December 2, 2011

The Gospel of the Glory: What Makes the Good News Good News

by Mike Riccardi

In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul defines spiritual death as blindness to glory. Last Friday we looked into God’s prescription for that blindness. In the sovereign exercise of His will, God shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. He overcomes our resistance to the Gospel—caused by our blindness to glory—by giving us the light needed to see things as they actually are. This is the miracle of regeneration.

The Deepest Level of God’s Redemptive Work

Along with understanding this sovereign prescription, we observed that in 2Cor 4:4 and 4:6 Paul outlines three levels of God’s redemptive work, and that as we progress through each level we come to greater depth and greater ultimacy in God’s work of salvation. God has shone in our hearts to give the Light (that’s level 1) of the knowledge, or of the gospel (that’s level 2), of the glory of God in the face of Christ (that’s level 3). This is the deepest level of the redemptive work of God. This is what our eyes are opened to see. This is what salvation is about!

Can you see that in the text? Paul calls the gospel “the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” And Scripture frequently speaks of salvation in these terms. Hebrews 2:10 describes Jesus’ ministry of salvation as “bringing many sons to glory.” 1 Peter 3:18 says that Christ suffered once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring us to God. And 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14 says it in a shockingly clear way: God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you catch that? The gospel is the means by which you will gain the glory of Christ. Our gospel is the gospel of the glory. This means that what the Good News consists in—what the gospel is about—is the glory of God in Christ. Seeing and enjoying the glory of God in the face of Christ is what makes the Good News good news.

I’m very thankful for the heavy emphasis that is being placed on gospel-centrality in contemporary conservative evangelism. It’s not uncommon to hear the glory of the gospel celebrated from many pulpits. But I hope that those who most readily identify themselves as gospel-centered realize that the gospel is glory-centered. We can (and must!) love the glory of the gospel. But we need to recognize that that gospel is the gospel of the glory. And therefore, when we preach the gospel, we must do so in a way consistent with the reality that what makes the Good News good news is that we can finally see and enjoy the glory of God revealed in the face of Christ.

The Scriptures Don’t Stop at Level Two

Unfortunately, many of the gospel presentations I hear stop at level two. So many Christians preach the gospel as if man was the ultimate goal in salvation. They tell people that Jesus died for them, and then they stop there. As if the Good News is that God just loved (wuvved?) us so much that He couldn’t live without us and so He died to be with us. But can you hear how much of us that makes? The problem is that that is not what God’s love does. God’s love expressed in His shining the Light of life into our dead hearts was not so that we would look at the Cross and see our worth, but so that we could finally see and enjoy His worth. We are not God’s ultimate goal in salvation. The gospel is the gospel of the glory. Ultimately, the reason that God saves any sinner is to manifest His own glory.

Listen to what Scripture says about God’s motivation, His goal, in saving sinners:

  • Isaiah 43:25 – “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake.”
  • Ezekiel 36:22 – “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.”
  • Titus 2:14 – Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession.”
  • And in the opening section in Ephesians 1, Paul says three times that salvation is designed for the praise of God’s glory (Eph 1:6, 12, 14).

A God-Centeredness that is Really Man-Centeredness

Of course, few Christians are going to deny that; a lot of people are happy to confess that we should be God-centered. The problem is that they may be happy about being God-centered because they really believe that God is man-centered. Then their God-centeredness is really man-centeredness. They say their joy is in God, but really their joy is in themselves. They’re happy to worship God, just as long as God worships them.

But the love of God displayed in the Gospel is not that He makes much of us! The love of God displayed in the Gospel is He shines Light that cures our blindness to glory, and thus liberates us from our suicidal love affair with sin so that—rather than only being able to be satisfied by being made much of—we can be entirely satisfied in the depths of our souls by making much of Him forever. We are freed to find our joy in the exaltation of Another.

Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. But finish the sentence! He did that for a purpose: so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. And what is eternal life? John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, Father, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” God’s goal in sending Christ was not to show humanity how valuable we were; His goal was to give us the eyes to see how valuable He is. He shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

God’s Love to Us is not First to Us, but to Himself

But because so many people have imbibed our culture’s distorted definition of love as being made much of, many people—maybe some of you reading this—have a hard time feeling loved when they hear that God loves them for His own sake. But loving someone is not making them feel good about themselves. Loving someone is doing what is best for them. And what is best for me, and best for you—what will most satisfy our souls and give us true and abiding joy—is to see the glory of God for which we were made. God’s own self-exaltation isn’t arrogance, but love.

And there is a wealth of satisfaction in feeling loved that way. I feel so safe, so protected, so loved by the fact that I am not uppermost in God’s affections, but that He is. Because I am not the basis of my security; He is. In fact, we will never understand the sweet fullness of what it means to be loved by God—we will never know the breadth and length and height and depth of this love that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:18–19)—until we understand that God’s love to us is not first to us, but to Himself.

John Piper nails it: “God loves His glory more than He loves us and…this is the foundation of His love for us” (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 7). Because it is in loving Himself, in magnifying Himself, in displaying Himself, that you and I are able to see and enjoy the only thing that can truly satisfy our heart: the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Conclusion

The Good News is not merely that Jesus died for us. The Good News is that Jesus died for us in order to bring us to God (1Pet 3:18). The Good News is not merely that God gave His beloved Son for us. The Good News is that God gave His beloved Son for us to bring us to an eternity of seeing and knowing and loving and worshiping Him. The loving, atoning work of Christ in the gospel is a means to a greater end: that the people God has created would finally glorify Him by enjoying and being satisfied by His glory—the glory for which they were created (Isa 43:7).

Let us never forget that the gospel we proclaim is the gospel of the glory.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • http://myredeemerlivesministries.blogspot.com/ Mary ET

    Awesome! Understanding who God is, is due in part to understanding who we are. We cannot see God’s glory until we understand/feel/OWN our total depravity.

    I quote George Mattern here (who used to post on Shepherd’s Fellowship): “…”There’s a sort of spiritual Law of Relativity in effect here–The depth at which we perceive ourselves to be is directly proportional to the height at which we perceive God to be. Put another way, the lower we are, the higher God is.”

    Awesome, you always make us think.

  • pam

    As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of the Scripture that calls us trophies of His grace. I thought to myself, this must be one of the things that even the angels desire to look into. They must think, how can God save depraved worms like that by offering up His only Son as a sacrifice and how can that Son go willingly. Being objects of grace means that God gets all the glory! That’s one of the reasons why I can’t understand the Arminian viewpoint. Knowing that God does it all gives great assurance and security.
    Thanks again for another great post!
    pam

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  • MB

    “Did you catch that? The gospel is the means by which you will gain the glory of Christ. Our gospel is the gospel of the glory.”

    AMEN!!
    Well worth the wait.

  • Matthew

    Good post Mike.

    “If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” – Augustine

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  • http://theradicaljourney.com/ Nick

    I loved this article. I had to read it twice.

    Here’s how I say it to my students:

    Do you believe that “God loves YOU?” or “GOD loves you?”

    Answering that question alone can determine how much joy we take in our good and great salvation.

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