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Glory is not…

Glory is not a something that God gets.  Glory is the display of who God is

And this display, shining out from Christ and Him crucified, reveals the overflowing plenitude of God's being as Giver.

Glory is not what lies behind the cross (the cross considered as a veil or mere stepping-stone).  God's glory is this self-giving cross.

It's not 'the Giver gets the glory.'  It's - 'God's glory is His giving'

Glory is not what God gets.  God's grace is His glory.


38 thoughts on “Glory is not…

  1. Chris E

    I don't it is a case of 'Both' - at least not in the sense you mean.

    We primarily 'give him glory' by receiving him for who he is, rather than by doing something that contributes to his Glory.

  2. pgjackson

    So, we glorify God by displaying who he is/ receiving his self-revelation etc. Yes? In this way we (according to the language of scripture) 'give' him glory - by ascribing to him the glory that is his in our words and actions, relating to him in such a way as magnifies the greatness that he is/ has done rather than in such a way as replaces him with ourselves or some other created thing. The way this starts from our angle is with (God-given) faith - the empty-but-open-handed reception of God-in-Christ as everything we need and everything we ought to be but aren't (this is also how glorifying God continues, though of course such faith shows that it is alive and satisfied in the glory of God by willing [albeit imperfect] trusting obedience to God).

    And I think that's why Piper says his 'God is most glorified in us when we're most satisfied in him' and not when we perform some self-initiated 'work' as an attempt to butter him up or meet some need in him. Because glorifying God is about reception of his glorious grace, receiving him as the all-sufficient God that he is for us in Christ Jesus.

    Or, you could say, but you'd want to be really careful about your illustrations here, if you know what I mean, that by our faith we give God glory.

    So, I'm glad to see you and the Pipes agreeing after all.

  3. Chris E

    So, I’m glad to see you and the Pipes agreeing after all.

    Though one of the critiques that Piper has admitted as valid, is that some of his work on the Glory of God, especially his earlier books, didn't stress Christ as the revelation of the Glory of God enough.

  4. Heather

    I would tend to agree with Little Mo.

    God's glory exists, as Glen pointed out. In one aspect, it is static and does not change because it is an intrinsic part of His nature.

    Yet, because of what Christ did on the cross, we have been enabled to actively return to God the pre-existing glory which He places in those whom He has rescued. Miraculously, He has replaced hearts of stone with those of flesh and caused dead, dry bones to come alive---and He is conquering enemies by making thankful friends out of us.

    Interesting that Piper's "God is most glorified..." statement is brought up. Glen's recent visit to my site caused that same quote to pop into my mind.

    Glen, you have a way of bringing to mind John Piper's stuff without even trying!

    Back to God's glory... My brother in law recently was talking to my husband about Moses' encounter with God's glory (Exodus 33) . What he shared is worth passing on, I think.

    " And he said, I beseech You, let me see Your glory.
    And He said, I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of Jehovah before you. And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.
    And He said, You cannot see My face. For there no man can see Me and live.
    And Jehovah said, Behold! There is a place by Me, and you shall stand upon a rock.
    And it will be, while My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by.
    And I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back parts. But My face shall not be seen." (Exodus 33:18-23)

    Based on this exchange, my brother in law says he thinks that God's glory (at least, as far as we are concerned) is in His display of mercy (perhaps, not so different than Glen's statement that His glory is His grace).

    My thought: Moses hiding in the cleft of the rock and being covered by God's hand is a beautiful shadow-picture of our being hidden in Christ and covered with His righteousness. God is holy and no sinful man can stand in His presence....yet He has provided shelter and covering in spite of the fact that we don't deserve it and would be obliterated if we were to present ourselves in our natural state.

  5. pgjackson

    "Though one of the critiques that Piper has admitted as valid, is that some of his work on the Glory of God, especially his earlier books, didn’t stress Christ as the revelation of the Glory of God enough."

    Quite. And true.

