As Christians, we know that we have been created and called to glorify God with our lives, to do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). But what does this really mean? What is the glory of God anyway?
As I’ve been doing some personal study on this topic recently, I’ve been struck by the connection I find between the Person of Christ and the glory of God. Really this should not be surprising, but here's a little of what I've been pondering…
In John 17, we find the well-known prayer of Jesus before His arrest and crucifixion. Multiple times in this passage He refers to glorifying the Father. In verse 1, He prays, “Glorify Your Son, so that the Son may glorify You.” How does Jesus glorify the Father? In verse 2 He speaks of giving eternal life to all that the Father had given Him, and eternal life is defined in verse 3 as knowing God and Jesus Christ. In verse 4, Jesus states that He has glorified the Father by completing the work that the Father gave Him to do. The purpose of Jesus’ life and work on earth was to glorify God by making Him known to all who would be saved. Once that work was complete, Jesus could be restored to the glory that He had before the incarnation. Jesus did not become less than God when He became a Man, but He laid aside the independent use of His divine attributes and became fully dependent on the Holy Spirit. Once His work on earth was complete, He would once again be glorified, fully displaying the nature and attributes of God without limitations. Thus the glorification of the Father is directly tied to Christ completing His work on the cross, being exalted to the highest place, and being worshiped as Lord by all men (Phil. 2:9-11).
In John 17:10, Jesus states that He has been glorified in His disciples, and in verse 22 He says, “I have given them the glory You have given Me.” What is this glory? Later in verse 24, Jesus prays that His disciples would be with Him to see His glory which the Father had given Him. In one sense the disciples had already experienced the glory of God, as Jesus was revealing the nature of God to them, and they were glorifying Jesus by making Him known to others and reflecting Him. But they would not fully see or know God’s glory until they were in the presence of Jesus once again, able to experience fully Who He is, and be made fully like Him (1 John 3:2). This is what Jesus prayed for them, and for us!
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul speaks of all who are believers in Christ beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord and being changed into that same image from glory to glory. Only the Holy Spirit can remove the veil from our hearts so that we can see the glory of Jesus, Who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4). The greatest gift of the Gospel is being able to see and savor God’s glory as revealed in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). Jesus said in John 17:3, “this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent – Jesus Christ.”
The more we who are in Christ behold who He is through the mirror of His Word, the more we are transformed into His image, thus having a greater capacity to reflect His glory. In contrast to the fading glory that Moses’ face reflected after His encounter with God, we through the indwelling Spirit can reflect more and more of God’s glory as He changes us more into the image of His Son! Throughout this life, we are seeing and beholding dimly the glory of Christ, and so we reflect His glory dimly, though increasingly so as God continues His work of transforming us into the image of His Son, until one day we will see Him face to face in all of His glory, and then the process of being made like Him will be complete (1 John 3:2)! Because Christ is in us, we have the hope - the guarantee - of future glory, of becoming mature in Christ and made like Him (Phil. 1:6; Col. 1:27-28; Rom. 8:28-30).
Closely connected to 1 Corinthians 3:18, Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 directly links the riches of God’s glory to the believer’s strengthening through the Spirit. As we spend time beholding God’s glory and learning more of Who He is, He transforms us through His Spirit. As we grow in true understanding of the love of Christ and what He has done for us, we are filled with Christ, in Whom is all the fullness of God (Col. 1:19; 2:9), and we are able to bring more glory to God through Christ, which is the ultimate goal of our salvation (Eph. 3:21)!
So, there can be no separation between the glory of God and Christ! Christ is the radiance of the glory of God, because He is the exact representation of the nature of God (Heb. 1:3). My ability to glorify God is directly connected to being in Christ, because being given the Spirit of Christ guarantees that one day I will be made fully like Christ. In this process that we call sanctification, with the end goal being glorification, God is doing the work of making me more like Christ, but I have the responsibility to grow in Christ by continually renewing my mind though the truth of God’s Word and putting on the new nature that has been created like God, in righteousness and purity (Eph. 4:20-24). As I strive to become more like Christ, I will be reflecting more of the nature of God and thus bringing greater glory to Him! And ultimately it is God who is able to keep me from falling and to present me blameless before Him in glory someday (Jude 1:24)! Praise be to God for such a glorious hope that we have in Christ!