(photo credit: Carolyn “Sissy” Pipa)
The following is a brief excerpt from Dr. Pipa’s newly released booklet, How Can I Do All Things For God’s Glory?, his latest contribution to the Cultivating Biblical Godliness Series published by Reformation Heritage Books, and edited by Dr. Ryan McGraw and Dr. Joel Beeke. He is currently working on a third booklet handling the subject of tithing, giving to the church, and prudent stewardship.
To understand this statement (Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever), we must begin with God’s glory. We, of course, do not add to God’s glory. God’s glory is the essence of who He is. As light is essential to the sun, so glory is the essence of God’s being. In Acts 7:2, Stephen called Him “the God of glory.” His glory is singular, as He claimed in Isaiah 48:11: “I will not give My glory to another.”
The essential glory of God is stated succinctly in the Westminster Confession of Faith: “God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, not deriving any glory from the, but only manifesting his own glory, in, by, unto, and upon them: he is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things, and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth” (2.2). No mere man can look on this glory, as God said to Moses when he asked to see God’s glory: “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:20). However, God reveals His glory to us by His names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works (WSC, Q. 54). When Moses wanted assurance that God would continue in the midst of the people as He promised, he asked God to show him His glory (v. 18). God responded that Moses could not look on His face (His essential glory). Rather, He would place Moses in a cleft of a rock and cause His glory to pass by. He would cover Moses’s face while passing and then allow him to see the backside of His glory. But God declared that Moses would learn of His glory from what God said: “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (v. 19). Notice that Moses would learn of the glory of God through the proclamation of God’s name.
In Exodus 34:6-7, Moses gave an account of what took place: “And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” God revealed His glory in two names: LORD (Jehovah) and God (El). The name “LORD” manifests that God is the eternal, self-sufficient God who makes covenant and redeems His people. The name “God unfolds His powerful nature as the sovereign, almighty Creator and Governor of all.
Next, God proclaimed five of His attributes: mercy, grace, long-suffering, goodness, and truth. God’s attributes are distinguishing characteristics that reveal His glorious nature. The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives an expanded list: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Q. 4).
Furthermore, God revealed His glory through His works. He pointed here to His two great works of grace and justice: “keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (v. 7).
Moreover, as the God of glory, He reveals His glory in all His works of creation and providence. In Psalm 148, the psalmist commands us to praise God for His work of creation. He summarizes in verse 13, “Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.” In Psalm 104, after detailing God’s works of creation, the writer exclaims, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in His works” (v. 31). David, in Psalm 29:3, declares of the thunder storm, “The God of glory thunders.” God manifests His glory in His works of creation and providence.
But the greatest display of God’s glory is in the perfect work of the Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate. Paul called Him the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8). In heaven, the angels, the living creatures, and the elders should with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12). Hence, if you would see God’s glory, you should meditate on His names, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.