    With that in mind, note the name-glory link in Exodus 33-34 as cited by Heather. Then think of Christ saying he has revealed the 'name' of the Father to his disciples in John 17, and in fact the whole name-glory-temple-tabernacle-Moses-Christ thing going on in that gospel.


  6. Glen

    The Name is in the Angel to forgive sins etc (Ex 23:21). No, wait, that's my other hobby horse...

    Where am I?

    I can indeed agree with Pete's first comment here without being in agreement with Piper's fundamental position on God's glory - i.e. that it is the glory of self-seeking.

    And of course this differing starting point casts the other affirmations down the track in a different light.

    I am fairly certain Piper would not agree to points 3, 4 and 5 in my post.

    On 3 - his stuff on 2 Corinthians 4 (from memory I admit!) teaches that the cross clears the way for us to enjoy God's glory (rather than being God's glory itself)

    On 4 and 5 - I believe that this is a deep difference between my and his approach to glory. Getting vs Giving.

    My latest post I think uncovers that different starting point.

    Hi Chris E - welcome to comments. Good points,

    Hi Heather - I think the conception of glory as 'static' might be right at the heart of this disagreement. I believe it's a dynamic out-reaching thing.

  7. Heather

    "I think the conception of glory as ’static’ might be right at the heart of this disagreement. I believe it’s a dynamic out-reaching thing."


    Perhaps you are right. About both God's glory being dynamic and that it is central to disagreement.

    My thoughts on God's glory being "static" are drawn from statements such as:

    Malachi 3:6 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. "

    That does not mean I cannot be convinced that there is also unlimited movement within that immovability.

    Although I would admit to being Calvinist-leaning, I'm currently not tied to a particular theological framework, as I would prefer to read Scripture and develop an understanding rather than adopt a perspective and then attempt to cram Scripture into it.

    Not here to argue. I'm definitely considering your perspective.

  8. Bobby Grow

    I think your points on glory are taken explicitly from the Gospel of John's "theology of glory."

    I'm with you, Glen, and thus my struggles in our most recent discussions at my blog, scripture and its categories (that witness to Christ) need to be how we speak about God's disclosure. I'm uncomfortable with some of the things I've been saying (in that thread) . . . I think we are probably very kindred in our approaches and thoughts on all of this. I'm still thinking though.

  9. Rich Owen

    Ha ha.

    I think the trouble with this (our) view Glen, is that it is so easy to pull down. I mean that graciously - raise genuine questions from scriptures. I think these questions have shown a weakness - not in the point, but in the explanation of the point.

    I've been thinking for a while that maybe we need to spell things out in a less polemic way in the first instance and so show more clearly an exegetically formed paradigm for grace and love which doesn't leave itself open in the way that a few have shown in this post.

    What say you Glen?

  10. pgjackson

    I think Rich might have hit on something. In as much as, when I tend to disagree/ have questions/ be less comfortable with what you've said in these kind of discussions Glen, it's usually to do with what you deny rather than what you affirm (I agree with the 'it's THIS' but not always with this 'and not THAT').

    This might be to do with communication strategy.
    It might also be to do with me simply not getting it.

  11. Glen

    "Less polemical?" he asked rolling those words around his head. He knew what each of them meant individually but he couldn't for the life of him understand what they could mean together.

    "Less polemical?" he tried again, stressing each syllable in turn.

    "Hmm" he concluded, "Must have been a typo." And he continued on, hammering away at his keyboard with something like the feeling you get when you're told your fly's undone.

  12. pgjackson

    I think there's something important here in your first statement too. I'm thinking of the word 'display.'

    "Glory is not a something that God gets. Glory is the display of who God is."

    Now, as you say next, that display is Christ and him crucified, which reveals to us (and is the action of) God's Triune life of self-giving. All good.

    But the thing about displays and revelations (and indeed giving) is that the point of them is that they are seen, recognised, received. That's the point of them.

