Kristen Childs
Missions and the Glory of God
...Behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”[1]
            As a result of Edwards’s high view (and as it were, biblical view) of God, missions and evangelism become crucial to the exaltation and honor of God as through the proclamation of his excellencies people come to revel in his glories. Misisons brings the entirety of the children of God into the corporate worship that characterizes the Church. This is the end for which God created the world -- that his Bride might magnify his excellencies as exhibited in creation and recreation. The gathering of worshippers is the purpose of missions. As Edwards said, “God is glorified... by his glory’s... being rejoiced in.”[2] Missions rejoices in God and is crucial to the Christian life, as the Christian takes up his cross to follow Christ, who “for the joy set before him endured the cross...” (Hebrews 12:2), and who commanded his followers to follow him as an example of Christian ministry (John 13:15-16). Edwards’s view of God’s commitment to himself, however, has met with various forms of opposition, and in this overview of what Edwards means by missions, and what the end of missions is, I wish to dispel both universalist tendencies and hypercalvinist tendencies.
            Perhaps the most compelling of Edwards’s works regarding the relationship between the Christian and the proclamation of God’s magnificence is his Dissertation on the End for which God Created the World. Edwards argues clearly from Scripture that God acts consistently on behalf of his own glory, that wrath and mercy, creation and redemption are all acts in which God declares his own greatness, that it might be marveled in, rejoiced in, and thus, he might be magnified. Edwards argues from Scripture that everything God engages himself in is clearly done on behalf of his own name, and not the name of any other. Therefore, the reason that God spent an infinite period of time alone before creation was to the glory of his name. And when he purposed to make the universe, the world, the individual creatures, and especially man, he acted in all of this for the sole purpose of his own magnification. Isaiah 48:11 reads, “For my own sake, even for my own sake, will I do it. For how should my name be polluted; and I will not give my glory to another.”[3] God’s creation culminated in the formation of man, and in His own image He made them. It is here, differentiating between his final creation and the preceding acts, that Edwards makes an important distinction between intelligent and moral agents (humanity) and unintelligent and amoral agents (the rest of the created order). The distinction sets the intelligent, moral creatures on a different relational plane with their Creator, as they are “capable of knowing their Creator, and the end for which He made them, and capable of actively complying with his design in creation, and promoting it... And seeing they are capable of knowing the end for which their author has made them, it is doubtless their duty to fall in with it.”[4] Edwards uses the language of duty in this passage, but it is clear that his understanding of man’s right relationship with God consists in a joyful and glad and savoring relationship with Him.[5] Therefore, intelligent creation, namely humanity, must seek wholeheartedly the glory of God. Adam and Eve, however, were shortsighted, created as finite human beings, and they settled for less than true joy and sought not the magnification of God’s glory. Instead, they sought autonomy, and ate of the forbidden fruit. Thenceforth, humanity was characterized as having weak affections. Since the Fall, mankind has lusted after the base things of this world, and not after the satisfying glories of God. But the fall, to Edwards, was also a piece in the greater puzzle of God’s glory. It was clear that in some way, the fall of humanity would result in more glory to the Creator. Edwards considers God’s recreation of the human heart through redemption to be an even greater accomplishment and the most worthy reason to glorify God, who exhibited much wisdom in the salvation of man. He writes,
God hath exceedingly glorified his power in [the work of redemption]... To             produce the new creature is a more glorious effect, than merely to produce a creature. -- Making a holy creature, a creature in the spiritual image of God, in the image of the divine excellencies, and a partaker of the divine nature -- is a greater effect that merely to give being.[6]
Again, God is worthy of the greatest glory and honor, and His purpose in the redemption of his creation is to magnify that glory and honor in the praises of his people, in the delight of his children. Throughout Edwards’s discussion on the creation and recreation, or regeneration, of man, he argues for the benefits man receives in a life surrendered to God. “He loved sinful men so as... to give his own Son, and not only to give him to be their possession and enjoyment, but to give him as their sacrifice... God hath loved them so, that hereby he purchased for them deliverance from eternal misery, and the possession of immortal glory.”[7] The “possession” and “enjoyment” of Christ’s excellencies must be the driving force behind Edwards’s perspective on missions. Clearly he understands man’s enjoyment of God to be crucial in the magnification of God’s glory, and while men are engaged in the weak and pitiful pleasures this world has to offer them, there must be need to share with them the beauty of God, the glory of God, and beseech them to rejoice in and grasp hold of the treasure that is also God’s end in creation and recreation.
