Why Are You Here?

Robert M. Spicer

Introduction

Why are you here on this planet at this time? Knowing the answer to that question is always important, but knowing it during a time of uncertainty and upheaval, such as we are facing during this coronavirus pandemic, is crucial. It is important at all times because without a purpose or goal for our lives we wander aimlessly through life. In times of major upheaval like we are facing right now it is crucial that we have the right purpose for our lives and that we keep that purpose in mind constantly. It is easy at a time like this to lose our bearings, wondering what is happening or what we should do or what the outcome will be. If we choose a wrong purpose we will end up disappointed and disillusioned. Suppose your purpose is determined by your vocation. You are a teacher, a plumber, a nurse, an attorney, an IT worker or whatever. If you lose your job or retire, have you lost your purpose in life? Suppose your purpose is determined by relationships. You are a wife and/or mother, husband and/or father, son or daughter, friend or neighbor. If the connection involved in those relationships changes by the passing of years or by circumstances beyond your control like alienation, distance or death, what will happen to your purpose for living? Suppose your purpose is determined by accomplishments. You are striving for success, wealth, status, approval of others or pleasure. If you fail to measure up, has your life no meaning? If you reach those goals will you still have a reason for your existence? Having the right purpose for our lives is always important. We must know what that is and keep it firmly in mind and clearly in view.

One of the most famous attempts to address the question of why we are here was the answer given to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism written in London in the 1600’s. The question was, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer was, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In this blog I plan to concentrate on the first half of that purpose statement, “to glorify God.” In this paper I hope: 1. to explain what it means to glorify God, 2. to show that the Bible teaches that glorifying God is the chief end of man, 3. to give examples of ways in  which Scripture says we can accomplish that purpose, and 4. to show why glorifying God is so very important.

Before I begin, I should note that this study is the second half of the one begun with my previous blog, “Behold Your God,” which was posted several months ago. In that blog, I examined the use of “the glory of God” in the sense of glory that God possesses as a part of His essence, a reference to the manifestation of His attributes. In this blog I plan to examine the topic of “the glory of God” in the sense of glory that is given to Him by others. What does “glory” denote in that sense? In other words, what does it mean “to give glory to God” or “to glorify God”? (They are synonymous phrases.) Obviously, no one can add anything to God’s essence or attributes. What people can do is respond to Him appropriately in light of His manifested attributes. They can draw attention to those attributes, help others to understand what they say about God, and respond to Him accordingly. That response might include adoration or praise or honor or fear being given to Him. It might also include obeying Him or confessing sins. One way or another those actions are what the Bible means by giving Him glory (honor, praise etc.) so that others will see His glory (His manifested attributes). As we go through this paper I will frequently take note of the various nuances the phrases “glorify God” and “give God glory” have in each passage to give an understanding of the full range of meanings those expressions can have. As in the previous blog, although I am convinced that the concept of glorifying God is found in multitudes of verses in Scripture, I have limited my survey to those passages where the actual terms are found in the original languages of the Bible.

The glory of God is indeed the chief end of man because of what the Bible says about that act. There is no statement in the Bible declaring that the glory of God is the chief end of man. If it is so important, why would that clear declaration not be made, not once but many times? I think the reason is that God wants us to use our minds, to think. He does this on more than one occasion. For example, the word “trinity” is never found in Scripture. Neither is the word “triune” and yet the orthodox church affirms that God is one in essence but three in persons. We do that because the Bible distinguishes between the persons. When Jesus was baptized, the Father said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:17) The Father was distinguished from the Son. The evening before He was crucified Jesus told His disciples that He would soon be going to the Father who had sent Him but He would send the Helper who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John 16:5 ff.) He was referring of course to the Holy Spirit. Jesus is distinguished from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet we believe God is one in essence because of passages like Deuteronomy 6:4 which, tells us that the Lord is One. In other words the Bible teaches that there are three persons but one essence of God. The Bible teaches the triunity of God indirectly. We are to know what the Bible says, and we are to think about what it says.  

Similarly, when John the Baptist, sitting in prison, heard the evaluation various people were making of the ministry of Jesus (that He was a prophet), he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the One who should come (the Messiah) or if they should wait for another. In response, Jesus did not say, “Yes, I am the Messiah.” Instead, He said, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”” (Luke 7:22–23, ESV) Jesus knew that John knew what the Old Testament prophesied, that when the Messiah came he would do the very things Jesus had been doing. (Isaiah 35:5-6 & 61:1-2) Jesus expected John to put two and two together and get four. He affirmed his messiahship, but He did so indirectly. Likewise, the Bible teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God, but it does so indirectly. We will begin to see how it does so by examining what the Bible says about the importance God places upon glorifying Himself.

Chapter 1.    It is important to God that He is glorified

God created people for His glory

As I said above, nowhere in Scripture do we find the statement that the chief end of man is to glorify God. However, we do find something close to that in a verse in Isaiah. In Isaiah 43:1-4, the Lord expresses His love for Israel. Then, in verses 5-7, He promises to regather them from the nations into which they will have been dispersed. “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”” (Isaiah 43:6–7, ESV) God had created the nation of Israel for His glory. Although this text speaks specifically of the nation of Israel, as we will see in the next sections of this chapter, the implication is that God has created everyone for His glory, but the way they will glorify Him will differ depending upon their relationship with Him.

 God commands people to glorify Himself.

The next piece of evidence that we will consider, that indicates that it is important to God that He is glorified, is the fact that He commands people to glorify Him. After David looked at the adversity that God had brought upon him, and then experienced deliverance, he exhorted his people with these words: “You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” (Psalm 22:23, ESV) Although David was the human instrument who spoke these words, ultimately God was inspiring David to write them. God was commanding (the verb is imperative) the people to glorify Himself. Since “glorify him” is parallel with “praise him” and “stand in awe of him,” I believe these ideas explain more specifically what was meant by “glorify him” in this verse.

