The Glory of God, NT style
The presentation of “God’s glory” in the New Testament is an advance on the Old. Not that it contradicts, of course: there is still judgment in the New Testament, as Ananias and Sapphira found out (Acts 5). But if we examine what the New Testament teaches about “glory,” we find new dimensions that the Old Testament Israelites likely never dreamed of.
In John 1:14, Jesus showed us God’s glory, and it is “full of grace and truth!” The Old Testament makes it clear that God’s glory brings judgment, but Jesus takes that judgment on Himself. The glory of God that Christ brings is characterized by genuine mercy! Instead of judgment for our mistakes, God’s glory is grace for our sins! What if we recognized that instead of desperately trying to get everything just right so we can “have God’s glory,” we simply need to come in joyful submission to Christ and receive His genuine mercy? And that mercy is, itself, God’s glory.
John 17 talks about glory quite a lot: “Father… glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you… Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you… All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” Here in Jesus’ intimate talk with His Father, “glory” always has to do with relationship. Go back and read the chapter again – every mention of “glory” is tied to relationship! Similarly, in Revelation 21, the New Jerusalem is described as “having the glory of God” (vs. 11), and is introduced as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” (vs. 9). In the New Testament, God’s glory is not centered on the Temple or a church building or any other place – God’s glory is found in the relationship that exists between the believer, Christ, and the Father.
Paul describes the difference in the glory of the Old and the New Covenant in 2 Corinthians 3. He concludes his discussion in verse 18, saying that as we look on the “glory of the Lord,” we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Simply beholding God’s glory in Christ transforms us into His image – that is, into His glory. Here, then, “glory” is Christlike character, which is developed as we learn of and imitate Christ.
To be fair, there are New Testament passages that use “glory” in a way much more in line with the Old Testament: Luke 2:9, “And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear”; Luke 21:27, “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”; Acts 7:55, “But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God.”
But in reference to a person, “God’s glory” isn’t a sense of God’s presence. As New Testament believers, to “have God’s glory” is to see souls saved, lives changed, relationships restored, character developed. This is God’s glory, and this is what we need!