            The treasure we receive through redemption is Jesus Christ, and all his excellencies. Edwards portrays Christ’s splendor in The Excellency of Christ, an exposition on Revelation 5:5-6:
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lam as it had been slain ---.[8]
In Christ there is “infinite highness and infinite condescension,” “infinite justice and infinite grace,” “infinite glory and lowest humility,” “infinite majesty and transcendent meekness,” “deepest reverence towards God and equality with God,” “infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil,” “an exceeding spirit of obedience, with supreme dominion over heaven and earth,” absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation,” and “self-sufficiency, and an entire trust and reliance on God.”[9] Each set of manifest excellencies in Christ is, as Edwards says, a gift to humanity, “such diverse excellencies are expressed in him towards men...”[10] And they are expressed through his intricate character of Lion and Lamb. As a Lion, Christ portrays himself as powerful, as mighty, as a conqueror. He triumphs over Satan, “to subdue the mighty powers of darkness... to restore peace on earth, and to manifest God’s good-will towards men, and to bring glory to God in the highest.”[11] As a Lamb, Christ is meek, gentle, friend of sinners, the spotless sacrifice to restore right relationship between man and God, for “Christ never so much appeared a lamb, as when he was slain.”[12] But what of these excellencies? They are such that affect man, and must be proclaimed, as Peter says, “ are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”[13] The excellencies of Christ beckon the unbeliever and challenge the believer. Edwards writes:
Let the consideration of this wonderful meeting of diverse excellencies in Christ induce you to accept of him, and close with him as your Savious. As all manner of excellencies meet in him, so there are concurring in him all manner of arguments and motives, to move you to shoode him for your Savior, and every thing that tends to encourage poor sinners to come and put their trust in him: his fulness and all-suffienct as a Savioiur gloriously appear in that variety of excellencies...[14]
Edwards exhorts his audience to savor Christ, to revel in his excellencies and rejoice in his glories, as he understands the adoration of these excellencies to be the satisfying purpose of humanity, and thus God’s end, his being made much of in the affections and delight of his creation, is fulfilled. This God-entranced, majestic vision must be for the joy of people everywhere, thus the Christian, God’s follower and disciple is commanded to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,”[15] to “tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the people... say among the nations, ‘the LORD reigns,”[16] in order that God’s elect might indeed be brought together to “taste and see that the LORD is good.”[17] Christ, in all his excellency, becomes the focal point of the Christian walk, as we exult in him and declare the wonder of his ways.
            With Christ as the focal point, Edwards also wants to maintain that not only do we rejoice in what God has done for us, but we also act in obedience, taking up our own crosses and following the example Jesus has laid forth. Christ spoke to his disciples, saying, “For I have given you an example, that he should as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord, neither he that is sent greater that than he that sent him.”[18] Similarly, Christ said, “as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”[19] In The Excellency of Christ, Edwards shows the suffering taken on by the Lamb for the benefit of humanity. Now in Christ the Example of Ministers, Edwards shows what following Christ entails:
[Christians] should also be of the same spirit of zeal, diligence, and self-denial for the glory of God, and advancement of his kingdom, and for the good of mankind; for which things’ sake Christ went through the greatest labours, and endured the most extreme sufferings.[20]
Christ took on the pitiful and pathetic state of humanity to engage in the most profound ministry. He left his home above to minister to the fallen race and to redeem man unto himself for the glory of his name. Paul exhorts the Philippians to have the same attitude of ministry and humility that Christ exhibited, “who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”[21] Just as Christ was animated in his work by the salvation of men and the glory of God, “ministers should be animated in this work by a great love to the souls of men, and should be ready to spend and be spent for them; for Christ loved them, and gave himself for them: he loved them with a love stronger than death.”[22]
            The apostle Paul’s life clearly had been ready to spend and be spent for the salvation of many and the glory of God. Edwards highlights Paul’s life as an example for those who minister.[23] Paul himself wrote that his life was an imitation of Christ’s, his Lord,[24] and as he imaged forth the same self-sacrificial mindest and attitude that is found in Christ so should we imitate that lifestyle of submission. He endured sufferings of many kinds, hardship, persecutions, loss, and yet continued to proclaim Christ, whether that proclamation be made through his life or his death. The same sacrifice is required of us. Just as Christ sacrificed his life for the glory of God and the salvation of many, and just as Paul surrendered his life to that service, so also are we called and exhorted to take up our crosses for the sake of Christ, to live confidently as though life is Christ and death is truly gain, to count all as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. In this manner will God receive the glory and honor due his name, and will mankind benefit from the excellencies that they might now rejoice in and treasure.
