Picture for a moment an inquisitive child. That shouldn’t be too hard since most children are experts at asking questions! What if the child came to you and said, “Excuse me, will you explain the brightness of the sun?” Now, perhaps some of you could give a better answer to that question than I can. But, I have to admit I’d be tempted to say in the most helpful way possible, “The brightness of the sun is that it’s really…bright.” And, I fear, that wouldn’t be helpful at all.
In some ways the brightness of the sun defies explanation. The closest I can come to an answer is to say that the brightness of the sun is that thing by which I see all other things. The reason I can see the tree outside of my window at this moment, is because the sun shines on it. And the brighter the sun shines, the more plainly I see. Not only the tree, but the blades of grass in my yard too.
I find myself grappling with the same difficulty when I think about the glory of God. The glory of God isn’t any single characteristic or perfection. No. It’s all that he is. God is glory, he is his own glory. There is, in his very being, a beauty and purity, a resplendent majesty and excessive splendor that can only be understood as a manifestation of light—a blinding brightness, “The glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). And it’s this brightness, the glory of God, by which the Christian is to see and understand all things.
Let me give you an example. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:5 wrote, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.” He goes on to explain why he preached Christ. Not for money or reputation or influence or self-ambition. Those things didn’t motivate Paul. Rather, he says it’s because “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This is extraordinary. Paul is saying that the same creative power that first caused light to shine—not into but out of darkness—had shone in his heart the knowledge of the glory of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. That’s how Paul understood his ministry. The reason he preached is because it had been given to him to know something of the glory of God in Jesus Christ.
Isn’t there glory in Jesus? The Prophet Isaiah said concerning him, “In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious” (Is 4:2). The Apostle John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). James titles him “the Lord of glory” (Js 2:1). And the author of Hebrews, in a climactic expression concerning his glory, says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God” (Heb 1:3). As some have said, Jesus isn’t merely the reflection of God’s glory, he’s more! He is the repetition of God’s glory; he is the reiteration of it; or, if you will, he is the reduplication of it. In Christ, God has come forth from his unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16) so that we might see something of the brightness of his character—the glory of his love, the glory of his holiness, the glory of his wisdom, the glory of his power, the glory of his sovereignty, and the glory of his justice. And it’s in Jesus—it must be in him—that we see and understand all things. John Calvin said, “Whatever men desire to know about God, apart from Christ, is evanescent.”
What we desperately need is for the church to reclaim such a vision of the glory of Jesus Christ. Do you know by experience something of his glory? Paul didn’t think it was true of himself only, but he said, “God has shown in our hearts.” Can you give that answer? Why do you live the way you do? Why do you resist sin and temptation? Why do you strive for holiness? Why do you pray? Why do you conduct yourself in the workplace like that? Why do you raise your children in that way? Why do you worship the way you do? Let our answer always be, with Paul, “Because he has shown in my heart the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”