Arie den Hartog is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
God has made all things for His own glory. “For of Him and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). From the beginning to the end of all history and through all the ages of eternity God will be glorified. At the beginning of history the angels sang of the praises of God. In heaven the song is heard; “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). As the sovereign God He will cause all things to glorify Himself. He will not give His glory to any other. He is jealous for His own honor and glory. Even the wicked man, though contrary to his own will, shall finally glorify God. This is illustrated in the history of Pharaoh, the proud wicked king of Egypt. For God says concerning Pharaoh: “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth” (Rom. 9:17).
God seeks His own glory in all of His creatures. The psalmist sings. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge” (Ps. 19:1, 2). The brute creation glorifies God unconsciously without having a knowledge of the creator. God made man in order that he might consciously and personally and willingly glorify God His creator. Man glorifies God when, knowing God, he testifies of the greatness, the virtues, and the goodness of God. Man glorifies God when He worships and serves God as His Lord and creator and gives Him thanks in all things.
Wicked ungodly man has a controversy with God, his Creator and Lord. He refuses to glorify God. Rather he seeks his own glory. He constantly seeks to deny God and rebel against Him. He refuses to worship God and render Him thanks. He changes the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like unto man and beast. He worships and serves the creature rather than the creator. Wicked man boasts of his own greatness and glory. He can make nothing of himself. He is absolutely dependent on the God of providence, but he does not acknowledge God. He seeks to build a kingdom of man on this earth. Then he boasts with proud Nebuchadnezzar, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of my kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor- of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). But God will humble the proud wicked man as He did Nebuchadnezzar, who was finally forced to acknowledge: “And I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the king of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase” (v. 37). Though the ungodly refuse to acknowledge the glory of God, God will glorify Himself over them. He will glorify Himself in the destruction of the ungodly.
But God has caused His people to differ. He works in them through His grace and Holy Spirit. He has chosen and formed His people for His own glory and praise. He has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light that we might show forth His praises. He has redeemed us by His grace that we might acknowledge His great mercy and give Him thanks. He has saved us in order that we might forever glorify Him for the wonder of His grace, the greatness of His love, and the faithfulness of His mercies.
It follows therefore that one of the great, distinctive marks of the true child of God is that he is devoted in all of his life to the glory of God. The Spirit of God works in his heart a fervent desire for the glory of God. This is the goal and purpose of his life. He says with the psalmist: “While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being” (Ps. 146:2). The true child of God delights in the glory of God. All his strength and energy is expended to glorify God. All his zeal and enthusiasm concentrates on this. All his time and efforts and talents are used for this end. Oh, this is not yet perfectly evident in the child of God. He still has the old sinful nature that often distracts him from this purpose in life and sometimes makes him glory and boast in himself, as the world does. Nevertheless, the glory of God is the supreme ideal for which he strives. In striving for this he finds his greatest joys and pleasures. God has redeemed us unto Himself that we might glorify Him. The word of God commands us: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). We know all of this particularly as Reformed Christians. For the absolutely central principle of all things for the Reformed faith is “To God alone be the glory.”
But what does all of this really mean? This must be more than merely a nice thought for us. It must be more than a great doctrine, though it is indeed a great doctrine. It must really be the distinctive mark of all our life that causes us to differ radically from the world. Let us consider some of the areas where our devotion to the honor and glory of God ought to be evident. First of all, we are devoted to the glory of God when we from the heart truly acknowledge Him as our God, the Lord of heaven and earth, and the blessed God of our salvation. God is glorified by His people when they acknowledge Him, confess His name, trust in Him alone and completely. If we live for any other or trust in any other then we have made an idol. Then we are giving the glory that belongs to God to someone or something that does not deserve it. To be devoted to the glory of God is something very exclusive. To be devoted to the glory of God we must be prepared to forsake the world and all of its riches and glory. It is impossible to serve God and mammon.