Isaiah also records a command to give God glory. After portraying the future judgment of God upon the whole world, the righteous everywhere (east and west) are commanded to give glory to God: “Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One.” (Isaiah 24:15-16a, ESV)  What is the response that those who love the Lord are called to have? They all are to glorify the Lord. In response to the command issued in verse 15, verse 16a records people giving glory to God by singing songs of praise to Him. The form of glory being given to God here is that of praise.

Jeremiah utters a similar call to the nation of Israel in his day. “Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness.” (Jeremiah 13:16, ESV) This verse comes near the beginning of a song in which Jeremiah is pleading with his people to turn back to the Lord lest they end up in exile. They were exhorted to give glory to God, to give Him the honor that was due Him as their God in order to avoid judgment. The meaning of glory here is not praise. Jeremiah is calling his people to turn from their sinful behavior and honor and obey the Lord. The whole book is replete with examples of the way Israel was dishonoring God by their disobedience. They were being exhorted to repent and live lives of obedience which would honor the Lord. The glory they were being called to give was in the form of responding to God in the light of His character and commands. This is consistent with the meaning of “glory” we saw in the previous blog. In that paper “glory” referred to the manifestation of God’s attributes or character. The glory that Jeremiah was commanding them to give to God was a response to the glory that was a manifestation of His character (covered in my previous blog); that is they were to glorify God by living lives that reflected His attributes.

The New Testament also contains commands to glorify God. As Paul concludes a warning to the Corinthians not to use their bodies for immoral purposes, he writes, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV) Then, later on in the same epistle, at the end of a section instructing the Corinthians about the matter of Christian liberty, he concludes: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV) In this passage the meaning of glorifying God is the same as in the previous passage in Jeremiah. People were being called to glorify/honor God by obeying Him, by responding to Him in the light of His character.

In prophecies of the last days we read what an angel declares to everyone living on the earth:  “And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”” (Revelation 14:7, ESV) Since “give him glory” seems to be parallel with “worship him” I take it that the meaning here is primarily that the people are being called to worship/praise the Lord, the Creator of all, because He is finally executing judgment on the earth which is described in verses 8-11.

He commands heavenly beings to glorify Himself.

God’s commands that He be glorified are not limited to those directed to human beings. Psalm 29 is an example in which heavenly beings are called to glorify God. “Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” (Psalm 29:1–2, ESV) The body of the Psalm extols the mighty power of God over nature. It does so in two ways, first by naming some of the elements in nature over which He exercises His power, and second, by stating that the instrument by which He exercises His power is simply His voice. He just speaks and the waters (29:3), the mountains (29:6), lightning (29:7), and the wilderness (29:8) all obey His bidding. The heavenly beings are called to glorify the LORD because of His mighty power demonstrated by His deeds. In this case the form of glory they are to give to God is that of praise/worship as they ascribe glory (give credit) to Him.

God is (rightly) jealous of His glory being given to others and He imposed severe penalties on those who did not give Him the glory He deserved.

Two indications of the value God places upon His being glorified are the facts that He is jealous for His glory and that He imposed serious consequences when people have refused to give Him the glory He deserves. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire on the altar and were immediately executed by God for doing so. “Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.” (Leviticus 10:3, ESV) Nadab and Abihu dishonored God by not sanctifying Him by following the directions He had given for the offering of incense. He is holy. He is the mighty creator God of the universe. When He speaks He is to be obeyed. By their disobedience they did not glorify Him by treating Him according to who He is. They were executed as a consequence.

Apparently that lesson was not learned by all of the priests because years later a similar kind of attitude was found in the sons of Eli the priest. So the Lord sent a prophet to Eli saying: “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor (Hebrew glorify) me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day.” (1 Samuel 2:30–34, ESV) The severity of this sentence of judgment shows how very important it is to God that He is glorified, obeyed, and treated with respect and reverence, especially by the religious leaders of the day.

The second indication of how very important it is to God that He receives the glory which He deserves can be seen in the fact that He is jealous of His glory. Isaiah 42 provides an instance of this. In Isaiah 42:1-4 the LORD describes His commissioning of His Servant and a description of the Servant’s victorious work. In verses 5-7, the LORD reminds His listeners of His mighty work in Creation and then prophesies what He is going to do with His Servant (the Messiah). Among other things, He is going to give Him as a covenant for the people and a light for the nations. Furthermore, He will enable Him to open eyes of the blind and set free captives. Then in verse 8, He says: “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8, ESV) In the next verse He says: “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”” (Isaiah 42:9, ESV) The point is that giving this prophecy and fulfilling it will provide evidence that He is alive and omniscient and sovereign. Because that is true He will not share His glory/praise/honor with lifeless images. With that in mind, in verses 10-11, the LORD calls people throughout the world to praise Himself. Then in verse 12, speaking through Isaiah the LORD gives this command to all people:  “Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands.” (Isaiah 42:12, ESV) “Glory” is synonymous with responding to the LORD appropriately in light of who He is and what He has done. That would mean praising and worshipping God by giving Him the credit He deserves. God’s unwillingness to give His glory to another is partly because He alone is worthy of it.  Another reason is to provide evidence and motivation to declare to those everywhere that the Lord alone is God.

Isaiah provides another example of God’s jealousy for His glory. In Isaiah 48:1-8 the Lord recounted the sins of Israel. Then, in 48:9-11 we read why God had not exterminated the nation because of her moral treachery, “For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 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 48:9–11, ESV) “Glory” is synonymous here with both praise, honor and recognition of who God is. Obviously, in this case God desires to receive glory for His own sake, but the remainder of the chapter is composed of God’s plea to His people to repent of their sin and return to Him which I believe to be the ultimate goal of the passage.  Notice the following verses. ““Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.” (Isaiah 48:12, ESV) ““Assemble, all of you, and listen!” (Isaiah 48:14, ESV) “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:18, ESV) When God refuses to give the glory He deserves to another in this passage, the ultimate purpose is to call His people to return to Him.  It was for their benefit.