    Moreover, and related to this, there is a secondary display and revelation of God's glory (though it is in fact part and parcel of the display in Christ and him crucified) in those who receive Christ.

    All of which surely is why the scriptures can talk of God being glorious as something he quite simply is, and something we can't add to, all the while being happy to use language of us humans being able to glorify God, to give him glory, and so on. In our faith-full response (i.e. our trust, and our ensuing life of trusting obedience) to and reception of God's giving in the gospel God is glorified - his glory as the Triune giver is received for what it is (which is the point of a display, and the point of a gift, and the point of a revelation) and then also displayed in us and our lives.

    And this is why God does all the things he does. More specifically, the Father does the things he does in order for this glorification (display-reception-display) to come to his Son. And the Son does the things he does ... etc. etc.

    [Some of this is therefore about the interplay between 'glory' as what is displayed, and 'glory' as the display of those things. We can't be a part of or in any sense 'do' the former. But the latter, well, scripture suggests we can]

  13. Chris E

    Perhaps a better way can be found by expressing what we do in the latter case in terms of our union with Christ.

  14. pgjackson

    Chris, I agree that that's theologically true. I wouldn't want to bind everyone to having to always say it that way though, since then I'm forbidding people to use the language that scripture itself uses.

  15. Glen

    Hi Pete,

    I think this might be a part of our disagreement. You say:

    "But the thing about displays and revelations (and indeed giving) is that the point of them is that they are seen, recognised, received. That’s the point of them.

    Moreover, and related to this, there is a secondary display and revelation of God’s glory (though it is in fact part and parcel of the display in Christ and him crucified) in those who receive Christ."

    To disagree - I think that the point of all those verses where God says "I do this for my own glory" is precisely to keep joined together what I fear you're putting asunder (though you do recognize they are 'part and parcel' so...).

    He doesn't create/redeem/judge for the effect it will have on how glorious He looks. (I think you'll agree that Piper takes a very different view to me on this). He creates/redeems/judges cos that's what He's like. He loves us because He loves us. This other-love goes all the way down - you don't hit the bottom and find self-love driving it all (Again you'll recognize that I'm very different to Piper here). Other-centredness is His eternal glory. And that's why He acts - He acts in line with this other-centred nature. And so when He does things for the sake of this glory I don't think it's about the 'secondary display' - His glory is that He is this kind of offering God. So doing things for the sake of His own glory is *not* doing things so that He'll look good. It's doing things for the absolute and pure motive of His glory (which is His grace - He loves us because He loves us).

    On another website I read an excellent illustration of this. (I'll reproduce it in a post soon I'm sure). The guy said he was holding a door open for a woman once and she glared at him and said "Are you holding this open because I'm a 'lady'"? He said "No, I'm holding it open because I'm a gentleman."

    Awesome answer. He doesn't do it because she is this, that or the other. And he doesn't do it in order to get thanked or in order that he might receive praise for his gentlemanliness or so that he might release the woman to be happy in his magnificent display of good manners (though perhaps those might result). No - he does it because he's a gentleman. Full stop. His self-giving is his glory. And so in this way he acts for the sake of his glory.

    The living God gives Himself to us in salvation NOT because we are this, that or the other. And it's NOT so that we will magnify Him (though that will be a consequence). No - He does it for His own glory - the glory of being a gentleman (you know what I mean).

    Maybe the 'secondary display' stuff is a place we're disagreeing. And maybe we're disagreeing on whether 'glorifying' means 'making God look good'? And are we disagreeing that God's other-centredness drives Him rather than self-centredness?

    Anyway - I see significant differences in our positions Pete. I don't think it's just semantics.

    ... to be continued I'm sure.... :)

  16. Glen

    And Bobby - yes that discussion has been very illuminating. Kindred spirits indeed. Remember never to divorce the economic and immanent. The cross is not a 'nice gesture'!


