Scripture Reading: I Corinthians 10
Psalters: 403(1-3), 49(1-3), 282(1-4), 236(1-4)
Beloved congregation in our Lord Jesus Christ, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, God was working in the church to bring about a great reformation. We don’t say that other things before that did not contribute to the Reformation, but this was a milestone in the Reformation. For centuries the church had existed in doctrinal and moral darkness. But God would not let the gates of hell prevail against the church. In His goodness, He brought about the great Reformation of the 16th century.
Although God was working in many ways, that act of Martin Luther marks the beginning of the Reformation. Luther had struggled for a long time with the issue of how was he righteous before God. He tried everything under the sun to make himself righteous before God, ‘til finally he came to the truth of Romans that justification is by faith alone. Luther stressed that truth in his ministry.
While Luther stressed the truth of Scripture concerning salvation, Calvin said there is something even more important than salvation. What could that something be? What could be more important than the salvation of the church? The answer is, the glory of God. The glory of God is more important than the salvation of men. The fact that God saves His people in order to glorify Himself, proves that His glory is more important than salvation. His glory is the ultimate goal.
Calvin placed so much emphasis on the glory of God that he began his catechism with that theme. Many of you will recognize in Calvin’s catechism, the words of the Westminster Catechism. He asks the question, “What is the principle and chief end of man’s life?” First of all he says, “To know God.” Then the catechism asks, “But what moveth thee to say so?” The answer is, “Because He hath created and placed us in this world to set forth His glory in us. And it is good reason that we employ our whole life to His glory, seeing He is the beginning and fountain thereof.”
The text that we consider stresses the very same truth. “Do all to the glory of God.” We ought to ask ourselves, as we consider this word of God to us, “Do we do everything to the glory of God?” If we are not doing that, we need to pray that God would turn us from our sin and work in us to serve Him.
The theme for our text is, Living to the Glory of God.
First of all we note The Idea of living to the glory of God.
Secondly we note The Scope: we must do all to the glory of God.
And lastly, The Necessity of doing all to the glory of God.
LIVING TO THE GLORY OF GOD
I. The Idea
II. The Scope
III. The Necessity
I. THE IDEA
The main point of the text is that we must do all to the glory of God.
The inspired Apostle has been arguing in the context that Christians have a certain liberty. We have a liberty to eat meat, or to drink wine that has been offered to idols. In and of itself, you understand, that meat belongs to God. In the context we read, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” The point was that believers ought not to be so worried about whether a piece of meat had been offered to idols when they bought that piece of meat in the market. They were not even to bother asking the question, because they would know full well, that whether or not that meat had been offered to an idol, didn’t make a bit of difference. “The earth is the Lord’s.” That meat belonged to God.
When Christians bought meat, they should consider their Christian liberty. In that context, the apostle continues by laying out the principle that our liberty has bounds. If using our liberty causes a brother to stumble, if using our liberty harms the cause of the church or the kingdom of Christ, then our liberty has gone beyond the bounds that God has set for it.
In verse 23 the inspired Apostle says, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” This is not saying that every single activity that we can imagine in our hearts is lawful. That’s not the meaning. It’s not saying sin is lawful. That cannot be. The context is talking about Christian liberty. All those things being discussed, eating meat offered to idols is what is lawful to me. That’s the point of the inspired Apostle. Drinking wine in and of itself was lawful. But, he adds, doing these things might not be profitable. So, he says, “All things are not expedient.” Similarly, he says “All things edify not.” It’s not the case that every single thing that is lawful will actually edify the body of Christ. Not everything that’s lawful is beneficial. Doing these things might not be profitable. They might cause damage to the church. They might damage the brother’s conscience. And they might damage our own reputation. Therefore, our liberty has boundaries.
What is the boundary? The boundary that sets all boundaries for our Christian liberty is given in the text. “Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” That’s the boundary of our Christian liberty. The boundary is the glory of God. Don’t go beyond that boundary. It is possible to go beyond the boundary of God’s glory if one simply follows the principle of Christian liberty. We might go and do something, but that something may not glorify God. The boundary over which we ought not to pass is His glory.
The apostle says in verses 32 and 33, “Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” If our eating or drinking needlessly offends either Jews or Gentiles, or if it needlessly offends members of the church, then don’t do it. In short, if our action hinders the cause of Christ and His kingdom, then don’t do it.
When we bypass our liberty, God may be pleased to use us to gain others to Christ. Our goal must be the profit of the church and the glory of God in the church. Concern for the glory of God makes me say, “I know I have the liberty to do this, but I’m not going to do it, because I care about the church.” So our activity, or our lack of activity, ought to have this goal: to bring glory to God. That ought to be the goal of every one of our activities.
What is the glory of God? God’s glory is simply, His brightness. We can talk about the glory of the sun. The sun is so bright, that we cannot look into the sun. God’s glory is His brightness. It is the shining out of His infinite perfections. He shines out His righteousness, His perfect righteousness. He shines out and shows forth that He is almighty, that He is all wise, that He is all loving. He shows forth His justice and His mercy. All of these perfections of God shine out from Him. These virtues constitute His glory.