In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, the problem of not honoring/glorifying God was still seen among the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. Through Malachi, the Lord said to priests in the nation, ““A son honors [Hebrew glorifies] his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor [Hebrew glory]? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.” (Malachi 1:6, ESV) “Honor” is a good translation for the Hebrew word behind it. “Fear,” being parallel with “honor,” is also a good interpretation for the Hebrew word behind it because of what is involved in the idea of glory/honor in this verse. The Lord was indeed a father to the nation and He deserved to be treated as such. He was indeed their master/lord and He deserved to be treated as such. Both honor and fear are included in giving God glory here. A few verses further on in the text, the Lord tells the people what He has and will do to punish them unless they amend their ways. “If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor [Hebrew glory] to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.” (Malachi 2:2, ESV) God was very angry that his people, especially the priests, did not glorify Him, give Him the honor that was due to Him. If they did not repent the consequences would be serious.

The most graphic New Testament example of God’s being jealous of His glory occurred in the life of an individual who gave God’s glory to another. That individual was King Herod. “On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:21–23, ESV) Herod did not give God the glory when he accepted for himself the praise that his was the voice of a god and not a man. He should have immediately denied that praise and given the praise to God.

Perhaps the most powerful demonstration of the jealousy of God for His glory is the example recorded in Romans chapter 1. It tells us what He has done with mankind as a whole when they have given His glory to others. Verses 20-23 describe the way in which mankind has given God’s glory to others. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:20–23, NIV84) Then, verses 24-27 reveal God’s response to their giving His glory to others. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” (Romans 1:24–27, NIV84) Because mankind had given to other beings the glory, praise, credit for all that He had created, God withdrew His hand of restraint upon evil and allowed the human race to pursue their depraved desires, diving deeper and deeper into sin.

The persons of the Trinity glorify one another.                   

The fact that the three persons of the Trinity give glory to one another confirms how important to God it is that He be glorified.  Isaiah portrays the Servant of the LORD explaining God’s estimation of Him with these words, “And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him— for I am honored [Hebrew “glorified”] in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength….” (Isaiah 49:5, ESV) “Honored” is a good translation because that is the idea of the Hebrew word, glorified, in this context. The Messiah (Christ) said He was glorified, honored by the LORD.

Jesus was given glory by the Father. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.” (Acts 3:13, ESV) Human beings dishonored Jesus, but God honored and glorified Him.

During His earthly ministry Jesus spoke several times about being glorified by the Father and in some cases of Him glorifying the Father. In a debate with various religious leaders who did not believe in Him, Jesus asserted that the glory that He had was given to Him from the Father. “Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’” (John 8:54, ESV) After His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, when a number of Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to worship asked to see Jesus, He began again to speak of His coming death. As a part of that brief discourse He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23, ESV) As He thought about it, He added: ““Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”” (John 12:27–28, ESV) At the Last Supper, after Judas left we read: “When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.” (John 13:31–32, ESV) Then, a short time later, as He begins His high priestly prayer, we read: “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,” (John 17:1, ESV) When these words were spoken, Jesus must be referring to His coming death, resurrection and ascension.  I believe that the meaning of “glorify” in these verses has the meaning of honoring by means of revealing the character of the one being glorified. In verse 1, Jesus was asking the Father to honor Him in His death by revealing His (Jesus’) nature and character so that by doing so Jesus would honor the Father by revealing His (the Father’s) character as well. In this mutual glorification we see the holiness, justice, and love of the Father displayed as in no other place. In the mutual glorification in verses 4-5, we see that Jesus glorified the Father by honoring Him by the obedience He demonstrated throughout His ministry.  We also see Jesus’ request that (after His ascension) the Father would glorify the Son by manifesting His attributes in the splendor in which they had been shown before Creation. “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:4–5, ESV) In all of these cases the glorification in view must be a combination of honor and revealing the attributes of these two persons of the Trinity. Jesus was honoring His Father in what He did throughout His ministry and especially in His death. Furthermore, simultaneously, the Father was honoring Jesus and revealing His attributes as well. God’s holiness, justice, grace, love and mercy were abundantly revealed in all of Jesus’ ministry but uniquely in His death, burial and resurrection.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus deserved the honor the Father gave Him. “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” (Hebrews 3:3, ESV) Then, in the following verses he elaborates on the glory to which he referred: “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6–7a, ESV) Christ is worthy of the glory/honor of being God’s Son over God’s house which is the church. He deserves the credit of being called God’s Son because that is what He is. The same writer explicitly tells us who gave Him that honor.  “So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”.” (Hebrews 5:5, NASB95)

The Apostle Peter also testified to the source of the glory Jesus received. Referring to Jesus he wrote, “who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21, ESV) John, the writer of Hebrews, and Peter all agree that Jesus was given glory by the Father. In all these cases the basic idea of these passages is that the Father honored/glorified Jesus.

Finally, Jesus was glorified by the Holy Spirit as well as by the Father. In the last discourse Jesus gave to His disciples, speaking of the Holy Spirit, He said, “When the Spirit of truth comes … He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13–14, ESV) Although honor must be involved in the glorifying mentioned here, it is not all that is involved. The last phrase of verse 14 explains some of what would be involved in the Spirit’s glorifying of Jesus. The Spirit would take truth about Jesus and explain it to the Apostles. Honor is certainly involved here, but it is honor of a particular kind. It is honor that revealed the character and work of Jesus so that the Apostles, and we too, could understand more clearly what a wonderful Savior we have.

A time will come when the Lord will be glorified by everyone and everything.

In the future, Scripture tells us that various groups will glorify the Lord. For example, Isaiah prophesies a day when those who are unlikely to do so will glorify the Lord. After recounting acts of judgment performed by the Lord (verse 2), Isaiah draws this conclusion: “Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you.” (Isaiah 25:3, ESV) Since the two phrases are parallel I take it that “strong peoples” (and “cities of ruthless nations”) refers to people who had been enemies. “Glorify” is parallel with “fear” which could either mean “revere” or “be afraid of.” In light of the facts that the previous verse described acts of devastating judgment, and the fact that this verse begins with “therefore” and speaks of “strong peoples” and “ruthless nations,” I believe the idea is real fear. That being the case, “glorify” must mean something like that. They would glorify Him in the sense that they would fear Him by acknowledging His sovereignty and justice and power.

