Why Godward God?” Private Piety and Public Good (Pt. 3)

In the last two posts we laid out the that the reason this site is called Godward God is that is rightly displays what we believe are two massive all defining truths Scripture (articulated in Edwards’s End for Which God Created the World). First, that God is first and foremost God-centered. That is, he is passionately committed to His own self-exaltation. And second, that our joy is found supremely in making much of God.


God-Centeredness and Private Piety

In this final post outlining the reason for this site, we are going to look at the implications of these two massive realities—own God’s pursuit of the exultation of Himself and our joy being found in making much of Him—for two main areas of life for Christians, namely, a private life of piety and the public good of others.

In a later post, I will outline more extensively from not only Edwards, but also other puritan and Reformed right, how the Bible teaches that God’s pursuit of His own holiness becomes the reason why we seek to live lives of personal holiness. However, for now, we will just look at Edwards’s End for Which God Created the World. There Edwards connects the believer’s pursuit of holy living with God’s own commitment to His perfection. He says it like this: in living holy lives we “[partake] of God’s own moral excellency, which is properly the beauty of the divine nature.”1 Edwards explains that this is precisely why God is pleased when His people live holy lives: because they reflect His very character back to Him. “As God delights in his own beauty,” Edwards says, “he must necessarily delight in the creature’s holiness; which is a conformity to, and participation of it.”2 He says believers reflect his holiness in the same way a jewel reflects the sun’s light:  “as truly as the brightness of a jewel, held in the sun’s beams, is a participation, or derivation of the sun’s brightness, though immensely less in degree.”3 In short, the reason God delights in our holiness is because He delights in seeing His own perfection on display.


God-centeredness and the Public Good

Although Edwards is normally known for his insights on theology of private piety, he was also concerned with Christians being engaged in public good. He expressed this most clearly in his Charity and Its Fruits, a series of sermons he preached in 1738 on 1 Corinthians 13. As we said in a previous post, Edwards envisioned that  Charity and Its Fruits would be read together his Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World and The Nature of True Virtue (1765). In Charity and Its Fruits he outlined the reason why Christians should be concerned with the public good. He said, “a Christian spirit…disposes persons to be public spirited. A man of a right spirit is not of a narrow, private spirit; but he is greatly concerned for the good of the public community to which he belongs, and particularly of the town where he dwells.” 4 According to Edwards, Christians pursue the public good even though they living in a world that is hostile to Christ’s Church. Commenting on Jeremiah 29:7, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”, he said, “God commanded the Jews that were carried captive to seek the good of the city of Babylon, though it was not their own city, but the city which had captivated them.” Indeed, he says, “a Christian spirited man will be also concerned for the good of his country, and it disposes him to lay out himself for it.”5 Indeed, to be a Christian is to be like Christ, focused not on the good of oneself, but others. As Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This means not only individually, but to seek the public good of the Church and hope for the kingdom of God to come to the world.

[1] Jonathan Edwards, Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, in Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey, vol.8 in Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), p.442.

[2] Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World, in WJE, 8:442.

[3] Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World, in WJE, 8:442.

[4] Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, in Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey, vol.8 in Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 260–1.

[5] Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, in WJE, 8:260–1.

Connect with post 1. Why Godward God?: God is Supremely God-Centered (Pt. 1)

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