            Edwards makes it clear, however, that not all mankind will “taste and see that the LORD is good.”[25] And he makes it equally clear that the limited scope of redemption is that which glorifies God the best. It is just and right that God save only some and condemn others to hell, and that condemnation of some is wholly in accordance with his main goal, his end, namely his own glory. God has not chosen to save everyone, but instead is glorified in the damnation of impenitent sinners. Edwards’s defined doctrine, “It is just with God eternally to cast off and destroy sinners,”[26] clearly shows that Edwards considers it to the greater glory of God to cast sinners into eternal damnation than to otherwise rescue them, and he is perfectly just in doing so. Similarly, Edwards claims that the infinite wisdom of God is evident through the redemption of some and the condemnation of others. God is most glorified when his justice and mercy are manifest to the world in starkly contrasted ways. Edwards states that “the justice of God is exceedingly glorified in [redemption],” and, “God has exceedingly glorified his mercy and love in this work.”[27] As Edwards laid forth in The Excellency of Christ, Jesus magnifies himself and the Father through a diversity of attributes. The same diversity is key in the redemption of many and the damnation of others since this also portrays Christ in all his excellencies. To save all would be a manifestation of His power, but would diminish the penetrating effect of Christ’s mercy, as well as his justice and other such attributes. Therefore, “many are called, but few are chosen.”[28] Edwards also states that “it becomes more sensible and remarkable, that [men] are dependent on the sovereign power and grace of God for salvation, and that it is his work, that their redemption is owing only to him... It the more commands notice” when salvation comes only to some.[29] And “that which is rare is more taken notive of, and looked upon as more wonderful... By reason of there being so few saved, the grace and love of God towards those that are saved will be the more valued and admired,” and thus will God be most glorified.[30]
            Regarding the elect, and God’s sovereignty in the salvation of men, many in the Reformed tradition have claimed that election nullifies the need for mission work, because God has already chosen his children before the foundations of the world. What purpose, therefore, does missions have if everything is decided and man’s salvation depends solely on God. Edwards rejected this notion of hypercalvinism. He acknowledged the importance of the monergistic work of God and man’s absolute dependence upon God for salvation, but also stressed the importance of the proclamation of the gospel. Edwards states, “that there is such a thing as s spiritual and divine light, immediately imparted to the soul by God, of a different nature from any that is obtained by natural means.”[31] Edwards understands salvation to come through faith, and that faith is an affection, an inclination towards the things of God. God must give man a taste for Himself before man can truly understand the beauty of who God is. In the same way, one must taste honey to fully experience the sensation of sweetness and beauty it brings. That taste must be, for Edwards, imparted solely by God without secondary means. Honey is experienced fully only when it makes contact with one’s tastebuds. But the question remains, what role does missions play? Edwards, in keeping with his honey metaphor, would say that missions and evangelism is necessary, not only because it was commanded by the Lord, and not only because we are to follow after the examples of Christ and Paul, but also because the proclamation of the gospel prepares its hearers for the impartation of the supernatural light. We tell others what honey tastes like in order that, when they do eventually tase honey, they will know that it is honey. We proclaim who Christ is, what God has done, so that when God gives that person, or that tribe, or that nation a true taste of who He is, they will rejoice in the reality of that which before they had only heard of. They now experience the affection, the taste, the sense, which before they had only been told of. But Edwards would also say that there is much more to missions than preparing the way. Missions, as seen above, is proclaiming the excellencies of Christ, something which should come naturally to one whose heart has been changed. We rejoice in who Christ is, and simply desire to share that with others who may not yet know the glories of His name. And in rejoicing in who Christ is, we minister best to sinful hearts, for what they desperately need is Christ, an affection for him and his transforming power. We care for the souls of men when we shout out the good news. And God is glorified as we “shout for joy, all... who are upright in heart.”[32]
