We live in a universe that God is speaking. God spoke light, planets, oceans, llamas, and the rest of it into existence from nothing. Jesus is holding all things together by the Word of His eternal power. We speak in words while God speaks things. He doesn’t simply describe light with His speech, He causes things to come into existence and stay that way by His Word. This is what Scripture tells us.
While some people talk just to avoid an awkward silence, we know that the best kinds of speech are purpose-driven. Blithering to fill space is vanity. When we speak intelligently, we’re trying to persuade people of something, to gain information, to describe a thing, or to obtain some other end. God has spoken volumes. He’s spoken thousands of years of history so far. He has eloquently stated thousands of stars, galaxies, quasars, and also stink bugs. There are whole weather systems producing storms that we can’t even imagine on planets that we have yet to even see through our telescopes. There are fish living so deep in the ocean that we’ve yet to see them, categorize them, or give them a place in our yet unproven evolutionary timeline. Trees literally fall in the forest everyday where no man can hear them. Why?
Look at the whole of space and time as best as man can see it. Why in the world is this so elaborate? Why has God built a universe so big that the parts we’ve seen of it thus far are such a statistically laughable percentage of the whole? Go outside where it’s good and dark, then look up at the sky. See the stars that God spoke into being and ask what’s the point?
The Testimony of Scripture
Although there is no single explicit statement in Scripture that says God made the world for His own glory, it’s hard to find something that isn’t said to be made for God’s glory. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1); the earth is full of God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3); Israel was brought out of Egypt for God’s glory (Psalm 106:7–8; Ezekiel 20:9); the elect are created (Isaiah 43:6–7) and saved for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:25; 48:9–11; Ephesians 1:3–14); the unsaved are damned so that God can show us His attributes (Romans 9:22–23).
The list goes on and on. Colossians 1:16 tells us that all things were created for Jesus and He tells us that He did everything for the glory of the Father (John 7:18). We pray with Paul that all glory will go to God (Romans 11:36) and that is precisely what will happen in the end. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14) and the glory of God will be our light (Revelation 21:23).
If that isn’t enough proof for you, then you can go open your Bible to any page. Chances are pretty high that you’ll find some verse on that page talking God doing something else for His own glory.
Objections Stated and Refuted
Often, it will be argued that God creating all things for His own glory makes him some sort of megalomaniac or egotist. If it’s sinful for us to focus on our own glory, then doesn’t it follow that it is sinful for God to focus on His own glory? Well, no. It doesn’t follow.
Yes, we are to not seek our own glory. But we are to not seek our own glory precisely because we are to do everything with the intent of glorifying God (1 Corinthians 10:31). This leaves us no room to seek our own glory. The rule set down by Scripture is not “don’t seek your own glory.” Rather, it’s “seek God’s glory.” God, then, is not behaving contrary to His own law when He does this.
In my experience discussing this with people new to reformed theology, something like unto indignation often rises up at this point. What gives a God the right to glorify Himself? But this is precisely the sort of indignation that Satan had when he declared that he would ascend and exalt his throne above the Most High. It goes against everything that Scripture commands; it is not an objection to reformed theology, but an objection to God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.
What gives God the right to so intentionally glorify Himself and to do so in such an extravagant way? An answer might run like this: if we are to esteem what is good and esteem more highly things that are better, then it is necessary to esteem most highly the Father of lights from whom comes every good thing. If God is inclined to glorify that which is most excellent, then His priority ought to be glorifying Himself.
Why It Matters
The universe is a spoken word. It is spoken for the purpose of glorifying God. There are other purposes for it, as we’ll see later in the series. But the chief purpose is to glorify God. We must judge this composition based on whether or not it fulfill that purpose for which it was made, not based on whether we fancy it. Moreover, we do not stand in the place of fussy editors. Rather, we as characters in God’s story are judged by the Writer to see whether or not we are worth keeping in the story.
We are the words spoken that most closely represent God; we are made in His image. As sinners, we find ourselves in the place of the awkward autocorrect glitch: looking something like the word we were supposed to be, but not close enough to the wrath of the oncoming delete keystroke. The Potter has rights over the clay and the Writer has rights over His composition. His standard is the proclamation of His glory, not the inclusion of every mistyped letter.
There is a purpose in the world far greater than the comfort and protection of men. God is entirely just to find fault with men who seek their glory rather than His. God did not write this story so that men can live happily ever after. He wrote it to glorify Himself. This is not a comfortable truth and we don’t believe it because it’s fun. Rather we must believe it because of what Scripture teaches.
Note: the definitive work on this topic is by Jonathan Edwards: The End for Which God Created the World. I borrow heavily from it in this post and would be irresponsible not to recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about this topic. I also want to tip my hat to N.D. Wilson because I borrowed the spoken universe concept which he used extensively and wonderfully in “Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl”