Question: "What does it mean to glorify God?"
Answer: To “glorify” God means to give glory to Him. The word glory as related to God in the Old Testament bears with it the idea of greatness of splendor. In the New Testament, the word translated “glory” means "dignity, honor, praise and worship." Putting the two together, we find that glorifying God means to acknowledge His greatness and give Him honor by praising and worshiping Him, primarily because He, and He alone, deserves to be praised, honored and worshipped. God’s glory is the essence of His nature, and we give glory to Him by recognizing that essence.
The question that comes to mind is if God has all the glory, which He does, how then do we “give Him” glory? How can we give God something which is His in the first place? The key is found in 1 Chronicles 16:28-29, “Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” In this verse, we see two actions on our part that make up the action of glorifying God. First, we “ascribe” or give glory to Him because it is His due. No one else deserves the praise and worship that we give to glorify Him. Isaiah 42:8 confirms this: "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.” Second, we are to “bring an offering” to God as part of the worship that glorifies Him. What is the offering we bring to God to glorify Him?
The offering we bring to God as we come before Him in the splendor or beauty of His holiness involves agreement, obedience, submission, and rehearsing His attributes or extolling Him. Glorifying God begins with agreeing with everything He says, especially about Himself. In Isaiah 42:5, God declares, “I am the Lord God. I created the heavens like an open tent above. I made the earth and everything that grows on it. I am the source of life for all who live on this earth, so listen to what I say.” Because of who He is, holy and perfect and true, His proclamations and statutes are holy and perfect and true (Psalm 19:7), and we glorify Him by listening to and agreeing with them. God’s Word, the Bible, is His Word to us, all that we need for life in Him. Listening to and agreeing with Him, though, will not glorify Him unless we also submit to Him and obey the commands contained in His Word. “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” (Psalm 103:17-18). Jesus reiterated the idea that glorifying and loving God are one and the same in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
We also glorify God by rehearsing His attributes and His deeds. Stephen, in his final sermon before he was killed for his faith, retold the story of God’s dealings with Israel from the time Abraham left his country in obedience to God’s command, all the way to the coming of Christ, the “Righteous One,” whom Israel betrayed and murdered. When we tell of God’s work in our lives, how He saved us from sin, and the marvelous works He does in our hearts and minds every day, we glorify Him before others. Even though others don’t always want to hear our glorifying God, He is more than pleased by it. The crowd who heard Stephen hated what he said, covering their ears and rushing at him to stone him. “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).
To glorify God is to extol His attributes—His holiness, faithfulness, mercy, grace, love, majesty, sovereignty, power, and omniscience, to name a few—rehearsing them over and over in our minds and telling others about the singular nature of the salvation only He offers.
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