14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
1901 ASV Translation:
14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.
The Textus Receptus of 2:14 omits the final "s" on the word "good will" which the Nestle/Aland 26 retains. This significantly alters the realm of possible meanings. This issue is addressed below.
I. The issue of the paragraph is the angelic announcement of a message of great joy.
II. The warriors of heaven know the "bottom line" issues: who gets the glory and what is the motivation?
I. The Angelic Ascription of "Glory" to God.
A. Clearly, there is a distinction made in respect to the "realms"...
1. "In the highest" is where the ascription of glory to God is.
2. "Upon the earth" is where the promise of peace among men is.
B. Just as clearly, there is a marked distinction made in respect to the individuals involved...
1. "God" is the Individual involved "in the highest".
2. "Men of good will" are the individuals involved "upon the earth".
C. What is not as "clear" is the textually-surfaced "problem" of attempting to discern the meaning of the "warriors' " statement about the men upon the earth.
1. The Textus Receptus presents "good will" as a second "subject", along with "peace". Its text is extremely awkward linguistically.
2. The Nestle/Aland 26 presents "good will" as a characteristic of the "men" who will enjoy the pronounced "peace". Its text flows naturally.
3. There seems to be greater textual support for the genitive of the Nestle/Aland 26, though "greater textual support" is usually a red herring in that almost anyone can make the claim, depending upon their "textual theories".
4. At any rate, though "peace and good will" are God's interests for human beings on the earth, it goes without saying that the biblical message severely limits the application of those benefits to the vast majority of human kind. Do the angels not know that? Surely.
a. Given the fact that "peace and good will" are not available apart from both the work of the just-born Savior and the attitudes men take toward Him, it is extraordinarily unlikely that the angelic warriors (the very fact that they are "warriors" implies their understanding of the absence of "peace" toward any who oppose "the Highest God") would utter something as meaningless as "peace and good will toward men".
b. Instead, it is highly likely that they would utter a promise of "peace" to those who were willing to be engaged in the "fight" they represent. And that signals the strong likelihood that they mean to name the characteristic that is absolutely necessary to the experience of "peace" among men: men's attitude toward God's Savior and His work. Thus, "men of good will" makes sense.
1) Romans 10:1 exactly fits this thesis.
2) Philippians 1:15 also exactly fits this thesis.
D. The requirements of an "ascription of glory" are...
1. Fundamentally, if it is to be true, the one to whom the glory is given must be the one who deserves it.
a. This means that the issue is the issue of "Promise" as established by the recognition of Abraham in Romans 4:21 and the teaching of Paul in Romans 9:8-9.
b. This issue is fundamental: the One who makes the promise is the one who is obligated to accomplish its fulfillment.
c. This means one thing: He gets the glory who does the work.
2. Just as fundamentally, if it is to be more than just lip service, those attributing glory to God must clearly understand that He deserves it and they do not.
a. It is an incredible reality that men will go to almost any length necessary to "horn in on the glory".
1) There are those who do not wish for God to get any "glory" at all.
2) But, among those who do at least give lip service to a desire that He should get the glory, there is an incredible and undeniable push to, at least, alsoobtain some of it.
a) Theologically this works out to various schemes of "salvation by human response" (he gets the glory who does the work). It's most blatant forms are "salvation by works" theologies where the work of obtaining salvation is man's responsibility. Its more subtle forms are "salvation by free-will response" where the majority of the "work" is attributed to God, but man has to put in his "effort" by "free will".
b) Probably the most pernicious distortion is that of those who argue vehemently that "God does it all" (the theology of sovereign election and human helplessness). The reason it is so pernicious is not that the "arguments" are invalid; it is that the "arguing" is so fleshly. The very fact that the "methods" of presenting the truth are contrary to the gentleness of Christ indicates that those doing the arguing are seeking the "glory" of being "right".
c) This "lust for glory" is so profound in man that even those who recognize it for what it is seldom recognize that they have not escaped its pernicious deception; they have, instead, used their "recognition" as a way to grab for "recognition".
b. It is also an absolute necessity that men "cease striving and know that Yahweh is God" and that He is fundamentally "gracious", not "jealous of His glory" in the sense that He is offended by "glory seekers" because of their desire to "horn in on" His glory. His offense -- and it is real -- is not that He cannot "stand to have people horn in on His glory", but that He cannot stand the "death" that comes as the natural outworking of "glory seeking" -- i.e., "boasting".