Do All for the Glory of God
Scripture Text: 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1
We are continuing our look at the letter of First Corinthians because of what the letter says about the church. Paul wrote this letter to the church in the city of Corinth after receiving a report of various problems within that church. I have said that from the letter of First Corinthians we can define the church as a group of people called out of the world into fellowship with Jesus Christ to be God’s holy people. There is one thing I left out of that definition – one critical part. In fact, it is something that is true of all creation, of everyone, but more so for the church. It has to do with the purpose of the church (why the church exists) and the mission of the church (what the church should be doing). We have seen that the purpose of the church is to be God’s holy, distinct, people. We have seen that the mission of the church, the Great Commission of the church, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The predominant thing that is true for all creation and more so for the church, the thing we were designed to do, is to bring glory to God.
Chapter ten of First Corinthians is primarily about idolatry. Paul warned the Corinthian church to flee from idolatry, to not replace the worship of the one true God with cheap imitations made by man. Idolatry in Paul’s time was primarily the worship of manmade images that represented false gods. Today, we may replace the one true God with things that we “worship” or give more importance than we do to God – for instance, money, possessions, and even human relationships. Paul’s statement in verse 31 of our passage regarding the glory of God should be understood in light of the overall theme of idolatry. Worshipping God, bringing Him glory, requires a radical, devoted commitment to the one true God. The three points in this message are – Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God. It could really be that simple; but I have broken down as follows:
- The Glory of God is the Ultimate Reason for Everything
- The Glory of God is Connected to the Salvation of His People
- The Glory of God Ought to be Our Strongest Desire
The Glory of God is the Ultimate Reason for Everything
Before I go much further in this message, it may be helpful to understand what glory is? What do we mean when we say glory? Sometimes, we speak of the glory of people, and indeed Scripture occasionally refers to this, such as the glory of kings. In the next chapter, chapter eleven of First Corinthians, Paul refers to the glory of man and the glory of woman. For the sake of today’s message, glory may be defined as one’s splendor, magnificence, and greatness. With God, glory is a description of how magnificent, how valuable, and how great He is. He is God and there is no other.
When defining our relationship with God, some may start with God’s love for us or man’s sinfulness. Certainly, Scripture declares that God loved the world in such a way that He gave His only Son. It also states the while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God’s love and man’s sin are important themes in the Bible and need to be communicated; but, I am afraid that we risk distorting the gospel if we start with man or God’s salvation of man. It is like putting ourselves in the center of the universe. It is like saying the central theme is our condition and the main player is us. I believe history is truly His-Story, not ours! If we do not begin with the magnificent Creator God and His glory, then I believe we risk distorting the message and place more importance on us.
A question we should ask is this: What does God value most? What is the most valuable, most precious, most important thing to Him? Himself! That sounds egotistical. For God to value Himself more than anything, or to esteem Himself more than anyone may sound prideful, arrogant, and overly boastful. Those things would be true if it were anyone other than God. If we thought that way, saying, “Humans am the most important people in the universe,” we would be wrong. God is! Who or what else is God going to value more than Himself? What is there in the whole universe more important, more valuable, more precious than God Himself? Nothing!
God created for His glory. All that exists, exists to bring glory to God. Perhaps that sounds strange, maybe even wrong. If I were to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, and plead with you to turn from your life of sin and place your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you might say I am doing what I should do as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And you would be right. What if, however, I told you that I am preaching the good news, not for your sake, not for your benefit, but for me, for my reputation, to make me look good? What would your response be? You might say I am being selfish. You might say I have the wrong motives, a big ego, or I have just lost my mind. You might be right, if I did that. But what if God said the same thing? Can you imagine God telling us that the reason He saved us, the reason He sent Jesus Christ as our Savior, was primarily for Him? Well, He has. Let’s briefly look at the prophet Ezekiel:
Ezekiel 36:21-23 But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate My holiness before their eyes.
The supreme motivation behind God saving His people is His glory. God values His holy name, His glory, Himself, more than anything, because there is nothing else greater to value than Him. It is not appropriate for people to exalt themselves, for them to say, “Look at me! Look at how important I am.” It is more than appropriate for God to exalt Himself. Who else would we have God exalt? Who else is greater than God? When Paul wrote of glorifying God, it is because there is no one greater to glorify!
The Glory of God is Connected to the Salvation of His People
We might think that if God acts for the sake of His glory, then He does not really love us? How could He love us when He is so preoccupied with Himself? These are good questions and I don’t think I can sufficiently answer them. But it appears that God’s glory and His seeking His own glory is connected to the salvation of His people. I am not saying it is dependent upon it, but it is related, for God is glorious regardless of whether He created or saved His creation. While the ultimate reason God does things is for His glory, His glory is connected to the salvation of mankind. Take for instance the passage from Ezekiel I mentioned previously:
Ezekiel 36:25–27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules.
