The Church as the Glory of God

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.”

- John 17:22

Christ, according to His divine nature, is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3). Being fully God (John 1:1), our Savior’s divine nature possesses all of the divine attributes, including the attribute of glory. And given that divine glory can be spoken of, in one sense, as the summation of all God’s attributes, every point at which Christ exercised His divine attributes during His ministry gives us at least a glimpse, by faith, of divine glory.

However, Christ is the glory of God not only according to His divine nature, for in some sense He is the glory of God according to His human nature as well. Consider today’s passage, for example. Jesus speaks of a glory given to Him by the Father that He then shares with believers (John 17:22). Obviously, Jesus cannot be speaking of the inherent divine glory, for only God can possess that glory. No, Jesus is talking about something bestowed on His human nature, which can then be shared with His people because we also possess a human nature. This glory is not identical to the inherent divine glory, but it is so closely related to it that the glory given to us in Christ can also be called God’s glory. John Calvin comments, “Christ is not only the lively image of God, in so far as he is the eternal Word of God, but even on his human nature, which he has in common with us, the likeness of the glory of the Father has been engraved, so as to form his members to the resemblance of it.”

Ultimately, the kind of glory of which we speak is a derived glory, one that is not inherent to humanity but was stamped on all people originally as part of our being made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). This glory was marred in the fall, and it is being restored to its fullness in those who are united to Christ by faith alone (2 Cor. 3:18). The church, then, can be called the glory of God in the sense that God is renewing our image by sharing with us the glory He has given to Christ. As the church fulfills its mission, unbelievers can look at the church and say “God is at work there” (see John 13:34–35). The church reflects the divine glory, and as we grow in Christlikeness, we point others to God, the source of all glory. This must be at least part of what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:14–16 when He calls us the light of the world. As we love one another and enjoy God’s presence in our midst, our light shines before others, and they are directed to the Lord in heaven.

Coram Deo

John Calvin writes, “No one ought to be reckoned among the disciples of Christ, unless we perceive the glory of God impressed on him, as with a seal, by the likeness of Christ.” Do you want to know if you are Christ’s disciple? Look to your life and whether you are growing in Christlikeness. Though we are never perfected in this life, we slowly become more like Christ as we die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 46:13
John 5:30–47
1 Corinthians 11:7
2 Peter 1:3–4

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.