But now you might ask yourself, “If God is infinitely glorious already by Himself, how is it that we can bring glory to Him?” Can we add to His glory? Are we able to make God more loving then He already is? Can we add to His justice? Not at all. The text is not talking about adding to the glory of God.
Rather it is talking about reflecting and displaying God’s glory. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork.” God’s creation declares His glory. It doesn’t add to His glory, but it reflects and displays His glory.
Just as the heavens declare the glory of God, so does the rest of God’s creation show forth His glory. When we look at creation around us, we see reflections of God’s wisdom and power and goodness. But especially God’s glory is shown forth in His work of salvation. God’s glory is shown forth in His work of gathering the church and glorifying Himself through the church. The church reflects God’s glory. Ephesians 3:21 says, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” So, the reason the church has been called out of darkness into the marvelous light, is to glorify God.
Therefore we ought to act in such a way that we reflect God’s glory to the world around us. We ought to display God’s virtues. Think of the moon and the sun. The sun in all it’s glory shines on the moon and then the moon reflects that glory. If we looked at the moon we could say, “what a glorious light in the sky.” But all the light of the moon comes from the sun. And so the church, as the moon, reflects the glory of God, even as the moon reflects the glory of the sun.
God calls us to that in Matthew 5:16 . There, Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men…” Notice, Jesus calls it “your light.” That does not mean the light ultimately came from us. The fact is, God has given us that light. Now that God has given us that light, He tells us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” That’s the chief goal of God’s people, to glorify God, to reflect His glory.
II. THE SCOPE
Although in I Corinthians 10 , the inspired Apostle was speaking in particular about the eating of meat and the drinking of wine, nevertheless, the rule that he lays down in the text is universal in it’s scope. Christian liberty has a universal boundary. It’s like a fence that keeps us from abusing our liberty. God wants us to stay inside the fence. As long as we are doing what we do to the glory of God, then we are inside that boundary. The rule, the universal rule, is brought out in the text, by that little word, or maybe not so little, by that word, “whatsoever.” After he says, “whether therefore ye eat, or drink,” he adds, “or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Yes, this rule applies to eating and drinking. Eat to the glory of God, and drink to the glory of God. But then he adds that word that makes the rule a universal rule. So, the rule applies to everything we do in all of our lives.
Does that really mean everything? Does God really want me to glorify Him in every single thing that I do? Well that’s what the text says. “Whatsoever ye do.” Anything that you do. Certainly that applies to the big issues of life.
When we talk about marriage, we can say, “Oh I can see how the choice of my marriage partner, is something that must bring glory to God. I must choose someone in the Lord. I must marry someone who agrees with me doctrinally.” Why? Because a godly marriage will bring glory to God. On the other hand, those who marry outside the church, they do not glorify God in their marriage. God may graciously convert an unbelieving spouse, if we marry an unbeliever. But, the fact that God may change them is not a license to do what is forbidden by God. Marrying outside the church is not to the glory of God. The act itself is not aimed at God’s glory; therefore, God forbids it.
What about our jobs? We ought to ask ourselves, “Am I working in a job, or am I training for a career to the glory of God?” God wants us to work so that we may have money to support our families and the church. But money is not the only criteria. When an employer offers you three times as much as you are currently making, that does not automatically mean you ought to take the offer. You must ask yourself, “Would taking this job be to the glory of God?”
That’s the question we ought to ask ourselves with anything that we do. With our marriages, our jobs, where we decide to live, “Is this to the glory of God? Is that why I’m living here right now?” It’s not so hard for us to see how the big issues of life must be subject to this rule. We can see how moving to another state might not be to the glory of God; say, for example, if there is not a faithful church there. We can see how working with godless co-workers might not be to the glory of God, if they are tempting us to sin with them.
But what about the small things in life? Well, we go back to the text. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink.” Those are pretty small things, what we eat and what we drink. We ought to do those things to the glory of God. Does that mean I have to brush my teeth to the glory of God? Does that mean I have to sleep to the glory of God? Does that mean I dress to the glory of God? Does it mean, when I choose a flavor of ice cream, I choose that flavor to the glory of God?
Well… Yes, as striking as that may sound. God says, “Whatsoever ye do.” We can imagine situations where our actions will affect the glory of God. When I brush my teeth, I do it to the glory of God. How? When I brush my teeth on a regular basis, that may keep me healthy. And if I am healthy, then I can better serve God and His kingdom. A small little thing that I do to the glory of God.
When I sleep, I make sure that I get enough sleep, so that I am useful in the kingdom. If I get so little sleep that I can’t keep my eyes open to read the Bible, the way I sleep is not to the glory of God. If I get so little sleep during the week that I fall asleep in church on Sunday I am not sleeping to the glory of God.
When I dress modestly, I may prevent someone else from sinning. I may even prevent myself from falling into sin because of somebody else’s temptation. That’s dressing to the glory of God.
Even when I choose a certain flavor of ice cream, I ought to do that to the glory of God. Maybe my choice of cotton candy flavor shows I’m more interested in what somebody else desires than I am for my own preferences. That meekness is to the glory of God.
