“For the Glory of God”: The Four Canons (A Review)

Sometimes one little letter makes all the difference in the world.

George Weigel once noticed a small change in a Washington, D.C., school’s slogan that was not actually small at all. The slogan of this school came from Ignatius of Loyola: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam. Translated, that is “For the greater glory of God.” And that slogan is oftentimes abbreviated as AMDG. So the school existed, in other words, “For the greater glory of God,” AMDG.

What Weigel found curious and then upsetting was seeing a billboard for the school’s fundraising campaign in which that great slogan had been altered, seemingly slightly.

What I find disturbing about the campaign is its “branding” slogan. I first became aware of it when, driving past the campus a few months ago, I noticed a billboard at the corner of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane. In large, bold letters, it proclaimed, “FOR THE GREATER GLORY.” And I wondered, “…of what?” Then one day, when traffic allowed, I slowed down and espied the much smaller inscription in the bottom right corner: “Georgetown Prep’s Legacy Campaign.”

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God), often reduced to the abbreviation AMDG, was the Latin motto of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Georgetown Prep is a Jesuit school. So what happened to the D-word? What happened to God? Why did AMDG become AM[D]G while being translated into fundraising English?

I made inquiries of Jesuit friends and learned that amputating the “D” in AMDG is not unique to Georgetown Prep; it’s a tactic used by other Jesuit institutions engaged in the heavy-lift fundraising of capital campaigns.[1]

Well. Dropping God’s glory from your slogan in order to keep the glory undefined seems ill-advised to say the least. In fact, the question of who exactly gets the glory seems to be a very important question, especially in scripture!

So who does get the glory? God? You? Somebody else?

How we answer this matters…a lot!

The glory of God is the summum bonum of our existence.

Let us begin with a definition of the glory of God. What is God’s glory? I would propose the following: The glory of God is the manifestation of the perfect and beautiful character of God. There are other ways to say this, of course, but I think this is workable. Glory, in scripture, is usually revealed and what it reveals is who God is.

For this reason, we can speak of the glory of God as the summum bonum, the greatest good, of our existence. We can do nothing greater than give God glory. We can do nothing higher or more noble than magnify God’s glory. We, as part of and alongside creation, were made to give God glory.

In Psalm 19 we see that creation itself is constantly heralding the glory of God.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Day after day and night after night, creation itself is saying: “See the glory and beauty and majesty of God! Join with all creation in magnifying God’s glory!”

Paul, in 1 Timothy 1, stresses that God alone is worthy of glory.

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

“The only God” deserves “glory forever and ever.” Our lives now just as our lives in eternity will be consumed with giving God glory!

What is more, the angels of heaven call upon all the earth to give God glory! In Revelation 14, we read:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

When we say that we are “an authentic family around the whole gospel for the glory of God” we are saying that we believe the church’s highest calling is to proclaim and invite all of humanity to proclaim God’s glory and greatness! The glory of God is the summum bonum, the greatest good or our existence. We can say nothing greater. We can do nothing more important. The church exists to draw the nations’ attention to the glory of our great God!

The failure to give God glory is a particularly heinous sin.

And if this is so, then that means that failing to give God glory is a particularly heinous sin. Indeed, scripture bears this out. In Romans 3, falling short of the glory of God is depicted as the devastating result of human sinfulness.

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

Before humanity fell in sin, we gloried in God: His beauty, His character, His goodness, His greatness. But in our sin we “fall short of the glory of God.” We are no longer concerned with God’s glory, in our sinfulness. We are concerned, instead, with our own.

If scripture makes anything abundantly clear, however, it is that choosing our glory over God’s glory is a dangerous and disastrous thing to do! Acts 12 gives a most shocking example of this.

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.

I have always marveled at this passage! My goodness! The people proclaim Herod a god. He is dressed in marvelous finery and presents quite a glorious display! Then, suddenly, an angel appears, strikes him down, and he is eaten by worms! Why? “Because he did not give God the glory.”

Church, you do not get the glory. I do not get the glory. God alone gets the glory! Beware of wanting glory that is not your own! None of us is worthy of glory! Only God is!

In Revelation 16, the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out upon the earth. In that context, we read:

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

These punished, tortured rebels “did not repent and give him glory.”

In addition to being a warning against misappropriating glory, this is also a picture of what true repentance is. If a lack of repentance results in us failing to give God glory, then true repentance means that we do give God glory!

This is a good question to ask yourself: Do you wish for God to get glory? Is the glory of God frequently on your mind? Are you quick to deflect glory to God if somebody wants to give it to you?