            That is the challenge Edwards ventures forth for his readers, to proclaim those excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light, to shout for joy so that the nations may join in the chorus and praise and worship the Father. The supremacy of God, the God-entranced vision of all things, the glory of God drives Edwards to understand missions as crucial to the Christian life, as the believer takes up the cross of Christ to bear it before the world, as he imitates Christ in his sacrifice and suffering for the good of all peoples and the glory of God, and as he imitates Paul, the great missionary, who imitates his Lord. Indeed, missions brings God’s children, God’s elect, into great and glorious praise and adoration of who He is, and thus great delight and pleasure and affection as the world beholds the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God, perfect in all his excellencies, worthy of all glory.
“I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”[33]
Works Cited
Edwards, Jonathan. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 Vols. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers,                   Inc. 2003.
The Holy Bible. New American Standard Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House.                 1995.

[1] Revelation 7:9-10 NASB
[2]1 Miscellany #448 quoted by John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. p.75
[3] quoted in Edwards, Jonathan. Works: Vol. 1. The End for Which God Created the World (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson) p. 107
[4] Edwards, Jonathan. Works: Vol. 1. The End for Which God Created the World (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson) p. 107
[5] Edwards speaks of this delight in God, this affection, this taste as an essential factor in one’s relationship with God. This is especially evident in his treatise On Religious Affections, where he claims “if the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart.” Works Vol. 1. On Religious Affections. p. 243. He also says, “God made the world that he might communicate, and the creature receive, his glory; but that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his having an idea of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.” Miscellany #448 quoted by John Piper in God’s Passion for His Glory. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books. p.75
[6] Works, Vol. 2. The Wisdom of God, Displayed in the Way of Salvation. p. 144
[7] Ibid. p.145 (italics added)
[8] Works, Vol.1. The Excellency of Christ. p.680
[9] Ibid. p.680-81
[10] Ibid. p.682
[11] Ibid. p.683
[12] Ibid. p. 684
[13] 2 Peter 2:9 NASB
[14] The Excellency of Christ. p. 686
[15] Mark 16:15 NASB
[16] Psalm 96:3,10a NASB
[17] Psalm 34:8 NASB
[18] John 13:15-16 quoted in Works, Vol.2. Christ the Example of Ministers. p. 960
[19] John 20:21 NASB
[20] Christ the Example of Ministers. p. 961
[21] Philippians 2:6-8 NASB
[22] Christ the Example of Ministers. p. 963
[23] Works, Vol. 2. The Character of Paul as an Example to Christians. Edwards writes: “[Paul] was a man of a most public spirit; he was greatly concerned for the prosperity of Christ’s kingdom, and the good of his Church. We see a great many men wholly engaged in pursuit of their worldly interests: many who are earnest in the pursuit of their carnal pleasures, many who are eager in the pursuit of honours, and many who are violent in the pursuit of gain; but we probably never saw any man more engaged to advance his estate, not more taken up with his pleasures, nor more greedy of honour, than the apostle Paul was about the flourishing of Christ’s kingdom, and the good of the souls of men.” p. 861
[24] “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” I Corinthians 11:1 NASB
[25] Psalm 34:8 NASB
[26] Works. Vol. 1. The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners. p.669
[27] Works. Vol. 2. The Wisdom of God Displayed in the Way of Salvation. p. 144-45
[28] Matthew 22:14 NASB
[29] Miscellany 520
[30] Ibid.
[31] Works. Vol. 2. A Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God. p.13
[32] Psalm 32:11 NASB
[33] Isaiah 43:6-7 NASB