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.