Glorifying God

In Genesis 1:26,28 man who is created by God in his image is saddled with the responsibility of exercising dominion over all his works. Since both man and beast stem from the earth God has made (Gen. 1:24; 2:7), it follows that just as man rules fleshly animals, he is intended to rule his own flesh which also stems from the earth. Intent on finding purpose for his existence, the Psalmist draws the conclusion that man, who is made a little less than God and serves as God’s vice-regent in creation, is crowned with glory and honour (8:5-8). In case we have failed to grasp the importance of this, the author of Hebrews, perhaps following clues in Psalms 103:4 and 21:5, clarifies the issue by explaining that this implies man’s ultimate glorification in the presence of God (Heb. 2:6-13).

The Problem

This prospect of final glory is underscored by Genesis 2:17 where Adam, though threatened with death, is implicitly promised eternal life if he obeys God by keeping his commandment (cf. WCF, 7:2). This, he fails to do and, like all his successors Enoch apart, he meets his end in death (Gen. 5). In other words, man having failed in his prime duty of serving his Creator, comes short of his glory (Rom. 3:23) and dies. As dust he returns to the dust (Gen. 3:19). Throughout the Bible it is made plain that man’s blessing is conditional on his keeping the commandments, especially as revealed in the old covenant. Just as the commandment given to Adam promised life, so does obedience to the law of Moses (Dt. 11:26-28; 15:4-6; 30:15ff.; Isa. 1:19f.; Jer. 21:8, etc.). But Israel, in one sense Adam recapitulated, consistently failed, but most notably at the beginning at Sinai (Ex. 32). His history was one of constant rebellion, ruin, repentance and redemption graphically and repetitiously illustrated in the book of Judges. If glory was his goal, then Israel failed lamentably to attain to it. While he was intended to live to the praise of God’s glory (Isa. 43:7,21, cf. Eph. 1:12), he did the opposite and caused the heathen to blaspheme (Isa. 52:5; Rom. 2:24). He needed, like the rest of the world, someone not only to stand in the breach (cf. Ps. 106:23) but also to repair it (cf. Isa. 58:12). A mediator, a second Adam acting as mankind’s representative, was urgently needed if ever man was to attain to the glory of God. In the fullness of time one came in the person of Christ who epitomised the true Israel.

Man’s Purpose in the NT

As I have already suggested with reference to Hebrews 2, the NT makes plain much that was somewhat obscure in the OT. Paul, for example, is quite clear that man’s calling is to seek for glory, honour and immortality in eternal life (Rom. 2:7,10, cf. 1 Pet. 1:7), but the picture he paints of both heathen and Jew is stark in its depiction of fleshly dominion as opposed to spiritual triumph (Rom. 1:18-3:30; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19, etc.). Peter (esp. 2:2) and Jude graphically follow suit and depict the depths of human sin. If man has received a heavenly call (Phil. 3:14; 1 Thes. 2:12; Heb. 3:1; 1 Pet. 5:10) or a call to glory (Rom. 5:2; 8:18,30; Rom. 9:23; 2 Cor. 4:17; Col. 1:5), we are left in no doubt that it is Christ who is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27; 1 Pet. 5:4). How does this come about? In what way does it become a reality?


If the OT contained hints of a messianic Saviour, it is only with the hindsight gained from reading the NT that we can appreciate his nature as a servant king. Here two points need to be made. First, in the OT, God as King (Ps. 10:16; Isa. 43:15) promised that he himself would save his people. Salvation was exclusively in his gift (Dt. 32:39; Isa. 45:21f.; 42:8; 48:11). Second, since the promise of life and glory originally made in Genesis 1 and 2 was to man, it had to be achieved by man. And since all other men had proved unsuccessful in meeting the divine condition (1 K. 8:46; Ps. 143:2), the Word of God had of necessity to be made man as Jesus, the second Adam (John 1:1-5,14; Heb. 2).

