December 10, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Romans 8:14-21 (NRSV)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Glory, in Scripture, is closely associated with authority (see, for example, Psalm 8). Consider ways in which God has given you authority and how you’re stewarding that gift. To be sure, our glory/authority as human beings has been tarnished by sin. We’re not yet experiencing the fullness of glory that is to come. But God does entrust us with care for this world, including its people and institutions. Moreover, God has chosen to put the very Spirit of God within us as a foretaste of the glory that is to come. As it says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, right now we are “being transformed . . . from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” Thus, God is already present in you, helping you to express faithfully the glory/authority you have already received.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Advent for the Children of God.
As Christmas approaches, we encounter the word “glory” more often than during the rest of the year. Consider, for example, the lyrics from a couple of beloved Christmas carols: “Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King.” Or there’s the second verse of “O Come, All Ye Faithful”: “Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation, Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above; Glory to God, Glory in the highest.” This verse is inspired by the angels in the Christmas narrative of Luke 2, where they say, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14).
Glory also appears in Romans 8, in a portion of Scripture with strong Advent themes. In last Tuesday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I talked about how glory is closely related to suffering in Romans 8, referring to the biblical passage I’m using today. But I didn’t have enough space to talk about the meaning of glory. In devotions for today and tomorrow, I’d like to consider questions such as: What do we mean by glory? What is God’s glory and what are the implications of our sharing in it?
The Greek word translated as “glory” is doxa. If you were to look up doxa in the standard Greek-English lexicon, you’d find a variety of meanings, including: “the condition of being bright or shining, radiance, a state of being magnificent, greatness, honor, recognition.” The New Testament use of doxa is influenced by the Hebrew word kabod in the Old Testament. Kabod had various connotations such as “glory, honor, abundance, dignity, splendor.” Kabod carried a sense of weightiness or influence. Thus, a person with kabod was “someone honorable, impressive, worthy of respect” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, kabod).
Therefore, when Romans 8 speaks of being glorified with Christ, this isn’t about someday shining with divine radiance. Rather, it’s a matter of sharing in divine honor and exercising divinely granted authority over creation. Psalm 8 provides some relevant background for this understanding when it says to God, “Yet you have made [human beings] a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet” (Psalm 8:5-6). Glory and honor are the basis for human dominion over all things. Unlike Romans 8, Psalm 8 isn’t focusing on the future, of course, but rather on the original creation. God made human beings in God’s own glorious image and gave them authority over the created world. Or, as Psalm 8 says, God “crowned them with glory and honor” and gave them “dominion.”
Since we’re familiar with the biblical narrative, we know that human beings did not faithfully exercise the dominion associated with their original glory. They chose instead to disobey God, which led to the corruption of creation in addition to humanity’s alienation from God. Yet Romans 8 envisions a future in which God will restore things as they were meant to be. In that time God’s glory will be “revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). This translation could be strengthened in light of the Greek, which literally reads, God’s glory will be “revealed into or upon us” (translating the Greek eis hēmas more accurately). As N.T. Wright explains in Into the Heart of Romans, “The divine glory is going to be unveiled upon us. We will discover that we are clothed in it, invested (as we say) with it” (p. 123). This reading is consistent with verse 8:17 in which we do not merely see Christ’s glory but share in it as “joint heirs with Christ.”
In tomorrow’s devotion, I’ll explore further the implications of our future glory. For now, I’d like to encourage you to consider ways in which God has given you authority and how you’re stewarding that gift. To be sure, our glory/authority as human beings has been tarnished by sin. We’re not yet experiencing the fullness of glory that is to come. But God still entrusts us with care for this world, including its people and institutions. Moreover, God has chosen to put the very Spirit of God within us as a foretaste of the glory that is to come. As it says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, right now we are “being transformed . . . from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”
Thus, God is already present in you, helping you to express faithfully the glory/authority you have already received. Take some time to consider how this is being worked out in your life. The following questions might help.
When you think of glory, what comes to mind? How might you define “glory” as it is used by English speakers today?
Can you think of contemporary examples in which glory and authority are closely linked?
What has God entrusted to you? Over what or whom has God given you authority? How are you stewarding this gift?
How does the Holy Spirit make a difference as you exercise the authority God has given to you?
Talk with a wise friend or with your small group about the authority God has entrusted to you and how you are stewarding it.
Gracious God, you are truly and fully glorious. In truth, we can only begin to perceive and comprehend your glory. Yet what little we see and understand is magnificent.
How amazing it is that you, glorious God, chose to create human beings in your own image and to invest us with glory and honor. Thus you have given us authority over the world you created.
We confess that we have not stewarded this authority well. Yet you nevertheless entrust to us the care for your creation and all it entails. You even glorify us in this age through the presence of your Spirit, who helps us to exercise wisely and well the authority you’ve given us. Help us, we pray, to pay attention to the guidance we receive from your Spirit.
To you, King of Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (based on 1 Tim 1:17).
Banner image by Photoholgic on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Authority (Psalm 8).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.