The truly repentant heart will do precisely that!

The believer’s life, focus, and destiny should be glory-saturated.

In fact, the truly repentant heart will be positively saturated with the glory of God! Over and over again, the scriptures show that the lives of believers in Jesus are to be marked by a devotion to God’s great glory!

For instance, our sicknesses and our deaths are ultimately for God’s glory.

In John 11, Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick and dying. Twice, Jesus points to Lazarus’ illness and death as ultimately for God’s glory.

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

So whatever else was happening to Lazarus, it was ultimately intended to bring greater glory to God! Then, after Lazarus died but before Jesus raised him from the dead, we read:

39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

Even our tragedies can be doorways to a vision of the glory of God!

The scriptures, in Romans 15, reveal that our peace and unity as a church are for God’s glory.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

The picture is clear: If we live “together” and “with one voice” we will bring glory to God! If we are fractured and fighting and lose our unity, we will fail to give God glory. The glory of God unites us, and when we are united we give glory to God!

Even our daily necessities and activities are to be glory-focused! In 1 Corinthians 10, we read:

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Suddenly we see that the mundane things are not mundane! Eating and drinking ought to be done “to the glory of God.” But it is wider than that: “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Our conversations, our hobbies, our downtime, our busy time, all of it is to be given to the glory of God!

If this sounds dreary to us it is because we wrongly thing of giving glory to God as something sober. It is not! Joy and life abundant magnify the glory of God! Laugh for the glory of God! Rest for the glory of God! Play for the glory of God! Do all that you do for the glory of God!

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul wonderfully says that our prayers are for God’s glory!

20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Our so-be-it’s! are for God’s glory! Our Amen! is itself a recognition that God is trustworthy and good, able to answer our prayers, and worthy of glory!

Our efforts as a church are for the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 4, evangelism, mission, and the growth of the body of Christ is depicted as for God’s glory.

15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

As grace reaches more and more people and more and more people are saved, then more and more people are able to thank God and magnify His glory more and more!

Here is how Jesus described the fruit of our engagement with the world 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 want the world to join with us and giving God glory!

When we state our great confession together, God gets the glory.  Paul, in Philippians 2 writes:

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.

This bowing of every knee and confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ by every tongue is “to the glory of God the Father.” God delights in hearing the greatness of His Son proclaimed by humanity! We were made for that! So whether it is in the baptismal waters where we hear over and over again “Jesus is Lord!” or in our songs of praise or in our prayers, it is glorious to proclaim the supremacy of Jesus Christ as Lord of heaven and earth!

Yes, our lives are to be glory-saturated, glory-focused, and glory-consumed! We live to give glory to God!

In fact, there is biblical evidence suggesting that our last earthly moment will be fixated on God’s glory. In Acts 7, as Stephen is being martyred, we read this of his last moments on earth:

55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Just before you stand before your maker, you will see His glory, you will understand His majesty! God’s glory will be recognized and known by all!

And, finally, our eternal destiny will be glory-bathed. Heaven, we are told in Revelation 21, will be lit with the glory of God!

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.

We will therefore live forever bathed in the light of the glory of God!

Church, we must do all that we do and be all that we are called to be for the glory of God!

Where is your heart? What do you most value? Do you value and treasure and seek to magnify in your life God’s glory? Is His glory your greatest desire? Or is it something else, something lesser: Your glory? Your comfort? Your desires? Your success?

When you take your last breath, all of these other things will slip away and you will finally see that the glory of God is the greatest good, the greatest reality, and our eternal destiny.

Gregory Petrov wrote the hymn, “Glory to God for All Things.” Petrov died in a Soviet prison camp in 1940 where he was sent after he refused to renounce Christ. After he died, they found the following hymn on his person. It is a long hymn and a powerful hymn that presents us with line after line after line dedicated to the pervasiveness and power and beauty of the glory of God. Some selections:

Glory to You for calling me into being.
Glory to You, showing me the beauty of the universe.
Glory to You, spreading out before me heaven and earth, like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom.
Glory to You for Your eternity in this fleeting world.
Glory to You for Your mercies, seen and unseen.
Glory to You, through every sigh of my sorrow.
Glory to You for every step of my life’s journey,for every moment of glory.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age…

Glory to You for the feast-day of life.
Glory to You for the perfume of lilies and roses.
Glory to You for each different taste of berry and fruit.
Glory to You for the sparkling silver of early morning dew.
Glory to You for the joy of dawn’s awakening.
Glory to You for the new life each day brings.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age…