Jesus the Second Adam

It is of vital importance to note that Jesus was the second or last Adam. The word Adam, like Israel or Ephraim (Hos. 11:1-3) can refer either to an individual or to a community. Clearly, as archetypal man, Adam is representative of (though he does not as tradition teaches represent) all mankind according to the flesh (1 Cor. 15:45-49). He was a creature of God who stemmed from the earth. By contrast, Jesus was not a creature (John 1:1-4), but when he took on human or Adamic nature through his mother, God became his Father (Luke 1:35) as he had been of Adam (Luke 3:38). If this had not been the case, then, as is implied in Exodus 32:10, Numbers 14:12 and Deuteronomy 9:14, God would have had to recommence his plan of salvation de novo, wiping clean the slate of all previous history. In clarification of this we might say that, though born in the fullness of time (cf. Gal. 4:4), that is, in mid-history, Jesus recapitulated all previous Adamic history, thereby making possible the salvation of the whole world (cf. 1 John 2:2), even of those who like Abraham (about whom Moses was so desperately concerned, Ex. 32:13) had preceded him (Heb. 11) and in fact whose son he was (cf. Acts 17:30; Rom. 3:25f.; Hebrews 9:15, cf. v.26). Needless to say, the atonement provided for the salvation of all the believing sons of Adam who succeeded him (John 3:16; Heb. 11:39f.).

As a truly incarnate, genuine son of Adam (Heb. 2:14,17), Jesus was given the responsibility of fulfilling the role that the first Adam and all his posterity had lamentably failed to fulfil. All, though like Adam created in embryonic fellowship with God (cf. Eccl. 7:29; Ezek. 28:13-15; Rom. 7:9f.),* to the very last man and woman had sinned (Gen. 8:21; 1 K. 8:46; Ps. 106:6; 143:2; Jer. 3:25; 32:30, etc.), had separated themselves from the tree of life and had rendered themselves incapable of access to God (Gen. 3:22-24). As we have already seen above, in such circumstances a second Adam was indispensably necessary.

Jesus in Action

We are given few details of Jesus’ early life but the basic markers characterising his youth are clearly etched. In other words, his biography is theological and anthropological. We know that he was born of woman (cf. Gal. 4:4) and was hence a true human being. We also know he was circumcised on the eighth day and hence a genuine Israelite. Though as a child he recapitulated the experience of Israel by spending time in Egypt, unlike them (Ezek. 20:8; 23:21) he did not become a slave of sin (cf. John 8:34; Rom 1:18-32). If he was a slave at all, it was as a minor (Gal. 4:1). As he grew and matured, however, he was able to leave behind his heathen experience and at the age of 12 become personally accountable as a son of the commandment (cf. Gal. 4:4) for keeping the law of Moses. From the start he made it clear to his parents to whom he owed obedience according to the law (Luke 2:51) that his prime function was to honour his heavenly Father (Luke 2:49).

Jesus under the Law

Again, as with his “heathen” experience, we are given little information about his life under the law. The reason is perhaps not difficult to fathom: law keeping, as the modern media make plain, is hardly newsworthy or dramatic. If he does no evil, neither does he do any good. As Jesus himself intimated, the law keeper as a servant only does his duty and is not entitled to any reward (Luke 17:10). In general, it is only when we break the law that we figure prominently on the news. In any case, like John the Baptist, Jesus performed no miracles during the period of his minority (Gal. 4:4). It was not until he was baptized that he came to prominence.

The Baptism of Jesus

Jesus’ baptism is of prime importance. First, it marks the end of his stint as a servant under the law. Now he becomes the publicly acknowledged Son of God, the paradigmatic archetype of our adoption. This can only mean that he had kept the letter of the law to perfection and, as man, had reaped the promise of eternal life originally promised to (Gen. 2:17, cf. Ps. 8:5) but forfeited by the first Adam (Gen. 3:22-24). The fact that his Father is well pleased with him can signify nothing less. For the first time in the history of mankind, someone has finally kept the law and received the authority to be acknowledged as a child of God (John 1:12). Of him alone could it truly be said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But there is more involved. Not only is Jesus as man born again from above (John 3:6) and as the Son is in possession of eternal life, he is now bent on fulfilling all righteousness (Mt. 3:15) with a view to achieving the perfection of God himself (Mt. 19:21, cf. 5:48). What does this perfection involve?

The Saviour of the World

In the OT God is pictured variously as the King, Father, Shepherd, Judge, husband and so forth of his sinful people. If it is true that God has loved Israel with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) and is, as we have seen, the only Saviour of his people, then Jesus as man must somehow serve as that Saviour, as Isaiah in particular intimated (ch. 53). He must fulfil both the letter and the spirit of the law (cf. 2 Cor. 3:6). The very purpose of his coming was to serve and not to be served and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). As Shepherd he would lay down his life for his sheep (John 10:11, cf. Ezek. 34:11-16,23). The old covenant which Israel broke had proved a ministry of death; it needed to be replaced with a covenant of life (Heb. 10:9). And Jesus had to inaugurate and establish that covenant (cf. Mt. 26:28, etc.). How did he do it?

