For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Different persons, according to the difference of their habits of thought, or their education, or their moral attainments, take a very different standard of what sin is. But here we have God's definition — whatever "comes short of the glory of God," that is "sin."
I. GOD MEASURES SIN BY THE DEGREE IN WHICH THE ACT, OR THE WORD, OR THE THOUGHT, INJURES OR GRIEVES HIM. This must be so. The only true rule for the estimate of any sin must be taken from the mind of Him whose mind is law, and whom to offend against constitutes sinfulness. Do not say, "Are not we forbidden to seek our own glory? How, then, can God seek His own glory?" For the reason why no creature is to seek his own glory is because all glory belongs to the Creator. What does it mean to "come short of the glory of God"? It may mean to come short of heaven, or to be unworthy of any praise from God, or to come short of that which is indeed God's glory — His perfect image and likeness; to fail to reach, in its purity, the only motive which God approves — a desire for His own glory. It appears to me that though all the other senses are included in the words, yet that their great primary intention is the last.
II. This brings me to THE MOTIVE OF HUMAN ACTION.
1. You who can read only what speaks to the outward senses, think most of words and actions. And, as naturally, God will look at the sources more than at the streams of every man's moral being. So it will be at the last great account. All the deeds and sayings of a man will then stand forth to give evidence to a certain inward state of the man, according to which everyone will receive his sentence.
2. And yet even we judge of things by their motives. Why do we value the most trivial gift, the act of a moment, a smile, a glance of the eye, more than all the treasures of substance?
3. Note some of the legitimate motives which may actuate us.
(1) It is legitimate to wish to be happy. Therefore God stirs us up by promises, and lifts us up by beatitudes. It would be contrary to common sense to say that we may not do anything for the sake of going to heaven.
(2) It is a step above that — to do or bear with the desire that we may become holier.
(3) But higher, because less selfish, ranges the motive of a true ambition to make others happy.
(4) And still higher the lofty, Christ-like focus, concentrating the whole will upon this — "Father, in me glorify Thyself."
4. To all these principles of action, except the last, there attaches a shadow. The wish to be happy, even where the things we desire are spiritual, may degenerate into religious selfishness. The longing to be holy will often turn into morbid self-examination and a restless disquietude. The ambition to be useful easily becomes vitiated with — I will not say the love of human applause — but a desire to be liked. But the motive to do anything for God's glory has no shadow, and is that which makes all the other motives right. It is right to endeavour to be happy, mainly because our happiness gives glory to God as the result of the finished work of Christ. It is right to study to be holy, because where God sees holiness He sees His own reflection, and He is satisfied. It is right to set ourselves to be useful, because it extends the kingdom of God. Here, then, lies the wrongness of everything that is done on any inferior principle — it "comes short of the glory of God."
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;