Though God acts for the sake of His name, He also acts with love and compassion in such a way that His creation benefits from it. Ezekiel prophesied the new heart and new spirit that was made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ. Though God acted for the sake of His good name, for His glory, He acted to save His creation. In speaking about giving glory to God, Paul says the following:
1 Corinthians 10:33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
Jesus Christ was born and died on the cross, receiving from God the Father the wrath that we should have received, for the glory of God. As Ezekiel prophesied, when the Holy Spirit gives our stone hearts new life, when we are born again, then we are able to respond in faith to Jesus Christ. We repent and believe, we are saved, so that we might glorify God. Being in Christ, all our lives are lived to His glory. In eternity we will become like Him and we will praise Him forever. The greatest glory we give to God is recognizing Him as the supreme God of the universe and responding to His grace in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation magnifies God and brings us into fellowship with our glorious Creator and Savior.
The Glory of God Ought to be Strongest Desire
God’s glory demands a response. It evokes praise and adoration of God. When, however, we are dead in our sins, we are not able to give to God the glory due to His name. We are instead under His wrath and curse. The chief way to give God glory is to believe in God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior – to believe in Him for salvation. If God is truly the most valuable, most precious, most excellent thing in the universe, then it stands to reason that he desires His creation to value Him that way and to love Him as such. We ought to respond to God by recognizing Him as the only one worthy of praise and worship. In fact, the ultimate end and purpose of mankind is to glorify God. The church is a group of people called out of the world into fellowship with Jesus Christ to be God’s holy people for the ultimate purpose of bringing glory to God. Everything we do, all that we are, should be to make much of Him. But how do we do that?
John Piper, the Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” How much glory we give to God is related to how satisfied we are in Him, how much we desire Him. Whatever we do, we ought bring glory to God. Our very existence is for the purpose of bringing glory to God. Is giving glory to God simply a matter of doing various things, such as going to church on Sunday? Reading the Bible? Praying? Doing benevolent acts for others? These things are good and indeed we should do them; but do we bring glory to God just by doing these things? I submit that glorifying God, making much of Him, is linked to the desire of our heart. What really motivates us to do something indicates the glory that is intended.
For example: My wife likes to receive flowers. Our local florist has become a frequent acquaintance, especially when I have done something wrong, which seems to be quiet often. But imagine I come home to my wife one day and hand her a bouquet of beautiful red roses. And she says, “Oh, Michael, these flowers are beautiful. Why did you do it?” And I respond, “It was my duty! I am supposed to give you flowers.” Is she going to feel glorified by my action? Is she going to think I have esteemed her greatly? Probably not! Now, imagine I hand her that bouquet of beautiful red roses and she says, “Oh, Michael, these flowers are beautiful. Why did you do it?” And I respond, “Because you are the most precious person in my life. It is my greatest desire and joy to give you these flowers.” The first was done because of duty, because I was thought I should do it. The second was done because my desire was to esteem my wife greater than myself. So it is with God. Our desire, our motivation for doing anything ought to be to bring glory to Him.
Think also about our Christian freedom? Even though we may be free to do something, meaning God has not expressly forbidden something, Paul tells us that it may not be good for us to do it. We should consider how our actions impact others, even if it isn’t a sin to do it. But I challenge you to consider something else. Think about your freedom in this way. Ask yourself whether what you are doing brings glory to God? Does what I am doing magnify God’s name? Does it make much of Him or much of me? While Paul was referring to eating food sacrificed to idols and perhaps the misuse of the Lord’s Supper, Paul includes “whatever you do” for the glory of God:
1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Whatever we do, we ought to do it to make much of God, to make Him our most treasured possession…because He is. When we speak, when we serve, how we act or behave, or what we do with our bodies, we should do it to bring glory to God. In all things, think about how it makes much of God, how it praises Him.
What areas of your life have you not yielded to God? What areas of your life do you do for selfish motives? What things in your life are more important than God? I challenge you to pray and ask God to reveal those areas in your life that you need to give up. Pray for the desire that in all things, in your whole life, that it will be done to the glory of God. That is what we were designed to do. Perhaps, you are here today and all of this sounds very strange to you. Maybe you don’t know where to start. The greatest glory God receives is through one who comes to His Son Jesus Christ, recognizing that he/she cannot do it alone, and yields his/her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior. Repent, turn from sin, and turn to Jesus. Give Him the glory! Give Him your life, and in return you will receive eternal life. Perhaps you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, but have turned from Him and are not glorifying God with your life. Pray for the desire and a renewed strength that in all things you will give glory to Him. He created us for that purpose.
The chorus of the hymn To God Be the Glory says the following: “O come to the Father, though Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory, great things He hath done. Amen!” May it be so!