What is the “Theology of Glory”?
There is an appropriate tension in the relationship between Christians and the world. We serve a Lord who came to bring life abundant (John 10:10), who has overcome the world (John 16:33), who is bringing all things under subjection (Ephesians 1:22), who will see every knee bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father (Philippians 2:10). Jesus is the second Adam succeeding where the first Adam failed, not only in obeying God’s law perfectly, not only atoning for our failure to keep the law, but in fulfilling the dominion mandate. The church, which is the second Eve, or bride of the second Adam, is a help suitable to Jesus in fulfilling that calling. We are in union with Him, bone of His bone. We are to be about the business of pressing the crown rights of King Jesus.
Trouble is, we, like the disciples before us, are often zealous more for our own success, our own power, our own glory than we are for the kingdom. They wanted to know who would be first in the kingdom. We are often much the same. The notion of “the theology of glory” is a means to warn us against this temptation. Rooted in Lutheran thinking, we are reminded that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (II Corinthians 2:10), that the first shall be last and the last first (Matthew 20:16). We are more called to die for our enemies than to kill them, to give freely than to take from them, to turn the other cheek, even to live in peace and quietness with all men, as much as is possible. This, Lutherans wisely call “the theology of the cross.” We are to live lives of sacrifice.
An unbalanced picture on the glory side is found in the prosperity gospel. This heresy teaches that it is God’s will that we all enjoy great health and wealth, that as children of the King we all ought to be living like princes. An unbalanced picture on the cross side is found in the ascetic heresy- don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t touch. Here God’s blessings are frowned upon, seen as a sign of worldliness rather than gifts from God’s hand. Here poverty is seen as a virtue in itself. Worse still this perspective can degenerate to a denial of the reign of Christ over all things.
Our calling is not to pursue our own comfort, far less our own glory. Rather we are called to make known the glory of our King. We are to make visible the invisible kingdom of God. We do this, however, through rather ordinary means. As we work faithfully, rather than claw our way up the financial ladder, as we change diapers, rather than count our gold, as He is exalted and we are laid low, we are not eschewing glory for the cross, but are instead embracing the glory of the cross. We live by dying. We win by losing. We conquer by retreating. We boast in our weakness.
Jesus reigns. But we His subjects are not many wise, not many powerful, not many noble. Therefore let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. The more we manifest Christ and Him crucified, the more we manifest His sovereign reign.