Theme: Grace and Glory
This week’s lessons encourage us with the truth that because God always finishes what he begins, every true believer will receive God’s eternal glory in Christ.
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:10
At the beginning of this study I called attention to the glory that is mentioned in this verse as the Christian’s ultimate destiny and sure hope: “God, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ.” I return to it now, because glory is the obvious place to end a study of the subject of the persevering grace of God. God in grace perseveres with us precisely so that we might be brought to glory.
But glory is a difficult term to define. The Hebrew language has two words for it: kabod, which has the idea of “weight,” therefore of that which has value; and shekinah, which refers to the unapproachable light that surrounds and represents the Deity. In the New Testament the word for glory is doxa, which is used to translate both Hebrew words and embraces both of the Hebrew ideas. All three words are chiefly used of God, as in Psalm 24 which describes God as the King of glory: “Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord Almighty– he is the King of glory” (vv. 9, 10).
The psalm is teaching that God alone is of ultimate weight, worth, or value, and because of that he only is worthy of our highest praise. The problem with glory comes when we realize that the word is also used in connection with our destiny, as in 1 Peter 5. There Peter speaks of our being “called to his eternal glory.” What does that mean? It could mean merely being called to God himself, that is, to God’s presence. But when we look at other relevant Bible passages we see that it means more than this. It means that we shall also share in God’s glory, that we shall be glorified. In other words, it does not refer only to where we will end up as Christians, but also to what we will be and how we will be received when we get there.
In my judgment the most stimulating thing that has been written on glory is an essay by C.S. Lewis, titled “The Weight of Glory.” Quite possibly it is the best thing this brilliant English scholar and Christian apologist ever wrote. Lewis begins by admitting that for many years the idea of glory seemed unattractive to him because he associated it only with fame or luminosity. The first idea seemed wicked. Why should we want to be famous? Isn’t that un-Christian? And as for the second, well, who wants to go around looking like a high powered electric light bulb?
However, as he looked into the matter, Lewis discovered that wanting to receive God’s approval was not at all wicked. He remembered how Jesus said that no one can enter heaven except as a child, and he reflected on how natural and proper it is for a child to be pleased when he or she is praised. There is a wrong way of desiring praise, of course. It occurs when we want praise to come to us rather than to someone else, Moreover, it is always easy for a right desire for praise to slip over into a warped and evil desire and so be harmful. But pursued in the right way, pleasure at being praised is the exact opposite of the pride Lewis had at first thought it signified. It is actually humility of a childlike sort. Since God is our Father, it is right that we should want to please him and be pleased at having pleased him.
This is not due to anything in ourselves. Salvation is God’s work from start to finish. But what Lewis is saying is that for Christians the day will come when we will stand before God, he having persevered with us until the end, and then he shall look upon us and be pleased with what he sees. He will say when he looks at us, “It has all been worthwhile. It was good for me to have sent my Son to die on that cross, suffering the pain, agony, and torment of the crucifixion to save this sinner from his sins. He is what I wanted to make him. He is like my Son. I am satisfied. I am very well pleased.” When we hear that, we will be well pleased too. And far from taking glory to ourselves for what has happened, we will glorify him who has in that way glorified us.
Lewis says that the opposite of glory is to be ignored by God, to be rejected, exiled, and estranged. To be glorified is to be noticed, welcomed, received, acknowledged, and let in. He has this encouragement too:
If we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will
one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendor of the
sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry,
so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are
on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness
and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot
mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are
rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we
shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as
the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory,
or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.
Lewis was a professor of literature, of course, not a theologian, and he freely admits that much of what he has written about glory in his essay is human speculation. But he has captured something of the wonder of what is in store for those who have become the objects of the electing, sanctifying, and persevering grace of God. Isn’t it splendid? And shouldn’t it transform how we look at the experiences we are passing through now?
The English hymn writer W.H. Burleigh thought so. He wrote:
Let us press on, in patient self-denial,
Accept the hardship, shrink not from the loss;
Our portion lies beyond the hour of trial,
Our crown beyond the cross.
What do the biblical words for “glory” mean? How do they differ from common ideas about it?
How is “glory” our ultimate destiny?
Application: In what ways can you instruct others about persevering grace by how you live as one who is pressing onward to this “eternal glory in Christ”?
Further Study: Learn more about God’s keeping power by downloading the free audio message, “The Keeping Power of God”, by James Boice. (Discount applied at checkout.)