The Spirit, the Glory of God


“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23)

Sometimes John uses surprising language to refer to the Holy Spirit. He is “the anointing” who abides in us and teaches us that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ (1 John 2:18-27). He is “the truth” and “the testimony” that those who believe in the Son of God have in themselves (1 John 5:9-12). And here, I believe, the Spirit is “the glory” that the Father gave the Son, and that the Son gave to us (John 17:22, above).

Jesus is praying for believers’ perichoretic union with God. “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.” This happens as we are united to the Son of God in the Spirit. The Father and the Son are one in the Spirit. The Father is in the Son through the Spirit, and the Son is in the Father through the Spirit. The Spirit is God, given; the Father fully given to the Son in love, and the Son fully given to the Father in love. The Spirit is God, who is love. And he is given to us.

So when Jesus says that it is the glory that he has given us (which he received from his Father) that makes us one in the same way the Father and Son are one (perichoretically), he’s talking about the Spirit. Our unity is spiritual, that is, we are one in the Spirit. God is in us and we in him because he has given us his glory/Spirit. Lest you think it requires advanced theological trickery to arrive at this truth, here is a clear parallel statement from John: “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13).

It is utterly fascinating that Jesus refers to the Spirit as the glory the Father gave him. Why does he do it? What is the glory of God, that it is appropriate to call the Spirit “the glory”?

Rodney Whitacre says, “Glory refers to the revelation of God in all his beauty of being and character… Glory is a manifestation of God himself – not just a revelation about him.” The biblical concept of glory is one of substance, of weight, of essence – not just a glimmery halo of something shiny. God’s glory is more than just a good reputation being made known for intellectual awareness; it is himself being made known for delight. The Spirit is the glory of God because he is God, given to us, to make himself known.

Jesus prays for our perichoretic, spiritual union with God, “so that the world may believe” that the Father sent the Son, “so that the world may know” that the Father has loved us even as he loved the Son, so that the world would know the glory of the God who is love in the person of the Spirit.

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