  17. Bobby Grow

    Yes, Papa ;-).

    And this is the tension. Let me ask you, do you think Myk and Hunsinger and Molnar for that matter divorce the immanent and economic? Or maybe they hold its unity together differently than McCormack for example does.

    And I agree the cross is not a nice gesture, there are certainly two poles that we want to hold together; to maintain God's primacy, and somehow work this out through His economy in salvation history w/o compromising either. I want to maintain the cruciform shape of God's life though . . . argh!!

  18. pgjackson

    I need to re-read your comment above Glen, to check I understand what you're saying properly. And then I need to go digging around in some texts for a while.

    However, as an attempt at some initial thoughts/ questions.

    'He doesn’t create/redeem/judge for the effect it will have on how glorious He looks...He creates/redeems/judges cos that’s what He’s like.'

    Isn't that a bit of a false antithesis? Isn't glory the display of who God is, according to your first statement? Therefore he creates/ redeems/ judges in order to display how glorious he is. Or is that just an accidental by-product?

    I think I know what you're trying to avoid - the navel-gazing self-obsessed thing. But, isn't it the case that this is answered/ solved by being understood as the Father seeking the glorification of the Son, and so on? So can't we say for example then that the Father creates/ redeems/ judges to display the glory of the Son?

    '(I think you’ll agree that Piper takes a very different view to me on this).'

    Yes, I think so, though I'm beginning to think I don't understand your view properly. I'm not especially interested, despite appearances, with defending Piper per se. I'm not convinced however, that your concerns and emphases are irreconcilable with his, and that they don't each incompletely reflect something of the biblical picture. As I said though, still struggling away with getting things clear.

  19. Glen

    Bobby, Yeah I think that's my main worry with Myk's position. E.g. he says the TFT quote works at the economic but not at the ontological level. That's an unhelpful divorce in my book. Stick with the spreading goodness! Being-towards-resurrection.

  20. Glen

    Pete, Maybe it helps to know that I'm not just saying that the Three are other-centred within the triune relations, but that the One God is self-centred. I'm saying that Trinity is other-centred towards the world. Might open a can of worms (which I've opened many times before), but it might also explain where I'm coming from.

    Off to bed,


  21. Glen

    Might help if I format that last comment differently:

    I'm NOT saying:

    "The Three are other-centred within the triune relations but the One God is self-centred."

    Instead I'm saying:

    "The Trinity is other-centred even towards the world."

    Those overflowing triune relations include us forevermore and are now internal to His very being, etc, etc.

    Now I really am off to bed...

  22. pgjackson

    '“The Three are other-centred within the triune relations but the One God is self-centred.”

    Instead I’m saying:

    “The Trinity is other-centred even towards the world.”'

    I guess I'm not yet convinced those are entirely mutually exclusive options. Or that the texts can bear the weight of what your option involves.

    I'm also not sure I'd put it quite like in your first statement there anyway, especially the 'but.' It sounds like contrasting things that are integrated - as if the Three are other-centred when they're on their own, but when they get out in the world they're self-centred! They are in salvation history what they are in their eternal relations - centred on one another.

    Anyway, back to some texts for a while for me.

  23. Chris E

    Hi pgjackson -

    Yep - I agree that we shouldn't narrow down theology further than scripture does, though it seems to me that scripture does tie all those 'doings' together in various ways to various aspects of being united with Christ.

    As a general comment; I'm not sure about the further development of the discussion. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding things; but I think that we only know God as he choses to reveal himself, rather than God as he really is, and this seems to be an attempt from going back from the first to the second. In that sense, the approach is similiar to Pipers.

  24. pgjackson

    '...though it seems to me that scripture does tie all those ‘doings’ together in various ways to various aspects of being united with Christ.'

    And I agree with that I think. My comment was just whether or not we always have to say everything every time (which is no doubt not what you were saying anyway).