Pleasing God

Pleasing God is a basic theme of Scripture. At its lowest level it involves believing in the existence and creatorship of God and seeking to please him (Heb. 11:1-6; cf. Acts 17:27; John 4:23f.; Rom. 2:14-16). So far as the children of Abraham were concerned, it meant believing his promises and walking in reliance before him and being blameless (Gen. 17:2). By and large Abraham himself succeeded in doing this but, as Paul points out, even he fell short and was classified as ‘ungodly’ (Rom. 4:5). Moses, the mediator of the old covenant also failed. While he, like Jeremiah (24:7; 31:31-34), could promise life in the future (Dt. 29:4; 30:6, etc.), he himself as a sinner could not bring it in (cf. Heb. 3:5f.). Even David, Israel’s most illustrious king, was also a failure (cf. Acts 2:29). But Jesus, having kept the law, earned his Father’s praise (Mt. 3:17, cf. 1 John 3:22) and inherited life for himself, made it his mission to please his Father throughout his ministry. He did not please himself (Rom. 15:3) but always did what pleased his Father (John 8:29). According to John his very food was to do his Father’s will (4:34; 5:30). Indeed, this was the purpose of his descent to earth (6:38). And according to the author of Hebrews he who loved righteousness and hated lawlessness (1:9) came to do the will of God in the body that God had prepared for him (10:5). This was preferable to offering sacrifices (Dt. 10:12; Ps. 40:6-8; Mic. 6:6-8), though in his case doing God’s will and offering himself as a sacrifice coincided (Heb. 10:1-10). It is scarcely surprising that before Jesus’ crucifixion God again confirmed the acceptability of his commitment at the transfiguration (Lu. 9:35; 2 Pet. 1:17).

The Crucifixion

Writing to the Romans Paul says that most of us will hardly die for righteous and good people let alone bad ones (5:7), but he adds significantly that God showed his love for us when Christ died for the ungodly or, in other words, he died as an atonement for their sins (Rom. 3:25f.: 1 Pet. 1:19, etc.). If the cross did nothing else, it pleased or glorified God. But the sheer difficulty even for Jesus who was committed to doing his Father’s will in laying down his life for his people is not skated over or blurred in the Scripture (cf. Mt. 26:38f.). Jesus’ fleshly human nature rebelled at the physical and spiritual torment his crucifixion involved (cf. Mt. 26:41). But, such was his concern to finish the work he had been given to do (John 14:31) that, strengthened by the Spirit, he overcame his natural reluctance and submitted. Ultimately, it was not a question of his (human) will but that of God (Mt. 26:39). As Paul put it, he humbled himself, became obedient to death, even death on the cross and as a consequence he was exalted (Phil. 2:8f.). In similar fashion, the author of Hebrews claims that Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered and was thus perfected (5:8f., cf. 2:10).


The author of Hebrews lays great stress on the perfection of Jesus. The implication of his teaching is that Jesus as the second Adam had achieved the perfection of God. We have already seen that Matthew’s gospel had this in view. It may well be asked why. After all, does not Matthew himself indicate that Jesus was the very Son of God from the start of his life on earth? He does indeed (Mt. 1:23). But babies are by nature imperfect (immature, incomplete) and are required to attain to maturity, to full spiritual manhood (cf. Eph. 4:13). As B.B.Warfield once pointed out, Jesus’ development or maturation process was the only normal or proper one that ever occurred. He lived a sinless life as a slave or minor, again as a servant under the law of Moses and finally as a Son (cf. Gal. 4:1-7). To express the issue otherwise, he proved his pedigree as the Son of God by his works (John 5:36; 10:25; 14:11). In him ontology and function coincided until finally on the cross, having accomplished the works the Father had given him to do (John 17:4), he could say, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Thus he achieved perfection, the perfection of God himself (Heb. 3:6; 7:28). This being so, he received as man the right to sit at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2, cf. 2 Cor. 4:6) on the throne of the universe (Mt. 28:18; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 1:6; 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 3:21).

