5 Solas 5
Soli Deo Gloria
We’ve arrived at the 5th of the slogans of the Protestant Reformation – Soli Deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone.
And while this slogan may be the most misunderstood of the 5, it is to me the sweetest and most comprehensive of all.
The central idea is simple. Once again, following the logic of all 5 together, it is on the authority of the Scripture alone and its revelation that we understand salvation – the recovery of lost men to right relationship with God – is based upon grace alone as opposed to human worthiness or merit; through faith alone as opposed to any good works we might be able to accomplish; on the basis of the finished work of Christ alone on the Cross. Conclusion: All the credit, all the glory for our salvation belongs to Him alone.
While it may seem more than apparent at this point that salvation is wholly owing to God alone given what we’ve looked at these past few weeks, this last watchword extends far beyond salvation only. For the Reformers, everything in all reality is ultimately wrapped up in this thought: All that God does is ultimately for His own glory. From creation to His plan of salvation to how He interacts with humankind and administrates the cosmos – all He does, He does ultimately for His own glory.
If we are honest, for many of us the sound of that is hard on our ears. The reason why it sounds so hard, is because we have fallen notions of what it means exactly and why it is so important. We’ll come back to that. But first we need to see why the Reformers may have arrived at this conclusion.
The simple answer is, because they were now reading their Bibles for the first time. Then they mused on passages like Isaiah 48:9-11“For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
And Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
And Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
The “heavens” is not a sentient being. Creation can’t declare anything on its own – this must be the design of them. And who designed them this way but God Himself?
Romans 11:36 sums this up magnificently when it states: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
So the creation is for His own glory; the salvation and the deliverance of the Jews was for His own glory; all things coming from Him and through Him and are to be TO Him – and this for His glory: How are we to think about all this? What are we to do with this pervasive theme in Scripture? This is what the Reformers were trying to unpack.
In doing so, we need to try and answer 2 key questions.
First – what exactly IS the glory of God?
Second – what does it mean then to glorify God?
So what exactly is God’s glory? Quite simply, His glory is the revelation of Himself. Of who and what He truly is. This being the case, glorifying God is not making something of Him He is not, nor attributing anything to Him He has not done, for the reality is we cannot make Him any more wonderful than He actually is. Therefore, to glorify Him is simply to make Him known for who and what He is.
Let’s take few minutes to see how this thread does indeed run through the whole of the Biblical worldview.
We go back to creation itself and we read: Romans 1:19–20 “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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.”
The Creation declares His glory by revealing things about Him to us. Specifically in this passage, His power – look at the vastness and complexity and magnitude of the universe – what POWER it must take to create it! And, His divine nature is seen here, in the genius, order, wisdom and astonishing detail, and how it all functions with its properties. And then in its seeming agelessness, His eternality. In other words, it simply tells us about Him.
So what of the Fall? That too is wrapped up in this theme, for: Romans 1:21-23 says: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”
We see then how the distorting or obscuring the wonder of who and what He is at the heart of humankind’s rebellion. Indeed: Romans 3: 23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
Concerning our lives today the Scripture says: Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
And as Romans 5:1-2 says: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
And in day to day life: 1 Corinthians 10:11 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
How about growth in the Christian life?: 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Indeed all of salvation springs from this same fountain: Ephesians 1:3-14 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Philippians 1: 9-11“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Even Hell is connected to this theme: 2 Thessalonians 1: 9-10 “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”
So, Philippians 2:9-11 “For this reason God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
So we can see Biblically how the glory, the revealing of God permeates the whole of Scripture and all of life itself, let alone the spiritual life.
But why? WHY does the glory of God and glorifying Him occupy this place? I want to offer up just 3 key reasons this morning.
- It is only right, that the Creator of all things and who has made all things for Himself, be recognized for who and what He is, and proper honor be given to Him.
As we saw already in Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
If God is who the Bible portrays Him to be – it is only fitting that He receive all glory. And how DOES the Bible portray Him?
