This is a burden on my heart (that I pulled from yesterday’s post because it deserved its own) because I believe this understanding is crucial to becoming the people of God He has called us to be. I pray it will help someone the way similar teachings helped me in the 1990s.
Spoiler alert: I believe the Bible teaches that the best way for His people to glorify God is to live in the New Covenant.
This isn’t just distant theory. For example, the harmful theology of what has been called “Biblical patriarchy” is based on living in the Old Covenant.
I believe far too few Christians understand the crucial difference between the Covenants and what that difference means, even though it’s explained right there in the New Testament.
What does “glorifying God” look like in the New Covenant?
Sometimes when people pray for “God to be glorified” through our lives and activities, I think they may envision God as somewhat separate from them, up in the sky shining brightly, while we’re down here struggling along, occasionally checking to see if He’s pleased. Sermons, books, and songs often reinforce this thinking.
But this way of thinking misses the vital ways the New Covenant is better than the Old (as the entire book of Hebrews states again and again) and more glorious than the Old (as 2 Corinthians emphasizes). People who see both covenants as basically equal are missing out on some glorious—and practical—truths.
New Covenant glory centers, first of all, around the glorious triumph of Jesus Christ over the powers of death and evil. Especially John chapters 12, 13, 17, and 21 center on this great truth.
His “glorification,” as John 7:39, says, resulted in giving us the Holy Spirit as the endowment of the New Covenant.
The importance of the glorification of our Lord Jesus can’t be overestimated. And yet . . . there’s something even more, because we are glorified too.
The New Covenant is more glorious than the Old
This is explained throughout the New Testament, but is perhaps clearest in 2 Corinthians, especially chapters 3 and 4. Here is 2 Corinthians 3:5-18. It’s long, but important to understand.
. . . our sufficiency is of God, who also has made us [Paul and his compatriots] able ministers of the new testament [the New Covenant], not of the letter [the Old Covenant], but of the Spirit [in the New Covenant]; for the letter [the Old Covenant] kills, but the Spirit [in the New Covenant] gives life.
But if the ministry of death in the letter engraved in stones [the Old Covenant] was glorious, so that the sons of Israel [the Old Covenant people] could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance [when he had to put on the veil after he beheld God’s glory, referenced in yesterday’s blog post], which glory was to fade away, how shall not the ministry of the Spirit [in the New Covenant] be for greater glory?
For if the ministry of condemnation [the Old Covenant] had glory, much more shall the ministry of righteousness [the New Covenant] abound in glory.
For even that which was so glorious [the Old Covenant] had no glory in this respect,
in comparison with the glory that excels [in the New Covenant].
For if that which fades away [the Old Covenant] was glorious, much more shall that which remains [the New Covenant] be glorious.
Seeing then that we have such hope, we speak with great confidence,
And not as Moses [the one person in the Old Covenant who shared in God’s glory], who put a veil over his face, that the sons of Israel [the Old Covenant people] could not steadfastly look to the end of that glory which was to fade away [a physical even that represented the spiritual truth of the fading away of the Old Covenant]:
And thus their senses became hardened, for until this day [the time Paul was writing] remains the same veil not uncovered in the reading of the old testament [the Old Covenant], which veil is taken away in Christ [in the New Covenant]. But even unto this day when Moses [the Old Covenant] is read, the veil is upon their heart. Nevertheless when they convert to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away [in the New Covenant].
For the Lord is the Spirit, and where that Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [in the New Covenant].
And then after all these contrasts, Paul delivers this electrifying truth:
Therefore we all [those of us in the New Covenant], beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord with uncovered face [no veil needed in the New Covenant], are transformed from glory to glory into the same likeness, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
New Covenant glory is different from the glory of the Old Covenant in several ways, but perhaps the most astounding is that as we behold Jesus, we actually participate in His glory.
Making this shift in understanding is crucial.
A few verses later Paul says,
For the God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness [in His glorious creation], has shined in our hearts to bring forth the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Part of our participation in the glory of the New Covenant is bringing forth His light. One part of doing that is showing His love to others who are suffering.
From Andrew Murray’s book The Believer’s New Covenant:
The exceeding glory of the New Covenant is that it is a ministration of the Spirit; that its ministers have their sufficiency from God, who makes them ministers of the Spirit, and makes them able to so speak the words of God in the Spirit that they are written in the heart, and that the hearers become readable, living epistles of Christ, showing the law written in their heart and life.
The ministry of the Spirit! What a glory there is in it!
New Covenant glory is about transformation
The great overarching plan of God is all about redemption–our great redemption and transformation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The great, overarching purpose of the Old Covenant was to show shadows of the great Substance to come; to give a written revelation to be carefully preserved until the Fulfillment of the revelation would come; and to give God’s chosen-out people a fuller, greater revelation of who God was in all His majesty and glory, so that when our glorious God in the Flesh finally came to reveal Himself to us, those of us who believe would be able to understand.
Besides 2 Corinthians 3:18, above, Colossians 1:26-27 tells us that the mystery that was hidden in Old Covenant days became clear in the New Covenant:
Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Yes, not just glory in the distant eternity, but a glory that we can participate in right now, as 2 Corinthians makes abundantly clear. (In this blog post I talked a good bit about the glory in 2 Corinthians.) Glory that fills with joy and power instead of fear. And that hope isn’t wishful thinking, but expectation (as I talked about in this blog post).
In her lecture “On Being Female,” Diane Langberg, in speaking about Mary Magdalene (out of whom were cast seven demons) alluded to the glory of the New Covenant described in 2 Corinthians 4.
The facts of Mary’s history are never altered or eradicated; instead, they are transformed. Christ transformed Mary. Mary saw the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. That glory shone out from her to the provinces around, and oh, how she loved him.
As you are transformed by the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, you will reach out to others in love, and others will reach out to you, to know the Jesus you love.
The glory of God is powerful to strengthen and enrich His people
God’s glory in the Old Covenant was terrifying to the Israelites in the wilderness, as Hebrews chapter 4 describes. But God’s glory in the New Covenant . . . that is not terrifying, but empowering. It gives power over sin, to shine out Jesus to others.
The glory of God isn’t only about us worshiping Him, though that’s a big part of it. His glory also includes the riches that He loves to lavish on His people. Look over these Scriptures . . .
Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Ephesians 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
Philippians 4:19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
How do I think about “glorifying God”?
When I think of God being glorified, I picture the glory coming as His love and power are poured down on His people, and then through them to others.
Instead of focusing on God’s glory apart from people, I believe in the New Covenant we will focus on God’s glory within and through His people, through the love we manifest to others by the power of the Holy Spirit, in His Name.
In the New Covenant, I believe that’s the primary way God is glorified.
When I pray for God to be glorified, it’s a prayer that’s not only vertical, but horizontal. I’m expecting to see Him work in “glorious” ways, in my life, and in the lives of those around me.
Understanding and believing the truth of the glorious New Covenant is more than just a doctrinal shift. The implications are so wide that it can bring fundamental change in a Christian’s soul. All for the better.
It’s good news.