The Face of Grace
Pencil sketch by JC Chambers
Part five in a series of God's grace from the book of John.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
What is “glory”?
Glory is to the eye what a word is to the ear. It is the means by which God reveals Himself to human beings. When applied to God, glory does not mean God in His essential nature. It refers to God’s luminous revelation of Himself.
Glory is God revealing Himself to mankind.
We read about God’s glory in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Although the Hebrew (Old Testament) word and the Greek (New Testament) word are translated into the same English word, “glory,” the nuances of the words in the original languages are quite different.
The basic meaning of the Hebrew word for glory is “weight.” It describes someone who rules over others. The impact of Old Testament glory is heavy.
The basic meaning of the Greek word for glory is “opinion.” It describes someone who relates to others. The impact of New Testament glory is light.
This naturally raises a question. How can relating to God feel both light and heavy? How can such different impacts characterize a God who supposedly doesn’t change?
The answer is this: God doesn’t change, but the covenant He operates by does change.
Old Covenant glory was never intended to be permanent.
In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses to construct a tabernacle to accommodate His glory during the wilderness wanderings. When Moses completed this portable structure, we’re told that, “the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34-35
The tabernacle was an elaborate tent, not a permanent structure. In contrasting the character of God’s “B.C.” and “A.D.” glory, Paul writes, “And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” 2 Corinthians 3:11
God eternally intended that the glory of the Old Covenant would be supplanted by the surpassing glory of the New Covenant.
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!” 2 Corinthians 3:7-9
The Bible indicates that the glory associated with Moses and Mount Sinai is “fading” and “condemns men.” Conversely, the glory associated with Jesus and Mount Calvary is “more glorious” and “brings righteousness.”
In the New Testament, the character of God’s glory changes profoundly. God takes up permanent residence in a human body! When “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” the world experienced a face-to-face encounter with God. Because of Jesus’ incarnation we’re able to say, ”We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So, does relating to God feel like a light, manageable burden or heavy and unmanageable?
Jesus addressed this question directly. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Jesus invites all who are “weary and burdened” beneath the weight of Old Covenant commandments to “find rest” under the “easy” yoke and “light” burden of New Covenant commitments.