The weight of glory

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).

For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another (Isaiah 48:11)

Introduction

Why did the Son of God come into the world? There are two main reasons. The one is found in the most quoted verse in the New Testament, John 3:6 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The other reason is “because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always” (Monergism.com).

In this article I try to understand the weight of glory that should be given to God and the weight of glory that should be given to those to whom he gave his one and only Son.

It’s all about You. And me?

One church congregation sings, “It’s ALL about you, Jesus” (“Heart of Worship”) another sings “You thought of me above ALL” (“Above all powers”). And it is very possible that both songs be sung in the same church service.

(Michael) Horton [in his “Christless Christianity”], says John Frame, complains that the concept of God in the American church has become “vacuous” because the church focuses on such things as ‘Discipleship, spiritual disciplines, life transformation, culture transformation, relationships, marriage and family, stress, the spiritual gifts, financial gifts, radical experience of conversion, and end-times curiosities…’ (Horton).

Except possibly for the last item, continues Frame, it seems to me that everything on this list is a concern of Scripture itself and deserves to be emphasized in the church in some degree. The God who is concerned about such things is not vacuous. He is rather majestic and wonderful, because he is great enough to be concerned even with the details of human life. We can argue about the exact degree to which we should emphasize each of these, but that argument is not likely to be fruitful. These are matters that God cares about…“Now, certainly there is a kind of selfishness that detracts from biblical discipleship. Scripture warns of this (Luke 12:21; cf. Matt. 6:19-20). The self can be an idol, something we worship in place of God.”” (Review of Michael Horton’s “Christless Christianity”).

Eric Landry (on behalf of Horton) retorts: When it comes to the gospel, ‘we preach not ourselves, but Christ,’ because the gospel is not about us at all (My italics). (John Frame versus Michael Horton: What’s Christ all about?). Martyn Lloyd Jones, in his sermon on Ephesians 1:6, “To the praise of his glory,” says that the story of our salvation is all about God’s glory.

The Gospel is the story of man’s salvation. The question is: Is the Gospel all about God’s glory. If Lloyd Jones means “ultimately” and “mainly” about God’s glory, then, this, of course, is true.

I shall argue that the statement “the Gospel is not about us at all” reveals an over-enthusiastic (en “in” theos “God) misguided desire to let nobody – not even those for whom Christ died – cast a shadow over the glory of God.

God commands that he be praised for the glory of his name

At the beginning of this article, I quoted Isaiah 48:11 – “For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” Here are a few verses in a similar vein:

For as the waistcloth clings to the loins of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory” (Jeremiah 13:11).

Ephesians 1 contains three instances (verses 5-6, 12, and 14) that gives the reason for our salvation – God’s glory:

He predestined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6).

We who first hoped in Christ have been predestined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12)…The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14).

But, says John Piper, if God is a God of love, he must be for us. Is, then, Piper asks, God for himself or is he for us?” Piper answers – “because God is unique as the most glorious of all beings and totally self-sufficient, he must be for himself in order to be for us,” because “the best gift God can give us is Himself.” This is correct. In Ephesians 2:18, we read that Christ came that we might “have access in one Spirit to the Father.” And 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”

Piper ends with “God is for us, and therefore has been, is now, and always will be, for himself.” (My italics).

All the scriptures above demonstrate that everything God does, including his plan of salvation, is for himself alone, for his own glory, whereas this last sentence from Piper maintains that God is not only for Himself but for believers as well. And it is to this dual “for” that I want to go. I shall argue that God is not only for Himself but for believers as well; that God is not only for His glory but for the glory of believers as well.

Salvation in the Word of God

J. Gresham Machen writes in his Christianity and liberalism (free ebook), Chapter 3 “The Bible”:

“The Bible also contains an account of a revelation which is absolutely new. That new revelation concerns the way which sinful man can come into communion with the living God. The way was opened, according to the Bible. by an act of God when, almost nineteen hundred years ago, outside the walls of Jerusalem. the eternal Son was offered as a sacrifice for the sins of men. To that one great event the whole Old Testament looks forward. and in that one event the whole of the New Testament finds its center and core.”

