Everything God has made or communicated reveals his glory. It cannot be otherwise, for that which is made always bears the mark of its maker. Therefore, since glory is the expression of God’s being, then all he has made is marked by it. According to Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words (2006), kavod, the Hebrew term usually translated “glory” in the Old Testament, carries the ideas of the dignity and respect. The parallel term in the New Testament, doxa, carries the ideas of honor and splendor. Glory is an internal quality, externally expressed by its possessor. Like any expression, it can be distorted or misunderstood, but expression persists. Since God’s glory is necessarily expressed through all he has made and communicated, humanity, as created in his image, necessarily engages that glory. How does this engagement take place?
A Proposed Model of Glory-ology
I propose that human engagement with glory runs along three vectors: within, in, and out. Along the within-vector, humans live as images of God's glory (Gen 1:26-27), though the choice to sin (Gen 3) has damaged this imaging in a way that no mere human can repair. Humanity in Christ is called and enabled to live each moment of life--interior and exterior--as an engagement within God's glory (1 Cor 10:31). Even in those outside of Christ the shadowed reflections remain. The in-vector and out-vector equip Christians to live within and proclaim God's glory.
Along the in-vector, humans engage God’s glory as it is reflected in his self-revelation. Most Christians will think first of the Bible (Ps 19:7-14), God’s written revelation, as reflecting his glory, but there is much more. God has also revealed his glory in nature (Ps 19:1-6) and in humanity (Ps 8). Learning to see and understand God’s glory in creation and in humanity is just as important as learning to see and understand it in Scripture. These three avenues of God’s self-revelation--Scripture, nature, and humanity--are incomplete; none gives the whole picture. The one ultimate avenue of God’s self-revelation remains: God incarnate, the Son, Jesus (John 1:14-18). Jesus, as described in Scripture and as known in personal and communal relationship, is the final, norming revelation of the Father (John 14:6-7). The meaning and significance of all other avenues of revelation are understood only and always in relation to Jesus. Humans bear God’s glory within and perceive his glory in his revelation. The out-vector tells us what Christians are to do with the glory engaged on the within-vector and the in-vector.
Along the out-vector, humans engage God’s glory as they ascribe glory back to God (Ps 29). To “ascribe” is to give credit or to think of a characteristic as belonging to someone or something (dictionary.com). It is an expressed intention of the mind, a way of thinking and speaking about someone or something. The worship gathering is the first context most Christians will think of, but the act of ascribing glory to God fills all of life. Each floor cleaned, each paper written, each product produced, each idea created, each hug given, each reprimand spoken can be an act of ascribing glory. Whole-life worship is the true expression of humanity’s delegated glory.
Along these three vectors, all humans encounter God’s glory and along these same vectors Christians are called to engage God’s glory. The quality and results of this engagement will vary according to each person’s motive and relationship with Christ, but the engagement is required nonetheless. God’s glory is obvious and there is no acceptable excuse for missing it (Rom 1:20). We need only learn to see and understand.