God’s Glory in All the World
Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29:12NKJV
This morning we look at Westminster Larger Catechism Question 190, which asks, “What do we pray for in the first petition?” It gives the answer, “In the first petition (which is, Hallowed be thy name,) acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honour God aright, we pray, that God would by his grace enable and incline us and others to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem him, his titles, attributes, ordinances, word, works, and whatsoever he is pleased to make himself known by; and to glorify him in thought, word, and deed: that he would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonourable to him; and, by his overruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to his own glory.”
There are four specific things the petition “Hallowed be Thy name” asks God to cause all men to do regarding His person(s) and works. First we ask God to cause “us and others” – that is believers and unbelievers – to know Him. Now this might seem puzzling when we consider that believers already know God! Eternal life is “knowing God” and His Son Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Yet believers are called to “increase in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10), for we have not yet attained to “maturity” in the knowledge of God (Eph. 4:13), and must therefore seek to “grow in the knowledge of our Lord” (2 Pet. 3:18). The knowledge that we are to press on to obtain is a deep, intimate, and experiential knowledge (Eph. 1:17-19) that will only be completed when we see him face to face when we know longer know “in part” but “fully” (1 Cor. 13:12). Thus, believers hallow God’s name when they grow in knowing their Lord by living in Him (1 John 5:20). Moreover, Scripture clearly teaches that all unbelievers also know God (Rom. 1:18-21). They can see His invisible attributes in the creation, and they know His eternal power, divine nature, and coming judgment (Rom. 1:20, 32). They try to suppress and exchange this knowledge, not wanting to retain it, but they cannot escape the guilt they incur through their possession of it (vv. 18, 23, 25, and 28). Thus, the knowledge unbelievers possess of God does not lead them to hallow God’s name at all but quite the opposite. Therefore, in this prayer we cry out to God that even those who do not believe in Him would fearfully refrain from breaking into open blasphemy of His holy name.
Second, we ask that God would “incline us and all others” (believers and unbelievers) to acknowledge God in all that He is and does. It is one thing to know God or to have factual information about Him, it is quite another to acknowledge that information; that it is accurate and true, and that it calls for an appropriate response. At the Areopagus Paul quoted some Roman poets who rightly acknowledged God when they declared that all human beings are the “offspring of God,” accurately discerning that in God “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Third, we pray for God to cause all people to “highly esteem” Him in His person(s) and works. Believers highly esteem or honor God when they sincerely live for Him in faith and obedience. Unbelievers do so when they fear God and openly acknowledge His justice, as the centurion on Calvary’s hill is said to have “glorified God” when he declared the righteousness of the crucified Jesus Christ (Luke 23:47). Finally we ask God to hallow His name by causing all human beings to glorify Him in thought, word, and deed. While only believers can do this in truth, even the wicked in “spiritual Sodom” are said to glorify God when His fearful judgments do not destroy them (Rev. 11:8, 13).
Thus, in this prayer we are asking God to cause all human beings – the elect and the reprobate – to glorify God’s name. The elect glorify God willingly, in their salvation; the reprobate unwillingly, in their destruction. But all will glorify God and hallow His name and so we pray for Him to bring it to pass more and more in our day.