J Gresham Machen

J Gresham Machen

The Gospel is the story of how God saves sinners. Salvation is something that happened, or rather somebody who happened. God did not erupt into history but was born(e) into history.

“From the beginning, says J. Gresham Machen, Christianity was certainly a way of life; the salvation that it offered was a salvation from sin, and salvation from sin appeared not merely in a blessed hope but also in an immediate moral change. The early Christians, to the astonishment of their neighbors, lived a strange new kind of life–a life of honesty, of purity and of unselfishness. And from the Christian community all other types of life were excluded in the strictest way.”

Another name for the Christian community is the Church. Here is a good description of the Church:

19 … you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The goal of the church should be the same as the goal of the Gospel: salvation. I once heard this in a sermon: “We were not called to salvation for ourselves, but for God’s glory.” Salvation, the preacher said, is a “by-product” of God’s glory. Did God really say that our salvation is not about ourselves but all about God’s glory? Is that what Jesus is saying in this passage? “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39-40). Is the eternal life promised to believers merely a “by-product” of God’s plan – for Himself? To answer as gently and respectfully as I can: that’s plain silly.

Jesus means Saviour. The Gospel is about being saved. Surely, though, salvation (of ourselves and others we minister to) is not a by-product. John 3:16 “God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” God loves his own. Ultimately, of course, it all comes back to God, to his glory.

Confusion in my favourite sermon from my favourite preacher

Paris Reidhead has been a great joy and inspiration to me. His “Ten Shekels and Shirt” is the greatest sermon I have ever heard. SermonIndex.com lists this sermon among its ten best sermons. So far it has had 169874 downloads. Having listened to the sermon several times, I thought I would download the transcript to study the sermon more closely. Here are a few excerpts relevant to our topic:

(The CAPITALS are in the original transcript and indicate Paris Reidhead’s shuddering – the effect on his hearers – emphasis. I underline parts for discussion).

paris reidhead

If you’ll ask me why I went to Africa, I’ll tell you I went primarily to improve on the justice of God. I didn’t think it was right for anybody to go to Hell without a chance to be saved. So I went to give poor sinners a chance to go to heaven. Now I haven’t put it in so many words, but if you’ll analyze what I just told you do you know what it is? Humanism. That I was simply using the provisions of Jesus Christ as a means to improve upon human conditions of suffering and misery. And when I went to Africa, I discovered that they weren’t poor, ignorant, little heathen running around in the woods looking for someone to tell them how to go to heaven. That they were MONSTERS OF INIQUITY!!! THEY WERE LIVING IN UTTER AND TOTAL DEFIANCE OF FAR MORE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THEN I EVER DREAMED THEY HAD!

They deserved Hell! Because they utterly refused to walk in the light of their conscience, and light of the law written upon their heart, and the testimony of nature, and the truth they knew! And when I found that out I assure you I was so angry with God that on one occasion in prayer I told Him it was a mighty ….. little thing He’d done, sending me out there to reach these people that were waiting to be told how to go to heaven. When I got there I found out they knew about heaven, and didn’t want to go there, and that they loved their sin and wanted to stay in it.

I went out there motivated by humanism. I’d seen pictures of lepers, I’d seen pictures of ulcers, I’d seen pictures of native funerals, and I didn’t want my fellow human beings to suffer in Hell eternally after such a miserable existence on earth. But it was there in Africa that God began to tear THROUGH THE OVERLAY OF THIS HUMANISM! And it was that day in my bedroom with the door locked that I wrestled with God. For here was I, coming to grips with the fact that the people I thought were ignorant and wanted to know how to go to heaven and were saying “Someone come teach us”, actually didn’t want to take time to talk with me or anybody else. They had no interest in the Bible and no interest in Christ, and they loved their sin and wanted to continue in it. And I was to that place at that time where I felt the whole thing was a sham and a mockery, and I had been sold a bill of goods! And I wanted to come home.

