I want to end our semester in which we’ve looked at the doctrine of God by saying one more thing about the nature and ways of God, namely, that God consistently acts in pursuit of the display, demonstration, and praise of his glory. And when we first hear this, it can be hard to accept, and the reason it’s hard to accept is because we contrast pursuing one’s one glory with love.
So, for example, we say that if you really love someone you’ll seek their good even above your own or their desires being met more than your own. This might manifest itself in giving someone a gift. You sacrifice your time and money to purchase something for them and give it to them knowing that all you have to show for it is less cash. But we do it and even find joy in such acts because we love the person, don’t we?
On the other hand, we say that when we do things in pursuit of our own praise, then, it is unloving. So, if I give you a gift and openly declare that it is so that you’ll see how great I am, then you probably won’t feel loved. Simply put, pursuing our own glory is at odds with loving someone. And that idea of seeking our own being at odds with loving another is not something that we’ve just come up with. It’s actually in the Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 13:5, Paul tells us that love does not seek its own. So, how then we can say that God pursues his own glory and loves us at the same time? That is the question I want to answer this morning.
And I want to tackle this in a few steps. First, I want to show you God’s consistent pursuit of his own glory. Second, I want to show you God’s love for us. Third, I want to propose a definition of what it means to love. And, fourth, I want to show how God’s pursuit of his own glory and his genuine love for us go hand-in-hand. So, let’s start with point one:
God consistently pursues his own glory
Now, the best way to show this is probably just to point you to text after text. And John Piper put together a list of these such verses that I’m not going to reference in full (because there are so many of them), but I am going utilize many of his notes (including categories and references) for this section.1 We see the following in Scripture:
1. God created us for his glory
Isaiah 43:6-7 – “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”
2. God chose us for his glory
Ephesians 1:11-12 – “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”
3. God rescued Israel from Egypt to display his glory and might
Psalm 106:7-8 – “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works . . . Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.”
4. God spared Israel in the wilderness for the glory of his name
Ezekiel 20:14 – “But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.”
5. God restored Israel from exile for the glory of his name
Ezekiel 22-23 – “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicated the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them.”
Isaiah 48:9-11 – “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. . . . For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
6. God sent Jesus so that the nations might glorify God for his mercy
Romans 15:8-9 – “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”
7. Jesus sought the glory of the Father in all things
John 7:18 – “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”
8. Jesus told us to do good works so that God gets glory
Matthew 5:16 – “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
9. Jesus endured his final hours of suffering for God’s glory
John 12:27-28 – “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, same me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’”
10. God instructs us to do everything for his glory
1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
11. Herod is struck dead because he did not give glory to God
Acts 12:23 – “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”
And we could list numerous others (again, refer to John Piper’s list footnoted above). But I think that’s sufficient to show that God consistently pursues his own glory. Yet, we can also affirm God’s love for us. Let me just show you a few texts to confirm that.
God’s love for us
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Romans 5:8 – “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 8:35-39 – “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? . . . For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Galatians 2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Ephesians 3:14-19 – “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father . . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 5:25 – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
And we could reference many others, but this should suffice to ground the reality in Scripture that God loves us.
A definition of love?
Now, love is hard to define in some ways. First Corinthians 13 gives us a good list, reminding us that it both has a commitment toward someone – seeking their greatest good – and a disposition of one’s heart. If you can give your body to be burned for another and yet not have love, then love must include an element of affection. Therefore, I think we’d be safe to say that love is an affection of one’s heart that manifests itself in seeking the utmost good of another.
Can God pursue his own glory and love us?
Let’s then ask the question, “How are God’s pursuit of his own glory and his love for us compatible?” Well, the answer is that they’re compatible because God is infinitely glorious. Let me demonstrate this by using me as an example. If I commanded you to make your life all about me, all people everywhere to glory in me, and did everything I did to honor, demonstrate, and display the glory of me, would that be loving? The answer is obviously that it wouldn’t. But why? The reason why it wouldn’t be glorious is because commanding another to make his or her life about me is asking them to seek something that is not that good.
Imagine if I told you to delight yourself in and make everything in your life about a dry-erase marker. Now, that wouldn’t be a loving command because the glory of a dry-erase marker is quite limited. If I commanded you to delight yourself in and make everything in your life about me, then I’m more glorious than a dry-erase marker, but I am still not that glorious for you to delight yourself in for a lifetime. But now let’s consider God. He is infinitely glorious. So, when he tells us to delight ourselves in and glorify him, then he is commanding us to delight ourselves in something with infinite glory. That is good for us. That seems loving.
Moreover, when you consider that there is nothing else that even remotely declares to God’s glory, then if God were to command us to pursue and delight ourselves in anything other than himself, then he would be commanding us to pursue and delight ourselves in something that is less glorious than himself and, therefore, would not be seeking our utmost good.
For this reason, the only way that God can be said to love us is if he seeks to display, demonstrate, and delight in his own glory and commands us to do the same. The most loving thing God can do is command us to delight ourselves in him and love him more than anything. And praise God, that’s just what he does. Amen.
1 You can find his full reference list at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/seminars/desiring-god-part-1#Foundation.