Archives For Glory of God

I’ve really enjoyed the recent weeks of devotional study in the gospel of John. As I studied the book on a macroscopic level, I noticed a triperspectival structure to the book, especially in three sequential themes. For those new to triperspectivalism, bear with me while I try to explain.

In simplest terms, triperspectivalism is three (tri) perspectives (perspectivalism) most commonly understood in terms of (1) knowledge (epistemology), viz. normative, existential, and situational; (2) the offices of Christ (Christology), viz., prophet, priest, and king; or (3) practically speaking, the common three-pronged approach to the Christian experience in head, heart, and hands.


I find triperspectivalism in the Gospel of John with three word themes: “Glory”, “Believe”, and “Follow/Keep”. John makes it clear in John 20:30-31 there is an intentional purpose to the structure of His book (built around “signs”). The signs are glimpses of the glory Christ. They are windows which unveil the true identity of Jesus as Messiah, God’s Son. The purpose of God revealing His glory in Christ is so that sinners would believe. Bringing his book to conclusion, John writes:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)

Signs were performed for the purpose of creating faith. Faith born in the heart of sinners brings life in the name of Jesus. When we see the first “sign” Jesus performed turning the water into wine, John’s commentary confirms this very purpose. In John 2:11, John writes:

This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

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Glory-Begetting Belief

Tim Brister —  September 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some reflections on John 11 and the relationship of God’s glory and God’s love. There is another connection to highlight, namely God’s glory and saving faith.

Jesus was quite transparent with his disciples. In what seems like a contradiction, Jesus both weeps over the death of Lazarus because of His love for him and at the same time is glad that he was not there to heal him of his illness.  Why was he glad? Certainly it is not so that he could get blamed for failing to show up on time which happened by Martha (v. 21), Mary (v. 32), and the Jews (v. 37). Jesus’ reasoning was clear – “so that you may believe.”

Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus is passionate about strengthening the faith of His disciples and producing saving faith in unbelievers through His many “signs” (miraculous acts unveiling His identity as the Messiah). As He prayed to the Father, Jesus said, “I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe you sent me” (v. 42). What happened as a result of Jesus bringing a dead man back to life after four days in the tomb? “Many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him” (v. 45). Seeing the glory of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ produced faith in the sinner’s heart.

This was a reality the religious leaders could not ignore. They knew the more Jesus performed these “many signs” (thus revealing His glory), the more sinners would be saved by faith in him. They confessed, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him” (v. 48). The religious leaders knew this, but sometimes I wonder if we really believe this. Do we really believe the glory of God seen through the person and work of Jesus Christ produces saving faith in raising sinners from death to life?

For Lazarus, the story did not end with linen strips removed and the stench of death gone. In the next chapter, the formerly dead man is sharing a meal with Jesus. John wrote that “large crowds” came not only to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus. When you become a trophy of God’s triumphant power, you will face the onslaught of the enemy and be a powerful display of God’s amazing grace. This is what happened with Lazarus. Not because of anything he had done, but specifically because of what Jesus did in and through him, the religious leaders were seeking to kill him (formerly a dead man), and at the same time, “on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (12:9-10).

When the glory of God is on display in your life, you should not expect anything else. When Jesus is seen and savored, the devil will do everything to destroy this miraculous work of glory-begotten belief in God. When Jesus is seen and savored, the glory of God will be seen by others and saving faith will be born in their hearts as they come to savor the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

That’s what I want. I long for it to be a commentary of my life that “on account of him many were going away and believing in Jesus.” But I realize if this happens, it will happen only because the glory of God had been seen through the transforming work of the Jesus in my life.

Lord, may my life require a gospel explanation for the change you’ve wrought in me,
and may your miracle-working power open blind eyes to see your glory and believe.

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In my reading of John 11 this morning, this phrase just landed on me. Mary and Martha appealed to Jesus for help on account of his love for Lazarus. Indeed, Jesus loved him deeply. Twice we read in this account that Jesus was “deeply moved,” and sandwiched between these two references is the simple verse that says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus was not indifferent about the sickness of Lazarus and the sorry of Mary and Martha.

