Summary: A study of the theme of the glory of God in scripture, with a particular focus on the writings of Paul.
At an Urbana Missions Convention, I remember being provoked to thought by a statement of John R. W. Stott to the effect that the highest motive for the church’s mission in the world was neither obedience to the Great Commission nor concern for those who did not know Christ, but rather zeal for the glory of Christ (a remark reproduced on p. 230 of this book). It didn’t make sense at the time but it has increasingly over the years. In my university work, I walk through hallways with displays of research posters and read news of incredible research being done in a multitude of fields, uncovering the wonders of the creation (only one aspect of God’s glory), yet rarely acknowledging its source. Increasingly I find myself praying and working that these researchers would know and acknowledge and glorify the One who is the source of all these wonders, who has illumined and delights in their research.
This may seem an odd way into a review of The Glory of God and Paul. It is not however, because I sense the same motive behind the writing of these two authors, as John Stott spoke of, to foster in us a zeal for the glory of God in all of the manifold excellencies of that glory. They do so by primarily focusing on the theme of God’s glory in the writings of the apostle Paul, who was certainly captivated by the glory he beheld in the risen Lord.
The work begins though by stepping back and attempting a summary of the “panorama” of God’s glory within which Paul’s writing is set: in major sections of scripture, in relation to key doctrines, at turning points in the biblical story, in different senses of “glory” in scripture (summarized as possessed, purposed, displayed, ascribed, and shared) as intrinsic and extrinsic, in biblical tensions (e.g transcendent and immanent), and in redemptive history. One could spend days just pondering this panoramic presentation!
In the second chapter, the authors turn from panorama to drama, considering the storyline of scripture and how every part of redemptive history reveals glory: the creation, the fall, the working our of redemption and the consummation of God’s purposes. These two chapters set the stage for chapters 3-7 which focus on five major sections of the Pauline corpus:
- Chapter Three: Romans: The Glory of God in salvation
- Chapter Four: 1 Corinthians 15: The Glory of God and the resurrection
- Chapter Five: 2 Corinthians 3-4: The Glory of God and the new covenant
- Chapter Six: Ephesians: The Glory of God and the church
- Chapter Seven: 2 Thessalonians 1: The Glory of God and eschatology
Each chapter identifies multiple themes in the particular text relating to the major theme for the chapter. So much is offered here for reflection that I will only touch on a few personal highlights. In Romans, we see how glory suffuses every aspect of our salvation. I Corinthians 15 reveals the glory of the risen Christ as the second Adam and the glory we will share in Him. The discussion of the church in Ephesians is challenging in that we do not often think of the place of the church in the purpose of God as a showcase of the one new humanity united through the revealed mystery of Christ’s saving work.
The writers then draw all this together in two concluding chapters. In chapter 8, the biblical theologians address systematic theology, showing how the glory of God relates to the areas commonly discussed in systematic theology: God and his Word, humanity and sin, Christ’s person and work, the Holy Spirit and the new covenant, salvation, the church, the future, and ministry (under which the statement by Stott mentioned earlier appears). Finally, the writers turn to the Christian life and how God’s glory bears on love, provision, hope, mystery, boasting (no room for such!) and our worship.
I suspect that for many of us, John Calvin’s statement about our chief end being to glorify and enjoy God forever is just so much pious content without substance either in our thought, worship, or daily life. Likely, this follows from lack of instruction and personal reflection in a culture focused on “how to’s” and getting God to work for us, or at times simply a list of “ought to’s.” This work certainly represents one place to begin, by taking us into scripture, focusing on the many ways God’s glory shines through every aspect of life, inviting us from hum-drum workaday to wonder and worship and the mission of showcasing that glory to the world.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.