We are devoted to the glory of God when we seek His kingdom and His truth and His righteousness supremely. Everything else becomes secondary to that. We are devoted to the honor and glory of God when we delight in the worship of God in His house and among His people. We are devoted to the glory of God when we insist that the Lord’s Day was ordained for the special purpose of worshiping God. We do not then make this a day to pursue our own pleasures and prosperity. We come to Gods house to bring our vows before Him and to offer our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. It is a very grievous thing therefore when the Christian considers it a burden to come to God’s house or when he is satisfied with coming only once on the Lords Day. Such an attitude is certainly not consistent with godliness. The true child of God is profoundly conscious of what worship is all about. It is chiefly praising God and giving Him thanks. In God’s house the saints of God together lift up their hearts zealously to praise their creator and redeemer. One could easily quote passage after passage from the Psalms to show how this was the supreme desire and delight of the inspired writers. How many Christians lack this zeal for the glory of God, also in our own churches!
A man is devoted to the glory of God when he reveals a love for the truth of God. We discussed the matter of love for the truth of God in our last article. Here, of course, these two marks of godliness are one. God is glorified in His truth. His truth concerns His sovereignty, His righteousness and holiness, His goodness and mercy. False doctrine is one of the ways in which the devil seeks to change the glory of God into a lie. Those who hold to such false doctrine deny Gods glory. Those who are careless about doctrine and truth are careless about Gods glory. The chief reason why the true child of God confesses, promotes, and defends the truth of God is his desire to magnify the name of God and to declare His praises. If the Christian is truly devoted to the glory of God, he is prepared to suffer shame and persecution, the dishonor of his own name, in order that the truth of God might be maintained and declared in all of its great glory. He is prepared even to give his own life that the truth of God might be exalted and maintained. This is real devotion to the honor and glory of God. Do we reveal such devotion in our lives?
We show our devotion to the honor and glory of God when we have a great zeal for the preaching of the gospel. God is glorified centrally through the gospel of grace and love in Christ Jesus. The gospel is the power of God whereby He saves His own. Above all, in the gospel is revealed the almighty power and greatness and sovereign mercy of our God. God’s people therefore must give their lives for the preaching of the gospel unto the ends of the earth so that Gods name might be exalted in all the nations of the earth. It was zeal for the gospel and the glory of the name of God that constrained many thousands of missionaries for all the ages of the present dispensation to go forth to suffer great hardship, to endure terrible persecution, and to make large sacrifices of ease and worldly pleasure for the cause of the gospel. Every Christian must have such zeal for the glory of God. He reveals this zeal when he testifies of the gospel with a heart burning with enthusiasm to his family and to his friends and neighbors. Because of devotion to the glory of God, the Christian takes a genuine interest in the church’s work of the preaching of the gospel. He has a profound sense of the fact that this work is the work of the whole church and her every member. He supports that work with prayers and gifts. He seeks also actively to be involved in some aspect of that work.
We show our devotion to the glory of God when we walk in good works. Our Lord said in that beautiful discourse recorded in John 15, in which he uses the allegory of the vine and the branches; “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” The fruit Jesus speaks of there is the fruit of good works. Again in the sermon on the Mount the Lord exhorts us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). God has redeemed us to Himself as a people zealous of good works. The Heidelberg Catechism defines good works as only those which are done out of true faith and performed in accordance with the law of God and for the glory of God. By that definition many things which men imagine are good works fall short and are not good works at all. The child of God does good works not as the Pharisees did—for their own boasting and glory. Many in the church today do good works out of that motive. The child of God does good works in order that God in heaven might be glorified. When the child of God does good works, then the glory of God’s own work in him shines forth.
The true child of God is devoted to the honor and glory of God in all of his daily occupation. This is not something separate, for one particular department of his life. The child of God seeks to glorify God in the common daily course of life. It matters not whether he or she be a farmer, or a laborer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a home maker, or a school teacher, or whatever the case may be. The calling of the child of God is to do all things to the glory of God. The godly wife and mother is devoted to the glory of God when she submits to her husband for the Lord’s sake and serves him in love, when she cares for her children and is a keeper of the house, as God commands her to be. The godly businessman is devoted to the glory of God when he refuses to go along with the corruption that is in the world. He steadfastly maintains the principles of righteousness even if this means great financial loss, because this is more important to him than making money. The godly farmer is devoted to the glory of God when he plants and harvests his crops, acknowledging the God of providence and giving thanks always to Him. May this beautiful trait of godliness be manifest in all of us in whatever we do. Then we shall finally join the chorus in heaven to sing the glorious praises of God forever.