But what strikes me even more, is that though we cannot plumb the depths of Jesus’ love, His commitment to His glory is even deeper.

Both Mary and Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would have not died” (Martha v. 21; Mary v. 32). The implication is, “Jesus you say you love us, and we know that you love Lazarus, but if you really loved him, you would not have let him die.” Jesus’ love was challenged and concluded to be ineffective in meeting their urgent needs. Not only did Jesus’ dear friends question him, but so did several others who said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also kept this man from dying?” (v. 37) Clearly, the charge is that Jesus didn’t love Lazarus like he loved the blind man who he healed. Jesus’ love/compassion and power/authority were not esteemed to say the least.

Jesus was not so concerned about vindicated the depths of His love as much as revealing His glory. This might sound selfish, but actually is the most loving thing Jesus could have done for them. The revelation of His glory in the resurrection of Lazarus was for the purpose that they may believe and be saved. Jesus told his disciples, “for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” Yes, the death of Lazarus was “for the glory of God” (v. 4), but such glory is manifested so that faith might be born in the hearts of unbelieving sinners. For your sake. For your need to believe where there is unbelief. Jesus reminded Martha that “if you believed you would see the glory of God” (v. 40). This is not to say that Lazarus was simply a tool for Jesus’ glorious self-revelation as the resurrection and the life. Jesus deeply love Lazarus and wept over him. Yet, in the depths of his sorrow, Jesus was working a deeper work of glory so that spiritual life might be born in the hearts of those spiritually dead in sin.

Jesus’ mission to reveal His glory and save sinners is undeterred, even in the most emotionally disturbing situations of his life. Jesus is not callous or cold. As John wrote, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v. 5), but Jesus’ passion for His glory was a deeper motivation. This was confirmed when, upon hearing the news of Lazarus serious illness, Jesus chose to delay his arrival rather than hurry along (“he stayed two days longer in the place where he was”). Jesus comes across as an insensitive jerk if you take it out of context. He makes it unmistakably clear that the driving principle of his life was the glory of God revealed through the life and work of the Son of God to the end that sinners might believe and be saved.

Oh that we might know the love of Jesus Christ!
But all the more, oh that we might see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!

In love, God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. Through the life, death, and resurrection God makes this happen. The report from heaven is, “Lord, those whom you love are lost and undone, hopeless and helpless, dead in sin.” And the response is the same. “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” The love of God is profoundly significant and central, but it is not ultimate. The glory of God is.

That day when Jesus wept and cried aloud over the death of Lazarus, the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But on that dark day when Jesus was led up to Golgotha to do battle with death and hell, Jesus wept and cried aloud with depths no man has ever known. And every believing sinner who has found resurrected life in the death of Jesus can confidently say, “See how he loved me!” Jesus took my sin sickness and curse of death and carried away that I might know life abundant and everlasting. And it was for our sake Jesus was glad to be there, enduring the cross and despising its shame, that we see the glory of God and believe in Jesus, whose death is our death, and whose life is our life, and whose love is ours to embrace.

For he whom the Lord loved was once dead, but now he is alive by the power of his resurrection.

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Last night, I taught on the nature and purposes of spiritual gifts.  One particular point I tried to elaborate was this: a church passionate about the glory of God will be passionate about the spiritual gifts being exercised in the body.  And here is the reason why.

1.  Christ is glorified in the church (Eph. 3:20)
2.  The Holy Spirit purposes to glorify Jesus (John 16:14)
3.  The Holy Spirit accomplishes this purpose through the gifts He supplies to the church
4.  The sovereign administration (1 Cor. 12:11, 18) and measure (Rom. 12:3) of the spiritual gifts are so that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:11)

We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to do in us what we naturally do not have the ability to do.  And God so wires our gifts that we cannot boast in them or in ourselves.  Rather, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:26-31).  We should consider our gifting the same way we do our calling, for this is God’s design.  We only can boast in the giver of the gift, and the glory is not making us look great but through us the Holy Spirit putting Jesus on display.