  25. Rob

    I don't know if you see new comments on old articles, but here goes:

    You argue in a comment above that God's glory IS his self-giving love (and I'm guessing you'd relate that idea to how the Trinity exists in loving fellowship). But do you think that it is possible to say that God's eternity, his truthfulness and his omniscience are also worthy of praise and thus bring him glory; that they are not merely attributes?

  26. Glen Scrivener

    Hi Rob,

    I'm not sure anyone wants to say that God's attributes are 'merely attributes.' The doctrine of simplicity at its best takes us away from considering God to have 'loseable' or 'detachable' qualities. God *is* good, loving, eternal, etc.

    My only comment about how God's eternity/truthfulness/omniscience relate to the triune life is that each of these must be considered according to the triune dynamic. We can't consider omniscience in the abstract and then come to the three Persons and demand that they have this quality that we have considered on other terms. Instead we listen in Scripture to how the Father searches all things by His Logos and through the Spirit who uniquely knows His mind, etc, etc. Each attribute is tripersonal and must be understood tripersonally.

  27. Rob

    Thanks. I accept what you say, but if God's attribute of love, for example, is a manifestation of the triune relations then what, in theory, is to prevent the Father from ceasing to love his Son at some point? You can't say that the Father is inherently loving or that the Son is inherently delightful to his Father, because that would imply non-trinitarian glories of the individual persons. I suppose you might say that the Son's beauty/glory IS the love of the Father in him, shining out in the power of the Spirit. Nevertheless, why does the Father choose to beautify the Son with love, if he is not an *inherently* loving Father?

  28. Glen

    Well exactly. And how could the Father be *inherently* loving if He didn't eternally have an Object of that love (i.e. the Son). So that God's love is an irreducibly trinitarian concept.

    It might help to clarify that I don't think of love as some kind of "glue" in between the Persons, but as a description of the way the Three eternally are. The mutual indwelling of Father, Son and Spirit is what the One God is - and there is no fourth thing called "love" that is behind or between the Persons.

    What could stop the Father from ceasing to love His Son? He would have to unFather Himself to do it. When 1 JOhn 4 says "God *is* love" the context makes it clear that "God" refers to the Father (the One who sends the Son). God would unGod Himself if He stopped loving the Son.

    It's fine to say that the Father is Lover and the Son is Beloved, eternally so. Those aren't non-trinitarian glories, but a description of who these Persons are by a (slightly) different name.

    Don't know if any of that helps or whether I'm missing the point. If past performance is anything to go by, almost certainly the latter :)

  29. Rob

    What do you make of the idea that in loving the Son, the Father is delighting in his own self-image (Heb 1:3)? Going by earlier comments you seem to argue instead that the love itself is God's 'image', so that he doesn't need to look in the mirror (of the Son) and think "wow", but rather, as quoted above, "God is love" not "God is self love".

    I got to this post via another one you tweeted about a John Piper quote, so to bring the discussion back in that direction:- When Piper quotes 2 Cor 4:4 and 4:6 to make his case for a hedonistic gospel, your response might be to say we savingly delight in the glory of Christ by receiving his love rather than admiring his glories, because his merciful love is his glory. (But to be fair, JP makes the point in his book Seeing And Savouring Christ that his mercy is the hight point of his glory).

  30. Glen

    "Image" and "Exact Representation" (in both Col 1 and Heb 1) are about the outward revelation of the Father through Christ. Christ images an otherwise invisible God out into the world. It's not about an invisible God looking in a mirror :)

    I'm happy to say that God (the Head) loves Himself in loving His Son (the Body) in the same way that a husband loves himself by loving his wife. But neither statement is reversible. A husband emphatically does *not* love his wife by loving himself and nor does God love us by loving himself. It is the other-centred love which is prior. This turns out to be self-love only because God loves the Other so much that He binds Himself forever to the Other in unbreakable oneness. It becomes self-love precisely because it is such extraordinary other-love.