There alone in my bedroom AS I FACED GOD HONESTLY WITH WHAT MY HEART FELT, it seemed to me I heard Him say, “Yes, will not the Judge of all the earth do right? The Heathen are lost. And they’re going to go to Hell, not because they haven’t heard the gospel. They’re going to go to Hell because they are sinners, WHO LOVE THEIR SIN! And because they deserve Hell. BUT, I didn’t send you out there for them. I didn’t send you out there for their sakes.” And I heard as clearly as I’ve ever heard, though it wasn’t with physical voice but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its’ way into an open heart. I heard God say to my heart that day something like this, “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen, I sent you to Africa for My sake. They deserved Hell! But I LOVE THEM!!! AND I ENDURED THE AGONIES OF HELL FOR THEM!!! I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?”

I was there not for the sake of the heathen. I was there for the Savior who endured the agonies of Hell for me. But He deserved the heathen. Because He died for them. My eyes were opened. I was no longer working for Micah and ten shekels and a shirt. But I was serving a living God. Do you see? Let me epitomize, let me summarize. Christianity says, “The end of all being is the glory of God.” Humanism says, “The end of all being is the happiness of man.” And one [the former] born in Hell, the deification of man. AND THE OTHER WAS BORN IN HEAVEN, THE GLORIFICATION OF GOD!

In this wonderful sermon, Reidhead says an astounding thing: the reason for being – it’s not clear whether he includes God’s Being, yet it seems so – is “Lamb that was slain receive the reward of your suffering.” That reward consists of those for whom Christ suffered and shed his blood – those in this world whom the Father gave to the Son.

On previous listenings of the sermon, I was so overcome by the power of its delivery that – this, I suggest, happens often in poignant preaching – its force short-circuited my brain. I now see. Reidhead had thundered: I DIDN’T SEND YOU OUT THERE FOR THEM!!! I SENT YOU OUT THERE FOR ME! DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING? DON’T I DESERVE THOSE FOR WHOM I DIED?”

Is it really an either/or. Isn’t the following possible: “I sent you out there for them, and I sent you out there for me; mainly for me?” If Christ died for me, surely there is something in it for me as well: to be with God eternally. And doesn’t the glorification of God include the glorification of the reward of his suffering – those he died for? It is true that “All things are from him and through him and to him” (Romans 11:36). Isn’t it true that some of those “things” is the joy God feels for what he has done for those he has redeemed – and glorified:

John 17

7 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed…10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them… 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.

Romans 8

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Not to forget the favorite of those who believe that salvation is 100% of the Lord:

29 For those whom he foreknew (foreloved) he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Conclusion

The chief end of God is to be glorified. The Bible tells us that one of the means of God’s glorification is in and through his creation. We also learn that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. (Westminster Shorter Catechism). Let us not, in our enthusiasm for the Son of God’s glory, chuck out the glorification of man – the reward of HIS suffering. And, yes, God will never share HIS glory; but this does not mean He won’t give us a little of our own. Humanistic modesty and Christian humility don’t mix. Christian humility is to acknowledge that

“our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Related posts:

The Lamb that was slain: How can you reject such a great salvation? (onedaringjew)

God’s glory. And man’s? (onedaringjew)

The Weight of glory (C.S. Lewis)

5 thoughts on “The weight of glory

  1. Wow that’s an edifying read. I agree with you that Scripture teaches the Gospel is about God’s glory…and part of how He gets His glory is by saving us. Then in an interesting twist, as undeserving as we are…we somehow get to share some of that glory in some some sense though not in a way that make us divine.

    • One of the five solas (alones)is soli deo gloria. here is Charles Hodge:

      “The end of creation, therefore, is not merely the glory of God, but the special manifestation of that glory in the person and work of Christ. As He is the Alpha, so also is He the Omega; the beginning and the end.”
      Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol II, Part III, Chapter I.

      And indeed it should be one of the five alones. When it comes to a believer’s glorification (The Eastern Church’s “deification” is too strong), perhaps we could use the analogy of faith and works. We are saved by faith alone but not by faith that is not alone, that is. faith is manifested through works. So, God’s glory alone, yes, but not a glory that is alone (where the believer comes into da pikacha).

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