Rev. Kleyn is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Edgerton, Minnesota.
Our lives as children of God are to be directed and governed by one fundamental principle. One rule determines all that we think, all that we say, and all that we do. That rule is, “Do all to the glory of God!” That is our calling in this life. And that will be our calling into all eternity.
That this is the principle that determines all our conduct is clearly shown in the Scriptures. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever, Amen” (I Pet. 4:11). “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).
To glorify God is to acknowledge Him as God alone. It is to acknowledge and serve God as the all glorious One. He deserves all glory. We must give it to Him. And we do that by praising, honoring, worshiping, serving, and thanking Him every day of our lives. We glorify Him by living our lives, not for ourselves, but for Him.
The reason why God must be glorified by us is simple—He created us to do so. He has given us our life and health and strength and every earthly possession we have. He has also given us an immeasurable abundance of spiritual riches. But God has not made us or given us all these things for ourselves. Our lives and all that we have must be used for Him. All creation glorifies God its Maker (Ps. 19:1). So ought we.
God must first of all be glorified for what He is. Even apart from all that He does, God should be praised by us. He is a glorious God, infinite in His perfections. He is great in Himself. He is great on account of all His glorious virtues: His holiness, wisdom, justice, grace, love, power, infinity, truth. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 145:3). Do we take the time to glorify God for this? Do we, as we read the Scriptures, meditate on the perfections of God that are revealed to us in His Word? Do we praise Him for what He is?
God must also be glorified for what He does. God reveals Himself to us in His works of creation and providence. As we see God’s revelation of Himself to us in these works, we must glorify Him for that. That means glorifying God for the beauties and wonders of the creation itself. That means glorifying God for all that occurs in the creation, including the tornadoes and earthquakes and floods. That means glorifying God for all that occurs in the history of the world, including wars, the rise and fall of world leaders, disease, and death. That means glorifying God for all that takes place in the church. And it means glorifying God for all that occurs in our own daily lives. God does it all. We must see God’s hand in all these events and glorify Him for His work.
We must glorify Him for all that He has done to make us what we are. The psalmist says, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). God has created us with many talents, gifts, and abilities. Each of us is a remarkable creation of God. Just think of how our minds and bodies function. Just think of the way in which, each day, air and food and water give us life and health and strength. God must be glorified for that. We may not, by boasting of our abilities and strength, take that glory for ourselves.
Especially must God be glorified by us for what He does for us and in us through Christ. That is, He must be praised for His work of salvation. We are sinners saved by grace. We are undeserving of the least of His mercies. We deserve eternal damnation. But God is great in His love and mercy and grace toward us. He has saved. He has redeemed and justified. He daily sanctifies. Our hearts must therefore be filled with the desire to glorify Him. We certainly have every reason to do so. He must be glorified. We may not steal some of this glory for ourselves.
The latter is what the Arminian does. He refuses to confess, “God is everything, and I am nothing.” Somehow, therefore, he contributes to his own salvation. He produces faith. He accepts Christ as his Savior. He keeps himself faithful to the end. By claiming to do these things he seeks to have some glory for himself.
But by nature we are no different. Apart from grace we are Arminian. We want to praise ourselves. And we want other men to praise us. We love the praise and the approval of men. We feel we ought to receive widespread recognition for anything and everything we do. We are constantly hoping to hear words of commendation from others: “What a great job you do as a parent! What excellent grades you achieved in school this year! What impressive skills you have in sports! Your craftsmanship is remarkable! Your abilities are outstanding! Your comments at Bible study were right to the point! Your sermon last Sunday was wonderful!” If someone will just tell us how well we have done something, we are happy.
That is sin. It is the sin of being a man-pleaser. Whenever we live with that desire, we are guilty of robbing God of the glory that is due only to Him.
Glorifying God is an exclusive activity. It is antithetical. It is either/or. Either we glorify God, or we glorify ourselves. We cannot do both. “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake” (Ps. 115:1). Do we sincerely make that confession?
No other person may receive God’s glory. All glory to God—not just some of it or most of it, and a little bit for man too. And all glory to God always—not just some of the time or most of the time, but all the time. God alone deserves all the glory.
Perhaps the hardest aspect of desiring God’s glory and living to the glory of His name is the subjective element.
This involves, first of all, glorifying God in all our life. That brings us back to I Corinthians 10:31. We must be motivated by a desire for God’s glory in all that we do—in all our thoughts, in all our words, and in all our actions. We must strive to glorify Him in every area and in every aspect of our lives.
