It has been said that glory is what you see, experience, and feel when God goes public with His beauty.
Glory inspires the heart of a man who peers over the edge of the grand canyon with awe and wonder.
Glory floods the eyes of a groom at the first glimpse of his bride.
Glory draws us to beaches, mountains, broadway and baseball games.
Glory beckons us marvel at the setting sun and gaze the night sky.
We were made for glory.
Like gasoline to an engine, or water to a thirsty soul, glimpses of glory compel us. They refresh us. They motivate us to get out of bed in the morning and strive through another day.
Christians understand that reason we are attracted to glory is that in beholding it, we behold something of God.
In Psalm 19, David wrote that The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
In Psalm 8, it drove him to wonder as he remarked: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
In Romans 1, Paul reminds us that all mankind is accountable to God as he declares: "What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse."
Even marriage declares the glory of God. That’s what Paul was getting at in Ephesians 5, when he argued that: “…a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."
God’s glory is so pervasive that it is seen in all of creation. That’s because God’s glory is the point of all creation! That’s why the Westminster catechism rightly teaches that chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!
When I was a child I remember visiting a beautiful place in the mountains of New York State. As we motored up the driveway I remember seeing a beautiful tudor style resort set against the backdrop of a breathtaking mountainscape.
But, as beautiful as all of that was, it wasn’t what we were there to see.
The resort rests upon an underground river that has carved out some of the most intricate caverns in the state.
This plot of ground wasn’t always a tourist attraction. It started out as farmland. Legend has it that a farmer was grazing his cattle on a hot day and was surprised to see the cows lingering in the middle of the field instead of resting in the shade.
Upon further inspection the farmer discovered that there was a hole in the ground, and a cool breeze was blowing out of it. The cows didn’t need the shade. They had their own personal air conditioner!
The old farmer was even more amazed when he crawled into the hole and discovered the beautiful caverns and the lazy river flowing beneath his pasture.
Sometimes there are amazing wonders right under our noses, but until we see them we are oblivious to them.
There is an aspect of God’s glory that, although it’s right under our noses, many Christians have failed to discover it — and few have spent much time exploring.
It has to do what a topic that has been neglected or misunderstood by many -- unity in the body of Christ.
God’s glory is seen through the body of Christ in a very special way.
The Apostle Paul has much to say about the body of Christ in the book of Ephesians.
Let's take a look at Ephesians chapter 1, beginning in verse 3...
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
Consider what took place when we were redeemed. Not only were we lavishly forgiven by the grace of God, but something else happened. God made known to us a mystery. He answered the question that so many people throughout history have been trying to answer — what is God’s will?
In other words, what is God up to? What’s the point of all of this? To say it another way…what is the meaning of life?
And what is that meaning? Unity.
God’s eternal plan, set forth before the foundation of the world, is to unite all things in Christ!
Suddenly salvation becomes less "me centered" and more Christ centered!
This is almost foreign sounding to us in a culture that celebrates a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
This is an offense to those who boldly declare that all they need is Jesus — not church — or religion.
Let me show you what I mean by going a bit further in Ephesians.
In the following verses, Paul celebrates the Salvation of the Christians in Ephesus. He also celebrates Christ who is the rightful head of this body of believers. Move down to verse 22 and see if you get a sense of the importance of the church in God’s plan
22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Then, in Ephesians 2, Paul brings the camera in tight. He moves from global to personal as he focuses on the individual.
This is really amazing. Watch what happens in Ephesians 2:1-2.
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience...
Who is Paul speaking to? He’s talking to you! You were dead in your trespasses and sins.
You were by yourself living according to your own passions.
You were following satan!
That’s who you were. That’s who we all were. That's made clear in verse 3.
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Then something changes. Look at verse 4.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved...
5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—
Then there’s almost a parenthetical statement that points back to the individual…
by grace you have been saved—
But, Paul quicklky returns to the plural
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
In verse 7, Paul gives us the reason why all of this has happened. Why has God separated a sinful people to Himself and united us with Christ and with one another?
7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
You see — God’s glory is seen in the church in a way that it can’t be seen in nature. You can learn a lot about God by looking at the trees, but you won’t see His grace or His mercy there. That’s seen best in His forgiveness of sinners. That is why Paul adds another parenthetical phrase in verses 8 and 9…
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
But, again he moves back to this theme of plurality…
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Brothers and sisters, our Salvation is not an individualistic one. There are no armies of one. There is no such thing as a lone wolf Christian. We are a body — and under the leadership of Christ, our head — we are a unified body.
Paul uses the rest of Ephesians 2 to emphasize his point. I won’t take time to dwell upon the hatred that existed between Jews and Gentiles, but will only highlight it to point out that Paul boldly declares that there is no longer Jew nor Greek — but we have been made ONE in Christ.
Let’s pick it up in verse 13….
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
This is amazing! The fact that any of us can be called a part of the body of Christ is an absolute miracle. If you believe the Gospel, it will change you in such a way that you live with passion for Christ. What we often fail to understand is that true passion for Christ means that we are devoted to His body — our fellow believers — whom He cherishes.
That’s what Paul gets to in Ephesians 3. He begins by making a defense for why he became a minister of the Gospel.
1 For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,
What is Paul’s goal as a minister of the Gospel? He wants to bring to light God’s eternal plan! Why does He want to do that? One word: glory!
But, how does the good news that God has saved individuals out of the world and into the body of Christ bring glory to God?
Look at verse 10-12…
10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
The manifold wisdom of God is significant phrase. Some translations refer to it as variegated wisdom. The point is that this is a multifaceted, bright display of God’s wisdom. This is God’s ultimate wisdom showcased for the world to see.
But not just the world.
This wisdom goes beyond this world into the heavenly places where there are rulers and authorities who take note of God’s wisdom. Those rulers and authorities likely refer to fallen angels, though it’s really not known what the extent of this other worldly revelation of God’s wisdom looks like.
Now, if you were to ask me, "how is God’s wisdom displayed throughout the Universe," do you know what I would have said?
Through Christ! After all, He’s the One who suffered and died to appease the wrath of God for us.
But, that’s not what Paul says.
What does he say?
Through the church…
Through the church!
We have got to understand that it is through our unified faith that God’s glory is put on display for the Universe to see!
With that in mind, consider Ephesians 4:1-3...
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
How eager have you been to maintain unity with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?
I suspect that there have been many occasions when you lost sight of the Gospel and allowed frustration, neglect, hurt feelings, or your own pride to drive the wedge of division between you and other Christians.
When we allow division in the body of Christ we stop being prisoners of Jesus and present ourselves once again as prisoners of sin! Instead of living in unity that declares the glory of God into the heavenly realms, we mock it with division. When we minimize the importance of the church in favor of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we deny the essence of the Gospel.
You need the church and the church needs you. Let us turn from division individualism as we pursue unity that declares the God's glory throughout the universe!