Soli Deo Gloria
The Final Sola
Throughout this series, we’ve been looking at the question of “How does a person get right with God?”
Each week, as we’ve sought to answer that question, we’ve examined the Five Solas of the Reformation. So far, we’ve covered four of them:
- Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Alone
- Sola Gratia, or Grace Alone
- Sola Fide, or Faith Alone
- Solus Christus, or Christ Alone
However, we still have one left! And, this is the one that ultimately summarizes and encompasses all the rest:
- Soli Deo Gloria: To God Alone be the Glory!
At its core, the meaning behind Soli Deo Gloria is that the purpose and credit for Salvation doesn’t go to you, or to me. Instead, salvation is accomplished by God! And, more that that, it also points to God and His glory! It’s all about showing His character: Holiness, Righteousness, and Goodness, supreme over all other things.
So, let’s dive into this final Sola, and wrap up our series together this morning. First, we’re going to look at what God’s “glory” actually is, then we’ll talk about the way it’s revealed in the world, and ultimately, what it means for us to give glory to God in response.
God’s Glory Defined
Turn with me to Isaiah 6:3. In this chapter, the Prophet Isaiah is describing a vision he has seen of the Lord, sitting on His throne, and with angels standing around Him in worship. This should help us come up with a working definition of God’s “glory.”
Isaiah 6:3 (ESV) - 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
The emphasis here is on the word “holy”, but you’ll also see that “glory” is included. These things really are linked together.
The angels are, in their worship, explaining that God is unique. He is totally different than anything else common to the universe. Being set apart, He is special, and has infinite value. This pure and unique value is what is meant by saying God is holy.
However, His immense holiness has been made perceptible. It’s something that mankind can recognize and be aware of in action. It’s said, in verse 3, that His glory fills the whole earth. It impacts our surroundings and lives! In other words, glory is the holiness of God put on display for us to see.
So, changing gears a bit, how many of you have ever purchased a diamond engagement ring?
The idea behind that tradition involves the groom selecting and purchasing a ring for his bride, meant to be an act of blessing and commitment. He spends a significant about of money (representative of her far greater value) on a unique setting with a beautiful gem. And, generally speaking, the larger, purer, and more sparkly the diamond, the better.
Of course, tastes and budgets are different for every couple, but in general the idea is to for the groom to literally put on display a sign of the immense value that that he finds in his bride. It’s meant as an honor to her, a show of his commitment. The ring is, in some sense, her glory revealed.
Like all analogies, this one breaks down, of course. As amazing as anyone’s spouse may be, there are many people with amazing spouses! And their glory is limited, because we’re all finite human beings.
However, there is only one true God. And He is infinite! His Glory is far more impressive, and it shines into all creation.
But, if His glory isn’t shown through diamonds, then how might we see God’s glory revealed?
God’s Glory Revealed
Let’s look at Psalm 19:1:
Psalm 19:1 (ESV) - 1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
So, this really connects with what we saw in Isaiah 6. Not only is the whole earth full of His glory, it clearly DECLARES or REVEALS the Glory of God. It’s not possible to look at the mountains, lakes, deserts, forests, and so on and not be confronted with the reality that there is a CREATOR who is greater in power and wisdom than man is.
Don’t get me wrong. People may look at these natural wonders, and choose to suppress that truth in their minds. Some will choose to ignore the obvious, and continue to claim there’s no God, worshipping themselves and their own intellect. Others actually reject God, but worship His creation instead.
However, in Romans 1:18 and following, we see the danger of this:
Romans 1:18–20 (ESV) - 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
God’s existence is revealed in His creation, because creation is filled with His glory. His Holiness. His uniqueness, and value. Creation is like a billboard that says “God exists! And not only that, He made this beautiful thing you’re taking pictures of!” It’s so clear that no one has a genuine excuse to not believe there is a God.
Now, you may recall in some recent sermons where we referred to creation as God’s general revelation of Himself mankind. It’s sort of the entry-level way of God showing He exists. It’s the on-ramp. However, creation isn’t enough to share the larger message of redemption in Christ.
