Soli Deo Gloria
by John Piper
We use the phrase glory of God so often that it tends to lose its biblical force. But this glory, like the sun, is no less blazing— and no less beneficial—because people ignore it. Yet, God hates to be ignored. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!” (Ps. 50:22). So let’s focus again on the glory of God. What is God’s glory, and how important is it?
What Is the Glory of God?
The glory of God is the holiness of God put on display. That is, it is the infinite worth of God made manifest. Notice how Isaiah shifts from “holy” to “glory”: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). When the holiness of God fills the earth for people to see, it is called glory.
The basic meaning of holy is “separated from the common.” Thus, the holiness of God is His infinite “separation” from all that is common. It is what makes Him the infinite “one of a kind”—like the rarest and most perfect diamond in the world—only there are no other diamond-gods. God’s uniqueness as the only God—His “Godness”— makes Him infinitely valuable, or holy.
In speaking of God’s glory, the Bible assumes that this infinite value has entered creation. It has, as it were, shined. God’s glory is the radiance of His holiness, the out-streaming of His infinite value. And when it streams out, it is seen as beautiful and great. It has both infinite quality and magnitude. So, we may define God’s glory as the beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections.
I say “manifold perfections” because specific aspects of God’s being are said to have glory. For example, we read of “the glory of his grace” (Eph. 1:6) and “the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:9). God Himself is glorious because He is the perfect unity of all His manifold and glorious perfections.
But this definition must be qualified. The Bible also speaks of God’s glory before it is revealed in creation. For example, Jesus prays, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). So I would suggest a definition something like this: God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections.
I am aware that words are poor pointers here. I have replaced one inadequate word—glory—with two inadequate words—beauty and greatness. But God has revealed Himself to us in words like “the glory of God.” Therefore, they are not meaningless.
We must constantly remind ourselves that we are speaking of a glory that is ultimately beyond any comparison in creation. “The glory of God” is how we designate the infinite beauty and the infinite greatness of the Person who was before anything else. This beauty and greatness exist without origin, without comparison, without analogy, without being judged by any external criterion. God’s glory is the all-defining, absolutely original standard of greatness and beauty. All created greatness and beauty comes from it and points to it, but such things do not comprehensively or adequately reproduce it.
“The glory of God” is a way to say that there is an objective, absolute reality to which all human wonder, awe, veneration, praise, honor, acclaim, and worship is pointing. We were made to find our deepest pleasure in admiring the infinitely admirable—the glory of God. This glory is not the psychological projection of unsatisfied human longing onto reality. On the contrary, inconsolable human longing is evidence that we were made for God’s glory.
How Central Is the Glory of God?
The glory of God is the goal of all things (1 Cor. 10:31; Isa. 43:6–7). The great mission of the church is to declare God’s glory among the nations. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Ps. 96:1–3; Ezek. 39:21; Isa. 66:18–19).
What Is Our Hope?
Our ultimate hope is to see God’s glory. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2). God will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). He will “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom. 9:23). Jesus, in all His person and work, is the incarnation and ultimate revelation of the glory of God (John 17:24; Heb. 1:3).
Moreover, we will not only see God’s glory, but we will also, in some sense, share in His glory. “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). “Those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). Hope that is really known and treasured has a decisive effect on our present values, choices, and actions.
Treasuring the Glory of God
Get to know the glory of God. Study the glory of God, the glory of Christ. Study your soul. Know the glories that you are seduced by and why you treasure glories that are not God’s glory.
Study your own soul to know how to make the glories of the world collapse like Dagon in pitiful pieces on the floor of the world’s temples (1 Sam. 5:4). Hunger to see and share in more of the glory of Christ, the image of God.