In a passage in which Paul describes the final judgment of those who have opposed the Lord, he says that, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:9–10, ESV) On that day, Jesus will be glorified “in his saints.”  I take that to mean that He will be praised/honored for the salvation that He has accomplished in them. Paul does not say who will do the glorifying but since the next phrase refers to “all who have believed,” I would think they are the ones who do the glorifying.

About half way through the record of the judgments to be poured out in the Revelation we read, “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13, ESV) The text does not say whether the form of the glory they gave was. Because of the placement of this verse in Revelation, with many more judgements to come on a rebellious earth, I think that the glory to God they gave did not include repentance. Rather, they were simply acknowledging His power which was being demonstrated in the earthquake.

One day not only humans, some of whom were righteous and others unrighteous, will glorify God but even the wild animals will glorify Him. ““The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people.” (Isaiah 43:20, NASB95) How they will do so we are not told, but the fact that they will glorify Him bears testimony to the universality of the glorification that He will receive one day.

One day everyone and everything will glorify the Lord. Interestingly, David wrote a Psalm in which he was moved to prophesy a day when all the nations will glorify God.  “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” (Psalm 86:9, ESV) Earlier in that Psalm David had lamented the fact that he was needy and afflicted. As He pleaded with God for help he remembered God’s character (vss. 5, 8, 10) and used that a basis for his prayer for deliverance (vss. 2-4 & 6-7). Part of his recollection of God’s character included the knowledge that the Lord alone was God (vs. 10).  For that reason he knew that in the future all the nations that He has made will one day glorify Him (vs. 9). No purpose for glorifying God is given in the context of this passage. That is not the reason why it is mentioned here. It is mentioned because all of the nations glorifying God will be a characteristic of the time when the Lord reigns supreme, when the world will be as it should be. That awareness of God’s sovereignty strengthened David‘s trust in God for his immediate needs. With that in mind, David asked God to enable him to be obedient. He then promised to glorify God’s name because of His deliverance.  “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12, ESV) In both of these cases in Psalm 86 the fact that God is glorified is not a means to an end but rather an end in itself. It is a description of a time when the Messiah reigns and when things are as they ought to be. That will be a wonderful time for all of God’s creation.

The New Testament also contains prophecies of that day. At the conclusion of the great kenosis passage outlining the humiliation of Jesus, Paul recorded the exaltation of Jesus: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11, ESV) John speaks of this time in the Revelation: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”” (Revelation 15:4, ESV)

The passages we have examined above show that God places great importance upon His being glorified. Those passages make clear that glorifying God is the ultimate reason for creation’s existence. From that, it is certainly reasonable to draw the inference that glorifying God is the main reason for our own existence. If God created people for His glory, commands people to glorify Him, commands heavenly beings to glorify Him, is jealous of His glory being given to anyone else, imposes severe penalties on those who do not give Him the glory He is due, glorifies other persons of the Godhead, and has determined that in the eschaton everyone and everything will glorify Him, does it not make sense that the chief end of man (and everything else) is to glorify Him? We do not need an explicit statement that the chief end of man is to glorify God in order to come to that conclusion.

Chapter 2

Chapter 2.   Actions or attributes for which God has been glorified in the past

In chapter 1 we saw evidence demonstrating that the chief end of man is indeed to glorify God. What has God done in order to secure the accomplishment of the end for which He created mankind? Generally, there are two conditions that are necessary in order for someone to be glorified (to receive credit) for admirable behavior. First, someone must do notable good deeds or demonstrate significant character qualities which demonstrate that the person under consideration is worthy to be glorified. Second, one who observes these deeds or character traits must be willing to acknowledge the connection between the deeds or the traits and the agent who performed the deeds or possesses the traits, giving the appropriate credit or glory. God, Himself, has sovereignly determined that both of these conditions would exist (and He will do so in the future). Obviously, no human being could compile anything even remotely like a comprehensive any survey of the works of God that merit His being glorified. As I wrote in the previous section of this paper, I am limiting my citations to those in which the Biblical text explicitly says God is glorified.  In this chapter we will survey Biblical records of amazing deeds that God has performed and manifestations of His attributes in the past for which the Bible tells us He was glorified.

God gave Abraham amazing promises.

Chronologically, the first action in which the Bible explicitly says someone gave God glory was Abraham’s response to the promises of God to him. We are not told in Genesis that Abraham glorified God, but Paul tells us in Romans that he so did when he describes Abraham’s faith. Abraham glorified God as he believed in the Lord. Speaking of Abraham, Paul wrote: “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”” (Romans 4:18–22, ESV) To say only that Abraham glorified God by honoring and praising Him would not do justice to the use of the term in this context. Abraham believed in the Lord. Regarding this event in Abraham’s life, Moses wrote: “And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5–6, NASB95) God made an amazing promise to Abraham. At that point in the narrative Abraham had no offspring and yet God promised that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham responded to God’s promise with faith. In the previous paper I wrote, “God’s glory consists of those unique attractive attributes that distinguish Him from everyone else.” It makes sense that “to glorify God” would involve responding to Him in the light of the attributes exhibited in the manifestation of His glory. That is what Abraham did. He responded by believing in the Lord.

God demonstrated His power over Pharaoh and his army.

