What is the Glory of God?
“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.
“What is the glory of God?” however, is a question impossible to answer, and yet it is utterly crucial that we attempt it. As Martin Loyd-Jones wrote, “The glory of God is something which no man can define. The glory of God is his essential and ultimate attribute. It means his greatness, his splendor, his majesty. The real trouble with all of us . . . is that we do not know God. The glory of God – have you ever thought of it?”1
A.W. Tozer wrote, “Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”2
Therefore, “What is the glory of God?” must be answered; though humbly we must accept our answers will always be incomplete as our Infinite God can never fully be described by his finite creatures. The Bible uses this phrase 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: So what is the glory of God? The glory of God is the invisible qualities, character, or attributes of God displayed in a visible (or knowable) way.
The rest of this article will seek to explain this definition through Scripture.
The Glory of God is His Invisible Character Made Visible
What is the glory of God? Isaiah 6:2 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 the Israelites were rescued from Egypt and God led them by a cloud in the day and a cloud of fire by night, the Bible states “the glory of the LORD appeared” (Exodus 16:7-10). When Moses setup the tabernacle and God filled it with his presence in a visible cloud, it states, “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34). Likewise, when Solomon was blessed to finish the actual temple, it states “that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of God” (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). The glory of God is the invisible character of God displayed. 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, 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)
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 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 . . . .”
John 17:4, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”
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) – did all of this because he came to glorify the Father (John 17:4).
Jesus Christ is the glory of God.
The Glory of God is Displayed Supremely in the Gospel of Jesus Christ
What is the glory of God? To help answer this question, 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.
1 Corinthians 4:4-6 states, “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.”
By pulling out the phrase “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (verse 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, it helps to start backwards: The image of God is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has glory. The glory of Jesus Christ is the gospel. The gospel is the light. Therefore, by seeing all the links in the chain, we can see how the gospel is the light that reveals God to the world.
To say it another way: 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.
Nothing reveals the wrath, holiness, faithfulness, judgment, anger, kindness, mercy, grace, compassion, trinitarianism, unity, sovereignty, power, purity, perfection, wisdom, omniscience and love of God like the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since the gospel reveals God in the fullest way possible, the gospel glorifies God most.
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.”3
The Glory of God is the Reason Why God Does Everything and Anything He Does
What is the glory of God? The glory of God is the reason for every act God ever did, does, or will do.
God created everything through himself and for himself (Colossians 1:16). He created the world to declare his glory (Psalm 19:1-4). He formed and made man with the same intent (Isaiah 43:7). He condemns all who dishonor his name (Exodus 20:7), but he also rescues man to bring honor to his name (Jeremiah 14:7, Psalm 25:11). He rescued the Israelites for the sake of his name so he would not be profaned among the nations (Ezekiel 20:9). He parted the waters for them to gain for himself everlasting renown (Isaiah 63:12-14, Psalm 106:8). He placed Pharaoh in leadership to create for himself the opportunity to display his power and so his name would be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:16).
He makes a new covenant with his people, promising them a new heart and spirit, not for their sake but for the sake of his holy name (Ezekiel 36:22-32). He guides us in paths of righteousness for his name sake (Psalm 23:3, Psalm 31:3). He delays his wrath for his own name’s sake and for the sake of his praise, and he will not yield his glory to another (Isaiah 48:9-11). For the sake of his righteousness he made his law great and glorious (Isaiah 42:21). He has exalted his name and his word above all things for his praise (Psalm 138:1-2). He blesses people so his ways and saving power may be known among all nations so all nations will praise him (Psalm 67:1-7).
He allows some people to die so he might be glorified (John 11:4). He allows some people to be sick so the power of God may be made known (John 9:3). People are called to obedience by Jesus Christ’s power and for his name’s sake (Romans 1:5). God saves people so they might live for him (2 Corinthians 5:15, Hebrews 9:14). In everything we do, even in simple things like eating and drinking, we are commanded to do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Jesus sought to be glorified so he might glorify his Father (John 17:1). Jesus died on the cross to glorify his Abba (John 12:27-28). The way Jesus blesses his people is by allowing them to see his glory (John 17:24). And Jesus is the head of the church so that in everything he might have the supremacy (Colossians 1:18).
When we enter his temple, we will yell out, “Glory!” (Psalm 29:9). And when we are living in the New Jerusalem at the renewal of all things, God’s glory will replace the sun and be our light forever (Revelations 21:23). There is no doubt, God seeks glory for himself (John 8:50), for from him and through him and for him are all things, so to him be the glory forever! Amen (Romans 11:36).
Lastly, the Holy Spirit always magnifies Jesus (John 16:14), the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible (1 Peter 1:21), therefore it’s not surprise that the entire Old and New Testament point to Jesus Christ (John 5:39, Luke 24:27). By Pointing to Jesus Christ, the Bible points to God’s glory.
What is the glory of God? 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.’”4
1. Martin Loyd-Jones, Revival. Crossway Books (1987), p. 296.
2. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, Harper Collins (1978), p.1.
3. Sermon by John Piper, The Gospel of the Glory of the Blessed God.
4. Jonathan Edwards. Quote from John Piper’s God’s Passion for His Glory, p.92