Is God selfish to glorify Himself above all things?

I realised i do have quite a bit to say. Anyways I came across Ivan’s blogpost on this question. Do read it here. In response, I posted the following thought as means of developing the question further, on the back of reading Piper’s God’s Passion for His Glory and Edward’s essay, The End For Which God Created The World (which I’m about to finish soon):

I think to be slightly more precise, we must consider this issue from two perspectives. 

The first is before the foundation of the world, before creation was even on God’s mind. This is really a hypothetical situation, since God clearly doesn’t perceive time in the way we do. But it’s a human argument that appeals to our conventional logic.

The second is when God had creation in mind, not necessarily that He had created anything yet, but minimally He had the whole space-time continuum/everything in view. Although again this is a false dichotomy/division, as the act of God conceiving and creating is likely one and the same.

Since God is unchanging, He should be the same in both states. Therefore, when He was alone (in the Trinity) before the foundation of the world, it is easy to argue that God must love Himself above all other things – Piper calls this God’s righteousness, and biblically, God’s righteousness is the foundation of His throne. 

But if we now introduce creation into the picture, we are left to wonder how we fit into the grand scheme of things. What is God’s ultimate end in creation? For this Piper turns to Edward’s book – “The End for Which God Created the World.” It’s quite an interesting read, though a bit difficult to digest. 

Very briefly, I think Edwards comes to the conclusion that God created the world for His glory, but also for the good of His created and redeemed saints. It might seem that biblically, God’s ultimate end is still His glory, but equally His ultimate end is also the good of the redeemed saints. While they might appear two separate ends, they are in fact one ultimate end. 

I say this to be more precise because we always place God as central in all He does, which is indeed proper and righteous, but let us not do this at the expense of forgetting that God working all things for our good is also His ultimate end. Although I must also add that this does not elevate our merit in any way, but magnifies the riches of His grace, and so all things continue to redound to His glory.

Expressing this in another way, we sinful humans have the tendency to be self-centered. When God changes us, we become God-centered, because He becomes the delight of our newborn hearts. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that our self-centeredness is displaced by a God-centeredness. In a more truer sense, it is swallowed up in a God-centeredness. Our ‘self’ expands as Christ encompasses us into His being. In a mysterious fashion, God enfolded our good into His glory. Our good is not some means to an end that God does not value. He values our good as highly as He values His glory, because they are one and the same. This might lead you to see the phrase ‘the body of Christ’ differently. We are swallowed up into His divine nature, yet we remain distinctly creatures, though very blessed creatures.

Which of course leads to Piper’s famous statement: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” They are not at odds.

Doesn’t a thought like this make your heart explode with joy? For me it adds a richer shade of meaning to the ‘incomparable riches of God’s grace’. 

On a more practical note, there are countless applications from this bit of theology. For example, if our good and His glory are the one and the same, we understand suffering better. We suffer for His glory, which works to our good. And because God created the world for our good, He is sovereign over all our suffering – He orchestrated every event before the foundation of the world. It is that sort of love we rest in, an unshakable love that will work all things for our good because He is righteous and is committed to working all things for His glory.

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