Which way does God’s glory flow? Back to God? Or out from God?
This is today’s question.
The glory of God’s keeps bouncing around in my mind as I feel out objections to the view I’m often put forward. Why do people so quickly connect God’s glory to other concepts like “honor” and “reputation” and “praise”? Not that any of those are bad when talking about God. I’m just not sure God cares about them as much as some claim or that these concepts are directly connected to the idea of God’s glory.
But 1 Cor. 10:31 was sticking with me when I woke up.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for (or to) the glory of God.
This seems a straightforward proof text that our lives are for God’s glory, for giving God honor and praise. And the next short step is that God is seeking God’s glory at all times, and we are to join him in this work, the work of glorifying God.
Now it is that second step that really bothers me—that God is seeking God’s glory—, but that is another large issue. Let’s just return to this text.
In What Things?
What is the context here?
Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to “flee from idols” (v. 14). He then links this to the Lord’s Table (vv. 15-17). The cup and the bread is a “sharing” or “participation” in the blood and body of Christ. Surely, Paul says, we cannot partake of Christ and partake at the table of idols!
This naturally shifts to a comparison of the sacrifice of Christ and the food sacrificed to idols (vv. 18-22). If we are partaking of the food of Christ then we can’t partake of the food offered to idols.
Paul ends by turning to God’s jealousy (v. 23). This is a common enough theme in the Old Testament. Idol worship provokes God’s jealously because God is like a husband to Israel, but Israel takes the good gifts God has given his bride and offers them to others (to idols). She is cheating on God and God is jeolous (now this is not the time to discuss how God’s jealous and anger—even wrath—fit into all this…that’s also for another time).
So the context for the “do everything” statement is that of idolatry, but also the context of the Eucharist, and the implicit context of temples—God’s are worshipped in temple, but the church is now the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 2:21).
Glory of God
So what does the “glory of God” mean in this context, toward which, or for the purpose of which, we do all things?
Too often we see the flow of “glory” as returning to God, as something “for” God—as if God was in short supply. When we look at glory this way (usually in reference to honor and reputation) then we think of “in all things” or “do everything” being all our work and actions oriented toward bringing or giving honor or esteem to God.
But what if we turned it around, and the flow of glory was outward?
God’s glory most often refers to the visible manifestation of splendor. God’s glory is God’s overwhelmingly majestic presence. God’s glory is something that goes out from God for the amazement and wonder of other, of all creation (and yes, it often is a threat to others, but after Christ—as Paul well knows—God’s glory is not a threat to those in Christ).
With this in mind, to do all things “for or to” God’s glory is to do them so that God’s splendor is manifest to others. When Paul talks about whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols (vv. 23-30) he ends with the concern that “they may be saved” (v. 33).
This is the goal of mission, and the purpose of God’s glory manifest in the world—that they might be saved.
Why we were made
So, if l may be so bold, the purpose of God’s glory—and our purpose for everything we do— is not upward but outward.
And this is what humanity was made for, to be God’s image in the world, the visible, tangible manifestation of God. And when we properly image God (in Christ) then God’s glory is known through us.
Which, returning back to idols, is the main problem. It is not just that humanity is supposed to worship God that makes idolatry so odious. It’s that humanity IS God’s idol in the world. Humanity is the idol that God made to show forth God’s glory in the world.