God calls us to glorify him in all we do. Or perhaps to put it more precisely: One of the great ways God glorifies himself is by calling and enabling us, his people, to glorify him through our holy conduct.
Jonathan Edwards commented:
From time to time [in Scripture], embracing and practicing true religion, and repenting of sin, and turning to holiness, is expressed by glorifying God, as though that were the sum and end of the whole matter.
If Edwards is correct, it suggests that the Christian life at heart is one of glorifying God. And if this is the case, then the specific ways Scripture calls us to glorify God ought to provide important insight on the structure and priorities of that Christian life.
Let’s explore three ways—faith, worship, and humble service—by which Scripture calls us to glorify God.
1. We Glorify God by Our Faith
Since our salvation in Christ comes by faith alone, and since faith is the root from which all of our good works flow, we would expect to find an indelible connection between faith and giving glory to God in all of our conduct.
Two texts, 2 Corinthians 1 and Romans 4, make this connection explicitly.
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul emphasizes that there is one message that he consistently proclaims. He doesn’t say both “yes” and no,” because Jesus Christ whom he proclaims is “not ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ but in him it has always been ‘yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘yes’ in Christ.” He then explains: “And so through him the ‘amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:18–20).
What does Paul mean by this?
He uses some unusual language here that doesn’t appear elsewhere in his epistles, but the meaning is evident. God made many promises to his people, and Christ is their fulfillment—he is the great Yes to God’s promises of old. Paul’s preaching was always yes, because it always pointed to Christ. In this light, our “amen” can be nothing other than the act of faith.
Faith gives its assent and embraces God’s promises in Christ.
When we hear of God’s promises and of Christ their yes, the most basic and fundamental response we can offer is to say “amen”—so let it be. Faith gives its assent and embraces God’s promises in Christ. And how do we utter this amen? We utter it “to the glory of God.” We glorify God by faith in his promises.
The same theme is present in Romans 4. Several times in this great chapter about faith, Paul discusses Abraham. Early in the chapter he quotes Genesis 15:6, when in response to God’s promise that he’d have descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3).
Toward the chapter’s end Paul returns to this incident and reflects on the fact that Abraham was almost 100 years old, and his wife, Sarah, was barren. Abraham had every earthly reason to think God’s promise outrageous, yet “without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead,” and “he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God” (Rom 4:19–20). Instead, Paul explains, he “was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God” (Rom 4:20).
In Romans 4, we see that Abraham gave glory to God precisely through the strong act of faith itself.
As John Murray comments on Romans 4:20:
“Giving glory to God” and “being fully persuaded that what he has promised he is able also to perform” are coordinate and describe the exercises or states of mind which were involved in Abraham’s faith. To give glory to God is to reckon God to be what he is and to rely upon his power and faithfulness.
2. We Glorify God by Our Worship
There is one activity that Scripture associates far more than any other with glorifying God, and that is worship. At its heart, worship ascribes all glory to God alone. We can glorify God in many ways, but Scripture indicates that nothing we do delights God more than calling on his name with sincere hearts and declaring that all glory belongs to him.
There is one activity that Scripture associates far more than any other with glorifying God.
Sometimes people speak of all of life as worship, such that going to work is worship, playing basketball is worship, or practicing the piano is worship. It is indeed proper to honor God in all of our endeavors (1 Cor. 10:31), but worship is a distinct activity in which we set aside other tasks and set our minds and hearts fully on the Lord, in order to receive his Word and to respond back to him with prayer and song—in private, in families, and especially in corporate worship.
In the many biblical texts about worship, the repeated exhortations to call on the Lord, sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, and other similar practices provide abundant evidence that God takes special delight in the distinct activity of worship.
When we declare God’s glory in worship, we have the privilege of echoing and joining the angelic song even now, anticipating the day when our co-worshipers will be visible to our eyes and together, in one great company, we will worship the Lamb who was slain.
And so we begin now, with imperfect hearts and faltering voices, to do what we will do forever: give glory to God in worship.
3. We Glorify God in All We Do
The New Testament clearly exhorts us to glorify God in all of our conduct, especially that which builds up the church, the body of Christ.
The pattern seems to be this: As we believe in Christ to the glory of God and declare his glory in our worship, grateful obedience in all of life flows forth from us unto God’s glory, especially in works of service that bless Christ’s church.
Soli Deo gloria is about God and how he glorifies himself, but one magnificent way God glorifies himself is through glorifying us and enabling us to glorify him.
Perhaps the most sweeping biblical text encouraging us to glorify God in all things is 1 Peter 4:10–11:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, [he] should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, [he] should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised [literally, “glorified”] through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Peter encourages us to use whatever gift we have, with all the strength God gives, to serve others. While he surely did not mean to limit this service to fellow Christians, his focus is on service to our brothers and sisters in Christ, for in the previous verses he commands his readers to love “each other” and to be hospitable “to one another” (1 Pet. 4:8–9). God is glorified by our wholehearted service to others, and especially by our service to fellow believers.
Further, Peter envisions it as a service rendered through suffering, for he goes on immediately to encourage them in their “fiery ordeal” and in suffering insults for Christ’s sake (1 Pet. 4:12–16). Because the Spirit of glory rests upon us (1 Pet. 4:14), we may rejoice insofar as we participate in Christ’s sufferings (1 Pet. 4:13), and may glorify God that we bear the name “Christian” (1 Pet. 4:16).
In this context, Peter says that we should use all of our gifts for serving others, so that God is glorified in everything.
Participating in Soli Deo Gloria
“All saints,” begins Westminster Confession of Faith 26.1, “that are united to Jesus Christ their head by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his . . . glory.”
In light of the Reformation theme of soli Deo gloria and the host of biblical texts that inspired it, the idea that mere creatures participate in this glory may initially strike us as contradictory, and perhaps blasphemous.
But Scripture does indeed say both that all glory belongs to God and that his people share in that glory.
Soli Deo gloria is about God and how he glorifies himself, but one magnificent way God glorifies himself is through glorifying us and enabling us to glorify him through faith, worship, and wholehearted service to him and our neighbors.
What a bounteous God we have who has authored this story of divine glory and invited us to be such a vital part of it—by faith alone, by grace alone, and by Christ alone.