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Of Him, Through Him, To Him
Part 8 of 8 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in March/April, 1995

Jane Froman was a singer during the Second World War. Her life story was popularized through a full-length motion picture. Miss Froman was seriously injured in a plane crash while en route to entertain our troops. She went through a series of unsuccessful operations. At the same time, she was brokenhearted in her romance. In the midst of those circumstances she recorded a new song. The lyrics seemed to me to issue from the deepest recesses of her being. In anguish she sang, "Why was I born? Why am I living? What have I got? What am I giving?" More than forty years have passed, and I can still see the searching expression on her face and hear her cry for help. Her questions are not new – men have asked them since time immemorial. What is life or living really all about? Should men, like the hedonist, seek pleasure as the highest good? Is it true that "he who dies with the most toys wins"? Or is the view of the stoic, who with stiff upper lip grins and bears life's adversities, the path to follow? Are there rhyme and rhythm, meaning and purpose to man's pilgrim journey? Or, is life simply the rotating of the roulette wheel? Round and round it goes – but where it stops, nobody knows. Must man play the hand he is dealt? Is life, after all, simply blind fatalism?

To these kinds of questions, knowledgeable Bible teachers have a correct and totally satisfying answer, even if for some the answer may sound old-fashioned and "clich?-ish" – "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. " The great apostle Paul, clearly one of the most brilliant thinkers and influential personages of history, in writing of the purpose of life to the Christians in Rome said, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:36). For Paul, all things are of Him. He quite literally spoke the universe into existence. For Paul, all things are through Him. He is the sustainer. By His power all things adhere. If it were not for that sustaining power, the universe would disintegrate. For Paul, all things are to Him. He is the consummator. Only in God can life become a completed and perfect symphony of meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. Only in God do all things have their origin, movement, and consummation.

As creator, sustainer, and consummator of all things, God is to be glorified. But how is God glorified? The psalmist said, "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). But what are the heavens declaring? Both angels and ascended saints are heard to proclaim, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power" (Revelation 4:11). But what is the Lord receiving? At the birth of the Son of God, angelic messengers announced to men on earth, "Glory to God in the highest." But what is it that God is receiving? What is this thing called the glory of God? Since the ultimate purpose for man's existence is to glorify God, then an understanding of what that glory is should be mankind's highest intellectual pursuit, and its outworking his greatest priority.

In anticipation of preparing a sermon on God's glory, I asked some friends to define God's glory for me. I wanted to see how this important term was commonly understood by believers. Some suggested that God received glory through the saving of souls; others quoted verses that made reference to the glory of God, but ventured no definition. A few thought that the glory of God related in some way to the holiness of God. These were vague responses and underscore the fact that the concept of God's glory is difficult for most of us to clearly define. We know that it is important, but there remains vagueness about it. A major theological reference book gave this definition, "God's glory is that which makes Him glorious." That observation really doesn't help much. The principle remains: One cannot define a word by using the word in the definition. Again, the question is asked: Since the purpose for man's existence is to glorify God, what is the glory of God?

The Hebrew root from which the word "glory" (Kabod) is derived means "weighty." That which gives weight to God is His nature and attributes. When the nature and attributes of God are revealed in and by His creation, God is glorified.

I am grateful to a beloved friend, now with the Lord, who many years ago shared a definition of God's glory which has, for me, stood the test of time. "God's glory," he suggested, "is the sum and substance of His intrinsic, eternal perfections." By saying that God's glory is "intrinsic," it is meant that God's glory (whatever it is, for the moment) emanates wholly from within His own being. It is not dependent upon anything external to Himself. We sometimes speak of precious metals and say that they have intrinsic value. Before the artisan shapes the metal into something beautiful, before precious gems are added, we speak of the intrinsic worth of the metal itself. God's glory is intrinsic; it is not dependent on any outside influence. Man can neither add to nor diminish from God's glory. God's glory is intrinsic. It is His and His alone. God has proclaimed, "My glory will I not give to another" (Isaiah 42:8). In saying that God's glory is "eternal," attention is being called to the duration or longevity of God's glory. There was never an instant in the past, nor will there be an instant in the future, when the universe is without God's glory. It has always been, and it will always be. The psalmist wrote, "From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Psalm 90:2). In saying that God's glory is His "perfections," in view are the ingredients that compose the divine Being. These ingredients include His existence, essence, personality, sovereignty, decree, and attributes. These are the words of the theologian, but let's take a closer look at them.

FIRST, there is His divine EXISTENCE.

God is.
God is without beginning and without ending. All things have an origin except God. He alone is uncaused, but is the cause of all else. Think of any beginning, and God was there. A billion years ago – God was there. A trillion years ago – God was there. One of the things which gives God "weight" is His eternal existence. Simply stated, God is. Men were, men are, men will be. Only God is.

SECOND, there is His divine ESSENCE.
God is a spirit Being.
Here the emphasis is not on spirituality, but on God's basic essence. If there is existence, there is substance or essence. Man's essence is corporeal (in human form), mortal, corruptible, a physical substance. In contrast, God's essence is non-corporeal (not in human form), immortal, incorruptible, a spirit substance. God is spirit. Therefore, those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is because God is spirit that Israel was prohibited from making any graven image or likeness of God (Exodus 20:4; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22). What likeness can men give to a spirit essence?

THIRD, there is His divine PERSONALITY.
God is a spirit Being possessing intellect, personality, and will.
God can think, feel, and act. He is not an impersonal force like an "it" or "mother nature" (every believer should despise these kinds of terms), and therefore without any emotional ties to His creation. In marked contrast, God possesses perfect personality. Man was created in the image of God. Not a physical likeness (God is spirit), but with a likeness that gives to man the ability to interact with his Creator with his mind (intellectual), his heart (emotional), and his will (volitional).

FOURTH, there is His divine SOVEREIGNTY.
God is a spirit Being possessing intellect, personality, and will, who does things according to His own good pleasure.
God does not come down in the still of the night, shake someone by the shoulder and say, "I've got a good idea – is it O.K. with you?" Nor does He say, "Let's have a committee meeting and reach a consensus." God does things "according to His own good pleasure" without asking for permission or calling an election. A doctrine, philosophy, or worldview built on any foundation other than that of divine sovereignty will one day crumble and turn to dust. God's will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Mark that fact well, color it red, circle it – but never forget it.

FIFTH, there is His divine DECREE.
God is a spirit Being possessing intellect, personality, and will, who does things according to His own good pleasure, and therefore originates and executes, either actively or permissively, all that comes to pass.
Someone has said, "Aim at nothing, and you will hit it every time. " God doesn't aim at nothing. He has a plan for history. It is His decree. And He is bringing it to pass in every detail – right on schedule. God is never caught by surprise and never has to respond to unanticipated circumstances.

SIXTH, there are His divine ATTRIBUTES.
God is a spirit Being possessing intellect, personality, and will, who does things according to His own good pleasure, and therefore originates and executes, either actively or permissively, all that comes to pass in perfect harmony with His own character.
There are certain things which we know about God. Things which we know about God we attribute to Him. And these things which we attribute to God, the theologian calls God's attributes. Some of the attributes of God can be seen in creation; such things as His existence, wisdom, and power. But the divine attributes are known more fully through God's self-revelation in the Bible. On the basis of that revelation it can, among other things, be said that God is infinite, eternal, immutable (unchangeable), omnipresent (everywhere), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), true, righteous, just, gracious, loving, good, merciful, and faithful. God must always function in perfect harmony with His attributes. Apply infiniteness to God and understand that since He is eternal, He will never end; since God is immutable, His character will never change; since God is omnipresent, His presence will never be absent; since God is omniscient, His wisdom will never diminish; since God is omnipotent, His power will never fail.

While God's glory is intrinsic because it belongs to Him like light and heat belong to the sun, it is the divine plan that His glory be both proclaimed and demonstrated on the stage of planet Earth, through the outworking of human history.

It should not be inferred (as some may be inclined to think) that, because the glory of God is the pinnacle and consummation of all things, God is Himself self-seeking or self-centered. Rather, since God by His very nature seeks the highest and best, and since He is the highest and best, He must bring all things to completion in Himself (Romans 11:36).

Man was created to glorify God. That is accomplished as he allows his life to be an instrument through which the intrinsic, eternal perfections of God are displayed. In light of this truth, the fundamental problem of mankind, from which all else springs, can be summed up quite easily. Social scientists inform us that the most-often-used word in the English language is "I." It should be "He" or "Him". Man is self-centered instead of God-centered. His frame of reference is all wrong. His philosophy, his values, his deeds are all directed toward self-gratification and contrary to his Creator and the purpose for which he was created. It all goes back to the Garden of Eden where Satan said to the parents of all of humanity, "In the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).

It was God who breathed into man the breath of life so that man became a living soul. For those from among humanity who know and seek to submit to the will of God, there is perfect peace, joy unspeakable, and highest destiny. For those who reject the will of God, there is only distress and eternal anguish.

But now, back to an earlier quotation: "The heavens declare the glory of God." In what way do the heavens declare God's glory? First, they reveal His existence – creation requires a creator. Second, they reveal His wisdom – design requires a designer. Third, they reveal His power – movement requires a mover. And fourth, since the universe is endless, the heavens reveal God's infiniteness. The more pure science advances, the more its discoveries testify of God's existence. Evolution, on the other hand, is the product of irrational pride.

The gaze of man, however, should be centered not so much on the heavens above – but on the earth below. For on this planet, the fullest manifestation of the glory of God is to be seen. The heavens may reveal His existence, wisdom, power, and infiniteness – but His holiness, justice, love, mercy, goodness, and faithfulness are proclaimed and experienced on earth.

It was the holiness of God from which Adam and Eve fled after sinning in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). And in the clothing of the first couple, the skin of animals, the justice of God was exhibited (Genesis 3:21). Blood had to be shed – one had to take the place of another – punishment had to be meted out. God could only forgive sin on the basis of His justice. The entrance of sin through the permissive will of God (God is not the author of sin) and man's direct disobedience was essential if certain of the divine attributes such as holiness, justice, mercy, long-suffering, and grace were to be displayed.

Moses was about to climb Mount Sinai for the second time. He had already been on top of the mountain once to receive the Ten Commandments. But many within Israel had sinned during the absence of Moses, and the tablets of the Law were broken. God commanded Moses to ascend the mountain a second time. Moses was tired. He needed a fresh glimpse of God – a renewing in the inward man. He requested, "Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight" (Exodus 33:13). Moses wanted to know what God was like. He continued, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory" (Exodus 33:18). God told Moses that no man could look on His face and live – to view the fullness of His glory, which included holiness, righteousness, and justice, while still in an unglorified state would mean certain death. But, God placed His servant in the cleft of the rock – He would pass by and let Moses see His back. His non-consuming attributes of mercy, grace, long-suffering, goodness, and truth (Exodus 34:6). Moses needed no more incentive. He would descend from the mount with the reflection of the glory of God on his face, ready for the task ahead (Exodus 34:29).

In time, God chose to dwell among His people and manifest His glory to Israel in the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later in the Temple on Mount Moriah at Jerusalem. This was a self-disclosure of His presence and perfection among His people (Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:11).

In due course, the age of law gave way to the age of grace. The Old Covenant gave way to the New Covenant. A people were called into being called the Church, the body of Christ. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the believer is in a unique position to be a vessel fit for the Master's use. At Calvary, grace and truth kissed. At Calvary, ultimate love was revealed. At Calvary, the holiness of God was eternally propitiated (satisfied). The believer, having experienced those attributes firsthand at the cross, is to reflect the character of his God to the world.

The glory of God has been revealed in creation, in the Garden of Eden, on the face of Moses in connection with the giving of the Law, in the Tabernacle, in the Temple, and in the life of the believer. But, only the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are called by God, "My Glory." He declared, "I will place salvation in Zion for Israel, my glory" (Isaiah 46:13). The fullest reflection of the intrinsic, eternal perfections of God is to be seen in His relationship with Israel. The world has little understood this fundamental truth. God's existence, essence, personality, sovereignty, decree, and attributes are showcased most completely in the election, dispersion, preservation, future restoration, and glorification of His chosen people. For that reason, God calls them "My glory."
See God's dealing with Israel, and you will see His sovereignty.

See God's dealing with Israel, and you will see His power.

See God's dealing with Israel, and you will see His grace.

See God's dealing with Israel, and you will see His long-suffering.

See God's dealing with Israel, and you will see His faithfulness.

See God's dealing with Israel, and you will see His love.

See God's dealing with Israel, and you will see His immutability.
There is, however, one further way whereby God's glory is preeminently seen. The beloved apostle John wrote, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory" (John 1:14). Of course, John was referring to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In this same vein, the apostle Peter said, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). John "beheld," and Peter was an "eyewitness." They were both speaking of the occasion when they were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, and His eternal glory shone out of His humanity (Matthew 17:2). The writer to the Hebrews, speaking of Christ's unsurpassing glory, said that He was the very effulgence (brightness of the glory) of the Father. That is, unlike other manifestations of God's glory, which were mirror-like reflections, Christ was the exact reality and substance of that glory for Jesus was God in flesh (Hebrews 1:3). For that reason, He could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). Men can see the attributes of the invisible Father in the person of the visible Son.

How, then, should the child of God respond to the paramount truth of his Father's glory?

First, he should respond as did the prophet Isaiah who, when confronted with the glory of God, cried out, "Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5). Men only see themselves as they really are when they first see God as He really is. The intrinsic, eternal perfections of God (His glory) is the only platinum yardstick by which to measure life. Here is the absolute standard by which every thought and deed may be appraised. And herein is the bedrock problem of the present hour of history. America has loosed herself from the moorings of God's Word and now finds that she is hopelessly adrift in a broken craft with a storm brewing.

If a man, in his relationship with his wife, fulfilled the purpose for which he was created, he would proclaim and demonstrate God's intrinsic, eternal perfections. He would be holy, just, loving, good, merciful, and long-suffering toward his mate.

In raising a child, doing business, or conducting foreign policy, the same principle applies. In other words, if men fulfilled the purpose for which they were created, the earth would be a paradise. "Ah," someone interjects, "if others did it to me, I would do it in return. If my husband were good to me, I would be good to him. If he were long-suffering with my shortcomings, I would be with his." But, that's precisely the point. God created man to reflect His glory, whatever the circumstances, and no matter how others may respond. It is the exact opposite of "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine." The difficulties of life provide for us the opportunity to show forth the attributes of our God. God loved man while he was unlovely, alienated, and an enemy. It was because of that love that He died for man. How men choose to respond has nothing to do with His action.

Second, he should purpose in his heart to fulfill the design for which he was created. The apostle Paul summed up the entire thrust of this article in a few words: "Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). He said the same thing on another occasion, in a little different way: "For to me to live is Christ [that is, by word and deed to show forth His glory], and to die is gain [to win] " (Philippians 1:21).

Third, the child of God should fall prostrate before the divine wisdom, remembering that "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

The Bible teaches that unregenerate man is an enemy of God and under divine condemnation (Romans 1:1-3:19). By grace through faith in Christ's redemptive work on Calvary, he is justified (Romans 3:20-5:21). As he yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit, he is being sanctified (Romans 6:1-8:27). And one day he is going to be glorified (Romans 8:28-30). God never leaves things half done. What He begins, He finishes. He begins with a condemned man – molds and shapes him, until he is one day conformed to the glory of God. He takes a man who was an enemy and makes him an exalted, eternal son. The apostle Paul put it this way, "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Romans 8:30).

When God completes His work in and through His redeemed child, that child will reflect fully and perfectly his Father's intrinsic, eternal perfections throughout the timeless ages. It is in this potential that the dignity, nobility, and worth of man are to be seen. Jude, the half-brother of the Lord, summed it up this way, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen" (Jude 24-25).

Even a stellar personality like Moses could not, in his unglorified state, look full upon the glory of God and survive. However, when the Lord is finished with His blood-bought sons and daughters, we will be perfected (glorified). Because we will then be "faultless," we will be able to stand in the presence of His glory (and not be consumed) with exceeding joy. Only our wise God and Savior could accomplish that feat. And, therefore, to Him alone "be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever."

Jane Froman asked: "Why was I born? Why am I living? What have I got? What am I giving?" The Bible provides the answer. To humankind has been afforded the incomparable privilege of demonstrating with their lives and proclaiming with their lips the intrinsic, eternal, perfections of God – of glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.

Of Him, Through Him, To Him
Part 8 of 8 Articles

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in March/April, 1995