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No merit in man's receiving – only in God's giving

“To be bursting with thanksgiving is a true witness of the Spirit within us. For the voice of thanksgiving speaks without ceasing of the goodness of God. It claims nothing. It sees no merit in man’s receiving but only in God’s giving. It marvels at his mercy. It is the language of joy because it need look no longer to its own resources.

The Christian rejoicing in this blessing of a thankful heart will have his eyes fixed upon the right person and the right place, Christ at God’s right hand. He cannot be taken up with himself without being immediately reminded that everything he possesses is the gift of God.”

R.C. Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon

ht Rosemary


Thanksgiving for a God who is already good, merciful and radically, super-abundantly giving.  Daddy already looks good, and I'm just grateful!


0 thoughts on “No merit in man's receiving – only in God's giving

  1. theologymnast

    Assuming you're relating this to previous posts, this looks like a straw man. Piper's not talking about merit, but glory... Big difference... but hooray for the truth in the above quote.

    Plus, Piper's argument is that the way people are justified (faith alone) makes God's glory clearer than had God set up his saving work some other way (eg. faith + works, faith + infused righteousness).

    If I understand you rightly, you're saying that since we have no good in us, there's no other way God could have saved us than by faith alone. Which is perfectly true. But we're dealing in hypothetical situations and they can always be reduced to "God is glorious and has created the best of all possible worlds".

    Again, assuming I understand you rightly (with the theology of glory/cross distinction) you're very keen to point out God's glory not being revealed in rock bands and light shows, but by a humble servant, Jesus Christ, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, etc.

    But then again, just doing a quick word study on glory, you see Exodus 14:18 "And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen." which is very much a victory, triumph kind of glory. How does this kind of understanding of glory relate to the Lutheran theology of glory/theology of the cross stuff?

    Sorry for the ramble, it's been building up a while and it took a Friday night to come out. So may all the above be caveated by the fact that I'm tired and have probably got the wrong gist of it all.

  2. Glen

    Hi Paul,

    I think my main beef with the Piper way of presenting things is that for him glory seems to be something God *gets* from doing the stuff that He does. I want to say (and I think what Edwards was *really* saying) is that glory is simply the display of who God *is*. It is therefore outward-flowing not inward-focussed.

    One problem with setting things up the way Piper does is precisely the 'faith alone' point. It raises the issue of man adding something to God. Even if you caveat it with a million protestations that this giving is itself divinely enabled, well it sets you on a very unhelpful trajectory.

    I think Ex 14 etc is a *display* of God's glory in judgement and salvation. How is God glorified? Not apart from the redemption of His people, but precisely in it. It's not - stage 1, redeem; stage 2, woohoo glory comes as a result. Redemption is not a stepping stone to glory. Instead its - redemption IS the glorifying of God because it is His out-going saving love that is His glory.

  3. Paul Huxley

    OK that's cool. I can see where you're getting that idea from in terms of Piper's understanding of theology. You'll often hear something like "Got gets the glory, we get the grace" from him. And I can understand and agree with your objection to the implications of that.

    So where does this leave "God is most glorified in us when we are most glorified in him"?

    On a related diversion, two things to note:

    1) the word for glory in hebrew means weight or heaviness does it not?

    2) Searching through the Bible for appearances of the phrase "Glory of the Lord" and substituting Spirit of the Lord, or Holy Spirit makes an awful lot of sense.

    What if glory is a person? How would that affect our understanding of glory, and, which cult should I join if I think glory is (In the same sense as Christ is the truth and the Word)?

  4. Glen

    Join Jonathan Edwards' cult!

    See here - halfway down, under p378. Edwards goes through loads OT terms: Name, Glory, Strength, Arm, etc, etc, and says they're Personal.

    But he reckons, as do I, they refer most naturally to the Son (though the Shekinah in which the Glory dwells might well be the Spirit or at least symbol of Him).

    But, in favour of your interpretation, it's interesting how the Name dwells in the Angel in Ex 23. And how parallel Name and Glory are. And how the Father will not give His Glory to any other apart from the Servant (Who's just been described as Spirit-filled - Is 42:1-8).

    But then on the other hand places llike Ezek 1 and 10 are certainly Christ and refered to as Glory. But hmm you've made me think...

    one thing's certain - many times "glory" is mentioned Glory is a Person.


    To properly Edwards-ize those Piperisms I guess you'd say something like "It IS God's glory to satisfy man."

    Or instead of a Piperism like "The Giver gets the glory" you'd say "God's glory IS to give."

    Did I mention how much I love Sibbes' answer to the question of the chief end of man (written 20 years before West. Conf). He said it was "to be swallowed in the love of Christ."

    God's glory IS His "spreading goodness" (another Sibbes phrase.

  5. pete

    Yes, but people are still told to glorify God by their behaviour, words, gospel-response etc. Sure, this adds nothing to God, and is an 'ascribing' of glory to God that he already has and is. But it is still possible in such circumstances to talk of glorifying/ giving glory to God and of God receiving and getting glory.

    I just reckon half the time you're tripping over language. And the fact that it is not possible to say everything every time. If Piper's talk was on 'glory' then I think I'd agree with you, because to say what he says as the main thing about glory would be a dangerous trajectory.

  6. Glen

    Argh! I just wrote an answer and lost it.

    Ah well.

    Yes I might be tripping over language and expecting Piper to say everything every time. But if the trajectory at the start is off (and I think it is) then the partial snapshot of that faulty trajectory is not corrected by giving the context of the whole faulty paradigm.

    But maybe that means I need to return to the Piper's source and see if that really is as off as I think it is...

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