Is it wrong for God to seek a greater display of His own glory through human suffering?

J. Carl Laney, Professor, Western Seminary

Editor's Note: The following excerpt is taken from Dr. Laney's book, Answers to Tough Questions.

When Jesus learned that Lazarus was sick and dying, He explained to His disciples, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it" (John 11:4). Some have wondered if it is prideful and wrong for God to seek to increase His own reputation through human pain. Of course we know that God cannot sin, so this must not be wrong. But how can it be right for God to glorify Himself when Scripture discourages self-glorification as a form of pride (cf. Ps. 115:1, 1 Cor. 1:27-29, 10:31, 1 Thess. 2:6)?

The "glory" of God refers in Scripture to His reputation as made known and displayed through His attributes. God is glorified when His reputation is enhanced in the sight of others through the actions of obedient and submissive people. Jesus Christ glorified God the Father through His obedient life and completed ministry (John 17:4). Although we cannot add to God's attributes, the lives of believers can be used to display God's greatness and grace (1 Cor. 10:31).

As Creator of the physical universe and all it contains, it is entirely appropriate for God to seek to display His glorious reputation (Ps. 29:1, 96:8). This is true, because as God, He is worthy of this display. In seeking to glorify Himself, God is not seeking anything that He does not deserve. He is seeking what is rightfully His and belongs to no other. God said, "I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images" (Isa. 42:8). In seeking His glory and using the lives of His people to enhance His reputation on earth, God is ultimately seeking our good. This is because we are blessed through knowing God! The magnification of God's reputation on earth is good and appropriate because it multiplies the opportunity for humanity to experience His blessing.

While God's glorification benefits humanity, this is not true of you or me. In fact, self-glorification is a form of pride which detracts from God's glorification. Instead of giving God the credit, like Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:30), we keep it for ourselves. This is selfish and prideful, because there is nothing we have and nothing we have accomplished which did not come as a gift of God's grace (1 Cor. 1:4, 4:7, 2 Cor. 9:11, Eph. 1:3).

Dr. J. Carl Laney is Professor of Biblical Literature at Western Seminary in Portland, OR. For more biblical resources by Dr. Laney, please visit www.carllaney.com.

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