes, along with all creation but also above all creation to reflect God’s glory, to give glory to God. We were made for the glory of God! That means that what you do this week and what I do this week—everything we do this week!—should highlight and celebrate the glory of God!
But fallen humanity is blind to God’s glory and seeks now its own glory.
Mankind’s privilege and responsibility of being at the pinnacle of God’s glory-reflecting created order makes the fall of man into sin and wickedness that much more tragic. It also helps us understand what Paul says in Romans 3 about the consequence of sin. Here is a verse that many know well, but hear it again:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Ah! We “fall short” of the glory because of our sin! What a tragedy! We who were created in the image of God, we who were given the earth to have dominion over it and tend to it, we who stand in the midst of all that God has made now “fall short” of the glory of God!
There is a great chasm now between what our lives are and what they were intended to be. Once we reflected God’s glory naturally because our nature was in line with His will for our lives, with His creative intent. But now we have fallen into sin and darkness. That sin has created a great gulf, a separation. Now we are blind to the glory! It is far from all of us as we are. Bishop Handley Moule writes, “The harlot, the liar, the murderer, are short of it, but so are you. Perhaps they stand at the bottom of the mine, and you are on the crest of an Alp, but you are as little able to touch the stars as they.”
Lost in our sins and blind to the glory we now bestow glory on temporal things, foolish things. God alone deserves glory but we seek to confer it upon anything we can, so foolish have we become! In Romans 1 Paul writes:
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
We should be living lives of worship, lives of joyful celebration of God’s glory! But now we glory in all the wrong things. Above all else, we seek glory for ourselves. We want the glory! We are so twisted by our sinfulness and blindness of heart and soul that we instinctively resent the idea that God alone should have the glory. In our fallen natures we want the glory! But God alone is fit for glory. We were intended to be reflectors of divine glory not possessors of it. The fallen desire for glory and God’s response to this is depicted in shocking detail in Acts 12 and the horrifying episode of Herod:
20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.
There in summation is the sad story of humanity lost in its sin: we are arrogant, we seek our own glory, and instead we received the judgment of God. But thanks be to God it is not the whole story!
The church is a people who have encountered the glory of God in the face of Jesus and who are seeking to reflect that glory in their lives.
Yes, men and women, blinded by their sin, dead in their sins and trespasses, seek glory for themselves. And, yes, this invites the judgment of God. But the heart of the gospel is that our great and glorious God did not wish to leave us in our sinfulness. Rather, He stepped into the darkness of the watching world to show us His glory once again, to call us back to Himself. Fallen humanity could catch glimpses of it in the created order (Romans 1:18-20) but we could only see the glory with clarity in the coming of God-with-us, Jesus Christ. For this reason, John, in John 1, describes the coming of Christ in these terms:
14And 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 the face of Jesus we see the glory of God, the “glory as of the only Son from the Father.” Christ Jesus draws our eyes and minds and hearts back to God’s glory! Thus, when we received Him by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) we are able now to see the glory of God again! There is a powerful connection between faith and glory. We do not see the glory naturally now, but by grace through faith we can. In John 11, Jesus says this to Martha beside the tomb of her brother Lazarus:
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
Yes, if you believe you will see the glory of God! Are you tired of your horizon being dominated by darkness, misery, and pain? Are you tired of hopelessness and of despair? Do you wonder if there is anything beautiful left and if there is any reason to hope? Then look at Jesus! He is showing you the glory, the glory that we have forgotten, the glory we, in our sinfulness and foolishness, despise. Christ is the revealed glory of God!
When you come to Christ, when you receive Him, you are now freed to stop seeking glory for yourself and to offer it back to God instead! And as you do this, you begin to grow. Consider Paul’s description of Abraham in Romans 4:
20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
He grew strong “as he gave glory to God”! When you live for the glory of God it makes you strong in your faith, strong in the ways of God, strong in right thinking, strong in love for God and neighbor, strong in the ways of Jesus! You were made to stand in awe of the glory, to live in light of the glory, and to offer back to God the glory!
But there is more. When you live like this, when you live in and for the glory of God, suddenly you begin to cast light into the darkness around you. Suddenly, through your life, others can begin to see the glory, can begin to see Jesus. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
We do not do good so that we can get a plaque. We do not do good for accolades! We do good, we live the life of Jesus, in order that those around us might come to know Jesus, might see the light of God’s glory reflected in our lives and turn to God Himself. You are made to be a glory-reflector. You are made to shine light in the darkness. You are made to live the life of Christ, to speak the name of Jesus, and to draw all people, through word and deed, toward our great and glorious God.
And when this happens, when we see the glory of God in Christ, come to Jesus in repentance and faith, and begin to model a glory-saturated life, then we are free, then we begin to be transformed. We are free from worry, from fear, and from despair. We are free to live in and walk in and reflect the glory in such a way that we are transformed, changed, altered. Do you want to be changed? Then see the glory of God in the face of Jesus and throw yourself at His feet! In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul writes some of the most beautiful words in the whole of the New Testament:
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.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.
Yes! We are “beholding the glory of the Lord” and are ourselves “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another”! Our lives become a journey of ascent into glory-transformation, into being conformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). We are not God and we never will be gods. We are human beings. But as we draw deeper and deeper into the glory of God in Christ, our minds, our hearts, and our lives are changed “from one degree of glory to another.” Glory is the divine theater of transformation for the people of God.
Look up, church! See the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! See it there and rejoice! Then take up your cross and follow. The path of Jesus is the path into the glory of God, into the very heart of God. And one day we shall see Him as He is and our lives will be spent in eternal splendor and awe before the greatness of our glorious God.
E.F. Harrison, “Glory.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2001), p.484-485.
Donald K. McKim, The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms.2nded. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), p.131.
Quoted in Grant R. Osborne, Romans. The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Ser. Ed., Grant R. Osborne. Vol. 6 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p.95.