Soli Deo Gloria

For what are you known?  Athletes are known for their strength, speed, or other skill of the game.  Musicians are known for their skill in playing an instrument, singers for the beauty and sound of their voice.  States or countries are often known for their natural beauty.  The cheetah is known for its incredible speed.  A short way to describe these things is to use the word “glory.”  So, we could say the Grand Canyon is the glory of Arizona, bluebonnets are the glory of the Texas Hill Country.  Glory, then, means honor, distinction, renown.  Glory is that for which someone or something is known, that which can be attributed to someone or something.

In Scripture, there are many references to the glory of God, or the glory of the LORD.  A good example of this is found in Psalm 19:  “1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.  3 There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.”  Creation is a testimony to God’s handiwork; it brings Him honor, distinction, and glory.  Yet, as we have seen in examining the Five Solas of the Reformation, man in his sin does not give God the glory He is due.

As we’ll see in this final sola, God’s word and the salvation He proclaims in it is all of God.  This is why the final sola declares that it is to God alone that glory belongs.  Man plays no part in his redemption, for if he did, he would be due glory as well, small as it may be.  Indeed, Scripture also tells us that God does not share His glory with anyone.  Isaiah 48:11 says, “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned?  And My glory I will not give to another.”  That which God accomplishes and brings Him glory He will not share with another.  It is in this sense that the Reformers came up with the fifth and final sola.

The other four solas (Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus) speak to our salvation and our sanctification.  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, by the hearing of God’s word alone.  We are transformed into Christ-likeness by God’s word and by His Holy Spirit.  All of this is by done by God alone, and it is done for His glory.  Speaking about those who are called by His name, Isaiah 43:7 says, “Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”

God’s word as the sole rule of faith for our life brings God glory.  All false religions add something to God’s word so as to diminish it, and to give glory to men who do not deserve it.  Catholicism adds Tradition and the church magisterium, Mormonism adds the Book of Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses have changed key parts of the Bible, and Islam exalts the Qur’an.  These and other false religions always contradict the Word of God, thereby stealing the glory that is due to God alone.  We are to live solely by His word.  That is why our Lord responded to the evil one with Scripture, and stated, “But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”  Therefore, Sola Scriptura brings glory to God alone.

That we are saved solely by God’s grace also brings God glory.  As we saw in Sola Gratia, no one can come to God apart from Him granting the grace (i.e., unmerited favor) necessary to believe in Him.  Throughout church history, there have been men who taught lies that said man is either not fallen at all, or not totally fallen.  Rather, they taught that men have the goodness within themselves to believe in God, apart from His grace.  These include men like Pelagius in the 5th century and Charles Finney in the 19th century.  These men sought to get glory for themselves rather than give all the glory to the one true and living God.  But, God’s word clearly teaches that it is by grace that we have been saved, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2).  Therefore, Sola Gratia brings glory to God alone.

Similar to Sola Gratia is Sola Fide, that we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, and this brings God glory.  All the false religions either say we are saved by works, or by faith plus works, as we saw the Catholic church teaches.  If there is even one small contribution we make to our salvation, then we have something about which to boast.  Sadly, even today, most Christians believe that we have the “free will” to accept or reject faith in Christ, a belief that is the polar opposite of what Scripture teaches.  Christians have told me that even though faith is a gift, we still must choose to receive it or reject it.  They say this without thinking through the logical conclusion of the statement.  If I chose to believe the same gospel that my friend rejected, then there MUST have been something in me that was better than my friend that caused me to believe.  I was either smarter, humbler (which, in this case would be quite ironic!), or something that my friend was not, which means I now have something about which I can boast.  Again, Scripture makes clear that apart from God’s grace and faith, we are spiritually dead.  Spiritually speaking, dead men can do nothing apart from God.  Ephesians 2 says we were dead, but God made us alive in Christ; not man, God alone.  Therefore, Sola Fide brings glory to God alone.

That Christ alone propitiates the wrath of God, and that Christ alone is our righteousness brings glory to God.  Our sin separates us from God, and God has provided one, and only one, mediator to reconcile us to Him.  Yet, sinful men, always seeking to rob God of His glory, devised other ways to be reconciled.  Catholicism adds penance to Christ’s once for all, fully sufficient atonement.  Islam says if our good works outweigh our bad, we go to heaven.  False religions always seek to direct us away from Christ.  Similarly, Scripture requires us to be righteous, and our righteousness is found in Christ’s obedience alone.  But again, false religions teach that our good works make us righteous.  If anything we do adds to our salvation, then we rob God of the glory that is due to Him alone.  Scripture teaches that Christ’s one time sacrifice is sufficient for all of our sins (Hebrews 7:27), and that we are made righteous by Christ’s obedience (Romans 5:19).  Therefore, Solus Christus brings glory to God alone.

Nearly three thousand years ago, God declared beforehand what He would do to reconcile His children to Himself through the person and work of His Son, Messiah Yeshua.  He declared this well in advance, so that what occurred would be attributable to Him alone, and therefore He would receive the honor, distinction and glory that is due Him.  Isaiah 42 says,

5 Thus says God the Lord,
Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread out the earth and its offspring,
Who gives breath to the people on it
And spirit to those who walk in it,
6 “I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,
7 To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.
8 “I am the Lord, that is My name;
I will not give My glory to another,
Nor My praise to graven images.
9 “Behold, the former things have come to pass,
Now I declare new things;
Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you

The five solas of the Reformation give us a helpful way to remember what God, and God alone, has done for us in Christ Jesus.  All we can do is rejoice and give Him thanks and praise, glory and honor, since He alone has accomplished our salvation.  Like the apostle Paul, we proclaim, “33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?  35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?  36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”