Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Love or Glory?

This Sunday was Trinity Sunday and I preached on Acts 20:13-38, Paul's address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus. I highlighted the Trinitarian thought undergirding Paul's message and talked about how the two breeds of wolves that we know came into the New Testament church were Judaizers and Nicolaitans. We know that the Judaizers were legalists and the Nicolaitans were libertines. We also have some evidence that the Judaizers became the Ebionites, a Jewish/Christian Unitarian heresy which denies the divinity of the Son. With an explanation that I'm not going to reproduce here, I asserted, and tried to demonstrate that legalism flows from unitarian heresy and libertinism flows from tritheistic heresy.

Then moving into the necessity of Trinity for grace (three persons) and for kingdom obedience (one divine nature/substance) I moved into the meaning of our salvation, being drawn into the life of God (also called entering the family of God) and mentioned that God did not create us out of any need for fellowship (we call this divine self-sufficiency). God created us out of an overflow of the love present in the life of the Trinity itself (thank you Augustine!). By the way, if you want to hear this sermon on the Trinity, you can find it here.

One of the more careful thinkers in our congregation sent me this question. "I had always thought of creation's purpose is to give glory to God. They way I took your statement it seemed to imply that the purpose of creation is to serve as a receptacle of God's love. I wanted to find out if I understood you correctly. Also, if I did understand you I was wondering if you could share some scripture references that teach this doctrine." A great question!

My short response is this:

The short answer is that I don't believe that we can separate God's being motivated by his love and his being motivated by his glory. Since God IS love (1 john 4:16), then an aspect of his glory is his love - just like an aspect of his glory is his holiness, which is also part of what it means for him to be love. When we talk of the "attributes of God," we always have to do so in a way which honors the "simplicity" of God - he is not divisible. This is exactly what the Westminster Confession speaks of when it says that God is "without parts." (WCF 2.1) Not keeping that in view can cause us to play his attributes against one another or diminish one in order to emphasize another. There is no conflict between his creating out of his love and his creating for his own glory. The two are aspects of a single purpose.

God creates us for his own glory - Isaiah 43:7. But Psalm 136 also celebrates his love made manifest in creation with line after line of emphasis that God's creation is a manifestation of his love.

Psalm 107 celebrates God's love which motivates his saving work by ascribing work after work to his love, which is a way of saying that ALL of God's saving acts are motivated by love. But Psalm 50:15 ascribes God's deliverance to, in effect, seeking his own glory. Which is it? It's both. God seeking his glory and God seeking to love are the same thing, seen in two slightly different ways. This is why, in my imperfect sermon on the Trinity (and I truly mean imperfect), I segued into the purpose of God in saving and the law of God in saving. In his love he saves us to being glory to himself because the most loving thing he can do for us is to cause us to glorify him by saving us. Saving us glorifies God.

What do you think?


  1. Of interest (to me, anyway):

    Q. 4. What is God?
    A. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

    The WSC doesn't mention love in the answer to the question of who God is. In the 5 instances of the word "love" occurring in the WSC (per my word-search just now, so I reserve the right to be mistaken), only one of them is about God's love for us (the other four are about our duty to love God), and in that one instance, it is listed only as a "benefit" of justification, adoption, and sanctification.


  2. WOW! That's really DEEP, man!
    Seriously, God's love is as perfect and eternal as His nature. If this is true (and I am inclined to think that it is) then whether we are involved in an act of worship (in whatever form that may come - singing in church, serving the body or community, or choosing to do the right thing at work despite the possibility of ridicule for our faith) OR we are receiving God's love (displayed by the perfect Grace that he bestows on us every moment of every day), God's eternal and perfect Love is manifested.
    I should add that since our power and ability to love God comes from God Himself (a facet of His omnipotence) then it is only God all the time giving Himself glory using the vehicle of His creation.

    I love you Trav! Shoot me an e-mail at either, or I have some ideas to throw by you.