The Intrinsic Glory of God

When we speak of God’s glory, we mean, first, what has been called His ‘intrinsic glory,” which is the sum total of the greatness of His divine being. It is all that God is, the whole of all of His attributes.  In this sense, we do not give God glory. We cannot add to His intrinsic glory one iota. He already is all-glorious. As the God who was, is, and is to come, He is forever glorious and perfect, eternally the same, unchanging in His glory. Therefore, the glory of God is intrinsic to Himself, never diminished nor increased, unaffected by outward forces or circumstances.

In the Old Testament, the primary Hebrew word for glory (kabod) meant a heavy weight, such as a rich man’s possessions which, when weighed, were very heavy. The richer he was, the more his possessions would weigh. With this wealth came a degree of “clout,” or a heavy influence upon others in the community. Thus, glory came to represent the greatness of a man which commanded the respect of others.  

God’s “weight” or glory is the greatness of who He is. His glory is the awesome gravity of His name, the infinite wealth of His divine attributes as is found in His holiness, sovereignty, wrath, grace, goodness, and so forth. Every aspect of His character is immeasurably heavy, incomparably great, beyond any human’s character or ability. Being absolutely perfect, God is awesome in every way. He is a true “heavyweight” in every one of His divine attributes.

Tragically, in the church today, we often lack a corresponding weightiness regarding the utter profoundness of God’s character and attributes. Instead, frivolity and superficiality—fueled by a user-friendly God—pervades much of Christianity. This development can be traced back to our failure to consider the heaviness of His most holy character.

Years ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, delivered a message that aired on CBC radio. In this national address, the noted Bible teacher speculated about what would be the most diabolical strategy that Satan could employ against the church in the years to come.

To the astonishment of many listeners, Barnhouse imagined that all of the bars in Philadelphia would be closed. Prostitutes would no longer walk the streets. Pornography would no longer be available. The streets would be clean, and all the city neighborhoods would be filled with law-abiding citizens. All swearing and cursing would be gone. Children would respectfully say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am.”

Every church in town, Barnhouse added, would be packed to overflowing. There would not be one church pew that could contain one more citizen. What, you ask, could be wrong with this? Barnhouse then delivered the knockout punch. The deadliest, most diabolical danger, he said, would be that in each of these filled-to-capacity sanctuaries, Jesus Christ would never be preached, and if I might add, the glory of God would never be exalted.

Sadly, this is all too common in far too many pulpits today. There is much religious talk, but nothing said about the glory of God revealed in the supreme authority and saving work of Christ upon the cross. There is mention of morality, but no Christ. There are expressions of cultural concern and political commentary, but no Christ. There is positive thinking and inspirational stories, but no Christ. There are plenty of external trappings of Christianity, but no internal reality of the glory of God revealed in Christ.

If we are to preach the Scripture, we must exalt the glory of God. This is the case because God’s glory represents the greatness of who He is, His name (Deut 28:28), His majesty (Ps 93:1), His power (Exod 15:1, 6), His works (Ps 19:1), and His holiness (Exod 15:11).  God’s glory is described as great (Ps 138:5), eternal (Ps 104:31), rich (Eph 3:16), and most highly exalted (Ps 8:1).  This glory we call His “intrinsic glory,” or the glory which inherently belongs to Him because of His holy character.  

Because God is God, He is the only being of whom it can be said that He possesses inherent glory. We cannot give this glory to Him. This glory belongs to God by virtue of who He is. Accordingly, God’s intrinsic glory cannot change. It would be impossible for Him to increase in His glory, because that would mean that He was previously less than perfect. Nor can God diminish in His glory, because He is always the same, forever glorious. God was, is, and shall be glorious throughout all the ages to come.

Steven J. Lawson is the President of OnePassion Ministries. Dr. Lawson is also the Professor of Preaching at The Master’s Seminary and Teaching Fellow with Ligonier Ministries. The author of numerous books and articles, the latest of which is The Daring Mission of William Tyndale.