A church where the spiritual gifts are missing, ignored, or downplayed cannot be serious about the glory of God. The glory of Christ is seen in the grittiness of believers exercising their God-given abilities for the edification of the church. In God’s kindness, He has equipped every believer with supernatural ability to glorify Jesus, not by our strength, but “by the strength that God supplies” (1 Pet. 4:10), or according to Paul, “with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Col. 1:29).

Every Christian should have a consuming passion to live for the glory of God.  But practically, what does that look like?  How do we live that out in the church?  We should so live and serve in way that “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” And I believe the we go about doing that is by being good stewards of His grace in the free and regular exercise of His gifts.

Simply put, the glory of Christ is seen through the exercising of the gifts of His Spirit in the ministry of the church.

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Romans 3:23 is a verse that man Christians should be familiar with–“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Typically, this verse is spoken to emphasize the universal nature of sin and man’s need for rescue, and rightly so.  But rarely if ever does the last phrase receive much attention.

Sin is described in various ways throughout the Bible, whether iniquity, transgression, lawlessness, or here as “missing the mark.”  The mark is the glory of God.  We were created for it, rather for Him.  God put us on this earth that we might be to the praise of His glory, and yet because of the devastating impact of the Fall and our sinful nature, we exchange the glory of God for the glory of ourselves.  We have each went astray and turned to our own way (Isa. 53:6)–a way manifesting the hidden idolatry of our hearts and vain pursuits of meaningful existence without God.

Sin is what caused us from glorying God outside of Christ and what keeps us from glorifying God when we “in Christ.” Turning from sin and to the living God in a lifestyle of repentance addresses the very thing that prevents us from glorying God (negatively) and is the means by which pursue God in holiness (positively).  Gospel-centered repentance is inherently glorious, because it is in the gospel we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and are changed into His image.  That change is brought about by joyful repentance of having seen and been satisfied by the God you’re called to glorify through genuine transformation of the heart (turning from idols to serve the living God – 1 Thess. 1:9).

When we are given over to sin, we are saying at that moment, “I am more satisfied in ________ than Jesus Christ.  I find my purpose, significance, identity in __________ than Jesus Christ.”  How can our affections which have become weights to pull us down into depths of depravity be transformed into wings which lift us heavenward?  We who have been in “the domain of darkness” need the “light of the gospel” to shine in our hearts to see sin for what it is and to embrace Christ as a great Savior of great sinners.  Meditating on the gospel and preaching it to ourselves are important means of grace to cause our hearts to rejoice in Jesus, being satisfied in all that He is for us, all that He has done in us, and all that He promises to do through us.  Only when we are satisfied more in Jesus than anything in this world will our repentance from sin produce the deep, transforming work that we so desperately need.

All those who love the glory of God must necessarily love the gospel, and all those who passionately embrace the gospel must necessarily respond regularly in a repenting faith in Jesus who died to redeem us from the “futile ways handed down from our forefathers,” not the least of whom is Adam.  When our repentance is gospel-induced, our repentance is driven by a delight in God and the mercies in Christ Jesus rather than mere determination to make behavioral improvements.  Our repentance should be mercy-inspired and fueled by grace, lest our very attempts of repentance prove to be vainglory and yet another expression of just much we indeed fall short.

May the God who grants us repentance be pleased to be glorified in those who, in light of the gospel, are satisfied with His Son and regularly abandon broken cisterns for the well of living water.

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The first of hopefully several excerpts from the PRC paperback of the month, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ by John Bunyan (emphasis mine):

“Oh! the heart-attracting glory that is in Jesus Christ, when he is discovered, to draw those to him that are given to him of the Father; therefore those that come of old, rendered this as the cause of their coming to him: ‘And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14).  And the reason why others come not, but perish in their sins, is for want of a sight of his glory.  ‘If our gospel is hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine upon them’ (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

There is therefore heart-pulling glory in Jesus Christ which, when discovered, draws the man to him; therefore, by ‘shall come to me’, Christ may mean, when his glory is discovered, then they must come, then they shall come to me.

[ . . .] Indeed, the carnal man says, at least in his heart, ‘There is no form or comeliness in Christ; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him’ (Isaiah 53:2); but he lies.  This he speaks, as having never seen him.  But they that stand in his house, and look upon him through the glass of his Word, by the help of his Holy Spirit, they will tell you other things.  ‘But we all,’ say they, ‘with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory’ (2 Cor. 3:18).  They see glory in his person, glory in his undertakings, glory in the merit of his blood, and glory in the perfection of his righteousness; yes, heart-affecting, heart-sweetening, and heart-changing glory!”

 – John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2004), 73-75.

If the Scriptures explain our sinful state as “falling short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and that the gospel is the “glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4), then surely our gospel proclamation must not be on the worthiness of man but the excellencies and glory of Jesus Christ.  If hearts are going to be pulled, affected, sweetened or changed, it will not be by making much of the sinner but by making much of Jesus Christ.  He who is altogether lovely loves the unlovable, and such love is glorious indeed.  May we preach thus and so exult in the God-man who is the radiance of God’s glory (Heb. 1:3). 

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For your consideration:

The Reformed faith provides the strongest and noblest motive for evangelism. Love for unworthy self and love for unlovely man are indeed worthy motives, but neither of these is the ultimate motive. The ultimate, hence the most compelling, motive must be for the altogether adorable God.

The Reformed faith presents the purest and most comprehensive message of evangelism. It emphasizes with unswerving consistency the Scriptural teaching of salvation by the grace of God. On that most significant score it is at complete odds with modernism, but is also surpasses Lutheranism, with its synergistic conception of salvation, and Arminianism, which makes God dependent on man in the personal appropriation of salvation. And it embraces ‘the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27), the seemingly contradictory, yet to the mind of God perfectly harmonious, teachings of particular divine election and universal divine love included.

The Reformed faith proposes the highest aim for evangelism. It is not the salvation of souls. Nor is it the growth of Christ’s church. Nor yet is it the coming of Christ’s kingdom. All those aims of evangelism are important, even of inestimable importance. yet they are but means to the accomplishment of that end for which all things were brought into being and continue to exist, unto which God does all that He does, in which the whole of history will one day culminate, and on which the never-ending ages of eternity will be focused–the glory of God.

In short, the Reformed Christian, of all Christians, ought to be most zealous for evangelism. If he is truly–not just nominally–Reformed, he will be.”

– R.B. Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2002), 184.

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 TEXT: 1 Corinthians 10:31

We must consider the missing key to true church growth.  I want to preach on the topic, “Church Discipline and the Glory of God.”  It all must end there.  What are you going to do for eternity?  You are going to be a trophy of grace for the glory of God.

To glorify God in one sense I think of young married folks–honeymooners.  Sometimes you hear the phrase, Boy, he makes much of her.”  I think that applies here.  Glorifying God is making much of God.  Scripture has revealed to us marvelous things of who he is, and we should make much of His person, His precepts, honoring and obeying His truths; making much of His power, knowing that God is with you in His power; make much of Him in His purposes.  They are impeccable, perfect, and altogether glorious.

I. God is glorified by submission to His Word.  We do not need another expert telling us why God’s Word is not sufficient for His Church.  God has given us a significant and substantive manual for church discipline in the Scriptures.  Always approach it with humility and compassion, and always obey the Word.  We must have a child-like faith, not childish faith as we seek to submit our lives under the authority of God’s Word.

1 Sam. 15:20-24 – Saul did not fully obey God; he thought he could achieve God’s ends by not God’s way

The idolatrous twin towers of the fear of man and selfish ambition plagued Saul, and it is prevalent today.  God is not interested in the church going forward in the ingenuity and whims of man.  God is first and foremost concerned about His glory; therefore, we should do church His way.  In a sense, our church should not be explainable.  People must conclude, “God must be supporting that.”

Two excuses often heard for disobeying God’s command for church discipline:

1.  It will hurt evangelism.  There will not be an end to the glory of God, but there will come a time when evangelism will end.
2.  It’s not compassionate.   To obey is better than sacrifice.  What arrogance to supplant God’s wisdom with our own!

Rom. 16:19 –  what else would you want that to know that your obedience is being made known?

We do not want to be like those in Titus 1:16.

II. God is glorified through church discipline by the magnification of His name in the world.

There was a time in my ministry where I concluded that the world is going to hell, and God does not care about their opinion of Him.  God is deeply concerned about His reputation among the heathen.