Instead, we see that Gospel message clearly revealed in special revelation, the Word of God. And of course, this too points us to God’s glory! Turn to Hebrews 1:
Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV) - 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Jesus Christ, the living Word as He is referred to in John 1, put on flesh and dwelt among us. This is immensely significant when we talk about God’s glory, because as verse 3 says, JESUS is the RADIANCE of the GLORY of God.
There’s no greater beacon of light which points to the Glory of God than the person and work of Jesus Christ. He shines forth as preeminent over all things!
God’s purpose, before the universe was created, was to put His goodness, grace, and HOLINESS, on display: to show His Glory. And he chose to do that chiefly through a personal relationship with mankind. That relationship was broken by sin, but it in no way thwarted the will of our Sovereign and Loving God. Instead, Jesus, God the Son, came to be a sacrifice for sin, and to reconcile and restore our relationship with God.
In Jesus, our triune God most clearly reveals His unique and loving character. His glory is most on display in Jesus, which is why we have the message of salvation that we do.I
In fact, as we move toward the conclusion of our series this morning, we see clearly that the 5 Solas build on one another. They reveal what God’s plan and purpose has been, all along:
SCRIPTURE ALONE teaches that we’re saved by GOD’S GRACE ALONE, through FAITH ALONE, in JESUS CHRIST ALONE, to the GLORY OF GOD ALONE.
God’s Glory Magnified
These truths together show us the Gospel of Jesus. They show who God really is: OUR almighty creator and gracious sustainer, who alone is worthy of our worship!
And worship we must. After all, as we’ve shared before from the Puritan catechisms, “The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.”
It’s our purpose to give glory to God. Now, let’s think about that… How do you give God anything? Since He is infinite and His glory fills the earth, how do we give Him glory? Psalm 96 is a HUGE help in answering this question. Turn there with me. For some of you it may be familiar, but even if that’s not the case, I’m certain it will be a blessing:
Psalm 96:1–9 (ESV) - Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
The first thing I want to point out is verses 7-8. The word used there is to “ascribe”. ASCRIBE to the Lord glory, the glory DUE His name.
In common language, when we say we’re going to GIVE glory to the Lord, it’s not that we’re carrying around a little container of glory in our pocket, and we’re just going to decide to give it to Him and make Him better. God is entirely fulfilled without us; He’s an unending wellspring of glory.
Instead we need to give – ascribe – to the Lord that which is rightfully His already! We need to point to Him in every area of life.
We MAGNIFY His glory by bringing the focus upon Him, and not ourselves. We stop trying to glorify our own names, using HIS gifts of grace and mercy, in an attempt to make ourselves look Good. We quit trying to take credit for our spiritual growth, or our earthly blessings, or the knowledge we’ve been given... But instead, we make sure that HE is recognized above all else.
In essence, magnifying God’s glory is the process of moving from a self-centered (or even a humanity-centered) view of life, into a Biblically-informed and God-centered vision of eternity.
That said, this inward shift of perspective is meant to be lived out in practical ways. As James says, we’re called to be DOERS of the Word, and not hearers only.
So, what do verses 3-4 say again? Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
That sounds to me exactly like the mission that Christ gave His church. The Great Commission, in Matthew 28:
Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV) - 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We’re called to make disciples of Jesus in all nations, to declare His glory everywhere we go. The Lord is Great! He is worthy of praise! In Christ there is all authority, and He will be with us even to the end of the age!
In all the blessings He gives, and in all the worship we offer, and in all the aspects of our lives, may God alone be glorified.
Soli Deo Gloria Applied
I want to leave you with one final verse, lest you think this message applies only to the super-spiritual among us. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10:31:
1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) - 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
This really is all about recognizing and yielding to God in every aspect of our lives.
Soli Deo Gloria isn’t just some heady theological concept. It’s immensely practical, because it’s linked to the Coram Deo lifestyle we shared about in September.
Whether you eat, whether you drink.., whether you stay local, whether you travel the world… whether you marry, or whether you don’t… whether you go to college, or into the workforce… whether you’re healthy, or sick… whether you’re rich, or poor… In every situation, and in every decision you make, do that which brings ALL the glory to God.