The first podcast of the new Grace Church series on Mark’s Gospel is available.
1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3“a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”
4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:1-4 (NIV)
To kick off our new series, “What’s it all about?” we discussed the foundational text of the Christian faith – the Bible.
The joke among evangelicals when teaching children is that no matter what the question is, the answer is always one of 3 things: God, Jesus or the Bible. So it follows that if I ask the question, “What is the Bible all about?” the answer will be either “God” or “Jesus”.
God’s ultimate goal in all He does is to preserve and display His glory. He prizes and delights in His own glory above all things. In short, this IS what the Bible is all about. This is the recurring, unifying theme of redemptive history as revealed in the Bible. The big-picture plot of the Bible is often summarised as ‘Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation’ – but the theme that unites each stage or component is the Glory of God.
The term “glory of God” in the Bible refers to the visible splendor or moral beauty of God. Another term that can signify much the same thing is the name of God. When Scripture speaks of doing something “for God’s name’s sake,” it means the same as doing it “for His glory.” The “name” of God is not merely His label, but a reference to His character. It is a short-cut or abbreviated way of talking about, ascribing, attributing and affirming all the accolades, credit, significance and greatness of God as our almighty, majestic Lord and King. Today, when Christians pray, they conclude their prayer with, “in Jesus name“. For some, this is used as a formulaic method not dissimilar to “abra kadabra“. They think it is a magical incantation that somehow makes anything prayed for OK. But the meaning of “in Jesus name” is a short-cut way of saying, “Dear God, please hear and answer my prayer in such as way that gives you all the credit, all the honour, all the praise and in no way allows me to gloat that I am better and bigger than you (or anyone else).”
Over and over throughout the Old Testament, God tells us that the reason for showing us mercy, for acting as a redeemer and a saviour is for “the sake of his name“. In other words, God’s reason’s for acting the way he acted are not because the persons or people in some way deserved or earned his intervention. Rather it is to display and demonstrate his greatness, goodness, glory and grace.
As John Piper notes in Desiring God, to love and glorify God does not mean to meet His needs, but rather to delight in Him and to be captivated by His glorious power and grace and to value Him above all other things on earth. God is totally independent of his creation. He has no needs that we can meet, he has no insufficiency that we can make up. We ascribe glory to God because no other being or object is so purely holy and good and worthy of such worship.
To further emphasise the importance of God’s glory in the Bible as an underlying theme as well as how it relates to us, the New Testament tells us that separation from God’s glory for all eternity is what hell is all about. The imagery used for hell in the bible consists of flames, fire, torment, punishment, suffering, and darkness. These are picture words that evoke intense feelings and reactions. Hell is far worse than just physical elements of pain and suffering. Hell is an absence of the glory of God. God is the source of life, goodness, kindness, mercy, compassion and grace. Separation from that is hell.
2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ~ will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed
Participation in the Christian life starts with a (God given) understanding and recognition of the greatness and glory of God. Thus we summarise conversion as:
“everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:13
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” ~ Acts 16:31
What’s the Bible all about? God revealing his glory to us that we might relish it as revealed in and by Jesus Christ and received in and by the Holy Spirit.
Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. He is a self-sufficient and inexhaustible fountain of grace and our only salvation.We have no ground for boasting or gloating about attainment of enlightenment, understanding, holiness, righteousness or spirituality apart from the glory of God revealed in Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9