What is the Glory of God?

When we think about our purpose in life, we often focus on things we can do for the betterment of others or to improve our own lives. But the Bible tells us what our purpose truly is. In 1 Corinthians 10:31, we read, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” I think the problem with us today is we use the term “glory of God” so often that it tends to lose its meaning and power. But, like the sun, just because people ignore it or take it for granted, does not negate its benefits and power.

On the same note, God does not like to be ignored. In Psalm 50:22 we read, “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!” So I thought it would be good to take some time and focus on the glory of God. What is it? How important is it?

Simply put, the glory of God is the holiness of God put on display. Remember the great hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness?” It speaks about all the moon and stars joining nature in “manifold witness.” That is, all creation speaks of the infinite worth of God. How do we know that? Look at Isaiah 6:3, one of the most quoted verses about God’s holiness. We read, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of host” then it shifts to say, “the whole earth is full of his glory!” When the holiness of God fills the earth for people to see, it is called glory.

The basic meaning of holy is “to be set apart” or “separated” from the common. Thus, when you carry that definition to the infinite “separation” of God from all that is common, the effect is to make Him the infinite “one of a kind”—like the rarest and most perfect diamond in the world. Only there are no other diamond-gods. God’s uniqueness as the only God. His “God-ness” makes Him infinitely valuable, that is, holy.

The most common meaning for God’s glory in the Bible assumes that this infinite value has entered created experience. As Isaiah tells us, “Arise shine, for your light has come.” It has shone for all to behold and marvel at. God’s glory is the radiance of His holiness. It is the out-pouring of His infinite value. And when it streams out, it is seen as beautiful and great. It has both infinite quality and infinite magnitude. So we can define the glory of God as the beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections.

I say “manifold perfections” because there are specific aspects of God’s being that have been revealed that are said to have glory. For example, Ephesians 1:6 talks about “the glory of his grace” and 2 Thessalonians 1:9 speaks about “the glory of his might.” God Himself is glorious because He is the perfect unity of all his manifold and glorious perfections.

But this definition needs to be qualified. The Bible also speaks of God’s glory before it is revealed in creation. For example, Jesus prays in John 17:5, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed”. So I would suggest a definition something like this: God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections.

I am aware that words are poor pointers here. I have replaced one inadequate word with two others: glory with beauty and greatness. But for us to grasp this concept and truth, we must try. God has revealed Himself to us in words like “the glory of God.” And He does not want them to be meaningless.

We must constantly remind ourselves that we are speaking of a glory that is ultimately beyond created comparison. “The glory of God” is the way you designate the infinite beauty and the infinite greatness of the Person who was there before anything else was there. In other words, it is the beauty and the greatness that exists without origin, without comparison, without analogy, without being judged or assessed by any external criterion. It is the all-defining absolute original of greatness and beauty. All created greatness and beauty comes from it, and points to it, but does not comprehensively or adequately reproduce it. As 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, seeing God’s glory is like seeing through a glass “dimly.”

“The glory of God” is a way of saying that there is the objective, absolute reality to which all human admiration, wonder, awe, praise, honour, and worship is pointing. We were made to find our deepest pleasure in admiring what is infinitely admirable, that is, the glory of God. The glory of God is not the psychological projection of human longing onto reality. On the contrary, inconsolable human longing is the evidence that we were made for God’s glory. In a sense, it is the concept of the “God-shaped hole” in humanity’s hearts.

As I mentioned earlier, the glory of God is the goal of all things. In Isaiah 42:6-7, we read, “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”

The great mission of the church is to declare God’s glory among the nations. Psalm 96:1-3 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.” This can also be seen in Ezekiel 39:21 and Isaiah 66:18-19.

Seeing the glory of God is our ultimate hope. Romans 5:2 says, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We are promised in Jude 24 that God will “present [us] blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” Romans 9:23 tells us He will “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:12 tells us “He calls you into his own kingdom and glory” and our blessed hope is the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” We find this in Titus 2:13.

Jesus, in all His person and work, is the Incarnation and ultimate revelation of the glory of God. Hebrews 1:3 says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” His desire, we read in John 17:24 was for us to be with Him and “to see [His] glory.”

As the children of God, we are partakers in His suffering and His glory. Seeing and sharing in God’s glory is our ultimate hope through the gospel of Christ. Hope that is really known and treasured has a huge and decisive effect on our present values and choices and actions.

Let me end by encouraging you to get to know the glory of God. Study the glory of God, the glory of Christ, the glory of the world that reveals the glory of God, the glory of the gospel that reveals the glory of Christ.

In the end, treasure God’s glory and make it your primary purpose and focus for your life rather than our own. We do that by studying our soul. Know the glory you are seduced by, and know why you treasure glories that are not God’s glory. Study your own soul to know how to make the glories of the world collapse like the high places and altars of the Old Testament.

May we all hunger to see, live for and share in the glory of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.


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