    Remember that "God is love" is revealed at the cross - 1 John 4:8 => v9-10. If the cross reveals the depths of God then how could we deny that what we are seeing is a God who sacrifices Himself for us (for *enemies* even)? His love is other-centred. That begins as a intra-trinitarian thing (the Father for the Son, etc). But it is expressed perfectly in His relations to us - God for the world.

    My problem with Piper on those 2 Corinthians verses is that he makes God's glory something that stands behind Christ crucified. He speaks as though the cross is this (completely necessary) bridge that gets us to God's glory whereas I would say that God's glory *is* the cross. Once we see the Lamb we have seen to the very centre of the throne. He doesn't lead us by the hand somewhere *else* that is a deeper revelation of God's glory. So I just don't think there's a choice between receiving at the foot of the cross and admiring His glories.

    In just the same way there's no choice to be made between which is more fundamental - God's glory or His grace. Often JP - who I *LOVE* btw - expresses a desire to exalt the former more than the latter whereas I think we ought to refuse the dilemma. How can I admire His glory without knowing Him as love? How can I know Him as love without being aware that *this* is His very Godness?

    I go into this stuff a lot more in this series:

    But you may have already seen it.

  31. Rob

    Thanks. I'd not seen those articles. They're very helpful in working through these issues.

    How do you relate the triune, other-centred God to the fact of God's wrath? A liberal Christian might say "I believe in an other-centred God like you, Glen, but I'm consistent and don't think such a God would reject people and finally condemn them".

  32. Glen Scrivener

    The liberal Christian does not begin with the cross as the definition of love (just as the conservative Christian very often does not begin with the cross as the definition of glory!). If the liberal did, (and if they refused to deny the penal substitutionary element of the atonement in favour of their pre-fab views on love) then they could never pit love and wrath as opposites. Wrath is the response of the Jealous Lover to love spurned.

    I'm sure you don't have the time, but here's a sermon of mine on hell from this perspective:

  33. Rob

    OK, that's bookmarked and will get viewed at some point.

    I won't fill up this six year old thread with any more q's except these: Ezekiel 1 – the immense glory on display seems to be designed to blow the mind rather than showing outgoing, other-centred love? (Though I take the point that the book as a whole represents God's communication to his people. I read the other post about Ezek 36).

    When you discuss Piper's perspective on glory, are you by implication also discussing his soteriology?

  34. Glen

    Funnily enough Mike Reeves makes a big deal of Ezekiel 1 in this brilliant series of talks from a few years back:

    Talk 2 is where he speaks of Ezekiel 1 but talks 1 and 3 are extremely relevant to our discussions here.

    On Ezekiel 1, Mike draws on Jonathan Edwards' reflections on the chapter - drawing attention to the glory being like light and the covenant significance of the rainbow, etc.

    Mike puts things much better than me - listen to him before you listen to me. Oh and his book: The Good God has some great stuff on all this.

    On soteriology I'm reformed and old perspective and so hopefully on most of the same pages. Sometimes I disagree with the *way* JP phrases a reformed / old perspective view of salvation... eg sometimes he writes about our faith making God look good so that's why He chose to save us that way. I think that kind of statement is unhelpful but also unnecessary if you see that the way God is glorified is precisely in saving helpless sinners (because He is Giver). So I don't at all disagree that God looks good in salvation, nor that we are saved purely by faith, but I think sometimes the "self-glorifying-God" stuff forces JP to phrase what I agree with in strange ways.

  35. Rob

    I've read The Good God and enjoyed it, but dialoging with you here and previously on another thread about the trinity has allowed me to ask some of the "yes, but what about..." type questions that can arise when encountering a particular teaching, so thank you for engaging on the detail.

    Both you and Mike Reeves seem to be cut from the same cloth when it comes these issues, so it's interesting to be getting a double-dose at the moment.

    Here's a recent article from John Piper where he puts his cards on the table when it comes to justification.

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