As part of the Reformation in England a Shorter Catechism was completed – a "catechism" being a set of theological questions and answers. And its very first question was this: "Question 1: What is the chief end of man?" And the answer then to be given was as follows: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever." That, they said, is the great purpose of our life on our planet. And those Reformers included biblical verses to justify these answers; and the verse from the Bible to justify the answer to question one, is 1 Corinthians 10.31, which is our subject and theme for this morning. For 1 Corinthians 10.31 says:
"whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
And they would have said, this is one of the most important verses in the whole Bible. For this great aim or objective of "whatever you [are doing], do all to the glory of God" is so vital. So will you open you turn to 1 Corinthians 10. We have reached verse 23 in our Sunday morning studied and we are now to consider verses 23 – 11.1. However, I also want to do something of Bible trawl, something I rarely do! And this morning I just want to address just two simple questions: first, What Really Is The Glory Of God? and, secondly, How Do You Glorify God In Everything?
1. What Is The Glory Of God?
And we need to ask that question not just because the words the "glory of God" are important, but because we use them often in our services. So we need to know what God's glory means. We've already sung the words, "Great Father of glory, pure Father of light." We've already confessed our sins, "to the glory of your name." And we've affirmed in our prayers that "the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever." So what does the "glory of God" mean?
Well, the philosopher Wittgenstein would say the meaning is in the use. Or as John Piper, a pastor theologian in the United States, has said similarly, "defining the meaning of 'glory' is like defining the meaning of 'beauty'." For you can't define beauty like you can define a football – a round spherical object that you inflate and kick around. But you understand something of "beauty" as you see it referred to in life. So you understand something of "God's glory" as you see it, too, referred to in the Bible.
First, then, let's consider the Old Testament and our reading this morning. It is a very famous passage from the prophet Isaiah, where he has a vision of God. He "saw the Lord sitting upon a throne" and above him were seraphim [angelic beings] each with six wings. And in Isaiah 6.3 he says:
"And one called to another and said:
'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of …'"
You might expect these beings to say, "the whole earth is full of his holiness". But they don't say that. They say: "the whole earth is full of his glory". And then we are told (Isaiah 6.4-5):
"And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!'"
So, for the moment bear in mind that God's glory is associated with, or somehow symbolized by, natural phenomena such as earthquakes. But, of course, this is just one aspect of God's glory. For God's glory was revealed progressively but cumulatively over the whole period of Old Testament history and in many different ways.
In the Old Testament it was also associated with his creative work. As Psalm 19 tells us, verse 1:
"The heavens declare the glory of God and sky above proclaims his handiwork."
And it was associated with his redemptive work in freeing his people from captivity in Egypt and his victory over the Egyptians (Exodus 14.18):
"The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I have gained glory over Pharoah, his chariots and his horsemen."
Then in the period in the Wilderness, God's glory was associated with the giving of the law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24.16-17):
"The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel."
And so on - at all the stages of God's revelation there were different manifestations up to the supreme manifestation of his glory in our Lord Jesus Christ.
So this brings us to the New Testament, where we hear, every Christmas, from John's Gospel, chapter 1 verse 14:
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
And Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.4, is equally clear. For he tells us that "the god of this world" (the Devil) …
"… has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God …. (Verse 6) For the God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness" [in the creation] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
And, says Paul, in his letter to the Romans, we really need to understand the breadth (if I may put it that way) of the glory of God. For it is essential for understanding the nature of sin from which Jesus Christ came to save us. So in Romans 3.23 he defines sin like this: "All have sinned and fall short of … " what? He doesn't say, all fall short of "the law of God." He doesn't say, all fall short of "the example of Christ." But he says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Finally, there is the revelation of God's glory at the end of history in Christ's second coming and what follows. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25.31:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne."
And that is for judgement. So God's glory has a judgemental aspect. But beyond that there will be the wonderful ultimate establishment of the heavenly kingdom with what is called the new …
"… Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God" (Revelation 21.11).
And Revelation 21.23-26 goes on:
"And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it ... They will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations."
So how do we pull all these threads together; for there is so much to God's glory. The clue, surely, is in our reading from Isaiah, where those Angelic beings say to one another:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory"
There glory fundamentally is associated with God's holiness. It seems like the other side of the coin to God's holiness. But what is God's holiness?
Answer: God's holiness, as taught in the Bible, is what distinguishes him from everyone and everything else. For he is utterly unique and utterly perfect. His holiness is seen in answer to the child's question, "who made God?" For the answer is that God never needed to be made, because he was always there. God's self-existence is taught throughout the Bible. For example the Psalmist taught – referring to the earth and the heavens:
"They will perish, but you [my God] will remain; they will all wear out like a garment … but you are the same, and your years have no end" (Psalm 102.26-27).