Of course, that requires careful thought. There are going to be countless occasions where it will be difficult to say, “This way is to the glory of God, and this way is not.” Nevertheless, we ought to think carefully about the situations we face and we ought to act in a way that will bring most glory to God. That’s because, it’s not just going to happen automatically. If we don’t consider whether this choice or that choice is to the glory of God, if we don’t even consider the question, then we won’t be doing either of them to the glory of God.
In the first place then, determining what brings glory to God requires a standard that guides us. That means, we must know God’s Word. Scripture has the final say over our doctrine and our life. Therefore, if we want to live to the glory of God, we must learn the will of God as it is found in Scripture. We must learn the lessons and the principles of God’s Word. For example, when we read of those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, and how they endured, and how that brought glory to God, that will give us incentive also to endure suffering for righteousness sake. Scripture also warns us not to give occasion for others to blaspheme God’s name. We need to know the Word of God.
In the second place, we need to know and understand the situation around us. If we know, for example, that our brother will be offended by a certain activity, then we don’t press our liberty so far that it harms the brother or the cause of the truth. Scripture gives us a very good example of that in the apostle Paul. He was one of the greatest foes of circumcision. And yet, Paul circumcised Timothy before they went on a missionary journey. Why did Paul circumcise Timothy, when he was such an enemy of circumcision? Timothy might have asserted his Christian liberty and refused to be circumcised. But, he was circumcised. Why? Because it was “to the glory of God.” That’s why he took the Christian liberty of being circumcised, because he did not want to provide any occasion that would hinder the work of the gospel.
Of course, from God’s perspective, whether or not Timothy was circumcised was not going to prevent anyone from being saved. God will save whoever He wants. And yet Paul still circumcised Timothy because he did not want to provide any occasion that would humanly hinder the work. That doesn’t deny God’s sovereignty; it simply shows that God uses our actions to accomplish His will. The reason Paul circumcised Timothy, ultimately, was that this would bring glory to God.
In a different situation, we read that Paul refused to circumcise Titus. Why did Paul refuse to circumcise Titus? Because it was not to the glory of God. Paul knew that if he circumcised Titus that the Judaizers would use that fact to undermine the gospel of grace.
In both cases, circumcising Timothy, not circumcising Titus, Paul knew the circumstances around him. He did what he did for the glory of God. He did it for the cause of the kingdom, so that the church would be gathered and God would be glorified in the church.
We must know the Scriptures. We must know the situation around us. But we must also know our own hearts. When we are in a situation that fits under the umbrella of Christian liberty, we need to search our hearts. And then we need to ask ourselves, “Am I really doing this for the glory of God? Am I choosing this way over this other way for the glory of God?” We need to search our hearts, and ask, “Is that really my goal? Or, am I simply doing what I want because I want to live for myself?” Nobody can read our minds. But God knows our hearts.
When we seek the glory of God and the good of the church, then we will be able to say with the inspired apostle in 1 Corinthians 10:33 , “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”
Do all to the glory of God.
III. THE NECESSITY
Living to the glory of God is also a necessity. We don’t say it is necessary to live to the glory of God in order to earn your way into heaven. That’s not what we mean by necessity. But, to glorify God is something that He commands us to do. Even Jesus Himself did everything He did to the glory of God. In John 17 Jesus says to the Father, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Jesus glorified God by working God’s works, being obedient all of His life, being obedient even unto the death of the cross.
God was glorified when Jesus was on the cross. God was glorified when the centurion, seeing Jesus death and the darkness, declared, “Certainly this was a righteous man.” God was glorified when His mercy and His justice were both displayed there on the cross. God’s justice was gloriously displayed as God poured out on Jesus Christ all the wrath that was due to every single one of His children.
But so was His mercy. For it was God’s mercy that sent His Son to suffer in our place. God’s mercy and His justice were displayed on the cross, when Christ purchased our salvation.
I Corinthians 6:20 talks of that purchase. It says, “For ye are bought with a price.” That price was the precious blood of Jesus Christ. “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” We have been redeemed to God by the precious blood of our Savior. Now we belong to Him. Our spirit and our body are God’s. He owns us. That’s the way the catechism puts it too. “We belong body and soul unto our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” And that’s why we call Him “Lord.” He is our master. In all of our lives we strive to live for Him and to do what He desires us to do. We want to glorify God, even as Christ Himself sought God’s glory in giving Himself for the church, and now gathering the church.
Do we live to the glory of God? Not as we should. But God is merciful. Mercifully, He forgives us. And, mercifully, He gives us the Holy Spirit to wash us, so that more and more we do glorify Him in all things. That is our chief goal in life: to glorify God.
May God give us grace to glorify Him in all things. Amen.
- Passage: I Corinthians 10:31
Rev. John Marcus (Wife: Amy)
Ordained: December 2005
Pastorates: First, Edmonton, Alberta - 2005-2020; Peace PRC (Dyer, IN) - 2022Website: www.peaceprc.org/
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