Soli Deo Gloria
Soli Deo Gloria
By Ben Webb
Sound theology fuels joyful worship and obedient Christian living. The Protestant Reformation was aimed at rooting the wayward Church in sound theology once again. While there is a gap that exists to this day, the focus of this article is on the all-important fifth sola: the exaltation of God's glory.
The fifth sola, "Soli Deo Gloria", is an emphatic bookend to a series of statements that drew a line in the sand of church history. "To the glory of God alone" directs our focus outward instead of inward. Christians ought to be mindful in what we say and do as we do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are created for God's glory (Isaiah 43:7), His glory descended on Mt. Sinai like a storm (Exodus 19:16-19) and shone like a rainbow after a rainy day (Ezekiel 1:28), and the seraphim sang about the whole earth being full of His glory (Isaiah 6:1-5). If we are to live for God's glory alone, it would be helpful to answer three questions: first, what is God's glory? Second, how did Jesus glorify God? And finally how can we give glory to God?
What is God's glory?
God is the Creator of all things. All good things originate from Him. The Lord is eternal, unchanging, and great. God is also holy, just, and merciful. Hope, beauty, and love have no meaning without Him. Man lacks in a way that God never does. Man fades while God endures. The resources of man must be carefully measured and monitored so they last longer. God’s abundance overflows. God’s glory is all of who He is and all of what He does in a magnificent and beautiful essence. We see through a mirror dimly now what we will see in full later (1 Corinthians 13:12).
If the whole earth is full of His glory and we are created for His glory, then everything He touches and breathes life into is a reflection of His majesty on full display. You and I are made in the image of God. We are meant to be like the moon to God's sun. The radiant beauty of a clear night sky with a full moon renders much of creation speechless. Why? The moon is reflecting the brilliance of the sun. Unfortunately, sin has fractured God's creation so we tend to refract more than reflect. Jesus came to both heal our fractured lives by His atoning work on the cross, as well as to provide an example of what pure reflection of God's glory looks like. The more we reflect God's glory, the more we understand the depth of our sin, the power of His grace, and how we long for the day when we will experience His glory in full (Revelation 21).
How did Jesus glorify God?
Jesus frequently drew large crowds wherever He went. He was well known and respected for His profound teaching. He also performed extraordinary miracles and acts of mercy to many people. From a human standpoint, Jesus should get the kind of glory we normally reserve for athletes, political leaders, and celebrities. Jesus did not seek out this kind of glory because glory that only lasts for a moment and can be given to someone else on a whim is not what He deserves. He is the spotless Lamb, the King of Kings, and our High Priest. In several of the gospel accounts, Jesus takes the time to give the disciples an example of how to pray (the Lord's Prayer). He also offers a prayer to God in John 17 that is both priestly and personal in tone and content. This offers us some insights in how Jesus sought to give God the glory He deserves.
Facing the agony of betrayal and the torture of the Roman cross, Jesus teaches His disciples about what is about to happen to Him and to them in a moment tinged with bittersweet intimacy. The eyes of the disciples now full of wonder and fear would soon start to close in sleep at Gethsemane. Before they depart from the upper room, Jesus looks heavenward and prays to God. He uses "glory" or "glorified" 8 times during this prayer and each reference is about giving glory to God. Jesus' mission is coming to an end and Jesus connects the accomplished work with glorifying God (vs. 1, 3). He prays for the return of the gory He set aside when He took on flesh and dwelt among men (vs. 5). Jesus is the Word made flesh and He faithfully delivered God's Word to us so He is glorified by our repentance and belief (vs. 10). Jesus has given us the glory given to Him by God so we will be one as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one (vs. 22). Our belief in Jesus will allow us to view Him in His full majesty one day as He is restored in the Godhead (vs. 24).
Jesus glorified God through His faithfulness and obedience. Likewise, Jesus is glorified by our obedience, unity, and perseverance. The moon of the Church is to reflect the beautiful brilliance of the Son (Romans 8:29).
How can we give glory to God?
In Luke 15, we come across the parable of the prodigal son. The brazenness and disrespect of youth, his foolish choices, the disgusting ways he was forced to survive, and the almost paralyzing thoughts of going back to his father to beg for a small scrap of mercy — sinners can identify with the younger son all too well. When the story takes a turn towards home and the father sees his son coming from a distance, we feel the urge to swallow hard as our eyes start to water. Why is this story so powerful to us? When God saves a sinner like the prodigal son from the horror of hell, it’s a rich picture of how God meets them at the hour of repentance and belief with an embrace and the riches of a relationship restored.
We desire to praise God and give glory to Him in all that we do out of immense gratitude and love but our attempts feel like they fall far, far short. What can we do to fight against the distraction of refraction and to intentionally display the reflection of perfection?
In examining ways that we can give glory to God, it is wise to be in God's Word regularly, to listen to how He can teach you and lead you in this area, and to look to Jesus as our Savior and our example. This is not an exhaustive list but it should give you an idea of how to answer this question in your day-to-day life:
1) Pray expectantly in the name of Jesus Christ (John 14:13)
2) Live in a way that shows you were bought by the blood of Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:18-20)
3) Reflect the light of Christ before others (Matthew 5:16)
4) Embrace suffering for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 4:16)
John the Baptist had a consistent message through his ministry which pointed the way to the Messiah. In John 3:30, he clearly states how he views his relationship to Jesus: "He must increase, but I must decrease". No, we are not worthless. God is simply worth more. To God be the glory.