18th century theologian Adam Clarke in His commentary on Genesis 1:1 wrote: “A general definition of this great First Cause, as far as human words dare attempt one, may be thus given: The eternal, independent, and self-existent Being: the Being whose purposes and actions spring from himself, without foreign motive or influence: he who is absolute in dominion; the most pure, the most simple, and most spiritual of all essences; infinitely benevolent, beneficent, true, and holy: the cause of all being, the upholder of all things; infinitely happy, because infinitely perfect; and eternally self-sufficient, needing nothing that he has made: illimitable in his immensity, inconceivable in his mode of existence, and indescribable in his essence; known fully only to himself, because an infinite mind can be fully apprehended only by itself. In a word, a Being who, from his infinite wisdom, cannot err or be deceived; and who, from his infinite goodness, can do nothing but what is eternally just, right, and kind. Reader, such is the God of the Bible; but how widely different from the God of most human creeds and apprehensions!”
When God is as we see here, the highest, most wonderful, most lovely, desirable and magnificent of all beings – and at that the source and fountain of all good, mercy, grace, holiness, justice, purity, wisdom, love, compassion, gentleness, power, genius, perfection and ability – if He is not worthy of ALL glory – no one and no thing is worthy of any!
No wonder then C. H. Spurgeon noted: “It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”
The reason why we recoil at the idea that all glory belongs to God is 2-fold: First, we are so self-absorbed in our fallenness. And second, because we have such a low concept of Him.
God is worthy of all glory is the first reason. He is worthy because of who and what He is and all that He has done.
- Seeing that He is the highest, most wonderful, most lovely, desirable and magnificent of all beings – and at that the source and fountain of all good, mercy, grace, holiness, justice, purity, wisdom, love, compassion, gentleness, power, genius, perfection and ability – the highest thing God can do or give to those He loves is – Himself. There is nothing higher. Nothing better. And He jealously protects His glory as the revelation of Himself being the source and fountain of all that is good and best as the most loving this He can possibly do for us. When you truly love someone you want the very best for them. God has nothing higher to give those He loves than Himself! Nothing more blessed.
Spurgeon again: “There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel “Great God, how infinite art thou, What worthless worms are we!”
But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. He may be a naturalist, boasting of his ability to dissect a beetle, anatomize a fly, or arrange insects and animals in classes with well nigh unutterable names; he may be a geologist, able to discourse of the megatherium and the plesiosaurus, and all kinds of extinct animals; he may imagine that his science, whatever it is, ennobles and enlarges his mind. I dare say it does, but after all, the most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning. ”
There is nothing God can give us that is better, better for us and more pleasurable and delightful and blessed than Himself! And so He promises to those who love Him that the ultimate blessing of all is wrapped up in this very same revelation: 1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
What is the ultimate blessing? In some capacity to know Him on the scale of how He in His infinite knowledge and wisdom – knows us.
John summarizes that blessing this way: 1 John 3:2 “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
- Those 2 things being true – then the highest, most loving thing we can do for others is to bless them with the revelation of who, in the very revealing, is the highest source of all blessing.
This is why we preach Christ – so as to have all men reconciled to this God. For to so see and know His glory is to be blessed ultimately, and that, beyond comprehension.
This is why we study His Word – that we might proclaim Him rightly as He is and in knowing Him more ourselves, can better be equipped to make Him known to others.
1 Corinthians 2:9–10 “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
This is why we are called to walk in the fullness of the Spirit – for to be filled with His fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – is to let others experience the glory of God THROUGH us – as those being remade into His image that we might reflect His glory without distortion once again.
When we sin, when we fail to live in this glory, we hide God’s glory from others and rob them of the ultimate blessing we are so privileged as Believers to be conduits of.
Perhaps now we can see why when Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He sets the very first priority on this: “Hallowed by thy name”. Let my Father’s reputation, the wonder of who He truly is be restored in all the cosmos. This is the single most necessary, blessed and wondrous thing that can happen. This was the passion of Jesus’ heart while He was here (John 17:4–6a “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.”)
If you are not a Christian here today – why do we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to you? That you may be reconciled to this God and Father of all. That you might be ultimately, eternally and infinitely blessed. John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
And Christian – I pray you regain something of the transcendent wonder of the God who created you for His glory, redeemed you for His glory and will preserve you to bring you home that you might lavish in His glory for all eternity.
To be consumed with the wonder of Him, is as Spurgeon reminded us: “Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.”