When we think of someone having glory, we tend to think of some who is either wildly over-promoted or who is an egomaniac. Children say, “Look at me!” and we think it’s cute, but when adults do this we think they are narcissists. If you are a Brian Regan fan, you are familiar with his Me Monster, the person who constantly turns every conversation back to himself. There’s this great line in Gladiator when he says to the monstrously proud emperor: “The time for honoring yourself is at an end.”
In the book of John, Jesus is constantly telling people to glorify God, and He is glad that through the salvation of people He himself is glorified. And then he says God will glorify those whom he has chosen, called and justified. So, if you are a Christian, you believe God is glorious; you believe He knows it and wants others to know it; and you believe that God wants to make you glorious. The language of glory and the reality of glorification is directly connected with God and with us. I don’t know about you, but I think that all sounds exciting even as I feel a little – maybe a lot - uncomfortable.
Why? Because I don’t think we have a great understanding of glory. That’s not the Bible’s fault. I suspect it has a lot to do with how we see our fallen world distort or ruin our perspective on what makes something or someone glorious, and how we should respond.
So let’s talk about glory and glorificiation, because we are going to need a biblically grounded view of this if we are going to have a true view of God and of ourselves as followers of Christ. We will begin with a small sample of verses from the book of John that capture the biblical use of the word ‘glory’ as it relates to God, people, shame, suffering and hair.
- John 8:54: “Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory (doksa) is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies (doksazo) me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’”
- John 11:4 “His [Lazarus] sickness will not end in his death but will bring great glory (doksa) to God. As these events unfold, the Son of God will be glorified (doksa).””
- John 12:23 “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (in reference to his crucifixion)
- John 12:42- 43 “…the Pharisees continued their threats to expel all His followers from the synagogue. Here’s why: they loved the glory (doksa) of men more than they desired to glorify (doksa) God.”
- John 14:13 “Whatever you ask for in My name, I will do it so that the Father will get glory (doksazo) from the Son.”
- John 15:8 “I am the vine, and you are the branches…. Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory (doksazo) to the Father.”
- John 17:9-10 “This request is not for the entire world; it is for those whom You have given to Me because they are Yours… Through them I have been glorified (doksazo).”
- John 21:19 Peter would glorify God by his death.
A couple other examples not found in the book of John:
- 1 Corinthians 11:15 “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory (doksa) to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”
- Philippians 3:19: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory (doksa) is in their shame.”
- Ephesians 3:13 “So I ask you not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory (doksa).”
- 1 Corinthians 6:20 “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify (doksa) God in your body.”
- Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify (doksazo) your Father in heaven.”
- 2 Corinthians 3:18 “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious (doksa) image.”
Paul even writes in 1 Corinthians 15 how there are different levels of glory for stars and moons as well as for the physical body and the resurrected body. Add them all up, and that’s a lot of glory, and over some seemingly odd things. So, let’s dig.
Dóksa is the Greek word that means "that which evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth." Doksazo is related, and it means “to ascribe weight by recognizing real substance (value).” It acknowledges the true character of someone or the essence of something, exalts a glorious rank or position, and seeks to increase renown.
So it is praise-worthy; it’s inherently weighted with value; it’s something good in its essence or nature; it’s achieves a good goal or fulfills purpose; it’s something that brings renown or honor; it’s the majesty associated with perfection. Understanding how this one word is used for all kinds of things can help us make sense of some of the puzzling Bible verses.
- Paul said long hair was a woman’s glory because in the city of Corinth, it was praise-worthy or evoked good opinion. The women whom the culture admired all had long hair; it was considered a sign of inherent or intrinsic worth. Long hair exalted them and increased their renown.
- Shame can be our glory when a sinful, destructive lifestyle is something we exalt in to make us famous.
- Suffering is for the glory of others because it shows the intrinsic value of other people. The Christians in Ephesus had a very real ‘weight and substance’ (they mattered!), so much so that Paul considered suffering for them to be a privilege.
