What Theologians Are Saying About the Glory of God

What Theologians Are Saying About the Glory of God December 23, 2013

Here is just one more little contribution to the bigger argument that glory, honor, and shame are major, massive, gigantic….in other words, big ideas in the Bible. However, I find from experience that people are more willing to listen if they hear a “theologian” say it than they are if a social scientist, historian, or a missiologist says it.

Ok then. For those who want to hear a bit more from some theologians, I’ve given a little excerpt from a post by Andy Naselli interviewing Christopher Morgan, co-editor of the book The Glory of God. It’s an excellent anthology of various biblical and systematic theologians discussing the theme of God’s glory from different angles.

Here are some of the questions and answers from the interview.

What are the various senses in which the Bible speaks of the glory of God?

At a basic level, it is helpful to notice that the glory of God is sometimes used in the Bible as an adjective, sometimes a noun, and sometimes a verb. God is glorious (adjective), reveals his glory (noun), and is to be glorified (verb).

More particularly, the Bible speaks of the glory of God in several distinct senses:

1. Glory may designate God himself (2 Pet. 1:17).

2. Glory sometimes refers to an internal characteristic, attribute, or a summary of attributes of God. Scripture regularly depicts God as intrinsically glorious in the sense of fullness, sufficiency, majesty, beauty, and splendor.

3. Glory may refer to God’s presence (Exod. 3-4; 13–14; 16:7; 20; 24; 32-34; 40:34-38, etc.).

4. Glory may refer to the display of God’s attributes, perfections, or person. God glorifies himself in displaying himself. As he puts his works on display, he glorifies himself. His mercy, grace, justice, and wrath are all displayed in salvation and judgment (cf. Rom. 9:20–23; Eph. 2:4–10).

5. Glory may refer to the ultimate goal of the display of God’s attributes, perfections, or person. Exodus and Ezekiel, for example, are replete with passages that unfold God’s actions for the sake of his name, or in order that people will know he is the Lord. Paul points out that God chooses, adopts, redeems, and seals us “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). That is, in saving us, God displays his grace; and in displaying his grace, he brings glory to himself.

6. Glory sometimes connotes heaven, the heavenly, or the eschatological consummation of the full experience of the presence of God (cf. Heb. 2:10; Phil. 4:19; Rom. 2:7; 1 Tim. 3:16; etc.).

7. Giving glory to God also may refer to responding appropriately to God in the form of worship, exaltation, or exultation (cf. Psalm 29:2; Luke 2:9, 14, 20; doxologies; etc.).

What is the relationship between God’s glory and our salvation?

From our vantage point, the story of our salvation as it relates to glory is this: as humans we all refused to acknowledge God’s glory and instead sought our own glory. Through this we forfeited the glory God intended for us as his image-bearers. By his grace and through union with Christ, the perfect image, God restores us as full image-bearers to participate in and reflect the glory we longed for the whole time. Thus, we are recipients of glory, are undergoing transformation through glory, and will be sharers of glory. Our salvation is not merely from sin but is also unto glory. What grace we have received: we who exchanged the glory of God for idols, we who rebelled against God’s glory, have been, are being, and will be completely transformed by the very glory we despised and rejected. Even more, through union with Christ, together we are the church, the new humanity (Eph. 2:11–22; 4:11–16; 4:20–24), the firstfruits of the new creation, bearing God’s image, displaying how life ought to be, and making known the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10–11).

From an even broader vantage point, salvation history is the story of the intrinsically glorious God graciously and joyfully communicating his fullness, chiefly through his creation, image-bearers, providence, and redemptive acts. As his people we respond by glorifying him, and in this God receives glory. Further, through uniting us to the glorious Christ, the perfect image of God, God shares his glory with us. And all of this redounds to his glory, as God in his manifold perfections is exhibited, known, rejoiced in, and prized. In this sense, the entire biblical plot—creation, fall, redemption, and consummation—is the drama of God’s glory.

 

As you can see the glory of God touches on nearly any subject you can imagine in the text. Any of these observations especially stick out to you?

Christopher Morgan is Associate Dean of the School of Christian Ministries and Professor of Theology at California Baptist University.

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