Lights for God's Glory

How can we be salt and light in our world, so that instead of being “trodden under foot” or “hidden under a bushel” (vv. 13, 15), we can resist evil and do good, and moving unbelievers to glorify God as our Father in heaven?  To answer that question, let’s listen to the wisdom of the English Puritans.


Your Spiritual Light Moves People to Glorify God

Christ said that the purpose of letting our light shine in good works is that that they may “glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16b). John Ley said, “All good children seek their fathers’ honour,”[1]and so must we, if we are children of God. As Matthew Poole said,

“You are not in your good actions to aim at yourselves, to be seen of men, as Matthew 6:1, nor merely at doing good to others;... but having a primary and principal respect to the glorifying of your Father; for, ‘Herein is my Father glorified, if ye bear much fruit’ (John 15:8).”[2]

Why do our good works move men to praise God? You might think that good works can only win praise for us, since we do them. However, Christ assumed here that all our good works come from the grace that God planted in us (Matt. 15:13). Poole said that it is hard to understand how our good works result in men giving glory to God, “if they proceed from mere power and liberty of our own wills, not from his special efficacious grace.”[3]As the apostle Paul explained by divine inspiration, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Henry rightly concluded, “Let them see your good works, that they may see the power of God’s grace in you, and may thank him for it, and give him the glory of it, who has given such power unto men.”[4]

Your good works are a crucial complement to the preaching of the word. Baxter said, “The good works or lives of Christians is a great means ordained by Christ for the convincing of sinners, and the glorifying of God in the world. Preaching doeth much, but it is not appointed to do all.”[5]Henry again exhorts us, “Let them see your good works, that they may be convinced of the truth and excellency of the Christian religion.... The holy, regular, and exemplary conversation of the saints, may do much towards the conversion of sinners.”[6]

What a great responsibility we bear when we take the name of Christian! Baxter reminded Christians that “The world will judge of the scriptures by your lives, and of religion by your lives, and of Christ himself by your lives!”[7]

Who is adequate for these things? Yet remember that what the world needs to see is not perfect people, but sinners who have been saved by grace, are being saved by grace, and will be saved by grace. They need to see pilgrims on the road to the Celestial City, who stumble and occasionally get side-tracked, but who press forward until they reach the kingdom of heaven.

If we persevere in doing good, even under persecution, we will overcome evil with good.

More In This Series: 

  1. Salt and Light
  2. Like a Little Salt
  3. Let the Light Shine
  4. Working Lights

[1]Westminster Divines, Annotations, on Matt. 5:16.

[2]Poole, Annotations, 3:22

[3]Poole, Annotations, 3:22

[4]Henry, Commentary, 1631.

[5]Baxter, “What Light Must Shine,” in Puritan Sermons, 2:490.

[6]Henry, Commentary, 1631.

[7]Baxter, “What Light Must Shine,” in Puritan Sermons, 2:490.


Joel Beeke(@JoelBeeke) is president and professor of Systematic Theology and Homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and one of the pastors of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation both in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written, co-authored, and edited over 80 books.


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