Most Christians are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer because most traditional churches routinely include it in their Sunday services. While I was a local church pastor, I dropped it from our order of service simply because it had become a litany spoken or sung with very little thought to what it meant.
I have written about The Lord’s Prayer before, but in this article, I want to focus on the last phrase, the doxology (a liturgical formula of praise to God), of Matthew 6:13: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” In particular, I want to zoom in on the word ‘glory’ because I believe that we need to grasp the fuller meaning of this divine attribute.
The Missing Doxology
Of the various modern translations of the bible, only the New King James and the Holman’s Christian Standard Bible show the doxology in the main body of the text. The others relegate it to a footnote with the comment that only some early manuscripts include these words. The line taken by most commentators is that the ‘best’ Greek manuscripts do not include the doxology. However, the Codex Washingtonianus, and the Textus Receptus (The Received Text), derived from it, included the doxology. John Chrysostom, a late 3rd century father of the church expanded on the doxology in his writings. Even before that, the Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve) of the late 1st century included a slightly truncated form of the doxology. On these grounds alone, I would certainly include the doxology in the main body of the biblical text, and 1 Chronicles 29:11 adds weight to this: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty.”
Things that Dull the Light of Glory
The Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1646/1647 by a synod of English and Scottish theologians and laymen intending to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland. This catechism still represents the heart of Reformed Theology, and by this, I mean the Calvinism of the last 75 or so years.
Question number One of this catechism is phrased as: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ The answer is then given as, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’. A more modern way of phrasing this as a statement would be ‘The purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’.
For me, this begs the question, “How do we glorify God?” Is it through praising and worshipping him? Obeying him? Testifying to others how glorious God is? It is surely all these things… but it is more. My understanding of God’s purpose for all people is ‘to come to know Jesus; to become like him in this lifetime; and to help others to do likewise’ and I will explain later how I connect this to ‘glorifying God’. This is how we glorify God.
Behind the Reformed statement of the purpose of humanity is, I suspect, an implied contention that we glorify God most by submitting joyfully to his meticulous control of our lives. Of course, this would only be sincere if we believed this core Calvinist doctrine – I don’t. I hold that we glorify God most by knowing him in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and by testifying, through words and lifestyles, to what we have come to know of his glorious nature. God’s glory has more to do with his nature than the manifestation of his presence.
On the Pentecostal/Charismatic end of the spectrum, teachers commonly understand the glory of God as his awesomeness or even as the radiance that issues from him. Yes, God is awe-inspiring and radiant, yet I doubt that this describes the essence of his glorious nature and being.
God’s Glory is Best Displayed in His Goodness
A key scripture that sheds light upon God’s glory is Exodus 33:12-23 which reads:
This account is very well-known and mainly self-explanatory. However, here are two things to think on:
- God’s response to Moses’ request to “show me your glory” was that he would cause all his goodness to pass by. The two words he then used to amplify this were ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion’. Therefore, a central idea here is that God displays his glory to humans through his goodness, mercy, and compassion.
- Human beings cannot fully experience the manifestation of God himself in the physical realm. His appearance is described as ‘the sun shining in all its brilliance’ (Revelation 1:16) and we all know that we cannot look into the physical sun without blinding ourselves. So, in the Exodus account, God spared Moses this sort of damaging experience by covering him up until only the after-glow of his presence was visible. In the heavenly realm, we will be able to meet with God face to face, but we cannot do this in the present physical life: “…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Jesus, the Manifestation of the Glory of God
In this world, we cannot behold God’s glorious presence yet we can ‘see’ him indirectly in his goodness, mercy, and compassion.
However, this has never been enough for material-obsessed humanity, so God incarnated on Earth as Jesus of Nazareth who said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
I have written and spoken on the nature of Jesus so many times, but just in case someone is reading my work for the first time, then just consider the following:
- He is the image of the invisible God… for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. (Colossians 1:16-19)
- For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9)
- In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
So, if we want to know what the glory of God is like we need only look to the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus. There we find wisdom, grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and any other noble quality we may think of. Divine glory in bodily form!
Human Purpose Revisited
Going back to the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s statement that: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’, a bigger and more glorious picture now emerges. To ‘glorify God’ is to contemplate and testify to Jesus’s nature and character. It is also to live out these qualities in our world because our testimony to his glory must surely transcend just words and emotions. To ‘enjoy him forever’ is to enter into a living and eternal relationship with him in this life and the next. From glory to glory!
This is why my theological focus centres on Jesus and why I have promoted Christocentricity and a Jesus-centeredness for over four decades. It is so easy to get lost in an intellectual appreciation for God and a mind-centred witness to our world. It is just as easy to get lost in the emotional and sensory wonder of the manifestation of God’s glory in our world. But, if we look to Jesus then everything falls into place.
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-18)