God’s glory dominates Scripture. Some have suggested that glory is the Bible’s unifying theme. That the word appears over four hundred times in Scripture supports this possibility. Since God’s glory is complete, though, how can Christians possibly add anything to it? Why does Scripture command believers to give him glory? As 2 Corinthians 3:18 explains, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
By analogy God is to Christians as the sun is to the moon. As the sun is the exclusive source of light, so God is the sole source of glory; as the moon reflects light, so believers reflect God’s glory. Because God’s image in man was fractured by the fall, sinful humans refract God’s glory more than they reflect it back to him. But once believers begin to be transformed into the same image at the moment of salvation, they reflect more than they refract. Thus, God’s glory is more and more returned to him just as he transmitted it to his beloved ones. That’s how Christians can give to God something that he alone possesses and shares with no one (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).
What can one do to glorify God? Three distinct realms can be identified and explored. The glorifying activities of a believer appear under three categories: activities that are (1) God directed, (2) Christian directed, and (3) unbeliever directed.
Being God by definition includes being glorious. Many titles reflect God’s glory:
1. “The Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8)
2. “The Majestic Glory” (2 Pet. 1:17)
3. “The King of glory” (Ps. 24:7–10)
4. “The Spirit of glory” (1 Pet. 4:14)
Most of God’s glory reflected back to him by Christians comes through acts of personal devotion and adoration that are God directed. Listed below are twenty activities of personal worship that glorify God, beginning with those that are God directed and then moving to those that are Christian directed and unbeliever directed.
1. Living with purpose: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). The famous eighteenth-century American preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) applied this thinking to his life by resolving, “That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory.” He framed the picture of life in all respects within God’s glory. In imitating this aim, believers can be an answer to Paul’s prayer for the Philippians (Phil. 1:9–11).
2. Confessing sins: “Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me’ ” (Josh. 7:19). To continue in sin is an affront to God’s holiness (Rev. 16:9), but to confess one’s sins acknowledges God’s holiness and brings him glory.
3. Praying expectantly: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Prayers in Christ’s name bring the Father glory. It would be wise to begin praying with Moses’s petition, “Please show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18).
4. Living purely: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:18–20). It glorifies God to live in the light of his holy character.
5. Submitting to Christ: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11).
6. Praising God: “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). The Samaritan healed of leprosy glorified God with praise, as did the angels at Christ’s birth (Luke 2:14; 17:11–19). The mouths of Christians should be filled with the Lord’s praise and glory all day long (Ps. 71:8).
7. Obeying God: “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others” (2 Cor. 9:13).
8. Growing in faith: “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20–21).
9. Suffering for Christ’s sake: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Pet. 4:15–16). Peter knew of what he wrote, for years earlier Christ had told him by what kind of death he would glorify God (John 21:19).
10. Rejoicing in God: “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” (1 Chron. 16:10).
11. Worshiping God: “All nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord; and shall glorify your name” (Ps. 86:9).
12. Bearing spiritual fruit: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
The Christian life begins by being right with God, but it does not end there. From the upward direction, we now turn inward to ways that believers can glorify God in the church and among themselves.
13. Proclaiming God’s Word: “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored” (2 Thess. 3:1).
14. Serving God’s people: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:10–11).
15. Purifying Christ’s church: “So that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).
16. Giving sacrificially: “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others” (2 Cor. 9:13).
17. Unifying believers: “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22). As Christ accepted us, so we are to accept one another, to God’s glory (Rom. 15:7).
First up, then in, and now out. That completes the cycle. Someone may ask, which of these three is most important? All are equally important, but the order in which one glorifies God is crucial. First, one must be fixed on him before ministering to one another. Then, unless one is right in the body of Christ, one can never hope to reach out to the lost with the gospel of Christ.
18. Proclaiming salvation to the lost: “His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him” (Ps. 21:5). The language of “to the praise of his glory” dominates Paul’s comments on salvation (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). And so, the glorification of God characterized the salvation of Paul (Gal. 1:23–24) and Cornelius (Acts 11:18). Since all have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23), then to be saved is to have that glory restored.
19. Shining Christ’s light: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
20. Spreading God’s gospel: “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). This proved to be Paul’s experience on his first missionary journey. When the Gentiles heard the gospel, they rejoiced, glorified God, and believed (Acts 13:48).
Ichabod, which means “no glory” in Hebrew, would be the worst thing imaginable for a believer (1 Sam. 4:21). For God’s glory to be absent from a believer or the church is unthinkable. The glory of God needs to be a Christian’s consuming quest.
Let the beatitude of the psalmist and the doxology of Paul be practiced now and forevermore:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen. (Ps. 72:18–19)
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Phil. 4:20)
O Father, the heavens speak clearly of Your incomprehensible glory,
and their expanse declares repeatedly the work of Your hands:
“Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge”
of You, our awesome Creator—
and this is speech that everyone can understand.
The sun moves under Your direction in a vast circuit.
Your glory is on display throughout our solar system and beyond,
from one end of the heavens to the other.
We are in awe of Your incomprehensible power.
And yet even more wonderful to us than Your glorious creation
is the revelation of Yourself in Scripture:
Your law, testimony, precepts, commandments, and judgments,
all of which are perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true.
Your Word converts the soul, makes us wise,
brings us joy, enlightens us,
and ponders righteousness in us.
We therefore desire Your Word more than
gold, finding it sweeter than honey.
Precious heavenly Father, all our delight is in You.
The deepest longing of our hearts is to see and to celebrate Your glory.
We will not be truly satisfied
until we behold Your face in righteousness.
That is why we now pour out our love and worship to You in prayer.
We trust in Your promises,
rejoice in Your faithfulness,
glory in Your goodness,
hope in Your Word,
believe in Your Son,
and rest in Your grace.
Thank You for enabling us to rest in full assurance.
We know that past, present, and future are all in Your care.
We joyfully confess that Your plan is best,
Your commandments are just,
Your wisdom is flawless,
Your power is supreme,
and all Your ways are perfect.
You are full of lovingkindness, merciful, holy, upright, and gracious—
the fountain of all that is truly good.
We yield to You as our King and our Redeemer,
asking that Your will be done in us.
Give us hearts that trust without sighing or complaining
about what Your providence brings into our lives.
Shower us with mercy and grace, as You always do,
and may we live in constant gratitude.
Whenever we sin and act in a rebellious way,
help us to recognize our folly quickly and repent.
Then take away our mournful sorrow and
emblazon our hearts with gladness.
Fill our hearts with holy songs of praise.
Restore us that we might be beacons of Your grace.
We come to worship You, Father, relying on Your forgiveness and power
that we might enter Your presence
and be welcomed as true worshipers.
We come in the name of our Savior. Amen.
“Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”
Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven,
To His feet your tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Evermore His praises sing.
Praise the everlasting King!
Praise Him for His grace and favor
To our fathers in distress;
Praise Him, still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Glorious in His faithfulness!
Frail as summer’s flow’r we flourish;
Blows the wind and it is gone.
But, while mortals rise and perish,
God endures unchanging on.
Praise the high Eternal One!
Angels in the height, adore Him;
You behold Him face to face.
Saints triumphant, bow before Him,
Gathered in from every race.
Praise with us the God of grace!
~Henry F. Lyte (1793–1847)
 MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 226–231). Crossway.