A Brief Introduction to God’s Glory
I summarize the biblical thread of God’s glory this way: his beauty, majesty, weightiness, attractiveness, and radiance—his overwhelming presence as an eternal community who delights in giving. On the eve of his death, Jesus prayed: “Father, I desire that they may be with me where I am, to see my glory.” I am awed that he would bring me into the beauty of the community that is God! With all my rebellion and indifference to him, I am stunned.
God’s glory is revealed in the diversity and delights of his creation. In the Psalms of Israel, we read, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” John Calvin referred to the natural world as a “theater of God’s glory,” a “mirror of his divinity,” and the “beautiful garment” the invisible God wears. Calvin went on to say, “God has so magnificently adorned the world… so we can enjoy the multiplied abundance and variety of good things in it…. There is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory…” Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
The glory of creation points to the glory and beauty of God. What is beautiful about God? God’s unique and infinite goodness is beautiful, along with the harmonious integration of his qualities of love and justice, power and gentleness. The beauty of God is most clearly displayed in the majestic divinity and beautiful humanity of Jesus Christ.
God’s glory and beauty, however, terrorizes those who set up their own beauty and gods to assert control and evade the eye of his evaluation. His beauty is not ours to control. It is a gift, not a possession. Glory is about a King who rules his beautiful realm. Beauty and rebellion ultimately cannot co-exist.
God’s “glorious grace” reveals that rebels—and I am one—can be forgiven and beautified. Grace means “gift,” unearned favor. Grace is “glorious” because God’s beauty is magnified by his love for us who have risen up against him. This grace is revealed in the “glorious gospel”–the good news announcement that God has done everything to save you. The gospel is not advice, or a path of discipline. It is news—good news! It is good news for everyone!
This gives me great joy. God is beautiful because he is both pure (just) and he pardons offenders (merciful). My conscience tells me that I compromise morally and stubbornly rebel against what seems to be God’s intrusion. But I also have experienced his sweet pardon. I’ve tried again and again to silence my conscience and pardon myself by making resolutions, but that has never given me any peace. God’s “glorious grace” is his beautiful gift of love for undeserving glory-thieves like myself.
I continue to discover God’s glorious grace. Even a glimpse of his glory can stimulate awe and joy. On the other hand, a glimpse can stimulate anger and avoidance if I am intent on maintaining self-rule and being in control. How glorious would God be if I could control him?
God’s glory beautifies those who receive and reflect it as his image-bearers. Because exposure to glory enables me to connect to creation and the Creator, it is a kind of “therapy” that draws me out of the slavery of self-centeredness and awakens wonder and delight in something and Someone bigger than me. I am sad that our modern lifestyle tends to cut us off from these avenues of glory as we live away from creation and become absorbed in our electronic devices.
One of the main ways we see and experience God’s glory is in his written word, the Bible. God’s word is not only true and defensible, it is also beautiful, glorious, and desirable. In it, we see God’s glory and are transformed, or “beautified.”
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
For so many years I lived under a weight of trying to do better, trying to make a name for myself. This weight has been lifting as I “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.”
See biblical texts on God’s glory
See helpful quotes on God’s glory
Passages used in this essay:
John 17:24, Psalm 19:1, 27:4