Today's Broadcast

Glory to God Alone, Part 2

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Is God getting the glory He rightfully deserves? If not, who is it that is stealing God's glory? In this second part of the message "Glory to God Alone," Dr. Sproul helps us understand some of the different ways we give God's glory to someone other than God.

From the series: God Alone

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Primacy of God's Glory

  2. devotional

    God's Glory Through Man

  3. article

    The Theater of God's Glory

The Primacy of God's Glory

Fallen human beings are perpetually tempted to deny the one true God, and we do so in many ways. Some people make idols out of created things and worship them instead of the Lord (Rom. 1:18–32). Others exalt themselves above our Creator, believing themselves to be gods in their own right or thinking that God does His work primarily for their sake, not His own (Isa. 14:12–20; 43:25). But everyone has followed our first parents' example in trusting the Enemy's lies and not God's Word (Gen. 3:1–7; Rom. 3:23).

The community of Israelites and Judahites in exile was no different. Despite the promises made to Moses (Lev. 26:40–45; Deut. 30:1–10), the exiles had a hard time believing that the Lord would restore His repentant people, as Isaiah foresaw. We know this to be true because Isaiah 40–66 consistently declares Yahweh's strength and faithfulness. Today's passage makes a similar declaration.

Isaiah knew the exiles, who would live about two hundred years after his time, would continue in the sins that led to their captivity. The core failure would be a lack of faith manifesting itself in hypocrisy. Isaiah 48:1–2 charges the exilic community with confessing "the God of Israel, but not in truth or right." Isaiah knew that most exiles would still be drawing near to the Lord with their lips while having hearts far from Him (29:13).

The Lord could have been done with this people, but Isaiah foresaw that He would graciously continue to reveal Himself to Jacob's offspring. Isaiah 45:3–8 contains an extended apologetic as to why the exiles of Judah and Israel should trust God—because He is the one true God, which fact He proved by declaring the future perfectly before it came to pass. The goal of predictive prophecy, said the Lord to His people, was to show them that He was the only God, because images of metal could not foresee what was ahead (vv. 3–5). But Yahweh did, and because His words had come true in the past, the exiles should always trust Him for their future (vv. 6–8).

At the end of the day, however, the Lord's continuing work among His people was not for their sake but His own. He was refining but not destroying them to preserve His own glory (vv. 9–11). If God were to allow His people to be destroyed, the world could charge Him with being as ineffectual in saving Israel and Judah as the pagan deities were in saving their devotees. This could not be, for it would obscure His glory.

God's Glory Through Man

Yesterday we looked briefly at the portion of the Lord's Prayer that ascribes the kingdom, the power, and the glory to God alone. Before moving to the last word of the prayer—"amen"—and the final question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, we are going to look at the subject of our Creator's glory more closely. Dr. R.C. Sproul will help us examine what Scripture says about the glory of God as we base our next week of studies on his lectures from Ligonier Ministries' 2003 National Conference The Power and the Glory.

We begin our look at God's glory by noting the close tie that the Bible makes between the glory of the Lord and human beings. Reformed theology has long emphasized that the mission of humanity is to live coram Deo—before God in submission to His Word, doing all things to the glory of the Lord. This understanding is grounded in the first chapter of Genesis, which describes our creation in the image of God. As we consider the account of the six days of creation, we notice that there is a building crescendo of significance from day one through day six. The Almighty creates a planet fit for habitation and then, over successive days, adds creatures that are increasingly complex in their intelligence and abilities (Gen. 1:1–25). Finally, on day six, God makes man and woman in His image. The crowning jewel of our Lord's creation, human beings, with their minds and wills, are uniquely able to know and magnify the glory of God (vv. 26–31).

However, though the creation of man was a high point of God's creative activity, we find the real goal of the Lord's work on day seven. Genesis 2:1–3 tells us that on the seventh day, God rested from His original work of creation (though He remains active today in sustaining His creation; see Heb. 1:3). Moreover, the Lord hallowed the seventh day, setting it apart as holy. His creation was not finished until there was sanctified space and time. As magnificent as we are as God's creatures, our creation was not the final goal of our Lord. The final goal was a holy day for creatures who were made to be holy and to glorify the Lord (Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48). Being made in God's image and reflecting His holiness is to be our supreme aim, and when we do so, the Lord's glory shines brightly in us.

The Theater of God's Glory

David Hall

Ever since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze. …And since the glory of his power and wisdom shine more brightly above, heaven is often called his palace. Yet…wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory.” (Institutes, 1.5.1)

From the Institutes’ preface, John Calvin portrayed the human condition as “naked of all virtue,” enslaved, blind, and weak. The purpose of this depiction was to preclude all occasion for self-glorying and give all glory to God. Human beings, thought Calvin, should be stripped of “vainglory” to “learn to glory in the Lord.”

Five centuries after Calvin’s birth, John Piper suggests that a fitting symbolic banner over Calvin’s work could be: “Zeal to illustrate the glory of God.” Whether in life or on his deathbed, Calvin professed to propound only “what I esteemed to be for the glory of God.”

At the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth, not only is Calvinism’s essence tied to “passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God,” but at his 400th anniversary Princeton giant Benjamin Warfield summarized, “No man ever had a profounder sense of God than [Calvin].” Whether it is “this relentless orientation on the glory of God” (Piper), or the “all-embracing slogan of the Reformed faith: the work of grace in the sinner as a mirror for the glory of God” (Vos), or Calvin’s own words, the glory of God distills the meaning of Calvin’s message.

Calvin described this world, moved by God’s providence, as theatrum gloriae. For him, every aspect of life from work to worship and from art to technology bears the potential to glorify God (Institutes, 1.11.12). Creation is depicted as a platform for God’s glory (1.14.20) or a “dazzling theater” (1.5.8; 2.6.1), displaying God’s glorious works. Calvin viewed the first commandment as making it unlawful to steal “even a particle from this glory” (2.8.16). Such comments support Lloyd-Jones’ later claim that for Calvin “the great central and all-important truth was the sovereignty of God and God’s glory.”

James Packer concurs that Calvin’s Christianity rested on a vision of God enthroned and reigning majestically: “How often Calvin used the words ‘majesty’ and ‘glory’! How often he dilates on the greatness of God! The passion corresponded to the vision. It was the passion expressed in that great phrase which has become the slogan of Calvinism — soli Deo gloria!” 

While once urging political prudence, Calvin commended to “think carefully and to take God as our president and governor in our elections, and to make our choice with a pure conscience without regard to anything except the honor and glory of God in the security and defense of this republic.”

Warfield well summarized: “The Calvinist is the man who has seen God, and who, having seen God in His glory, is filled on the one hand, with a sense of his own unworthiness to stand in God’s sight as a creature, and much more as a sinner, and on the other hand, with adoring wonder that nevertheless this God is a God who receives sinners.” 

Calvin still shines truth’s floodlight onto God’s theater of glory. 

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