Bryan Vinson, Sr.
The acts of creation wrought were either accidental or intentional. If by mere force apart from all intelligence, then creation stands as accidental and therefore purposeless. If by intelligent direction, then there was intention and design. But the order of the universe belies the former and fully accredits the latter. If, then, in creation Jehovah was the Creator, as Moses records, we must accept the thought that God had a purpose in mind as prompting him to thus act. Since God is eternal and created matter is not eternal, as evidenced by the fact of its creation, we cannot conceive as being added or formed anything to him as touching his Being and Attributes by the creation. That is, all that he is, he was antecedent to creation; there was not brought into existence any contribution to the eternal being and attributes of Deity. He existed before creation, and as thus existing he was perfect in being and absolute in power. Therefore we conclude that whatever purpose which moved Him to create all things, it was as related to himself designed to reflect and attest that which already existed.
We are told, "for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, yea I have made him" (Isa. 43:7). The connection in which this statement is made is that bearing on the calling of many by the Lord to salvation, and thus reaches back of the call to the primary fact of man's existence, and the reason for his being created by God. The order of creation clearly attests the thought that all that God made before making man was so made out of regard for man; hence here must be that which, as contemplated by God, finds itself as identified in man. True, indeed, it is said that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork", but inarticulate nature cannot reach the high point of fulfilling the design of creation that man is capable of, he having been fashioned in the likeness of Him who made him. The world was made for man, and man for the glory of God. If, then, man acts in harmony with the will of his maker he will reflect thereby the glory of God. When man departs from the will of God he acts not for the glory of God, but adverse thereto. This is obviously true when we consider the relation of will and purpose. If God purposed in creation his own glory as prompted and manifested thereby, then when that which he made acts responsive to God's will, we can only conclude that in so acting he is accomplishing the design for which he was made, and he was made for the glory of God!
Of course all nature acts as responsive to the Divine Will, and in so doing it declares the glory of, God; not so man, he has a will of his own, and as he asserts his own will he declares not the glory of God. Only as man does the will of God does he, in so doing, declare the glory of God. But matter has no will of its own-its obedience to the will of God is therefore involuntary. Man's obedience is always a voluntary action and hence possesses a virtue which can only be present where the thing done is voluntarily done. This virtue invests the obedience of rational creatures with a merit which contributes mightily to the Glory of God. For God to make a creature in his own image, and thus intelligent and self-determining in his action, places the behavior of the creature on an elevated plane. Thus elevated when the subject acts responsive to the will of his maker, intelligently and therefore voluntarily, he glorifies God the one who made him and the one whom he obeys.
Obedience, then, is but the execution of the will and the fulfillment of the design of the one who made the creature subject to the Divine Will. When acting in harmony with and as responsive to the will of the Creator, the creature thereby accredits the glory of the Creator. The creature always reflects glory on the creator. The beauty and the utility of a building reflects credit on the architect and the builder, whereas an ugliness and inutility would reflect discreditably on the builder and designer.
This principle, namely, that the creature reflects glory on the Creator, is the one which is involved in the prohibition that "no flesh should glory in his presence," and the injunction that "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." That is, the creature (flesh) is not to glory in itself, but in the Creator (the Lord). Therefore, the conclusion is properly and sensibly established that the whole of creation attests the glory of God; and man, having been made in the image of the Creator, manifests and reflects God's glory supremely, when he executes the will and purpose of his Maker.
At this point, however, a brief attention might well be given to the question of what constitutes the glory of God? If man is to glorify the Lord there must be that intelligent apprehension by man of God's glory. If we are to respect and accomplish the will of the Lord as reflected in the doxological utterance of Paul – "Unto him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end" (Eph. 3:21), we need to know something about the glory of God. We are told that the term from which we have the word glory (doxa) primarily signifies an opinion, estimate, and hence the honor resulting from a good opinion. "It is used (a) of the nature and acts of God in self-manifestation, i.e., what he essentially is and does, as exhibited in whatever way he reveals himself in these respects -" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, page 153.) This should be sufficient to warrant this simple statement of explanation, if not definition: The glory of God is the sum total of all his attributes and qualities of character, and is therefore reflected in the exercise or demonstration of these several and matchless excellencies of being. If what He does manifests and declares his glory, then his glory must essentially be identified with that which he is as enabling him thus to do. So, then, we return to this thought that the creature always glorifies the creator, rather than itself.