- We can glorify God with our body through sexual purity because in so doing we are acknowledging the real value of our sexuality, and then directing it toward God’s designed way, thus protecting the intrinsic worth and true essence of our sexual nature – which in turn evokes the “good opinion” not just of God but of others.
- Jesus said he would be glorified in His death (John 13:31). That act of sacrifice was loaded with value; it would bring renown or a reputation of an event and God who could forgive the sins of the world, and it was the perfect way in which He fulfilled His purpose on earth (John 18:37).
With all this in mind, I will attempt a condensed definition of glory: “That which is present in someone or something whose nature, character and/or actions are worthy of honor.”
TYPES OF GLORY (ways in which someone’s nature, character and/or actions are worthy of honor)
- Intrinsic: Because God is the Creator, there is a type of glory embedded in everything. It’s embedded in the very nature of things crafted by the Master Designer. There are different levels of this, of course. A tree has its own kind of glory. A horse is glorious as a horse. You, however, are far more glorious because you are created in God’s image. That is the greatest glory God grants to any part of His creation. There is nothing the Hubble telescope captures that compares to your glory. This could also include the idea that there is a design and purpose for your life in a deeply spiritual sense (to glorify God and be transformed into the image of Christ) and on a practical level (you have a unique set of personality traits, character, skills, and opportunities).
- Inherited: Everyone is born with a citizenship in a country, which may or may not be glorious. You have a racial or ethnic glory – there is a biological history of who you are. You have a family glory - or at least that’s God design for the family. IN all these cases, sinners in a fallen world can turn this potential glory into shame.
- Granted: Knighthood. Honorary degrees. Perhaps even adoption fits into this category. In fact, adoption may be the best example because knighthood and honorary degrees, while given as a gift, are both earned to some degree. The Bible portrays adoption into the family of God as one of the most glorious things that can happen to us. That is a granted glory: we weren’t born into his family biologically; we didn’t inherit it; and we can’t earn it (which is our next category). It was given to us in an act of grace and love. Perhaps we should add suffering.
- Earned: We are rewarded for completing task (“Well done!”) Real degrees. Awards of all kinds. NBA champs. Fittest Man/Woman in the world; promotions; elections. Earned glory fall into the category of what the Bible calls “the glory of men.” This is not necessarily a bad thing; some things we have received or that we do are worthy of being applauded. I was watching the Crossfit Games this past week, and let me tell you, those athletes deserve huge props for what they accomplished. They have earned a moment of glory from the crowd. But then there’s next year. If they don’t win again, their name fades. In ten years, only true fans know who they are, and in 50 years, nobody cares. The Bible is very clear that the ‘praise of men” ought not be a goal that drives our lives. It withers like cut grass (1 Peter 1:24); it’s s crown that fades (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Peter 5:4). The glory of people will fade; the glory of God remains for eternity. (Perhaps we should add suffering here; God will glorify us as we suffer for him, and that’s a glory that we earn by our suffering for the sake of the Gospel. That glory is not temporary and will not fade.)
GOD’S GLORY IS INTRINSIC
It is not inherited, granted or earned. Christian philosophers like to say that God is a maximal being – he has no room to grow; he is perfectly full of all his attributes. When we say that God is love, truth, life; that he is full of kindness and anger; that he is just and merciful; we mean He is perfectly and completely these things, and they all intertwine and balance in ways we cannot possibly conceive. His will is the best will possible. His acts are the absolute best acts that can be conceived or done.
God does not need our attention to build His glory. He’s just fine on his own. When we see and acknowledge God for who he is, we are not giving temporary applause to a fleeting, imperfect person. We see True Glory in God’s perfect nature; the eternal, profound weightiness of His existence: his real, indescribably valuable substance; His perfect (albeit mysterious) work in the world.
