We’re nearing the end of our panoramic view of John Piper’s A Peculiar Glory. He’s answering why we can trust the Bible to be true and the measurement of all other truth claims.
We’ve seen in the book’s final section that God authenticates Scripture by revealing his glory in its fulfilled prophecies and Son-of-God miracles. In this chapter, we see that God authenticates Scripture by revealing his glory in the people the Word creates.
GOD’S PECULIAR GLORY
What is peculiar about God’s glory? He reveals his “majesty through meekness.” He shows “the grandeur of his grace through his voluntary sufferings in the rescue of sinners” (Piper, p. 254).
Piper now claims “that the Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God by their display of this peculiar glory of God in the transformation of selfish people into God-centered, Christ-exalting servants who live for the temporal and eternal good of others” (Piper, p. 254).
BEHOLDING AND BECOMING THE GLORY OF GOD
What we behold in Scripture creates a glory in the way we behave. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Scripture is, therefore, authenticated by the glory it creates in believers.
THE LORD OF GLORY APPEARS IN THE WORD
For all not present to see the glory of Christ in the first century, words mediate that glory to us. When we read what the apostles wrote, we see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Piper warns that we mustn’t limit that glory to the gospel. For all God’s inspired word contains his transforming glory.
ARE WE MADE NEW BY THE WORD OR THE SPIRIT?
God’s glory, which we see in the word, changes us to see the word’s truth and beauty. “The word itself is the instrument by which the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to see . . . ” (Piper, p. 257.
“You have been born again . . . through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). God causes us to be born again, and the instrument he uses is his word.
WE ARE MADE NEW BY THE WORD IN THE HAND OF THE SPIRIT
“How does the truth and beauty of the word itself do the transforming, [while] a transformation must happen in order for us to see the truth and beauty of the word?”
(Piper, p. 258).
Answer: the Holy Spirit. “It is as though the sun of truth has broken through the clouds after a long storm of darkness” (Piper, p. 258).
The human heart has to be changed before it can see God’s glory in the word. But “before” has a causal meaning rather than a temporal one. The opening of the heart’s “eye” and the seeing of God’s glory in the word happen simultaneously.
THE WORD IS CONFIRMED BY THE GLORY IT CREATES
God’s peculiar glory in Scriptures is reflected in people who are “transformed from self-centered, self-exalting people to God-centered, Christ-exalting servants who live for the good of others” (Piper, p. 260).
Therefore, these people themselves are evidence for God’s reality in the word.
THE SALT AND LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12a). Now the disciples have seen his glory and been changed. So, Jesus says to them, “You are the light of the world . . . In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
There is something peculiar about the glory of those good works, says Piper. A moment earlier, Jesus had said about his disciples . . .
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Not everyone who sees the disciples’ good works glorifies God. Some persecute them. “This kind of response to suffering is so utterly extraordinary that Jesus immediately says, ‘You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:13,14). The stunning taste and brightness of the disciples’ joy in suffering for righteousness’ sake is the salt and light of the world. This is the peculiar glory Jesus brought into the world” (Piper, p. 261).
CHRIST GAVE THEM THE WORDS AND THE GLORY OF GOD
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14, Jesus’ prayer to the Father). God’s word and God’s glory to his disciples resulted in hatred from some and belief from others.
JOY THAT SUSTAINS LOVE IN SUFFERING
This joy in spite of mistreatment flows from the hope of the glory of God. “For the joy that was set before him [Christ] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). “Blessed are you when others . . . persecute you . . . Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11,12).
This, says Piper, “is the key to our joy in sorrow and therefore the key to enduring in love in spite of suffering . . . The word [of God] exhibits and creates the glory of Christ in the lives of Christ’s followers, and this too is how the Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God” (Piper, p. 263).
TO CONVINCE AND CONVERT, COMFORT AND BUILD UP
The word “exhibits and creates human lives that embody” the peculiar glory which is “majesty in meekness, strength through weakness, and deeds of love done with Christ-dependent joy in spite of mistreatment” (Piper, p. 264).
The Larger Catechism answers the question of how the Scriptures show themselves to be God’s word by “ . . . by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation” (Piper, p. 264).
* * *
Piper writes: “[God’s peculiar glory in Scriptures is reflected in people who are] “transformed from self-centered, self-exalting people to God-centered, Christ-exalting servants who live for the good of others.”
Wow! That makes me nervous. I know plenty of professing Christians who don’t measure up!” I know. I pastored 44 years. Besides, I know me. So either a lot of us aren’t truly born again or Piper’s argument that changed Christians authenticate God’s glory in his word is full of holes.
Wait. We’ve got a third option. All of us Christians really do have a heart-change. We want to be God- not self-centered and Christ- not self-exalting. The Holy Spirit (the new Christ-nature implanted) makes us want to live like servants for the good of others. But we’re in-process. We’ve been changed, and we’re being changed. It’s not a momentary make-over. It’s an over-time make-over.
Even so, signs of new life show up. When we gather for worship and with all our heart sing God’s praises in Christ, we’re singing out that we are new inside. When we pray for a hurting sinner, when we sit with a lonely Christian, when we serve in a soup kitchen for hungry strangers, we’re living out the new we are inside.
Not by world-shaking leaps, but by baby steps we show that what we behold in Scripture creates a glory in how we behave.
And so we show that the Scriptures reveal themselves to be the very word of God.