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19 | Book of Romans: The “glory of God”: what is that, anyway?

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Here’s one more take on Romans 8! 

In this episode, we are focusing on the glory of God:  what is it? What does it mean? 

And whatever is Paul talking about when he says God’s children will be ‘glorified with him’? Can Christians really partake of the glory of God?

Paul starts by encouraging us to “celebrate the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5: 2) and continues to help us understand what that all means in chapter 8. 

And here’s the thing:  it might not be what you imagine it to be.  To understand Paul, we need to place ourselves in the position and the worldview of the 1st-century Jew and hear what they would have heard in Paul’s exhortations.

Think: God’s faithfulness, the reign of God in Christ, the glory of Rome, the coming of the new age, resurrected bodies, and dwelling with the Spirit!

Because when we are in Christ, there is no condemnation. . . AND also, there is the hope of ‘the freedom that comes when God’s children are glorified.’ (Romans 8:21)

If you’re like us, you can tend to think of ‘God’s glory’ as a personal attribute, a characteristic of God’s ontological being, a part of his nature.

And, surprising to you or not, this is not what Paul means by ‘the glory of God.’  And it’s not what his 1st-century listeners would have been thinking of.

They would have been thinking of the Hebrew scriptures:  first, of Genesis, when God’s glory floods creation.  And of the psalms:  Psalm 2, Psalm 110, and especially Psalm 8.  Of Daniel 7, Isaiah 40, Isaiah 60, and Ezekiel.  

For a first-century Jew, the ‘hope of glory’ means 2 things:

  1. God will return!  God is coming, his presence will return to his people, and he will establish his just and righteous rule as King over all the earth. God’s ‘glory’ is God’s presence dwelling within his people.
  2. God will establish his people as stewards, with authority over the world and the honor of being like the son of man. The ultimate end of humans –true humans transformed in Christ–is to participate in the glory of the rule of God. 

Contrast this with the ‘glory of Rome’, with Caesar’s propaganda that The Golden Age of Rome had returned, with peace and unity in creation; with abundance and plenty in the mighty rule of Rome.  A rule built on violence, war, exploitation, and crucifixion.

For Paul, we know about God’s glory and the promises about the future glory only because of how God has acted in human history.  And when the new creation is revealed, when the new age is fulfilled, God has a place for us in his rule.

In other words, we will share in the glory of God.  We will ‘be glorified with him.’

Friends, if that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is!

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