Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 09/25/2007 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. A fresh and fluid exposition of the meaning of God’s glory and why it ought to matter to the Church.
Survey any number of churchgoers and you will hear a multitude of answers to the question ‘what is God’s ultimate purpose?’ Some will say ‘to show His love’, while some will say ‘to guard His holiness.’ Others will say ‘God is working towards peace and justice on earth,’ while others yet will reply ‘God doesn’t have an ultimate purpose; He just exists.’ Some will shrug their shoulders. Some won’t even answer the question. But one thing is sure: God does have an ultimate purpose. If there’s anything Rick Warren’s runaway bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life has taught us, it’s that people are searching for purpose. Good news: God already knows what His ultimate purpose is. So what is it?
Pastor, author and businessman William Farley of Spokane believed so deeply that the majority of churchgoers in North America didn’t a healthy concept of God’s ultimate purpose that in 1997 he took the brave step of self-publishing a book addressing this very issue. More importantly, he believed that since it was the unifying theme of the Scriptures, it needed to be broadcast widely. Skipping to the epilogue, what has ensued is a promising writing career featuring articles in a multitude of publications and a sophomore paperback released by Baker. Enough about the author – and this is how he would want it to be. Farley’s book is utterly consumed with God and His purpose, namely, His glorification of Himself. If that sounds either selfish or circular, then the message of Farley’s book is essential: God is justified in being consumed with His own glory, and it is not selfishness on God’s part to be self-glorifying.
A preacher himself, with obvious deep-seated knowledge and passion for the Bible, Farley prefaces with three reasons he has written the book: 1) to clarify God’s ultimate purpose, 2) to illuminate the master theme of the Bible, and to 3) to remedy the shallowness of what he terms the ‘North American gospel.’ His diagnosis of the “spiritual impotency ravaging North American Christianity” is similar to that of a Barna or a Rainer, but unlike these men, Farley’s proposed cure does not lie in restructuring or reengineering the Church. Rather, he promotes a recovery of the true Gospel, as opposed to man-centered ‘gospels’. If we would unite behind the biblical Gospel of God, the vehicle for God’s ultimate purpose, we would discover a renewed spiritual vibrancy.
Intentionally or not (I rather believe the former), For His Glory is arranged as a rising crescendo and consequent decrescendo. The opening chapters offer a biblical explanation of the glory of God and tangible examples of God’s glory manifested in Scripture. The fortissimo section, as it were, is the two chapters in the midsection dealing with God’s ultimate glorification of Himself in the Cross and the Son who bore it. Farley sets up God’s attributes of holiness, righteousness and justice as a necessary backcloth to His attributes of love, mercy, justice and wisdom. You can’t have the latter without the former, Farley contends, even though much of the contemporary evangelical Church believes it can. “Holiness”, Farley remarks in a footnote, “is the first rung we must climb before we can safely receive and experience the knowledge of that infinite love.”
Amongst standard orthodox doctrinal statements, Farley demonstrates a flair for presenting gospel truths in a rich and fresh way. Early on in the book during a brief mention of Romans 3:23, which we lifelong Christians have all known since childhood, I was convicted that I had never understood ‘the glory of God’ as the emphasis of the verse. It just goes to show how insidiously and naturally a man-centered reading of Scripture can take hold. Farley also shows a solid grasp of biblical theology and an aptitude for analogy: “In the Old Testament God’s holiness appears vaguely, like a ship dimly approaching through heavy fog. But, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ defines and focuses the approaching vessel.” I had chills.
But For His Glory does not terminate at the Cross, nor with the New Testament, because God “never intended to stop there.” Farley expends the rest of the book applying the ultimate purpose of God to the Christian life and the life of the Church. The Holy Spirit plays heavily into Farley’s thinking, but never at the expense of the Son. Farley admits he is not a cessationist, and this will color the perception of the book for some readers, but He nevertheless consistently places the emphasis on the Spirit’s work of conviction, repentance and fruit in the believer’s life over against miracles, healing and manifest presence. These readers will be somewhat pacified by Farley’s insistence upon expository preaching as the main weapon in the Church’s arsenal.
Farley has drawn inspiration from Jonathan Edwards and John Piper, but For His Glory is not regurgitated material. The interest in ‘ultimate things’ (Piper’s phrase), the presence of multiple appendices, and the echoes of Desiring God are all indications of Piper’s influence, but Farley’s own voice is compelling in its own right. Earlier I mentioned this book was self-published, and as such, it possesses the customary self-publishing issues of punctuation mistakes, the occasional awkward sentence construction, and some incidence of repetition. Professional editing and proofing would likely have weeded out these issues, but the quality of Farley’s work easily rises above these minor mechanical concerns.
Our greatest concern in life should be that God is glorified in whatever we do. Since “our purpose will produce our gospel”, then we had better get that purpose right. If you have never explored God’s ultimate purpose, it behooves you to procure this book. It is available at Amazon, or if you don’t want to wait a month or more, from Christianbook.com or direct through Bill Farley himself at Grace Christian Fellowship Church in Spokane.