How does God reveal God’s glory to humanity?
1. Through the universe.
Along with the psalmist, the Jesus follower confesses with a heart filled with awe: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1). The Jesus follower exalts the greatness of God: “LORD my God, You are great” (Psalm 104:1b).
The psalmist expresses admiration in Psalm 104 for the divine majesty that radiated through the processes in nature, even though the ancient poet expresses it in the language of mythology and cosmology. For the psalmist, the variety of creatures that fill the earth expresses the wisdom of God. His admiration for the glory of God made him want to rejoice in God (v. 34). He even wants God to rejoice over all the fruits of God’s work (v. 31). When the divine glory, that is, the majesty and wisdom of God, covers the heart of a believer, the Jesus follower rejoices in God. Furthermore, the believer wants to unite with the joy of God over all the divine works that have revealed the glory of God.
Thus, for a follower of Jesus, the universe is the theatrum gloriae dei, the stage on which the glory of God is presented, as said by John Calvin, an early Reformed theologian.
2. Through Jesus Christ.
The follower of Jesus understands that Jesus Christ was the Word made flesh. Through the Word, God made all things (John 1:3); the heavens and the earth and all that is in them (Genesis 1:1-2:4a). Then the Word was incarnated, made flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:14). He who was “in the beginning” (John 1.1) and “in the beginning was with God” (John 1:2), enjoys the deepest fellowship with God (John 1.18). Jesus has come into the world as a human to interpret God (John 1:18) for humanity, that is, to reveal God’s heart to human beings.
The whole life of Jesus reveals that God is willing to be Father/Mother/Parent for humans. By God’s willingness to become a Father/Mother, God reveals God’s grace and truth in the life of Jesus to humanity, accepting humans as God’s children. Whoever accepts Jesus Christ becomes a child of God. Whoever believes in the name of Jesus knows for sure that God has become Father/Mother. The glory of God, revealed in Jesus, is the glory that invites everyone to experience God’s grace, and the truth that God is completely trustworthy.
3. Through the church.
Based on Christ’s victory (through his death and resurrection) over the powers and principalities, the church is the mode Jesus Christ exists in the world today. Christ, who “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty” to reign as the Messiah, is no longer physically present in the world. According to God’s plan, Jesus is present through the church, which is “his body” (Ephesians 1:23), meaning the representation of Christ or sign of Christ’s presence in the world.
Through the church, Christ continues to “preach peace” (Ephesians 2:17; Ephesians 6:15). Through the church, Christ also proclaims victory over the powers of the world (Ephesians 3:10), over the structures that make humans exploit, oppress and marginalize each other, even plunder and destroy nature!
Sociologically, the church, which is called the Body of Christ, is a community. The church is a community made up of people who through faith (and believers’ baptism) have committed their life (and death) to Jesus Christ. It is remarkable that Christ presents himself in the world through “the sociological.” How can the “sociological” represent Christ in the world, be a sign of his presence that greets the world with peace, and proclaims his victory over the powers? The answer is by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ, the Messiah, has poured out his Spirit to empower the church. First of all, in union with Christ, every believer or follower of Christ is united to one another. Unity has a concrete form, namely a community. That’s the church. Then the Holy Spirit, who indwells every follower of Christ and is present in the church:
- forms the character of Christ in each follower of Christ (Galatians 5:22-23a);
- gives spiritual gifts to serve and build one another up (1 Corinthians 12:3-13); and
- provides love, wisdom and courage to preach the gospel of peace and to live authentically as people who have been freed by Christ from the powers that exploit, oppress, and marginalize (Ephesians 3:10; 6:15; 2 Timothy 1:7).
Obviously, the Holy Spirit empowers the church to truly represent Christ in the world, to be a sign of Christ’s presence that greets the world with peace, and announces Christ’s victory over the powers. Jesus himself once called his followers “the light of the world”, and “the city on the hill”, and “the lamp on the lampstand” (Matthew 5:14- 15). Through the beautiful works done together by Jesus followers in the church, many will glorify God, their Father.
This is how we understand these “beautiful works”: empowered by the Holy Spirit, the church proclaims the gospel of peace and people live authentically, having been freed by Christ from the powers that exploit, oppress and marginalize. In this way, the glory of God is revealed.
Equally important, we believe that in Christ the purpose of God’s call to Abraham was fulfilled. In the story about Abraham (Genesis 12-25), we find that God promised him three things: descendants, land and fellowship. All three served one purpose: that Abraham and his descendants would be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth. We also find these three promises and the same purpose in the story about Isaac (Genesis 26-27) and the story about Jacob (Genesis 28-35).
The apostle Paul argued that, in Christ, the seed of Abraham reached its fulfillments, and Abraham’s blessing reached the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14,16). All around the world we share in that blessing, which is to become children of Abraham and children of God, “through faith in Christ Jesus.” The implications are very important. As we read in Galatians 3:26-28, in the church there is no more racism (“no Jews or Greeks”), no class distinctions (“no slaves or independent”) and no sexism (no male or female”). All have been united with or in Christ by the Holy Spirit through baptism. All are children of Abraham and children of God.
Together, we are sisters and brothers – equals – called to love and serve one another, and to build up the church. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we work together to make this a reality, so that there really is no racism, class difference, or sexism in the church. This is an example of authentic living, as people who have been freed by Christ from the powers that exploit, oppress and marginalize. This is the testimony from the “community of the free” of Christ’s victory over the powers! This makes the preaching of the gospel of peace meaningful and impactful on the world, because it has the weight of “word and deed.”
The truth about the church, which is the core of the practice of following Jesus together, is the truth about the revelation of God’s glory. God revealed God’s glory to humanity through the universe, and through Jesus Christ, and through the church, which is the community of Jesus followers, namely us – we who follow Jesus together!
—Rudolfus Antonius (Pdt. Rudiyanto) is the pastor of the GKMI (Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia) congregation in Yogyakarta.
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