The Primacy of Divine Glory
“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”- Isaiah 42:8
One of the most basic distinctions we make in considering the doctrine of God is between the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God. Communicable attributes are those divine attributes that can be shared in some way with human beings. For example, God can love and show mercy, and humans can show love and mercy as well. There is a similarity, though not an identity, between human love and divine love. Incommunicable attributes, on the other hand, are divine attributes that cannot be shared in some way with human beings. Divine eternity and self-existence are wholly unique to God, for, unlike human beings, God has no beginning and He depends on nothing outside Himself for His existence.
When it comes to the divine attribute of glory, we see in Scripture that human beings can in some ways reflect the Lord’s glory. First Corinthians 11:7, for instance, describes man as the “glory of God.” Yet God’s glory is incommunicable in some respects. This is what Isaiah 42:8 teaches us when it tells us that our Creator will give His glory to nothing and to no one else.
The context of Isaiah 42:8 has to do with salvation, for in verses 1–7, the Lord speaks of His working justice for His people, His opening of the eyes of the blind, and His freeing of His people from bondage. The glory that is revealed in God’s work of salvation He will not share with others. It is His and His alone, and any attempt to take away from that glory by giving sinners a meritorious role in their salvation is a grave sin against the Lord.
Moreover, that God will not share His glory in salvation with others indicates the primary purpose of salvation. It would be easy for us to think that the chief aim of God in our redemption is our restoration. While the Lord is certainly seeking the restoration of His people in salvation, His chief goal and impetus in saving sinners is His own glory. He will not share this glory in salvation, so it must be precious to Him above all else.
If God’s highest aim is the furtherance of His own inherent glory—and ultimately, everything He does is for His own glory—then that must be our aim as well. Our entire lives must be spent working to make much of His name, not our own. No other goal of ours should be greater than to see the Lord’s glory magnified and proclaimed everywhere. To be a true servant of God is to seek His glory.
Jesus tells us that God bestows a certain kind of glory on us in salvation (John 17:22), but this is not the kind of inherent divine glory that Isaiah is talking about. There is a glory that belongs to God alone, that existed before all things, and that is the reason for all things. We are called to point our friends and family to that glory by what we say and by what we do.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 10:31