Glory to You for the warmth and tenderness of the world of nature.
Glory to You for the numberless creatures around us.
Glory to you for the depths of Your wisdom–the whole world a living sign of it.
Glory to You: On my knees, I kiss the traces of Your unseen hand.
Glory to You, enlightening us with the clarity of eternal life.
Glory to You for the hope of the unutterable, imperishable beauty of immortality.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age…

Glory to You at the hushed hour of nightfall.
Glory to You, covering the earth with peace.
Glory to You for the last ray of the sun as it sets.
Glory to You for sleep’s repose that restores us.
Glory to You for Your goodness, even in time of darkness, when all the world is hidden from our eyes.
Glory to You for the prayers offered by a trembling soul.
Glory to You for the pledge of our reawakening on the glorious last day, that day which has no evening.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age…

Glory to You, ceaselessly watching over me.
Glory to You for the encounters You arrange for me.
Glory to You for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends.
Glory to You for the humbleness of animals which serve me.
Glory to You for the unforgettable moments of life.
Glory to You for the heart’s innocent joy.
Glory to You for the joy of living, moving, and being able to return Your love.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age…

Glory to You, the highest peak of men’s dreaming.
Glory to You for our unquenchable thirst for communion with God.
Glory to You, making us dissatisfied with earthly things.
Glory to You, turning on us Your healing rays.
Glory to You, subduing the power of the spirits of darkness and dooming to death every evil.
Glory to You for the signs of Your presence, for the joy of hearing Your voice and living in Your love.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Glory to You, for all nature is filled with Your laws.
Glory to You for what You have revealed to us in Your mercy.
Glory to You for what you have hidden from us in Your wisdom.
Glory to You for the inventiveness of the human mind.
Glory to You for the dignity of man’s labor.
Glory to You for the tongues of fire that bring inspiration.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Glory to You, satisfying my desires with good things.
Glory to You, watching over me day and night.
Glory to You, curing affliction and emptiness with the healing flow of time.
Glory to You; no loss is irreparable in You, giver of eternal life to all.
Glory to You, making immortal all that is lofty and good.
Glory to You, promising us the longed-for meeting with our loved ones who have died.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Glory to You, transfiguring our lives with deeds of love.
Glory to You, making wonderfully sweet the keeping of Your commandments.
Glory to You, making Yourself known where man shows mercy on his neighbor.
Glory to You, sending us failure and misfortune, that we may understand the sorrows of others.
Glory to You, rewarding us so well for the good we do.
Glory to You, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love.
Glory to You, raising to the heights of heaven every act of love in earth and sky.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Glory to You for every happening, every condition Your Providence has put me in.
Glory to You for what you speak to me in my heart.
Glory to You for what you reveal to me, asleep or awake.
Glory to You for scattering our vain imaginations.
Glory to You for raising us from the slough of our passions through suffering.
Glory to You for curing our pride of heart by humiliation.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Glory to You for the unquenchable fire of Your grace.
Glory to You, building Your Church, a haven of peace in a tortured world.
Glory to You for the life-giving water of baptism in which we find new birth.
Glory to You, restoring to the penitent purity white as the lily.
Glory to you for the Cup of Salvation and the Bread of eternal joy.
Glory to You for exalting us to the highest heaven.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.

Glory to You, giving us light.
Glory to You, loving us with love so deep, divine, and infinite.
Glory to You, blessing us with light, and with the host of angels and saints.
Glory to You, Father All-Holy, promising us a share in Your Kingdom.
Glory to You, Holy Spirit, Life-giving Sun of the world to come.
Glory to You for all things, holy and most merciful Trinity.
Glory to You, O God, from age to age.[2]

And let the church say, Amen!


[1] https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2020/08/amdg

[2] https://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2007/08/08/akathist-hymn-glory-to-god-for-all-things/

2 thoughts on ““For the Glory of God”: The Four Canons (A Review)

  1. At age 70 me had lost my summum bonum; asking others would get me some strange looks….. help you find what? You & Mr. Gregory help me locate it again; HARD not to just become a teary eyed blubbering old man when you come across it again; the wonder of it all. Me knew me lost it off & on and now I can tell somebody else about it & Cicero didn’t just pull it out of his hat or thin air. Thank YOU for loving the Renewal Ranch & me as well for that matter. Go Wym and Thank you to CBCNLR. Your footnotes & outline here sure fills me with wonder almost every time and keeps me prayin & reading my bible.

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