It is often easy for us to sit around in our Christian circles and declare, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). In that statement, we are declaring that everything in life ought to be done for the sake of God’s glory and for the sake of his great name. However, I wonder how often we consider that God himself acts on behalf of his great name. In fact, not only does God act for the sake of his name, God also puts in us the desire to glorify him in all that we do. The only reason 1 Corinthians 10:31 can be true in our lives in because God has put in us the same desire to honor him as he has in himself.
One example of God acting for the sake of his great name is the New Covenant in Ezekiel 36:22-32. Many of us are familiar with this passage because it lays out the New Covenant, a covenant that we love to read in the Old Testament. However, before we get to any definitive aspects of the New Covenant, God tells us through the prophet Ezekiel, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name…” (Ezek 36:22). If we didn’t know that Ezekiel 36 will lay out the details of the New Covenant, we may think that some sort of declaration of judgment is coming. God is going to vindicate his name (36:23) that has been profaned among the nations by Israel (36:22). God is going to make right the wrong that has been done to his name.
The shocking thing in Ezekiel 36 is that rather than vindicating his name by means of judgment, God vindicates his name by means of salvation. In other words, God demonstrates his true character to the nations by rescuing Israel from the nations (36:24), bringing Israel to her own land (36:24), sprinkling clean water on Israel (36:25), cleansing her from all her uncleannesses and idols (36:25), giving Israel a new heart and a new spirit (36:26), putting his Holy Spirit within Israel (36:27), causing Israel to walk in his statutes (36:27), reaffirming his covenantal status (36:28), giving Israel abundance (36:29-30), and bringing Israel to repentance (36:31). All of this is how God will show the nations that his name is to be great. We read Ezekiel 36, and rightly rejoice in the New Covenant, but we often neglect that God did this work in the world so that his name would be made great in his creation.
There are several implications from these thoughts that are worth fleshing out.
First, God’s primary aim in the New Covenant is to honor his own name. This is the explicit teaching on Ezekiel 36:22, and we cannot get around it. For us, that means that all of the aspects of the New Covenant that have been clarified or revealed by New Testament revelation are for the honor of God’s great name. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus was for the honor of God’s name. The giving of the Holy Spirit was for the sake of God’s name. Turning hearts of stone into hearts of flesh was for the glory of God’s name. Extending the borders of God’s people to both Jews and Gentiles was for the honor of God’s great name. Empowering believers to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ was for the glory of God’s great name. The whole duty of man is to glorify God’s great name through Jesus Christ. This is the aim of the New Covenant and it therefore vindicates God’s holy name.
Second, if God’s primary aim in the New Covenant is to vindicate his great name, then the New Covenant is NOT about us. Many of the aspects of the New Covenant detailed in the previous paragraph provide genuine benefits to Christians. We would be wrong to dismiss any of the great and genuine benefits of the New Covenant in the believer’s life. However, God’s goal in providing those benefits was not so that we would know how great we are. Rather, God intended to provide the benefits of the New Covenant for his great name, not ours. I’m reminded of Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.” The New Covenant vindicates God’s great name by demonstrating to us how great HE is, not us.
Finally, if the New Covenant is designed to vindicate God’s name among the nations, then our role as Spirit-filled, New Covenant Christians is to display God’s honor among the nations. How will the nations know of God’s mighty acts of salvation if those who have been given hearts of flesh fail to take the gospel to them (Romans 10:14-15)? Let us be those who engage the nations of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ for the fame and glory of his great name.
As we consider the New Covenant, certainly there are wonderful and genuine benefits for the Christian life. However, the primary goal of the New Covenant according to Ezekiel was to vindicate God’s holy name by displaying his mercy and goodness in bringing many sons (and daughters) to glory (Heb 2:10) through the New Covenant.