 The next time we are told that God was given glory was in the account of the Exodus. When Israel had approached the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army was closing in upon them and the people were terrified, God said to Moses, ““And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.” (Exodus 14:4, ESV) “And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”” (Exodus 14:17–18, ESV) God manifested His mighty power by causing the sea to part allowing Israel to cross it on dry land and then by causing the sea to close in over Pharaoh and his army. This was certainly a notable feat which was good for the Israelites, and it was showed that God was worthy to “get glory over Pharaoh and all his host.”  There is no indication that the Egyptians verbally acknowledged God’s existence or sovereignty but they certainly knew that He was the LORD, the great I AM. Furthermore, Israel gave credit to the Lord for His victory although that is not explicitly stated in the text.

He uncovered and punished sin in the nation.

The next instance in which we encounter the subject of God being given glory is in the account of Achan taking booty after the fall of Jericho.  After Israel conquered Jericho and then was repulsed in their attempt to defeat Ai, Joshua cried out to the LORD asking for the reason for this disaster. “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”” (Joshua 7:6–9, ESV) Joshua is accusing God of bringing the nation into the wilderness to kill them. He then asks how this will affect God’s name or reputation. Joshua is told that the reason Israel was defeated was because they had sinned. It was then determined by lot that the fault lay with Achan, who was summoned to Joshua. “Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”” (Joshua 7:19, ESV) No one outside of Achan’s family, except for God, knew of his disobedience. The omniscient God knew. He brought it to light and decreed his judgement. Joshua called Achan to give glory (in the form of honor) to God by confessing his sin. Until he did so, God was being blamed for unjust treatment of Israel. When Achan confessed his sin, he was blamed (and punished) for what he did and God was vindicated. God was given glory in that He was shown to be just. What God did was right. This was a great benefit to the people of Israel because it helped them trust the Lord’s faithfulness. As long as Joshua and the nation did not know why God had not enabled them to conquer Ai, they were in danger of thinking that God was not being faithful to His word. When Achan confessed his sin and the nation understood the reason why they had been defeated, their confidence in God’s faithfulness was restored. Giving God glory/credit He was due in this instance brought about the difference between Joshua and Israel believing in God’s faithfulness or doubting it.

He announced the arrival of the Messiah.

Chronologically, the first New Testament record of humans glorifying God comes at the end of the account of the announcement to the shepherds of the birth of Jesus. After they went to see Jesus, “[T]he shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Luke 2:20, ESV) Although “glorifying” and “praising,” are not precisely synonymous terms (there are other ways than praising to glorify God), they do overlap in meaning to a large extent, and are often found together as descriptions of peoples’ responses to the work of God. Praising God is certainly one way of glorifying Him. What the shepherds had seen and heard convinced them that God had fulfilled His promises about the coming of the Messiah. Thus what they had seen and heard manifested not only the splendor, majesty, and power of God, but also His faithfulness to His promises. Their actions of praising and glorifying God were appropriate responses to give Him the credit which He was due.

Jesus performed miracles and taught the people as no one else did.

On several occasions, accounts of people glorifying God came in response to the miracles of Jesus. For example, when a paralytic was brought to Jesus, the Lord began by declaring that the man’s sins were forgiven. When He was accused of blasphemy for such a statement, Jesus offered evidence of His ability to forgive sins by healing the man. Luke records the results of the miracle. “And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”” (Luke 5:25–26, ESV also in Matthew 9:8 & Mark 2:12).  The healed paralytic was glorifying God and so were the people who had seen the miracle. Matthew’s record of the responses adds a bit more insight to what was happening: “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:8, ESV) In that miracle the man who had been healed and the observers had seen miraculous evidences of God’s forgiveness and power and goodness (proven by the miracle). They responded by glorifying Him (acknowledging that He was the source of what they had seen) and holding Him in awe.

Luke records other examples of healings that resulted in God being glorified. One concerns a woman who was crippled. “Now he [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.” (Luke 13:10–13, ESV) This woman had been a cripple for 18 years! Jesus simply laid His hands upon her and she was able to stand upright immediately! That was amazing. It is no wonder that she glorified God for her healing. Undoubtedly she was praising God by giving Him the credit for her being healed.

Another example is of Jesus healing a man who was blind. “As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.” (Luke 18:35–43, ESV) Jesus simply spoke the word and the man received his sight. Again, the response was the same.

Matthew tells of a time when Jesus healed many people of various diseases. “And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.” (Matthew 15:30–31, ESV) In this case, not only was one person healed but “great crowds” of people brought folks with all kinds of maladies, and Jesus healed them all. No one doubted in light of this amazing demonstration of the power and goodness of God. Again, giving God the credit (including praise) must have been involved in what they did.

Luke records an even more spectacular event. “Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”” (Luke 7:11–16, ESV) Not only did Jesus heal lots of people with various diseases, but here He actually brought a dead man back to life! This was astonishing beyond amazing.

Sometimes it is specifically stated that Jesus is the one who was glorified. Very early in His ministry, people glorified Jesus in response to His teaching. After He was tempted by Satan, Luke makes this simple comment, “And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” (Luke 4:15, ESV) Matthew gives us a bit of background for this verse. “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matthew 4:23, ESV) Even at this early stage in His ministry people recognized that His teaching was different from what they had heard, and of course His teaching was accompanied by miraculous signs. The end result was that He was “being glorified [praised] by all.” A few chapters later in Matthew we read why His teaching was so obviously different. At the conclusion of Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount we read, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:28–29, ESV) He did not need to quote other leaders for He spoke with His own authority. His healing of every disease confirmed his authority.

On one occasion we read that glory was given to God and to Jesus. It is in the account of the raising of Lazarus.  When Jesus received word from Lazarus’ sisters that he was ill, Jesus commented, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”” (John 11:4, ESV) John does not record people glorifying God after He raised Lazarus, but the implication is surely that at least some of them did. An astounding miracle had been performed and of that there was no doubt.

God enabled the Apostles to perform miracles.

Not all of the records of people glorifying God were in response to accounts of miracles performed by Jesus. In Acts, Luke records the same kind of response being given following the healing of a man who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:2), but this was through the ministry of Peter and John. After the council instructed Peter and John to stop preaching in the name of Jesus (although Peter and John refused to obey them) we read of the council, “When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened;” (Acts 4:21, NASB95) When the people saw the miracle, they knew that behind it was the power and kindness of God. He deserved the credit and they said so.

