The study of theology must never become an end in itself. The goal of sound doctrine is never to produce people who have full heads but empty hearts and barren lives. The purpose of Reformed theology is never to produce the “frozen chosen.” Instead, the knowledge of God and His truth is intended to lead us to know and worship Him. The teaching of Scripture is given to ignite our hearts with devotion for God and to propel us to live for Him. In short, robust theology must produce vibrant doxology.
We study theology not to be educated for the sake of appearances. Theology is merely a means to the highest end. We study the truth about God to know Him better and to mature us. Theology renews our minds. It ignites our hearts. It elevates our worship. It directs our prayers. It humbles our souls. It enlightens our path. It energizes our walk. It sanctifies our lives. It strengthens our faith. It deepens our passion. It sharpens our ministries. It fortifies our witness. Theology does all this—and much more. Every aspect of this life pursuit brings glory to God.
We are to glorify God in everything we do. Paul writes, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This charge to honor God includes even the study of theology. The Apostle warns, “Knowledge makes arrogant” (8:1, NASB) if it does not lead to loving God and others. We must study “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) ultimately for “the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2). This truth, in turn, will prompt us to give Him the glory due His name.
One important verse makes this truth especially clear. Paul writes: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). This confession concludes Paul’s most profound teaching on God’s salvation of perishing sinners. Paul has expounded the great doctrines of condemnation, justification, sanctification, glorification, and election, and then he bursts forth in this fervent praise to God. Let us carefully consider this doxology and emulate the Apostle’s response of giving glory to God.
This verse begins with three prepositional phrases—“from him and through him and to him”—followed by three all-inclusive words, “are all things” (Rom. 11:36). Here is the most comprehensive sentence ever penned. This is a complete Christian worldview. This is a virtual systematic theology in itself. Here is the story line of the whole Bible in a few words. This is the history of the world in a nutshell. Nothing lies outside the parameters of this triad of phrases. “All things” includes everything in three major areas: creation, history, and salvation.
First, the Apostle writes that all things are “from him.” This points back to eternity past, when God designed His master plan for whatever would come to pass. God is the Author of His eternal purpose (“from him”), which includes everything that will occur. Before the foundation of the world, God designed the blueprint for all creation, including the detailed specifications of the earth (Job 38–39). Further, He drafted His eternal decree that included everything that would take place within time (Isa. 46:8–9). Long ago, God chose His elect (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). He then entrusted them to His Son to secure their salvation (John 6:37). All this pre-planning of creation, history, and salvation is “from him.”
Second, Paul states that all things are “through him.” This means that, within time, God brings to pass “all things” that He planned. He is the Creator who spoke the universe into existence (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6–7) and who continually upholds it by His power (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3). Further, He presides over the affairs of providence, working all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11). He never deviates from His original plan in order to adopt an alternate strategy. Nothing happens, not even the smallest movement, apart from His sovereign purpose (Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:29). Things such as good luck, bad luck, random occurrence, or blind fate are nonexistent. Further, God’s work in the salvation of all His elect is entirely effectual. Working through His Son and the Holy Spirit, God convicts, calls, draws, regenerates, sanctifies, preserves, and glorifies all His chosen ones (John 6:37–40, 44; Rom. 8:29–30).
Third, Paul then writes that “all things” are “to him.” This asserts that God directs everything toward His own glory. The highest purpose of the physical world is to showcase His majesty (Ps. 19:1). All that He orchestrates within history is to demonstrate the greatness of His name (Isa. 48:11). All that He does in salvation to rescue perishing sinners is for the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph. 1:3, 6, 12, 14). Everything has this highest end: soli Deo gloria—for the glory of God alone.
Everything is “from” God, proceeding from His sovereign will in eternity past. Everything is “through” Him, accomplished by His sovereign activity within time. Everything is “to” Him, promoting His sovereign glory for all time. Whatever He planned and predestined, He performs and preserves for His own purpose and pleasure.
Paul then states that it is this transcendent theology—and only this theology—that produces the following doxology: “To him be the glory forever. Amen.” Here, this high doctrine about God leads to our deep devotion to Him. The One who created and controls all things, who converts all His elect, deserves all the praise. No glory belongs to man. Nor should it be divided between God and man. Our jealous God will not share His glory with another (Isa. 42:8).
The word glory (Greek doxa) includes the meaning of “a correct opinion or estimation of someone.” It carries the idea of the reputation someone has. From doxa we derive our English word orthodox, which means a correct belief about something. It came to refer to a high opinion about a notable person of great renown and reputation. It indicates the honor due a person of high standing. The greater the person, the greater he should be revered. In like manner, the more we study theology, the higher our view of God will be. In turn, the more we will praise Him.
The Bible speaks of glory in two different ways that must be distinguished. The first is God’s intrinsic glory. This is the sum and substance of all that God is. This glory represents the whole of His divine being. It includes all the perfections of His divine attributes. This intrinsic glory is forever the same, never increasing or decreasing. From everlasting to everlasting, God is—He “who was and is and who is to come” (Rev. 4:8). We cannot give God intrinsic glory. We cannot add to or take away from who He is.
The Bible also speaks of His ascribed glory. This is the only rightful response to beholding His intrinsic glory. This is the glory we must give to Him. The more we apprehend God’s intrinsic glory, the more we will ascribe glory to Him. The greater our knowledge of God, the greater will be our worship of Him. A high view of God will invoke high praise for Him. The person who grows to know God more deeply will praise Him more fervently.
This glory is to be given to God “forever”—or literally “to the ages.” Paul acknowledges that there will never be a moment in time or eternity when he will not be giving glory to God. This is his present preoccupation, and it will be his driving passion throughout the ages to come. This is the ultimate purpose for which he was created. And it is why we exist. We are to be consumed with living for the glory of God, both now and forever.
We will never cease praising God, because He is immortal and will never come to an end: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17). “Glory” will be “forever” given to Him because He will reign supremely as King throughout the ages to come.
The last word of this verse is Paul’s final affirmation of the theology he has just taught. He concludes, “Amen.” This is a resounding, “It is true.” In other words, “It is right”; “Let it be so”; “Yes!” Theology should produce this fervent response in our hearts. This truth about God should create this one dominant, central theme in life. This must be our greatest heartbeat and strongest passion. This must be our deepest zeal and highest motivation. We must live and die—and then live forever—for the glory of God.
May our study of theology be for the glory of God. May it lead us to give Him the praise that belongs to Him alone. Amen.