The Glory of Jesus

If the author of Hebrews stresses the perfection of Jesus (though not to the exclusion of his glory, 1:3; 2:9f.; 3:3; 13:21), John emphasizes the latter. First we should note that Jesus was dedicated to glorifying his Father on the earth (7:18; 8:50,54; 13:31f.; 14:13; 15:7f.; 17:1,4, cf. 5:41). And as a consequence of this, God reciprocated by glorifying his Son, first in his works and words (John 2:11; 8:50,54; 11:4), second on the cross (John 12:23), third by his exaltation (John 17:5,24; Acts 2:33,36; Heb. 1:3,13, etc.), fourth by the Spirit (John 16:14) and thus in those who will believe in him by the power of the Spirit (John 16:14, cf. 7:39; 12:16).

It is, however, the glorification of Jesus in his exaltation to the right hand of his Father that is of supreme importance to us as believers, for it proves that man in Jesus has attained to the glory of God which, as we saw, was his (man’s) original calling. Jesus is the pioneer and trail blazer of our own glorification (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 6:20; 12:2), our very hope of glory (Col. 1:27). He was no mere mediator of a breakable and transient law but the guarantor of a new covenant that could not fail (Heb. 7:22). If he had not conquered, then neither could we. But conquer he did, and we conquer in him (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 5:5; Rev. 3:21). Thus, he is uniquely the way the truth and the life (John 14:6), our absolutely indispensable mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) apart from whom there is no access to God (Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Heb. 8:1f.; 9:24) and hence no salvation (Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:11-13). His victory spells victory for all of every tribe, tongue and nation who believe in him (Rev. 7:9f.). For all who with unveiled faces have beheld the glory of the Lord are changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18; Col. 3:10) until eventually they are totally conformed to his image and are themselves glorified (Rom. 8:29f.) as God’s children (Rom. 8:16f., cf. 1 Pet. 4:13).

The Meaning of Glorification

What does our glorification involve? Primarily, it means conformity to the image of God and accessibility to his presence (Eph. 1:18; 3:12; Col. 1:22; 1 Pet. 3:18). After all, at the beginning man was made in the image of God in order that he might attain to his likeness. In the book of Leviticus especially stress is laid on man’s being holy and righteous as God himself is holy and righteous (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2). Jesus, who in Acts is acclaimed as the Holy and Righteous One (3:14, etc.), urges man’s perfection (Mt. 5:48) which implies his own (3:15; 19:21). Then Paul tells us that God’s will is our sanctification (1 Thes. 4:3). And the author of Hebrews informs us that God disciplines us like children so that we may share his holiness (Heb. 12:10) apart from which we shall not see the Lord (12:14). In other words, it is a question of “like Father, like son”: those who are truly God’s children must become like him, “a chip off the old block.” To be glorified we must be like God as Jesus was. Ultimately our goal is not merely to conform to his moral character but to take on his generic nature (1 Pet. 4:6; 2 Pet. 1:4, cf. Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2), that is, to share his glory (Rom. 5:2). John is overwhelmed by the amazing privilege he sees in our becoming the children of God and he associates it with our being like him (1 John 3:1-3). As Paul puts it, our present lowly bodies will resemble Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21). In violent contrast, those who live for earthly things, the satisfaction of their fleshly cravings (cf. Ps. 78:17-31), will be destroyed (Phil. 3:19, cf. Col. 3:1-5). In light of this it is little wonder that we are called to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:20), to make our bodies the vehicle of our spirits. Thus our aim is not to please ourselves (2 Cor. 5:9) but to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, for only this constitutes acceptable worship (Rom. 12:1). While it is true that only Jesus succeeded in doing this to perfection (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:9; 12:2), we in faith and gratitude seek to follow in his steps and take on his image (Rom. 8:29). And if his perfect glorification of his Father resulted in his resurrection, exaltation and glory, so does ours in him (cf. 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14). It is his desire that we should not only live because he lives (John 14:19) but be like him, be where he is (John 12:26; 14:3) and see his glory (John 17:24). Since he has breached the curtain (Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.) as our Saviour and is now a minister in the true tent, we can enter too (Heb. 8:1f.; 9:11,24; 10:21-23; Eph. 2:18; 3:12; 1 Pet. 3:18).