GOD’S GLORY IS OVERWHELMING
The Bible tells us that we can’t handle seeing the glory of God’s nature. Exodus 33 records that when Moses asks to see God’s glory, God allows Moses to see His back but not His face. God clarifies what this means: “ You can see my goodness and my acts of mercy and compassion, but you can’t see me directly.” In the next chapter, when God does pass before Moses, here’s what He says:
“The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished...” (Exodus 34:6-7)
It’s all actions. On this side of Heaven, we see God’s glory by His work in the world, which reveals his nature in a way that has to be hidden to some degree (Revelation 22:4). It won’t be until we get to Heaven that we will see God as He is (1 John 3:2).
(Worth noting: When John records in Revelations that he had just a vision of God, he fell down as if he were dead (Revelation 1). We cannot handle ‘seeing the face of God’ on this side of Heaven. I hear more and more popular church teachers talk about being caught up into Heaven and personally talking with Jesus or talking with God face-to-face. If I look to the Bible, I have to believe this is not happening literally or they would be dead. Even if it’s a claimed vision of God, look to the testimony of John again. If they have a legitimate vision of God, I would expect that either they can’t talk about (which was Paul’s experience – 2 Corinthians 12:2) or and they would fall down as if dead and be totally undone. I have yet to hear this in modern reports, so based on the record of Scripture, I must conclude they are not visiting or having visions of God.)
GOD SHARES HIS GLORY WITH HIS CHILDREN
We need to make a distinction between some language in the Old Testament vs. New Testament on this issue. Isaiah 42:8 says that God will not yield His glory or praise to another. What does this mean?
- First, there is no other God like him. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords (Revelations 19:16).
- Second, He is Israel’s covenant-making God who protects, leads, and delivers them, and Israel had better not give the credit to anyone else.
That’s the Old Testament context for God saying he will not share his glory. I’m talking about a different kind of sharing to which the New Testament refers. So let’s go back to my opening remarks about people who are egomaniacs when they demand attention. We must see the stark contrast between a person who says “Look at me!” and a God who says the same.
We try to get people’s attention to fan the flames of our fading, temporary glory. It’s why we get so obnoxious. It’s why, for example, our cultural conversation is getting worse. People get attention like never before because of social media. They are also competing with more people than ever before. So they say or do something - and it fades. So they do something more controversial. It fades too. Building and sustaining a glory that relies on the attention and praise of others is exhausting and destructive.
And as we give glory to God, He doesn’t just absorb it like a person would. God does something very different: He gives His glory to us, and as we are transformed miraculously into the image of Christ with ever increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), that glorious transformation points toward the glory of a God who can work that kind of miraculous transformation. Here’s how Romans 8:28-30 describes it:
“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.”
Egomaniacs absorb your time and attention because they want to be the only ones who matter. They want you to disappear, to lose your value in the light of their glory. God demands our time and attention so He can in turn transform us by the light of His glory into the kind of people God intended for us to be.
When we commit to Jesus there is not a diminishing of our value or a disappearance of our self; it’s a transformation into the fullness of whom God intended us to be. His glorious nature is revealed when He brings us from spiritual death to spiritual life in a way that testifies to the world that it is only Christ in us that gives us the hope of true and lasting glory (Colossians 1:27).
So that’s glory. But we are called to glorify. That’s a verb, not a noun. We are supposed to do something on behalf of that which is glorious. Glorification can be defined this way: “Acknowledging, honoring and promoting someone with glory.”
Affirm Intrinsic Glory
This can be done with people by acknowledging the image of God in them, and by seeing the character traits/gifts/skills/opportunities that make them uniquely them. Proverbs admonishes parents, “Raise up children in the way they should go…” Josh McDowell has made the point that this isn’t about the paths of righteousness; it’s about seeing the strengths in your children and helping them to flourish in the way they are built to go. There is a glory that God imparts to us by letting us bear His image, and that shows up not just in our intrinsic value, but in our unique creation.