God converted all kinds of people.

When news spread around that Paul had been converted people glorified God. Of Paul’s early post-conversion life he said, “And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.” (Galatians 1:22–24, ESV) When the believers in Judea heard of the amazing transformation that God had brought in Paul’s life, they responded by glorifying, praising, honoring God for what He had done. They knew that such a change in Saul of Tarsus was every bit as much a miracle as raising the widow of Nain’s son from the dead. In a spiritual sense, that is exactly what happened to Saul when God took a man dead in trespasses and sins and made him alive in Christ. What an amazing feat that was!

Believing Jews also glorified God in response to the news of the conversion of others. After the believers at Jerusalem heard from Peter that the household of Cornelius had believed and received the Holy Spirit, we read that: “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”” (Acts 11:18, ESV) Years later, when Paul returned to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey and gave the leaders of the church there a report about his efforts, “And when they heard it, they glorified God. (Acts 21:20, ESV) In both cases, when Jewish believers in Jerusalem heard that God had granted Gentiles repentance leading to salvation, they glorified God. “Praised” is the sense of “glorified” that best fits the context here. As in the case of Saul of Tarsus becoming Paul the Apostle, the conversion of these Gentiles was understood to be the result of the amazing work of God.

God continually sanctified His people.

In His High Priestly prayer Jesus said to the Father, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:10, ESV) James Boice suggests five ways by which Christ is glorified in His people. “How is Jesus glorified in us? There are several answers. First, he is glorified in us by saving us. … Second, Jesus is glorified by our trusting him in this life…. Third, Jesus is glorified in his own people to the degree that we live a holy life…. Fourth, we glorify the Lord by our confession of him before the world. … Finally, we may glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by our efforts to extend his kingdom, that is, not just by our speech but also by our activity.”[1]

Referring to the suffering Paul had experienced (2 Corinthians 4:7-12) and of the promise of the resurrection and eternal life with Jesus that had  motivated him (4:13-14), Paul wrote, “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:15, ESV) He knew that as more people were brought to faith in Jesus the response would be that God would be glorified, praised for what had happened.

As Paul thought about the response the saints in Jerusalem would have to the offering going to help them from the believers in Corinth, he wrote, “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,” (2 Corinthians 9:13, ESV)(.) As believers in Jerusalem received the gift from their brothers and sisters in Corinth, who were mostly Gentiles, Paul knew that they would glorify, praise God for the gift.

“As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 8:23, ESV) “The delegates are said to be “the glory of Christ” in that they were “an honor to Christ” or “a credit to Christ” either by their exemplary lives and service or because they were trophies of Christ’s saving grace; or in that they were an embodiment or worthy reflection of Christ’s glory; or in that they were “men in whom Christ is glorified”; or in that they promoted Christ’s glory (cf. 3:18; 8:19).”[2]

All of these effects in the lives of fallen, sinful people can only be explained by the regenerating work of God in the hearts of people. For that He deserves the credit. Each of these examples of Christian growth and godly living occurred because of God’s powerful work in the lives of those mentioned.

God superintended the death of Jesus and of Peter.

Near the end of His earthly ministry Jesus was the source of God being glorified by means of His death. After observing the way Jesus died, we read: “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47, AV The ESV translates the Greek verb as “praised” but the normal translation of the term is “glorified.”) By recognizing and acknowledging the character of Jesus demonstrated in His death, the centurion (whether he recognized it or not) gave glory to God by asserting Jesus’ innocence.

During one of Jesus’ last appearances to the disciples after His resurrection, He said to Peter: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”” (John 21:18, ESV)  John then explains the significance of that statement. “(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.)” (John 21:19a, ESV) In both of these cases there is no doubt about the fact that God, in His gracious sovereignty, superintended the deaths of both Jesus and Peter to bring glory to Himself.

Jesus ascended into heaven and took His place of exaltation.

On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus made an amazing offer. He said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”” (John 7:37b–38, ESV) Many years later John explained what Jesus was talking about in that offer. “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39, ESV) Likewise, when John reflected on the events involved in Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, John wrote: “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” (John 12:16, ESV) When Jesus took up His exalted place in heaven He was given the honor that was due Him. Paul elaborates on this exaltation in Philippians. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11, ESV)

Conclusion

In chapter one we saw that the chief end of man is to glorify God. In this chapter we have seen instances in which God performed amazing deeds and demonstrated His attributes in clear ways that manifested His worthiness to receive glory. The fact that people did indeed give Him glory is implicit evidence that God had worked in their hearts to cause them to be willing to give Him the credit that was due Him. In the next chapter we will look at explicit evidence showing that God worked in the hearts of angels and people moving them to desire that God would be glorified.


[1] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (p. 1285). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[2] Harris, M. J. (2005). The Second Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 612). Grand Rapids, MI; Milton Keynes, UK: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.; Paternoster Press.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3.   God moved His people to glorify Him.

As stated above, there are two conditions necessary in order for God to secure the end for which He created mankind, which is His glory. First, He must perform deeds which are indisputably deserving of glory. We looked at a number of examples of such deeds done in the past in chapter 2. Second, He must enable people to see and be willing to acknowledge that He is the one who deserves credit for them. There is a sense in which we observed that fact in the accounts discussed in chapter 2. If God had not moved those individuals to glorify Him, they would not have done so. Then why devote another chapter to discussing God’s work in the hearts of people as He moves them to willingly ascribe to Him the credit that is His due? I have two reasons for doing so. First, I want to show Biblical examples of people seeing the amazing works of God, but refusing to give Him glory. These examples provide a contrast against which to view my second reason. That reason is the examples I will cite showing the strong desire of people to give God the glory He is due. The examples provided in chapter 2 highlighted the magnificence of God’s works. The examples we will examine in this chapter highlight the inner motivations of the people involved.