The Universal Command to Repent and Believe

If the message of the Bible from the beginning was that we who are created in the image of God should exercise dominion over creation in order to receive glory (Gen. 1:26,28; Ps. 8:4-8), then, since we all come short of that glory (Rom. 3:23), we are compelled to turn to Christ who alone succeeded (Heb. 2:9f.; Rev. 5:12). Little wonder that God, who never intended that we should save ourselves (Rom. 11:32; Gal. 3:22), has commanded all peoples everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30f.) and put their faith in Christ (1 John 3:23, cf. John 6:29). For in him alone can we gain the crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4, cf. 2 Tim. 4:8; Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10).

From Ground to Glory

In light of Genesis 2:8,15 and Luke 1:35, I am forced to infer that Eden symbolizes the womb of mankind. Since God is said to create in the womb (Job 31:15; Jer. 1:5, etc.), it is blasphemous to argue a la Augustine that babies, even fetuses, are sinful (cf. Rom. 7:9f.; 9:11). If it were true, even Jesus would be sinful. Adam, of course was created in the womb of the earth (Ps. 139:15f., cf. Gen. 2:7), then transferred like seed to Eden (cf. Ps. 139:13; Gen. 2:8) to be nurtured and to reproduce. Thus all men and women in effect go through the same process. They begin life in the earth as flesh (cf. John 1:13; 1 Pet. 1:23) enter an earthly paradise and, on being thrust into the world, undergo testing before finally attaining to the goal of their heavenly paradise (Rev. 2:7; 22:1-5). The (hi)story of mankind extends from ground to glory (cf. Ps. 139:13-16,24; 1 Cor. 15:46), and since God’s plan for the fullness of time was set forth in Christ, he summed up all in himself (Eph. 1:10). Otherwise expressed, Jesus as the second and true Adam (cf. Rom. 5:14) epitomized or encapsulated mankind in himself (Eph. 4:13,15f.). The end, both terminus and goal, of the world is the total reconciliation or the pacification/subjection of all things to God (1 Cor. 15:24-28; Eph. 1:10; Col. 1:20-22, cf. Mt. 28:18; Heb. 2:8).

The Glory of God

God himself is uniquely glorious. He has “weight” or “worthiness”, that is, intrinsic worth, and man’s basic calling from the start was to love him with all his heart, soul and mind (Dt. 6:4) by keeping his commandments (Gen. 2:17, cf. John 14:15,21,23; Rev. 12:17; 14:12, etc.). In Revelation 4:11 (cf. 7:12; 19:1) the twenty-four elders rightly declare that God as the Creator of all things, the ne plus ultra, eternal, perfect and complete, is worthy to receive glory, honour and power (cf. Dan. 4:34f.; Rom. 11:36; 16:27; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16). In John 17:4f., however, Jesus as man’s representative, who has glorified his Father through every phase of his earthly life, prays for his own glorification in his Father’s presence. The rest of the chapter then lays the basis for the progressive glorification of those who believe in him (see espec. verses 22-24, cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6). In Revelation 5 two reasons for the glorification of the Lamb are given: first, he has conquered (5:5), and, second, he has been slain, thereby ransoming people from all the earth for God (Rev. 5:9). Like the Creator himself, he also is considered worthy to receive blessing, honour, and glory (Rev. 5:12). And thus both God and the Lamb are glorified together forever and ever (5:13, cf. 1:6; 6:16; 7:10; 21:23; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 2:11; Heb. 13:20f.; 1 Pet. 4:11). It would appear necessarily to follow from this, as the Shorter Catechism indicates, that our chief end as his creatures is to glorify God, enter his presence (Rev. 7:15; 21:3) and enjoy him forever (Ps. 16:11; 17:15; 36:7-9; Rev. 22:1-5). And this we who have personally come short of his glory (Rom. 3:23) can do through faith* in Christ the Conqueror of the world (Lu. 11:21f.; John 16:33; Rom. 8:31-39; Phil. 2:8-11; Heb. 1:2-4; 2:6-16; 12:1-4; 1 John 3:8; 5:5; Rev. 3:21; 12:11; 17:14; 19:16) and high priest after the order of Melchisedek (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 2:17f.; 4:15f.; 5:7-10; 7:23-25; 8:1f.; 9:24; 1 John 2:1).

* Those who exercise faith in Christ in the book of Revelation keep the commandments and bear witness to his word: 1:2; 12:17; 14:12; 19:10; 20:4. Cf. 22:14 mg.; John 6:29; 8:31; 14:15,21,23; 15:7,10; 1 John 2:4f.; 3:23; 5:2f.. The pattern is essentially the same in the OT: Dt. 7:9-11; 8:2; 11:1; 19:9.