It would hardly be disputed that Alexander Campbell possessed as large and fully matured conceptions of God and his Being and Attributes as any who have written on such matters, among uninspired men. In the Christian System he, in writing of God, says: "It is from his word and his works that we learn the being and perfection of God. As we form a character of man from what he says and what he does, so learn we the Divine character. 'The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth forth his handiwork; day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge'. Creation reveals the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God-Providence proclaims also his justice, truth and holiness. Redemption develops his mercy, condescension and love; and all these again are characterized by infinity, eternity, immutability" (page 20). 1 regard the matter embodied in this statement by Campbell as but a summation of the essential glory of God, and thus speaks volumes to the thoughtful and reflecting worshipers of the true God.
It should not be difficult to pass from these preliminary observations to their application and force as touching the New Creation. The first creation was material, and climaxed with the creation of man, who is both material and immaterial, both flesh and spirit. The second creation is spiritual, and being spiritual it is necessarily related to the spirit of man as distinguished from and thus superior to the fleshly and material. Now if insenate matter could and did declare the glory of God in its orderly responsiveness to the will of God in existing and functioning, how much more should the new creation, the spiritual order, the church of the Lord, display to the intelligent universe the glory of the Lord. This is affirmed as touching the church by Paul in Eph. 3:10-"To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom, of God." To make known is to declare, display, to manifest. The manifold wisdom is essentially included in the content of God's glory. Hence, it isn't difficult to appreciate in this connection the language of Paul with which he says, as already cited, "unto him be glory in the church." In spiritual matters is it possible to, glorify God in and through any other medium or order than the spiritual kingdom, the church? I do not believe it is. Is it possible for the church to create another thing, creature, order or institution through which to glorify God? In as much as the province of glorifying is in the relation of the creature and creator, and the former always glorifies the latter, the only thing the creatures of the church can glorify is the church. And really isn't this the true design of their existence? Aren't brethren moved by the desire to glorify the church when they cause the church to act in creating these institutions which some have said it is scriptural for the church to build and maintain? Someone may say, isn't it laudable and acceptable to do that which glorifies the church? Well, where, are we ever directed in the New Testament to glorify the church? Where is glory ascribed to the church as wrought by man? The noblest design of the church is to display the wisdom and glory of its maker, the Lord. The Lord purposed and built the church, and it exists as His creation, and therefore as properly subject to him, in all things. It has no license from him to shift from the role and function of creature to, that of itself becoming a creator. This it is doing in every instance where brethren have usurped powers of control from the Lord and utilized its resources to build and sustain and support by the church humanly devised bodies and organizations, benevolent, educational or evangelistic.
Lest one may think this is a too severe stricture to voice on the point of the seriousness of the creature shifting to the role of creator, and thus diverting glory from the Creator proper to itself, I suggest a study of Paul's analysis of the degeneracy of the Gentiles be made as touching this very point.
This is found in the first chapter of the Roman letter. When they knew God they glorified him not as God, but became vain in their foolish reasonings. Their reasonings, while indulged in the vein of a professed wisdom on their part, but reflected truly the extreme foolishness of their course. They exchanged God for idols, and thus turned from the Creator to that which was their own creation. They exchanged the truth of God for lies, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator! How did God appraise this degeneracy? Why He gave them over to reprobate minds to work all manner of uncleanness. Theirs was a hopeless state of ruin as touching their standing before God, and also in the grossness of their characters. The point to be observed in this delineation of their downward course is the fact they turned from and gave up God, the Creator, and chose to worship their own creation. Men will invariably come to bestow greater homage and ascribe superior glory to their own accomplishments and creations than to the God who made them. All around us we witness the presence and operation of humanly devised and created instrumentalities functioning as the instruments of their makers and sustainers. The educational and eleemosynary institutions identified with particular denominations are so designed to reflect glory on the denomination which brought them forth and sustains them. Equally true is it that when brethren are given to talking and writing about "our colleges," "our orphan homes," etc., that the effect to be gained thereby is to present the church in a favorable light in the esteem of the world, as determined by worldly wisdom. Let us ever bear in mind that there is far more involved in these departures from, and thereby the corruption of, the Divine Will and Order that appears on the surface. We are laying human hands on the Divine Creation, the church, and debasing it by our modifications. We need to be acutely conscious of the fact that God made the church as He wanted it to be, and as designed to make known the manifold wisdom of its maker, both by its very being and in its functioning. "Thou art worthy, 0 Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou has created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11).