Ex. 32:12-14 – God is angry, planning to exterminate the Jews for their obstinate spirit, but Moses intercedes on the basis of God’s name and reputation

God if you exterminate these people, it will hurt your reputation.  So the Lord changed his mind about the harm which he said he would do.  Put that into your sovereignty theory there.  God is bigger than we think he is.  When Moses appealed on the basis of God’s reputation, God changed his mind.

Isaiah 52:5 –  “my named is continually blasphemed all the day long”

Ezekiel 36:20-23 – “they profaned My holy name . . . but I had concern for My holy name”

God is more concerned for His name than He is for you.  And that is right and righteous.  It is not for your sake that God is going to act, but for His name which has been profaned.

1 Cor. 10:31-32 – everything is for the glory of God
Col. 4:5 – conduct yourself with wisdom towards outsiders, because you
1 Tim. 3:7 –  an elder must have a good reputation outside the church
Phil. 2:15 – prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children, above reproach, as lights to the world
Matt. 5:14-16 – you are the light of the world, that God might be glorified in heaven by our good works

Instruction from God whereby we strive, a type of sanctity and holiness, is a must because we bear God’s name.  God is glorified through the faithful exercise of church discipline by the way it magnifies his name in the world.

III. God is glorified through church discipline by the purification of His bride.

There is a kind of corporate sanctification of the bride that God intends as a whole.   There is an interdependency and reciprocal relationship in the body of Christ.  Impurity in the body of Christ is loathsome to God.  I wish our age could grasp a trembling before the holiness of God.  I wish we could gain a hold of the holiness of God in our daily lives.  Are we not like the church of Laodicea today?

The Bible teaches that unrepentant sin is like a malignancy.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  Paul gave a graphic illustration to show the urgency of honor the biblical steps of discipline within the church.

Impurity is a contradiction to our destiny.
Eph. 1:4 – we were predestined to be holy and blameless before Him

It glorifies God, grasps His goals, honors His dignity, pleases His sovereign purposes, to practice church discipline in the church.

IV. God is glorified through church discipline by the restoration of His sheep.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.

You are a wanderer.  We are all wanderers.  I would not put my family in a church where the church would not come after us!  If me or my wife or children wander into sin, I want you to go after us.  The Bible says that the wages of sin is death.  Sin is lethal.

Once a person crosses over from being a repentant believer to being an unrepentant believer, then you have broken the spiritual fellowship of the church.  You have separated yourself from the most vital unity–the unity of the Spirit.  And He is the Holy Spirit.

We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.  Eph. 4:3 – we are to be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Church discipline is maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Church unity is produced by the person and power of the Holy Spirit, and when an unrepentant believer grieves the Spirit, a disunity exists and the breach must be repaired.

Have you ever noticed when we have unfortunately come to the last step of church discipline and voted to remove a member from the church body, there is the sweetest unity when the church is purified.  All of us are humbled to expose ourselves and the sin in our lives.  A unity of the Spirit comes in and a fear of God and hatred for sin.

Gal. 6:1-2 – This is a guideline for restoring a wandering sheep.  The word “brethren” puts a note of compassion in the whole conversation.  Being caught in a sin is running from sin but the sin catches up with him.  No Christian wants to live in sin.  Yet Christians are sometimes caught in sin and need help.   The spiritual man sees the spiritual root issue.  Restoring is like putting a bone back in its joint.  It make take time and be a painful experience, but it is what is necessary for a healthy member of the body.

We do not withdraw ourselves from the sins of others as burdens we should gladly bear.

When a fallen brother humbles himself to receive correction, that humbles God.  The fruit of the Spirit is exhibited–gentleness, compassion, love, etc.  The unity that is repaired glorifies God.  The humility exhibited by the restorer himself glorifies God.

V. God is glorified through church discipline by the multiplication of disciples.

The Israelites under the direction of Joshua conquered Jericho and were told to keep nothing, but Achan kept some of the spoils.  The power of God left and there were defeated at Ai.  Why has the power of God left?

Josh. 7:10-13 – This is not time for prayer–this is time for action!  There is sin in the camp, and it requires immediate action.  God is saying, “Either you judge Achan, or I will judge you.”   Too many things banned by God are in our midst.  We are not faithfully exercising discipline and the power of God is no longer in our midst.

Glorifying God in one way is to make much of Him, and properly exercising church discipline makes much of His person (God is holy, holy, holy); you make much of holiness by contributing to the holiness of His bride.

You make much of His precepts–His truth and His word (Job. 23:12) – I have treasured the words of His mouth more than necessary food.  When we obey Matt. 18, 1 Cor. 5, etc., we show the value of God’s Word to us and bring glory to God.

You make much of His power.  His power is invincible, incapable of being overcome (Jer. 27:5).   God will give power to the one pleasing in His sigh.  Matt. 28:18 – all authority is given to Christ; Matt. 6 – when you follow His Word, God’s invincible power will be with you, that you should not worry about what you will wear, what you will eat; when you stand on the Word of God, you glorify God by showing the world you make much of His power when all hell raises up against you.

You make much of His purposes.   Rev. 5:9 – God is making a people for Himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation; God’s singular purpose is to redeem, purity, preserve, and perfect a people for Himself and His glory.  You make much of that purpose when you faithfully shepherd the flock of God, which means you must practice church discipline.

If you are not tied into the glory of God, you will not make it.  The glory of God has to be the driving passion of your life, that which motivate you when it is difficult, undergird you when you buckle.  The glory of God will keep you till the end.

Personal Commentary:

Jeff Noblit is a pastor who in public and private is “glory of God” driven, and it is evident in His preaching and in the worship of this church.  It sometimes difficult to see the ultimate end and overarching purpose of church discipline when you are working through the details, wrestling through difficult cases, and may even wonder if it is worth it.  Is it worth the pain, difficulty, sleepless nights, personal attacks, being misunderstood, and facing opposition.  But as Noblit has so often said, “The glory of God is worth it.”  It is hard to justify a passion for the glory of God if you are not passionate about the church of God; it is hard to justify a passion for the church if you are not passionate about the purity of the bride and reputation of God’s name.  And this can and must come about when we faithfully live obedient to the Word of God in our lives individually and our churches corporately.  And means that we must be churches that practice church discipline.

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I think this might be my last excerpt on the topic for now. The purpose of these excerpts is to shed some light on the issue raised by Dr. Ben Witherington on whether God is narcissistic and whether a God who is passionate about His glory can be reconciled with John 3:16 (to catch up on the debate, see my compilation of posts). Previous excerpts include John Frame on “God’s Self-Love” and “Intra-Trinitarian Glory” as well as D.A. Carson on “Intra-Trinitarian Love.” Now here is part two from Carson, again on intra-trinitarian love (emphasis mine):


There are texts in which Jesus addresses God as Father in terms of shared experience in eternity past (notably John 17:5: ‘Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’).

It follows, then, that the love of the Father for the Son, and the love of the Son for the Father, which we have been considering, cannot be restricted to the peculiar relationship pertained from the Incarnation on, but is intrinsically intra-Trinitarian.

What we have, then, is a picture of God whose love, even in eternity past, even before the creation of anything, is other-oriented. This cannot be said (for instance) of Allah. Yet because the God of the Bible is one, this plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God. . . . To concede he is something other than the center of all, and rightly to be worshiped and adored, would debase his very Godhood. He is the God who, entirely rightly, does not give his glory to another (Isa. 42:8).

. . . in eternity past, the Father loved the Son, and the Son loved the Father. There has always been an other-orientation to the love of God. All the manifestations of the love of God emerge out of his deeper, more fundamental reality: love is bound up in the very nature of God. God is love.

– D.A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 39.


Carson makes a key point, viz. that the plurality-in-unity does not destroy his entirely appropriate self-focus as God. To believe that God has anyone other himself central and first in his affections would be to say that God values someone or something higher than himself, making him the subject rather than the object of worship. Before creation began, God entirely satisfied in Himself, and that did not change when he created the world. John 3:16 is not irreconcilable with God who does not give his glory to another which answers the challenge/charges brought by BWIII.

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