Grace & Glory

Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas, TX

**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.

Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.

Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
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In his book titled, “God’s Passion for His Glory,” John Piper rightly argues that the chief end for which God created the world is His Own Glory. Calvinistic pastors and authors, like Piper, have done a very good job bringing this reality into sharp focus.

However, Calvinists often go on to boast that the uniqueness of their TULIP systematic is the best expression of God’s glory by saying things like, “The glory of God is supreme, the supreme theme of reformed theology [Calvinism].”[1]

While we (Traditionalists) would absolutely affirm that God’s chief end in creation was for the praise of His own glory, we disagree with our Calvinistic friends who claim that God has created a world of unchangeably predetermined reprobates and saints so as to demonstrate His inherently glorious nature.[2]

In order to make this point abundantly clear, let us begin by offering a good working definition of the attribute we call “glory.” Calvinistic apologist, Matt Slick, offers this as an acceptable definition:

In the Old Testament, the word for “glory” is the Hebrew word, ??????? “kabowd,” which carries the idea of heaviness and weight. In the New Testament, the Greek word is  ???? “doxa,” which carries the idea of opinion, judgment, estimate, spendour, brightness, etc.  It is used to speak of great honor, praise, value, wonder, and splendor.

Glory is spoken of in reference to people (Prov. 16:31) and God (Gen. 49:6Psa. 3:3). Glory is given by God (Psa. 84:11) and also is a manifestion of God’s greatness and presence that is awesome to behold (Gen. 33:22Exo. 40:34Num. 14:10).[3]

What characteristic of God best exemplifies His honor, praise, value, wonder, and splendor? Is it…

  • His ability and willingness to meticulously bring about or control every desire and actions of all His creation, including heinous moral evil?[4]

Or

  • His genuine self-sacrificial love for all His undeserving enemies (GRACE) regardless of their free rebellion and rejection of Him?

“God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).  “The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” (Ps. 145:9).

According to Paul, “love does not seek its own,” and thus it is best described as “self-sacrificial” rather than “self-serving” (1 Cor. 13:5). As Jesus taught, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It seems safe to say that love at its very root is self-sacrificial. Anything less than that should not be called “love.”  One may refer to “kindness” or “care” in reflection of some common provisions for humanity, but unless it reaches the level of self-sacrifice it does not seem to meet the biblical definition of true love. It is this kind of Divine love that makes God’s grace anything but common.[5]

When God graciously invites His enemies to be reconciled (Isa. 1:18; 2 Cor. 5:20; Mt. 11:28-30), He is making an appeal from a sincere heart of self-sacrificial love. His appeal to all people is gracious:

“‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” (Ezek. 33:11).

“The Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods…” (Hosea 3:1).

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”( 2 Peter 3:9).

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,  who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time” (2 Tim 2:3-6).

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ez. 18:23). 

“Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ez. 18:31-32).

“But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people” (Rom 10:21).

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matt. 23:37).

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matt. 14:14).

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19:41-42).

Obviously, God does sincerely and self-sacrificially love even those who turn from His sacrificial provision, which is one of His most gracious, self-glorifying characteristics. A characteristic that many Calvinists are unintentionally undermining in an effort to promote their systematic interpretation.

While we can all agree that God is about making His glory known, it must be understood that God is most glorified not in the sacrifice of His enemies as “reprobates” rejected from before the world began, but in the sacrifice of Himself for the sake of all His enemies, even those who do “turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). In short, God is most glorified in the grace shown to all His enemies, not His ability to control them.

It is God’s attribute of grace toward all undeserving sinners that reveals His “great honor, praise, value, wonder, and splendor,” not His supposed ability to bring about heinous evil so as to demonstrate (by way of contrast) His willingness to redeem that which he Himself “brought about by sovereign decree.”[6]

It is God’s abudant grace for all that reveals Him as the most glorious of all!

God does not need to step on “the reprobate” to lift Himself up. He does not need to sacrifice most of humanity to demonstrate His glory. Instead, God humbly sacrifices Himself for His enemies so as to be lifted up and then He commands us to go and do likewise.

1 Peter 5:5-6:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Matthew 18:4: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 23:12: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 14:11: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

[1] http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-calvinism
[2] “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, iii, xxi, sec. 5, 1030–1031.

Calvinists, please do not resort to the “you too fallacy” by insisting that because of the finite philosophical presumptions you share with Open Theists (i.e. if God foreknows something before creating it then He must have determined it to be) that we have the same problem you do.  Study some of the other philosophical theories related to the infinite nature of divine knowledge as it relates to temporal human freedom before dogmatically insisting on your false dichotomies. Read this.
[3] https://carm.org/dictionary-glory
[4] and [6] CLICK HERE for more.
[5] More Here: https://soteriology101.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/whats-love-got-to-do-with-it/