Christ Crucified and God’s Glory

Let me confess that for years when I heard people say at the end of their sermons, or smaller stories and messages, “All glory to God!” I really did not know exactly what they meant. I understood the idea of giving God credit for something, so maybe that much I understood. But beyond that, I did not really get it. I didn’t think I could say it with them, and know what I really meant. To be honest, I feel embarrassed.

Since then, I have learned some stuff, namely, more of the Bible. While I do not think I can easily sum up what any verse is talking about when the Bible mentions God’s glory, there is one thing I have learned about God and His glory, and that is that Christ and him crucified is the blazing center of the revealed glory and beauty of God (I think John Piper may use that phraseology, “blazing center,” so lets give credit where it is due).

Galatians 1:1-5 connects, if you will, the glory of God and the cross of Jesus Christ. Verses 1-5 makes up Paul’s introduction to the churches in Galatia. He begins like this: “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Paul gets right to the core of his letter, and the whole Bible for that matter, when he takes us to Jesus, dying on a cross for our sins, and rising from the dead. Paul immediately begins preaching the gospel to the Galatians, who had begun to doubt whether or not the grace of God was sufficient for their salvation and life with God. Paul wastes no time. He goes right where the Galatians need to go: back to the cross where Jesus shows the immense and inexhaustible love of God for broken, messed up sinners like you and me.

In verse 4, Paul says that the cross of Christ was “according to the will of our God and Father“. Who thought up putting Jesus on the cross? The Jews? Well, yes. The Romans? Well, yes. But ultimately, who thought up putting Jesus on the cross before the Jews and Romans? God. In eternity past, God made a plan, and Jesus voluntarily submitted (is that the right word?) to that plan, to die on a cross for sinners like you and me. Brilliant and beautiful.

Then Paul ends by saying, “to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Ok, we have made it to the point of this blog. I think there is an unmistakable connection here between the cross of Christ and the glory of God. We understand the cross as the ultimate revealing of God’s grace and love for sinners. The glory of God? We don’t understand that so much. But Paul’s words here help us understand God’s glory.

When we think of the glory of God, the immeasurable greatness of God, the inexhaustible perfections and beauties of God, our mind should go to the cross of Christ. Nowhere is God more fully revealed in his holiness, love, grace, kindness, justice, and mercy than at the cross of Jesus, where our sin was dealt with on Christ justly, and yet not on us graciously. This is the beautiful character of God revealed to us, which in one sense is the glory of God revealed to us.

The reason I relate who God is to what God’s glory is has to do with when Moses asked to see God’s glory in Exodus 33. God responded to him by saying, “I will make all my goodness pass before you“. The goodness of God is the glory of God in this case. And the goodness of God is revealed most in the cross of Jesus. 

Who thought up this plan of Jesus dying? God. Who accomplished this plan? God. Did we do anything? No, nothing but contribute the problem, our sin. Therefore, who deserves all the thanks, all the worship, all the trust, all the fame, and all the credit? God. When I look to the cross, I can’t help but know God is glorious and that all glory is to be to Him. Do you want to see God’s glory? Look to the cross of Jesus, where God saves sinners.

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The Epic Centerpiece

Years ago I heard a sermon on Gal. 6:15 and something in me was solidified. I had been reading the Scriptures the year I heard that sermon as though I had never read them before, and if nothing else, one thing was unmistakably clear: the epic centerpiece of the Bible is the cross of Christ.

1 Cor. 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Gal. 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Col. 1:19-20 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

There is nothing more fascinating and comforting than the cross of Christ. “The cross of Christ is a good Christian’s chief glory, and there is the greatest reason why we should glory in it, for to it we owe all our joys and hopes” (Matthew Henry). All of our joys, and all of our hopes, spring from the cross of Christ.

The cross is comforting because at the cross I find salvation. I am saved from God’s just wrath against sin and sinners. At the cross the fury of God was poured out in full upon the sinless God-man, Jesus Christ, who took the place of all who would believe in him. I’m obsessed with the comfort of the cross.

The cross is fascinating because at the cross God’s glory is blazing. The righteousness of God is blazing as we see him deal with sin justly. He dealt with sin by crushing the sinless Christ. He didn’t overlook sin. The grace of God is blazing because we see God forgive sinners. It is not me on the cross. It is someone else in my place. That is grace amazing. That is grace inexpressible. That is fascinating. I’m obsessed with the glory of the cross.

Have you come to the cross for comfort and fascination? For joy and hope? Have you been freed from the guilt and power of sin? Have you found what your eyes and heart were made to behold: the glory of God? It is all free at the cross.

Jesus, Grace, and the Glory of God

Ephesians 1:3-14 is a mesmerizing passage. It is not hard to see that it is a gold mine waiting to be explored. There are a few themes that Paul weaves and connects together: Jesus Christ is our salvation, which is unbelievably good news for us, and ultimately all for the glory God. 

Starting in verse three Paul begins to rant about the grace of God for us in Christ. In 12 verses Paul mentions Jesus 14 times. He says we are blessed in Christ (twice), chosen in Christ, adopted through Christ, redeemed in Christ, shown the will of God set forth in Christ, united in Christ, given an inheritance in Christ, given hope in Christ, and sealed with the Holy Spirit in Christ. The bottom line: Jesus is our solid rock of salvation. In Jesus, we have everything we could ever dream. God freely chose to love us, adopt us, and give us a sure hope, all through His Son. This is good news.

But it doesn’t stop there. Paul does not leave us thinking only about the grace of Christ for us. He continues in the same line of thinking and begins to talk about the glory of God.

He begins this passage, largely about our salvation, by blessing God. The context of all the grace mentioned is a praise to God. He says 3 times that all that Christ accomplished for us was according to God’s will and purpose, not ours, just in case we tried to give ourselves some credit for any of it. He also feels the need to mention something else 3 times. He says that all that we have been given in Christ is to the praise of God’s glory or grace.

Paul says God’s grace to us is glorious grace. As if it is not enough to mention grace, Paul says it is glorious. It is mesmerizing. The grace of God to us is not given to us that we might fix our eyes on ourselves, marveling only in all the blessings we have, though we should. There is more. The blessings we have (which by the way, we have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”) are meant to fix our eyes upon the mesmerizing glory of God.

But what is the glory of God? What I know biblically is that when Paul speaks of God’s glory, he sometimes speaks of God’s grace in Christ in the same breath. In 2 Cor. 3:18-4:6 Paul says that we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus. But it is in the face of Jesus that we behold the grace of God as well. The Bible seems to teach that God’s glory, his greatness, is displayed in his sovereign choice to love and save sinners. This is the glory of God.

So it makes sense that Paul can go on and on about all the grace we have in Jesus being to the glory of God. The more we understand the greatness of Jesus and what he has done for us in his life, death, and resurrection, the more our vision and understanding of the glory and greatness of God will grow. God has saved you that you might see Him and His grace to you as “glorious.” Are you mesmerized yet?