Before we look at the examples, however, we will look at a few instances in which people were not willing to give God glory. We have already seen one of them in Chapter 1. It was found in Romans 1:20-27, where mankind was unwilling to glorify God as God and has been reaping the consequences ever since. They had seen, in nature, powerful evidences of God’s power and deity. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor [glorify] him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:20–21, ESV) The problem was not in the availability or strength of the evidence. The problem was the human heart.

Another example is found in the ministry of Jesus. It involved people who were healed but did not glorify God as they should have. Luke records the event in which ten lepers were healed by the Lord and then walked away. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”” (Luke 17:15–18, NASB95 ) Again, the miracle was amazing. The deliverance the nine other lepers experienced was life changing. The problem was the ingratitude of the nine for the kindness of God. These two examples remind us that it is possible to see God’s glory manifested in miraculous ways and then take those acts for granted and not give Him the credit He deserves. The implication that flows out of Jesus’ question is that the others who had been healed should have taken the time and effort to give God the credit for the blessing of healing that they had received. To omit doing so was to deny Him the praise (glory) He should have been given.

A third example is in Revelation. In this case the response of the people mentioned is one of outright rebellion. Following horrendous judgment after horrendous judgment poured out on the earth, some people did give glory to God. “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13, ESV) However, after still more horrendous judgments others did not repent. John tells us, “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.” (Revelation 16:9, ESV) This is an indication of the hatred and hard hearts of these people.

So, why do some people give God glory while others do not? Why do some people adamantly refuse to give God glory while others do so willingly, if not joyfully or enthusiastically? Paul gives us the answer in Philippians. After calling his readers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, he writes, “[F]or it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV) Human beings who do give God glory do so because God has been working in their hearts moving them to be willing to do so.

He commissioned angels to acknowledge the birth of the promised Savior.

The first people to hear of the birth of Jesus were shepherds out on the hills near Bethlehem. The news came to them from one angel who was then joined by many others. “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”” (Luke 2:10–14, ESV) The angels were uniting in expressing the wish that, as a result of the coming of the Messiah, God would be glorified in heaven, and that on earth there would be peace among people with whom God is pleased. It could also be a statement that those things are true. They knew that the mighty Creator of the universe had somehow taken the form of a helpless baby, and that the wonderful plan of salvation, conceived in eternity past and prepared for throughout the preceding centuries, was at that time actually beginning to be executed. The promised and long-expected Messiah had been born. The most important event in all of history had commenced. The angelic host was not only willing, but exuberant, in their desire to glorify God by giving Him honor and praise for what He was doing.

He enabled people to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and respond to Him accordingly.

 Years later, when Jesus entered Jerusalem for His Triumphal Entry the crowd was saying something that included an element that was very similar to what the angels had said at Jesus’ birth. “As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”” (Luke 19:37–38, ESV) Since “heaven” and “the highest” appear to be parallel, I take it that they both refer to the same thing. These people did not know what the angels knew at Jesus’ birth, but they knew about the miracles Jesus had done combined with prophecies of the works which the Messiah would perform (such as Isaiah 35:5-6), and they undoubtedly knew Zechariah 9:9. For reasons such as these, these people were expressing a sentiment very much like that of the angels in Luke 2:14. They were praising God because they believed that the promised Messiah had arrived. The one the nation had longed for had finally come. Again, honor and praise are involved in their desire that God would be glorified. So far, angels and people have expressed the desire that, in heaven and everywhere on earth, God would be glorified; that is, given credit for what He was doing.

Numerous doxologies in the New Testament express the desire that God would be glorified. On seven different occasions Paul writes a doxology in which he expresses the wish that God’s glory (praise, honor) would endure forever.[1] Hebrews, 1 Peter, Jude, and Revelation also contain similar doxologies.[2] All of these passages deserve careful consideration but we will look at just three of them, two written by Paul and one by John.

God enabled Paul to see how He was bringing salvation to Gentiles while still preserving a special role for Israel and moved him to compose a doxology in praise of His wise plan.

In Romans 9-11, Paul gives a brief survey of Israel’s role in God’s plan of redemption. In chapter 9, after expressing his own profound love for his fellow Israelites, he reviews the privileges Israel has enjoyed. Then he explains that many Gentiles achieved a righteous standing because they believed in the Messiah, while many Israelites did not receive a righteous standing because they did not believe in Him. In chapter 10, after expressing his love for Israel again, he supports his position that people are made right with God solely on the basis of faith. Then, in chapter 11, he addresses Gentiles, explaining to them that God has not forsaken His people, Israel. “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”.” (Romans 11:25–26, ESV)  At the conclusion of this wonderful summary of God’s plan for the nation of Israel is his beautiful doxology summarizing God’s absolute supremacy: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36, ESV) Leon Morris comments on the first half of this verse, “The meaning is nicely expressed in Moffatt’s translation “All comes from him, all lives by him, all ends in him.” Paul is speaking of God as the Originator, the Sustainer, and the Goal of all creation.”[3] God had planned the partial hardening of Israel with the result of Jesus’ being rejected, dying for sinners, and the spread of the gospel to Gentiles. But that hardening will only last for a time, after which Israel will turn to the Messiah. As Paul thinks of the wisdom and sovereignty of God demonstrated in this plan, he responds spontaneously with a doxology. He wishes that God would receive glory, honor, praise (different terms meaning nearly the same thing but used for emphasis) forever. If we think about what Paul has described in the context, how can we respond any differently? “That God is to receive glory means that he alone is worthy to receive credit for the successful accomplishment of redemptive history.”[4]

God helped Paul to recognize that He had converted the “foremost of sinners” to show that none are beyond His reach. The result was Paul’s doxology.

