Notes on Glory for Romans Study

Chris —  September 15, 2009

What is meant by the “glory of God”?  Can you write down a definition?

“Glory” is a hard word to define.  Yet, it is foundational for the Christian.  Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, it is to be for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

We need to meditate on the word “glory.”

I recently listened to a sermon (see here) by John Piper in which he helped me better define God’s glory.  Piper said, God’s glory is the manifest beauty of his perfections. 

So, Isaiah wrote, “Holy, holy, holy  is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3).”  Do you see the connection?  Because God is holy, the earth is full of his glory.  God’s glory is the visibility of his holiness.  God’s glory is the manifest beauty of his manifold perfections.


Where the Romans series is concerned, we must get a handle on what glory is.  Romans is about how the Gospel glorifies God.  We will only understand Romans to the extent that we understand glory.

Schreiner (page 23):

Paul ultimately wrote Romans as a servant of God to honor his Lord.  I have endeavored to show inductively in my exegesis of the letter that God’s glory is indeed ultimate. . .”



First, an attempt at the impossible—a definition of the glory of God. The reason I say it is impossible is that glory is more like the word beauty than it is like the word basketball. You can define a basketball by saying its round, inflated, about nine or ten inches in diameter; it’s used in a game to bounce and put through a hoop. But you can’t do the same with the word beauty. We all know it exists, but the reason we can talk about it is because we have seen it, not because we can say it.

What might help get at a definition of the glory of God is to contrast it with the holiness of God. God is holy means that God is in a class of perfection and greatness and value by himself. He is incomparable. His holiness is his utterly unique and perfect divine essence. It determines all that he is and does and is determined by nothing and no one outside himself. His holiness is what he is as God which no one else is, or ever will be, and it signifies his intrinsic, infinite worth.

Then we hear the angels in Isaiah 6:3 say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” The glory of God is the manifestation of his holiness. God’s holiness is the incomparable perfection and greatness of his divine nature; his glory is the display of that holiness. His glory is the open revelation of the secret of his holiness. In Leviticus 10:3, God says, “I will be shown to be holy among those who are near me, and before all the people I will be glorified.” When God shows himself to be holy, what we see is his glory—the beauty of holiness. The holiness of God is his concealed glory. The glory of God is his revealed holiness.

So here’s my effort at a definition: The glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of his manifold perfections.

Read Piper’s whole sermon here.

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4 responses to Notes on Glory for Romans Study

  1. I do like this definition. I think I read it fairly recently in one of Piper’s books. I believe I heard Mark Dever say something to the effect that glorifying God is acknowledging his attributes (or Piper’s word, perfections) and making them known. I’m probably misquoting him, but I think that is the gist of it.

    For a long time I thought of God as being subject to his attributes. In other words, we say God can’t do X because He is holy and a holy God can’t do that. Lately I’ve come to realize that He isn’t subject to “holiness”… He DEFINES holiness. Therefore if God lied, then lying would be holy. To say that God is subject to “holiness” is to say that HOLINESS is God.

    One may say that from a practical standpoint there isn’t any reason to make this distinction. I’ve personally found that to be not true. My motivation for pursuing holiness (or any of the other attributes of godliness) is now completely different… I’m not seeking holiness for the sake of holiness… I’m seeking God. I’m enjoying HIM, not just what He is.

  2. Chris, thanks for your thoughtful interaction. We can’t be too God-centered, only more God centered. I agree that we shouldn’t think of holiness as some abstraction apart from God.

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