And Jesus taught that God is simply alive in himself (John 5.26):
"As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself."
Perhaps someone has come in this morning, and find it amazing that we are spending time thinking about the word "glory". But that is because all this is the number one fact of our existence in 2019. We all are living in the context of God's glory which is the reflection of his nature, which is utterly holy. For what is ultimate is not inanimate nature. What is ultimate is "one living and true God" (to quote the 39 Articles of the Church of England), who is personal; and who, says Jesus, we should call "Father". And we can believe Jesus because he "was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father" (Romans 6.4).
So holiness refers to all that puts God, who is one God in three Persons, in a class of his own in terms of power and goodness. It is his utterly unique and perfectly divine essence. And his glory is the making visible of that holiness.
So God's glory is at work in creation, in nature and in the history of his people. It is expressed supremely in the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and reign of Jesus. And it has as its goal the enjoyment of this glory by human beings in that new creation at the end of history.
And in the meantime God wants men and women to live for his glory. And this isn't vain or wrongly self-seeking on the part of God. That is because God's glory is so good and life-giving. For he is the God of all grace and all merciful. So he wants the best for you and me. And we experience and enjoy that by doing all for God's glory.
2. How Do You Glorify God In Everything?
The simple answer is that we should seek to live godly lives, as we seek to resist all that is sinful. But what is sinful? As we seen, it is all that falls short of the glory of God. So the sins that Christ died for, are not just personal sins that all admit are sins. Of course, we need to be forgiven for those. But they include the failure to have that big picture of the God of glory, that Isaiah was given, and to fail to trust him and commit
ourselves to him accordingly.
After Paul was writing about the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 4.6, he immediately says this in verse 7:
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."
And he goes on to say that some Christians may have hard lives, verse 8:
"afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed [as he experienced]. always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
But then he says in verse 16
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
So failing to have a vision of God's glory and, if you trust him, of God's glorious future for you, can lead to losing heart when life is hard. And, vice-versa, when you have as Paul had a vision of that "eternal weight of glory", you do not lose heart. Certainly all that was true of Abraham – and his faith – his justifying faith that put him right with God. God had promised him an heir, but he was old and his wife was past the menopause – but, in Romans 4.19-22 we read this:
"He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was 'counted to him as righteousness'."
So who is going through a particularly hard time at the moment? Well, remember what Paul goes on to say in Romans 8.18:
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."
And then Romans 8.28 says:
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
But then he goes on like this in verse 29:
"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."
So the gospel doesn't end with justification. It is about glorification as well – fully when Christ returns, but progressively as we live for God's glory now. And God's glory is creation-wide. And there is now "bondage to corruption," says Paul, in that creation as evidenced in the wider human world. So God's people who seek to do all to the glory of God in teaching, in social work, in health and so forth, can make a difference and attack that corruption, and see this as all part of godly living.
But doing all to the glory of God must include humbler actions as Paul has just been teaching in 1 Corinthians 10. There are black and white things that a wrong and right, Paul's been teaching. In chapter 8 Paul makes it clear you can't take part in a pagan sacrificial meal. But look at verse 23 ff of chapter 10:
" 'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For 'the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.'"
"All things are lawful" was probably a slogan in Corinth – that is why it is in inverted commas. But there is a great deal of freedom Christians have in life. However, when things are not black or white but 'grey', others' good is a priority.
So if a temple sacrificial meal was not on for a Christian, what about a housewife doing her shopping in the Corinthian market? 'Well, she is not to be bothered about the meat's past history - whether it had come from the Temple or not,' says Paul. But what then about an invitation to a pagan's house? Well, verse 27 says:
"If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience."
The same allowance is then made as for meat in the market. But verse 28:
"if someone says to you, 'This has been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience."
So if attention is drawn to the fact that the meat has come from the Temple, you must say, 'I'd rather not have the meat'. For you must not lead your host astray, in thinking that you believed one religion was as good as another. Eating dedicated meat for Paul was OK because such a dedication meant nothing as the gods were not real Gods. But he would do nothing to cause someone else to stumble. That was clearly not "to the glory of God". So how important in every situation we heed Paul's words in verse 24:
"Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour."
And so, verse 32, there must be "giving no offence to Jews [religious people] or to Greeks [more secular people] or to the church of God [other Christians]." So Paul was certainly doing all to the glory of God, when
"trying to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved."
For Paul that never meant compromising on fundamentals, but by trying to imitate Christ as he sought to engage people. So his command to us today is still, verse 11:
"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."