Early in his first letter to his young protégé, Timothy, Paul offers praise to God for his salvation and transformation. He proclaims that, in his case God has changed the “foremost” of sinners into His ambassador. He then declares that God did this with him so that in Paul God would have an eloquent example of the change God can bring about in anyone’s life, even if he or she is a “blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.”  He concludes his rehearsal of the enormous change that God had brought about in his life with this beautiful doxology:  “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17, ESV) Paul did his best to put into words a description of the greatness and majesty of the God who had wrought such a radical transformation in his life. He acknowledged God’s power and then expressed the desire that He would receive honor and glory (probably a hendiadys, both terms being near synonyms here) forever and ever. When we consider the way God showed His grace and sovereignty in the transformation of Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle, how can we respond any differently? It was extremely important to Paul that God would receive the credit He so richly deserved for what He did for him.

He revealed to John some of the wonderful aspects of our salvation which involved how He loved, redeemed, and exalted guilty, vile, and hopeless sinners, again resulting in a doxology.

It was also important to John that the Lord would be glorified. At the end of his introductory greeting in the Revelation John wrote a doxology: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5–6, ESV) The stated basis for this doxology is much briefer than those of Paul noted above, but that brevity does not indicate unimportance. What John includes in this doxology is of immense importance. John says our Lord loves us. The wonder of that fact can easily be taken for granted if we forget that He loved us even while we were His enemies. (Romans 5:8-10) He has freed us from our sins. (Romans 6:14) We are free from their power over us and free from the penalty for them. He did this by shedding His blood for us. (Romans 5:8) He has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father. (1 Peter 2:9) Translations vary as to their understanding of these terms, but in any case, the point is that we have a very high status and we are authorized to serve as priests serving God. That is an enormous privilege. When John thought about the power and grace of God that were demonstrated in the salvation that has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not a surprise that he would break out into the doxology we read in verses 5-6. Acknowledging what He has done by giving Him glory and recognizing His dominion are appropriate responses to all His great works.

Taken together these three doxologies are a powerful testimony of the wonderful works of God and the intense desire of New Testament writers to give Him the glory for what He has done. Over and over again, God’s people express the desire that He would be glorified everywhere and forever.

God enabled His people to see His glory as important enough to be a basis for prayer.

Another evidence of the fact that God has placed within the hearts of His people the desire to glorify Him is the fact that they have seen it as a basis on which prayer was offered. “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” (Psalm 79:9, ESV) In verses 1-7, the Psalmist laments the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of her enemies and pleads with God for deliverance. Next in verse 8, he asks God to forget her former sins.  Then in verse 9, he calls out to the Lord as the “God of our salvation” and asks Him to deliver the nation for the glory of His name. Unquestionably, Asaph, whom the superscription names as the author, is concerned for the deliverance of his people, but that is not his only motivation. If granted, Israel would praise God for His forgiveness and deliverance, and the surrounding nations would also see the power of God. Moses had based His plea that God would not destroy Israel because of their disobedience, on the same premise (see Exodus 32:11). The word “glorify” was not used in that context, though the idea is certainly there.

God moved His people to progress from gratitude to a determination to glorify Him.

In Psalm 86, David thought about God’s sovereignty and consequent ultimate victory. On the basis of that recollection he was convinced that God would meet his current need. With that in mind, David asked God to teach him how to be obedient. As David thought about God’s character and faithfulness, the spontaneous response of his heart was, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12, ESV). It is no wonder that he purposed to glorify the Lord’s name (by honoring it) forever. This is the kind of response all of us should have to an awareness of the character and works of our God. Moses, David and Asaph were passionately concerned that God would be glorified.

He moved His people to pray that He would be glorified.

Another way in which we can see the desire of God’s people that He would be glorified is the fact that they prayed that He would be glorified. One prayer to that end is the refrain seen in Psalm 57:5 & 11. “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (ESV) The superscription of this Psalm tells us that it was written by David when he hid from Saul in a cave.   Verses 1-4 and 6-10 of this Psalm contain cries for God to deliver David from his enemies interspersed with expressions of trust in God’s faithfulness. Both of these sections conclude with an expression of desire that God’s glory would be over all the earth. It seems as though, as David thinks of his immediate need for deliverance, his mind goes to a future time when such deliverance will no longer be necessary, and he expresses his desire for that day to come. The very same refrain is found in Psalm 108:5, as David prays that the Lord of all the earth would fulfill His covenant promises to him (vss. 6-9). I think the motivation for David’s desire for God’s glory to be over all the earth here is because he knows that when that occurs, David will no longer need to fear his adversaries.

Psalm 115 begins with a prayer that God would glorify Himself. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1, ESV) This desire introduces the rest of the Psalm. Verses 3-8 of this Psalm give reasons why God deserves to be glorified. He is completely sovereign (3b). Conversely, the idols worshipped by others are lifeless. Idolatry is utterly foolish. Having demonstrated the inability of idols to do anything, the Psalmist calls Israel to trust in the LORD (vss. 9-15). He closes with an assertion that he and his fellow Israelites will bless the LORD forever (vss. 16-18). As the Psalmist considers the love and faithfulness of God combined with His great power, especially in contrast with lifeless idols, he asks God to glorify Himself, to make sure He is given the credit for being who He is and for doing what He has done. That way, the nation will see the reason for trusting in the LORD, and his people will be motivated to bless His name forever. What could be more important to us than that God glorifies Himself so that we see Him clearly and respond appropriately?

Conclusion.

The chief end of man is indeed to glorify God (and enjoy Him forever). In the past, he has performed many deeds and has revealed His matchless attributes. They all demonstrate that He deserves the credit/glory for them. He still uses some of those ways to show that He deserves glory. Furthermore, He has worked in the hearts of people enabling them to observe what He has done and moving them to delight to give Him the credit that He is due. What are some ways in which the Bible teaches that we today can glorify God? We will look at some answers to that question in the next chapter.


[1] Romans 11:36; 16:27; Galatians 1:3-5; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18

[2] Hebrews 13:20-21; 2 Peter 3:17-18; Jude 24-25; Revelation 1:6

[3] Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 429). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation: a commentary on the Greek text (p. 194). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.