What Paul says in I Corinthians 10 is striking. The apostle, you will notice, mentions the rather routine activities of eating and drinking, pointing out that even these things must be done to God’s glory. At first this may seem strange. We might be inclined to think that a better example could have been used—an example of a spiritual activity, such as worship, reading the Scriptures, or prayer. For surely it would be more important that God be glorified in these things than in the common activities of eating food and drinking water.
There is a reason, however, why these things are mentioned. The text emphasizes by this that nothing may be excluded. We are very quick to forget about glorifying God in the seemingly mundane activities of life — eating, drinking, washing dishes, dressing, taking a shower, reading, exercising, and so on. But the Scriptures teach us that we may not do so. The admonition is all encompassing. God must be glorified in absolutely everything we do.
That means that a wife and mother must glorify God while she is changing diapers, while she is washing dishes, and while she is speaking to someone on the phone. A husband and father must glorify God while he pounds nails into lumber, while he busies himself with his daily work, and while he relaxes at home. A child must glorify God while solving math problems, while playing with friends, and while attempting to master the latest computer game.
How is this done? It involves a number of things. It involves doing all that we do in a way that is pleasing to God, that is, in obedience to His commands and will for us. It involves being conscious of the fact that God is always watching us. It involves doing what we do to the best of our God-given abilities. It involves doing our work, not just because we need to earn money, or because we have no other option but to do these things, but cheerfully and in thankfulness to God. It involves being aware of the fact that this particular task has been given us by God. Everything must be done in order to please Him.
We must live to show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Then God will be glorified—not only by us, but also because of us.
Christ said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). God is glorified by others on account of the things that you and I do. God is glorified by our good works.
The glory for the good works that we do is certainly not for us. If we know ourselves spiritually we know that we are totally incapable of doing good works in our own strength. The fact that we do them is because of God’s work in us. God must be glorified, for our good works are His works in us. Do not let men praise you for your good works. If they want to praise you, point out to them that God should be praised.
The other way in which God must be glorified subjectively is through everything that He does to us. This is even more difficult, for we must desire that God so govern all that He does to us so that He alone (and not we) receive the glory. It is easy enough to desire, objectively, that God be glorified in all that He does in the world out there. But to seek, subjectively, that He be glorified in all that He does to us personally is quite a different matter.
What makes this so difficult is the fact that a proper desire for God to be glorified in all that He does to us means that we have to put aside all concern for ourselves. Our only concern is God. We desire that God do as He wills, regardless of what happens to us.
For the sake of His own glory, God may do with you and me whatever He pleases. Therefore we must say: “If God is glorified through placing me in the midst of war and unrest, then I want Him to do that. If God is glorified through sending me sorrow or persecution or depression or death, then I desire that too. If God is glorified through making me lonely, or sick, or poor, then I do not desire that He do something different. If God is glorified through afflicting my children, or through causing some of my children to go astray, or through leaving me childless, my heart’s desire is that God do exactly these things so that He receive the glory. Regardless of what happens to me, to my family, to my life, to my possessions, to my name, or to my honor, my heart’s desire is that God do whatever He pleases so that He is glorified through all His dealings with me.”
To glorify God in this way is to do what Job did after he lost all his possessions and children. He worshiped God! And then he said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). It is also to say, as he did later, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15a).
Then God is glorified. Glorified first of all because His plan is a perfect plan for the sake of our salvation. And glorified by our humble submission to what He does in our lives.
For this we need grace. For this we need the gift of faith. Faith is a certain knowledge and a hearty confidence. Through faith we know God as our Father for Christ’s sake, who promises to do all things for our good. So even though the calling to glorify God is a solemn duty, there is also great incentive to do it. For we know that God does all things well. In this confidence of faith we can truly say, “May God be glorified regardless of what happens to me.”
God will have all the glory and honor. Even when we fail to glorify Him, He will be glorified. He will cause that He alone receive the honor that is His due.
But God will also work this in us, His people. By the power of His grace He will cause us to glorify Him.
What a privilege it is that we may live to God’s glory in all that we do in this life. And what a blessed joy it will be when we can do this in perfection in the eternal kingdom He is preparing for us. There, as never before, we will do all to God’s glory.
Let us not wait until then. Let us begin now. All glory to Him and Him alone!