(Note: This is a condensed version of the article “What Is the Glory of God?” found on our Resource page.)
“What is the glory of God?” is certainly one of the most foundational questions to answer in all of Christianity because the glory of God is so central to the gospel, the Bible, and everything God does.
Humbly, however, we must first accept our answers will always be incomplete as our Infinite God can never fully be described by his finite creatures. With that said, the Bible uses the phrase “glory of God” in many different ways, which means we can create many different definitions in general. However, the Bible primarily uses the phrase “the glory of God” in a specific way, and therefore what follows is a specific definition.
Definition: The glory of God is the invisible qualities, character, or attributes of God displayed in a visible (or knowable) way.
According to the Bible, the Glory of God Is His Invisible Character Made Visible
Isaiah 6:3 states, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” You’d think this verse would end by saying, “the whole earth is full of his holiness.” But it doesn’t. It states that the whole earth is full of God’s glory. When the character of God, like his holiness, goes public for the world to witness and know, the Bible refers to this as “God’s glory.”
When there was a visible display of God in the Old Testament (theophany) like a cloud or a fireball, often times it states that the glory of God appeared (Exodus 16:7-10, Exodus 40:34, 2 Chronicles 5:14). Obviously the glory of God is not a cloud or fireball. But when the character or quality of God is displayed publicly, it is referred to as “the glory of God.”
When Moses was on the top of Mount Sinai speaking with God, “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.’ And [God] said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’” (Exodus 33:18-19). When God visibly showed Moses his goodness and allowed Moses to know and understand the proclamation of God’s name “The LORD,” this is the same thing as showing God’s glory.
God created the universe, the stars, the world, and everything, and it all bears God’s image to some degree. Thus the Bible states that it all declares his glory (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20-23).
Humans were made for the glory of God (Isaiah 43:7). Therefore God made humans in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
Lastly, we understand that the glory of God is the invisible made visible through looking at Jesus Christ. Jesus glorifies God the most because he reveals God the most (because he is God made flesh) (John 1:1, John 1:14, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3).
According to the Bible, the Glory of God Is Jesus Christ
“What is the glory of God?” is equivalent to asking “Who is the glory of God?” Human beings are made in God’s image, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Notice the language “in his own image” and “in the image of God.” Jesus Christ as God was not “made”, “created”, nor is he “in” or “of” God’s image. Jesus Christ “is” God’s image and Jesus Christ is God’s glory.
Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God . . . .”
John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature . . . .”
John 14:7-9, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also . . . Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
John 14:13, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
1 John 4:9, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world . . . .”
Jesus Christ, God himself (John 1:1), is the Word who became flesh (John 1:14), who came and made the invisible God visible (Colossians 1:15), who came to show us the exact imprint of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3), who came to show us the Father in himself (John 14:7-14), who came that the love of God might be manifested (1 John 4:9) – Jesus did all of this because he came to glorify the Father (John 17:4).
Jesus Christ is the glory of God.
According to the Bible, the Glory of God Is Displayed Supremely in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
To help answer the question, “What is the glory of God?” we must emphasize the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is central to the glory of God because the gospel reveals more about God than any other act in history. God reveals himself through his actions, and through the actions of the cross and resurrection we can see the character of God more clearly than anywhere else.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
By pulling out the phrase “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4) we can see that the gospel sheds more concentrated light on the invisible God than anything else (besides Jesus himself).
To understand this confusing sentence, let’s explain this verse in different language: The gospel is the apex of Christ’s love, and Christ is the apex image of the invisible God. This means that what we know about God can be seen most clearly in Christ. And what we know about Christ can be seen most clearly in the gospel.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that while Jesus Christ is the glory of God, the gospel displays the glory of God above all else. As John Piper states, “…the glory of God comes to its most magnificent expression in the act that creates the gospel, namely, the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.”
What is the glory of God according to the Bible? The glory of God is the invisible qualities of God made visible. The glory of God is Jesus Christ. The glory of God is most displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And everything God ever did, does, or will do is motivationally rooted in the his own glory.
As Jonathan Edwards stated, “It appears that all that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God’s works is included in that one phrase, ‘the glory of God.’”