Be in awe of the intrinsic glory of God. It is supreme. It is flawless. We don’t have to hedge our bets like we do with people. With people, we say: “I know you are image bearer and all, but I think the image of a jerk got mixed up in there somehow. You might be a special snowflake, but you’re melting.” There are no qualifications when it comes to God. God is the only one who deserves unreserved affirmation of the intrinsic glory of His very nature.
Applaud Glorious Actions
We do this with people all the time. Masons build fireplaces; firemen put out fires; cooks make meals. When their work is done with excellence, properly displayed and clearly seen, people applaud and nobody objects. Applause and appreciation is what is supposed to follow from work well done. Our leaders are supposed to “praise those who do well” (1 Peter 2:14). Jesus will say to those in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). It’s a good thing to give proper applause for glorious actions.
Worship God for what He has done (which is a revelation of His character). If we think it’s good to praise other people for what they do well, how much more should we be praising God? God is the Creator of all things. He saves us from the spiritual death that follows sin; He has the power to heal us on every level (and He does so at times in this life and for good in the next). He judges rightly; He punishes fairly; He shows mercy generously; He loves profoundly and relentlessly. And when the perfect work of God in properly seen and understood, praise is the natural and necessary response.
Reflect/Emulate That Which Is Glorious
On a person-to-person level, we see this all the time. It’s what kids do to parents, purposefully when they are young and unwittingly when they are older. There’s a country song: “I’ve been watching you, Dad, ain’t that cool. I’m your buckaroo I want to be like you.” For better or worse, kids reflect their parents to some degree.
It’s how protégés honor their teachers. It’s how coaches pay homage to the coaches who coached them. We reflect others when songs or books change us or we begin to talk like the people around us (if we were in the South, I would say that ‘all ya’ll do that’). We are always reflecting. I’m not sure we have a choice – which is why it is so important to be aware of whose image we are reflecting.
When we see something that we believe is glorious (go back to my earlier definition), we don’t just copy it, we spread it around. We want what we love or admire to go viral. We tell others and try to get them excited about the one to whom we believe glory is due.
This principle is at work spiritually between us and God. Moses’ face reflected God’s glory (Exodus 34:29); followers of Christ will increasingly be transformed into His image and in so doing will reflect His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is our glorification of a glorious God by living a life in which our attitudes, words, and actions reflect His glory. I will let Andrew Murray, a Dutch Reformed missionary to South Africa in the late 1800’s, have the last word:
“This is the glory of God, that He is the alone and ever-flowing fountain of all life and goodness and happiness, and that His creatures can have all this only as He gives it and works it in them. His working all in all, this is His glory. And the only glory His creature, His child, can give Him is this -- receiving all He is willing to give, yielding to Him to let Him work, and then acknowledging that He has done it. Thus God Himself shows forth His glory in us; in our willing surrender to Him, and our joyful acknowledgment that He does all, we glorify Him. And so our life and work is glorified, as it has one purpose with all God's own work, that in all things God may be glorified, whose is the glory for ever and ever.'
The glory of God as Creator was seen in His making man in His own image. The glory of God as Redeemer is seen in the work He carries on for saving men, and bringing them to Himself. This glory is the glory of His holy love, casting sin out of the heart, and dwelling there. The only glory we can bring to God is to yield ourselves to His redeeming love to take possession of us, to fill us with love to others, and so through us to show forth His glory. Let this be the one end of our lives -- to glorify God; in living to work for Him, as of the strength which God supplieth'; and winning souls to know and live for His glory.Lord! teach us to serve in the strength which God supplieth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Andrew Murray, “Working For God”
 Paul tells us in Romans, “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (doksazo). “
 1 Corinthians 15: 39-44 “For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.”
 I don’t have the time to delve into the problem of pain and suffering. How is God glorified through that? It’s an important question. For now, I will point you toward an article at TC Apologetics, “The Problem Of Pain,” which is the first in a series. http://tcapologetics.org/the-problem-of-pain/?print=pdf