Nothing ugly is ever called glorious in the Bible. There is “great sin” (Genesis 20:9), but never “glorious sin.” The evil one has “cosmic power” (Ephesians 6:12), but not cosmic “glory.” The reason for this is that sin and evil are not beautiful. But glory includes beauty. Glory includes more, but never less. Nothing ugly is glorious.
Therefore, the beauty of God is as pervasive and practical as the glory of God. If we admire the glory of God, we are admiring God’s beauty. If the glory of God has an effect in our lives, God’s beauty is having an effect. If God acts to magnify this glory, he is acting to magnify his beauty.
So consider the pervasive and practical place of beauty in all things.
In the eternal fellowship of the Trinity, the Son “is the radiance of the glory of God” (Hebrews 1:3). He is the image of God’s glory (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15). God the Father looks upon the beauty of the Son and loves him. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Beauty belongs to the nature of God’s triune being.
God created the world to put his beauty on display. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). When God created the glory of light, he prefigured what he would do in the new creation of human hearts. “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). In the new creation, we see the beauty of God in the face of Christ. In the old creation, we see the beauty of God in the heavens and the earth.
Fall and Sin
The worst thing about the fall was the eclipsing of God’s beauty in the hearts of sinners. “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2). This is the greatest loss in the fall of man. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (Romans 1:22–23). At the root of sin is blindness to God’s beauty.
The Son of God became man to make the beauty of God visible as never before. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). By the work of the Holy Spirit, the inspired record of this incarnate Christ makes it possible for all of us (who weren’t there) to see his beauty. As the Spirit illumines the Scriptures, we see “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Conversion and Salvation
The miracle that creates the sight of Christ’s beauty is the new birth — the new creation. It happens by God’s sovereign power, as in the first creation: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). To be converted is to see Christ crucified for sinners as compellingly and satisfyingly beautiful. Jonathan Edwards calls this vision “happifying” (“The Pure in Heart Blessed,” Works, Yale. Vol. 17, p. 59ff).
Salvation is the transforming experience of the gracious radiance of the face of God. “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (Psalm 80:3). “Blessed are the people who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face” (Psalm 89:15).
We are progressively made more like Christ by seeing and savoring his beauty. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The more you behold beauty, the more you become beautiful. This is why Paul said, “Whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
The Lord reveals his beauty for our worship “by the word of the Lord” (1 Samuel 3:21). And the heart of worship is gazing on that revelation, feeling its worth, and expressing our wonder. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).
The final blessedness of God’s people will be the beauty of his manifest presence. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24). “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “They will see his face” (Revelation 22:4). “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
From eternity to eternity, the beauty of God is pervasive and practical. Ask him to open the eyes of your heart (Ephesians 1:18). Give your life to this quest — seeing and savoring more and more of the happifying beauty of God.
Recent posts from John Piper: