God’s Reputation and Our Lifestyle

We know that the man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Many texts could be produced to prove this well received point.[1] The text 1Cor. 10:31 states, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The most mundane acts are to be done for God’s glory. Even as we receive each other, we do it unto God’s glory, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom. 15:7)

No believer should have any problems with this truth. How we act on that truth is an entirely different matter. The Bible teaches that our behavior either glorifies God or gives the opportunity for the enemies of Christ to blaspheme Him. Paul says this of the Jews (Rom. 2:23, 24): “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed [βλασφημεῖται] among the Gentiles because of you.”” They claimed to be God’s people of the law and recognized that the Gentiles did not have God’s law to direct them.[2] Yet, by their own disobedience and wicked lifestyle, the Jews gave the Gentiles the occasion to blaspheme God.

This concern for God’s reputation is found in Moses’ prayer. He was worried about God’s reputation after God threatened to obliterate the people in the desert. Notice this prayer in Ex. 32:11-14,

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

What the Egyptians might say of God compelled Moses to pray. He did not want them to say, “With evil intent did he (God) bring them out, to kill them…” This, along with God’s faithfulness to His covenant, moved Moses to plead with God for Israel. Moses’ expressed his regard for God’s reputation.

Hezekiah alludes to this very concern when he prayed to the Lord to deliver Israel. The Assyrians mocked the living God (Is. 37:17; cf. vv. 10-13) and Hezekiah asked God to save them “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD.” (v. 20) God responds by saying that His zeal will deliver them (Is. 37:32) for His own sake and for the sake of His servant David (37:35). God’s reputation was on the line and God will defend His great name.

Daniel, in one of the most moving and eloquent prayers in the Bible, argued as Moses. He makes it known that their punishment was just on God’s part (Dan. 9:14). But he also points out that God saved them to make “a name for yourself” (v. 15). He asks God to act “for your own sake, O Lord” (v. 17). They bear God’s name and the city is “called by your name” (v. 18). Then he cries out, “Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (v. 19) God’s name is connected with the fate and felicity of His people. Daniel wants God to act for His name’s sake because of His covenant obligations. In effect, what will the nations say about God if His people and the city called by His name were not rescued?

Observations

The truth in these passages teach us the importance of God’s glory and the necessity of making it part of our prayer and personal concern! It is not even to simply assume that our plight is so bad, that God must act. Do we not deserve much worse than we have received?

Apart from that theological observation, we also learn that the depth of one’s piety can be measured by concern the child of God has for God’s reputation. Do we have our Lord’s reputation in mind?

Some NT Passages

Before we focus on a few key passages, we must consider the well known petition. The first petition of the Lord’s prayer concerns God’s glory. We want His name to be hallowed, considered holy, held in reverence, etc. As the SC states, “That God would enable us, and others, to glorify him…” That is, our lives (among other things) must play a part in fulfilling that petition.

We can also mention how creation, salvation, ethics, etc. all center on God’s glory. Much could be said about those points but we will give our attention to some things that are easily overlooked. These eminently concrete passages jump out with bold colors. What they say is unmistakable and they assume some of the things we have already mentioned.

If believers live sensual godless lives…

2Peter 2:2 reiterates Rom. 2:23, 24 we quoted above. The sensual and godless lives of those who profess faith (led astray by false prophets with their destructive heresies) lead people to blaspheme God: “because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed (βλασφημηθήσεται).”[3] Here, it is not simply about God; it is about His message, His method of salvation. “The infection from the false teachers spreads to others, but it does not stop there. The unbelieving world sees the impact on the church and responds by maligning and ridiculing “the way of truth.”… When unbelievers see the moral effect produced by the opponents in the lives of their followers, they will conclude that the way of truth is a way of error.”[4]

The truth of the gospel is questioned on account of our sinful behavior. Not only is God’s reputation sullied, His message to lost sinner is maligned. The world scrutinizes our behavior and quickly seizes our inconsistency. Believers do not have the liberty to do as they wish; their lifestyle brings honor or dishonor to God.

If wives do not fulfill their domestic duties…

Paul instructs Titus to tell older women to teach “young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled [or blasphemed, βλασφημῆται]” (Titus 2:4, 5)

Apart from the domestic peace and stability such actions bring to the household, Paul is concerned that God’s Word would not be “reviled.” Domestic lifestyles therefore either give legitimacy to the truth of the Gospel or discredit it. It is not a private affair.

If Christian wives ignored these demands and flouted the role their culture demanded of good wives, the gospel would be maligned, criticized, and discredited by non-Christians. Christianity would be judged especially by the impact that it had on the women. It therefore was the duty of the women to protect God’s revelation from profanation by living discreet and wholesome lives. For Christians, no life style is justified that hinders “the word of God,” the message of God’s salvation in Christ.[5]

From whence does the blasphemy come? Does it come from the world or the unbelieving spouse? Chrystostom believes this comes from the unbelieving spouse. He says, ““For if you gain nothing else, and do not attract your husband to embrace right doctrines, yet you have stopped his mouth, and are not allowing him to blaspheme Christianity.”[6]

In this same passage, Paul talks about how the behavior of young men and in particular Titus should affect the opponents “having nothing evil to say about us” (v. 8). Titus’ life in holiness and ministerial faithfulness affects how the world might speak about the gospel.

If inferiors do not respect their superiors…

In 1Timothy 6:1, Paul says, “Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled [or blasphemed, βλασφημῆται].” The same is said in Titus 2:10 where the slaves are not to argue or steal “that in everything they may adorn (κοσμῶσιν) the doctrine of God our Savior.”

How the slaves acted affected how the masters would view the gospel. Their lifestyles “adorn” the gospel and give the masters no occasion to revile or blaspheme the “the name of God and the teaching.” In Titus, we are taught that a godly life “adorns” the gospel. Our lifestyle makes the Gospel attractive; makes it more desirable, credible, and lovely. We don’t add to its essence but enhance what is already inherently wonderful.

Lessons

1. God is zealous for His glory and we ought to be as well.

2. God’s reputation, His honor or glory, must fill our petitions and passions.

3. Our lifestyle says something about the truth and goodness of the gospel. If God’s truth saved us, then our lifestyles should validate that truth.

4. Does your life “adorn” the doctrine of God our Savior?

 

[Adult Sunday School Lesson, Oct. 23, 2011]


[1] A helpful essay from a biblical theological perspective is Thomas R. Schreiner, “A Biblical Theology of the Glory of God,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010), 215-234. Also consult Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, eds., The Glory of God, Theology in Community (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010).

[2] Paul is referring to Is. 52:5. “In Isaiah, the blaspheming of God’s name occurs through the oppression of Israel, God’s chosen people, by foreign powers. Paul ascribes the cause of the blasphemy to the disobedient lives of his people. Perhaps Paul intends the reader to see the irony in having responsibility for dishonoring God’s name transferred from the Gentiles to the people of Israel.” Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 166.

[3] This word could be simply translated as “verbally abuse.” KJV has “be evil spoken of.”

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC 37; ed. E. Ray Clendenen; Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 332.

[5] D. Edmond Hiebert, Titus (EBC 11; ed. Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 437.

[6] William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC 46; Accordance/Thomas Nelson electronic ed. Waco: Word Books, 2000), 412.  I modernized the quote offered in Mounce.

 

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