Once, I watched a solar eclipse. I stared in fascination as the small circle of light shining in the shadow of a hole-punched index card shrank slowly to a thumbnail crescent. It was a partial eclipse for me, but those who lived in the right part of the country witnessed the moon fully pass between the Earth and the sun.
The indirect method I used to watch this partial eclipse reminded that, like the sun’s powerful light, the radiance of God’s character is far too overwhelming to look at directly. An eclipse captures our attention because it is a rare and beautiful visual event. But even more exciting is the thought that God has made it possible for us who trust in Jesus to see His priceless glory in varying degrees now and much more fully in the future.
Of all the biblical words to describe the display of God’s character, glory is a word that should come to mind. In the New Testament, glory is frequently used to translate the Greek word δόξα (doxa), which carries the basic meaning of radiance or splendor.1 Sometimes this means the light of planets or stars (1 Corinthians 15:41), but most often it means the radiance of God’s character.
The most important sense of δόξα is an extension of the metaphor of radiance: honor, prestige, or recognition.2 God’s glory is truly seen when God’s character receives recognition as being worthy of honor and praise (Revelation 4:11; 5:12). It is the reason God does what He does. It is the standard by which God measures us and from which we humans fall short because of our sin (Romans 3:23). Even though humanity fell and plunged the world into spiritual death when Adam and his wife sinned, God still reveals His glory to us in Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Astoundingly, that glory is seen in the grace He shows to believers in Jesus (Romans 5:12; John 1:16).
Everything God does for us, He does “in Him”—that is, in Jesus—and He does it “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4, 6, net). That last phrase intimates that one particular manifestation of God’s glory is His grace. And God acts in grace in Jesus’s death for us so that He will be recognized as glorious.
And the best is still to come. Believers in Jesus will experience the display of God’s character in what He does to bring about His eternal plan. As Paul said, there is yet “the glory that is to be revealed to us” in the Resurrection (Romans 8:18, NASB). Then, not even the shadow of sin and death will come between us and God’s fully glorious radiance.
About the Contributors
Before Dr. Johnston was a believer he doubted the accuracy of Scripture translations, and therefore the integrity of the Bible. After coming to faith he decided that the only way to find out whether the translations were reliable was to learn the original languages. After majoring in the classics at the University of Texas, he came to DTS and discovered that teaching was his passion. His research interests are Greek grammar, syntax and Johannine studies.