During 2017, many churches around the globe, recognised the 500th anniversary of what we now call ‘the Reformation’. It was a movement led by men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin that saw faith in Christ restored and redefined from that previously espoused by the church of the day.
There were five key points, ‘5 solas’ which were defined by this movement:
- Sola Scriptura = Scripture alone (The Bible alone is our highest authority)
- Sola Fide = Faith alone (We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ)
- Sola Gratia = Grace alone (We are saved by the grace of God alone)
- Solus Christus = Christ alone (Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Saviour & King
- Soli Deo Gloria = Glory to God alone (We live for the glory of God alone)
No doubt there is much that can be studied, and much that can be said for the betterment of us all on each of these topics, but today I am going to focus on the fifth point, that of Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God Alone. In some ways this point alone sums up focus of all the others.
Certainly there can be no argument that we are to have no other gods before the Lord (first commandment), but the doctrine of Soli Deo Gloria goes beyond that and holds that all of creation exists for the glory of God. He is the Sovereign Lord over everything He has made, and everything we do, should be done for His honour and glory.
There were many passages of scripture which we could have used in reference this morning. The two passages which I have used show reference to the two ‘poles’ in thinking and the acknowledgement of God. On the one hand, giving glory to God alone – the way it should be and must be for the believer. And on the other hand, neither giving glory or recognition to our Creator God and therefore being turned over to futile and foolish things. We can see the impact of this within our nations just by viewing the nightly news!
In Isaiah 42:8 is says
“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”
There is a passage in 1 Cor 10 which talks about the believer’s ‘freedom’ saying that we have the right to do anything but recognise that not everything is beneficial or constructive. Then down in v31 it says
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
There’s another passage in 1 Peter 4 which talks about ‘living for God’ and using the gifts we have been given in service of one another. Recognising that the Lords return should be on all of our consciences in v11 it says
“If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
Of the Five Sola’s, this doctrine of “Glory to God Alone” is perhaps the easiest to defend from Scripture, yet it is by far the hardest to live in practice. We are creatures of ego, vanity, pride, greed, covetousness, and selfishness. We often act with no other motive than our own self-interest and for our own gratification. But the Bible is clear – whatever we do, we are to do it for the glory of God.
The truth that the Reformers were most concerned about, and what can be seen as the central theme of Scripture is soli Deo gloria — to God alone be the glory.
The first question and answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us –
Q- What is the chief end of man? A- To glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
God’s glory is the highest good and therefore is the purpose for which we were created. We were made to glorify Him, to reflect His glory and proclaim it to all creation. Throughout the book of Exodus we see His glory displayed in the saving of His people and defeating their enemies. The plagues in Egypt, the leading cloud which settled in the tabernacle and then later on in the temple built by Solomon. And of course in the coming of Jesus, His life and crucifixion, and ascension into heaven – His glory has been revealed to us.
Our salvation must be through faith alone, by grace alone, and on account of Christ alone — because to attribute redemption in any way to our own efforts or actions is to rob God of His full glory. If God and God alone is not the one who saves, then logically He shares His glory with something or someone else. But as the prophet Isaiah tells us, God will share His glory with no one (42:8).
Scripture alone is the final, infallible authority — this must be the church’s confession and the ‘boast’ of every believer. If any other source of truth or knowledge or instruction is placed on par with or above the Bible, then the Word of God is no better than the fallible words of creatures, and therefore the one who provided the writing of the Bible is mocked.
We often think of the Reformation as involving only a doctrinal dispute, but for John Calvin and others, the purity of worship was a major concern as well. Calvin and others took seriously the teaching in Romans 1:18–32, that the basic sin of humanity is its refusal to honour God, as God, and thank Him for all that He has given us. Instead of bowing the knee to the Almighty, we suppress knowledge of Him and make all sorts of lesser gods to appease or quieten our consciences.
Some idolatry is crass, such as the worship of nature, worshiping creation instead of the Creator, or worshipping golden calves, or Baals or Buddahs and the like. Other forms of idolatry are more refined, such as the exaltation of human reason above divine revelation. But any time we substitute something else for the God of the Bible, we attempt to have Him share His glory with another. Any time we deny one of His attributes, we create the idea of Him as less than the sovereign Lord of all.
This winter, have any of you taken time to look up into the night sky and enjoy the majesty of creation? Have you all recognised the Southern Cross constellation and the ‘two pointers’? The brighter of the two points is known as Alpha Centauri (technically it is actually a triple star known as Alpha Centauri A & B and Proxima Centauri). As seen from Earth, the system is the fourth brightest star, the faintest component of which, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Sun (about 4.2 light years). The two brighter components (A & B), about 0.2 light years farther away. A & B revolve around each other with a period of about 80 years, while Proxima circles them with a period of 550,000 years – Creation screams out the majesty of Christ and glorifies Him.
Q: Who are we told in Job 9:8-10 that “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”
A: God. He alone is the creator. He alone is owed glory and honour and majesty forever.
In fact as we consider this, what does Colossians 1 say, “All things were made …. by Him and for Him.” Everything is for the purpose of glorifying Him. Everything, was to come back to Him to speak, to speak of, or reveal His majesty. And you know what - the amazing thing is creation cooperates? You look up there and you don’t see one big black section of heaven where the stars are pulling off a revolt or are on strike! There’s not an atheism movement among the stars – we don’t believe in the God who created us! And they don’t go out of orbit and just crazily spin all over the sky because they will to defy God, do they. They just stay where they belong and do what they were made to do.
Consider the Flowers and the plants of the field, they don’t argue either do they. They don’t protest. Flowers in all their colour and beauty and shape and form, just bloom and glorify God. Bees and honey making, there’s never been a bee fall. They don’t argue. They don’t wrestle against their creator either do they. They just be, bees.
And all the animals are the same aren’t they? The prophet in the Old Testament says, “The beasts of the field gives God honour, the jackal and the ostrich…because He gives water in the desert…”. So it is that everything in creation glorifies God except the two highest things He ever made and gave a will to: angels and men. Some angels decided to revolt, they did, and they fell, and God gave them no opportunity for recovery. He offered them no salvation. That’s why Peter (1 Peter) expresses the fact that the angels look into the doctrine of salvation to see it and to understand it. They can’t comprehend such a thing because there was never such a provision for them. They are doomed for hells destruction.
But there was one other rebel. That was man, us. Did we give honour, like the beasts of the field, to God when he provided us with water and manna from heaven? Nope, not us humans – we grumbled and complained! And man defied and defies the glory of God, and man denied and denies the glory of God, and man rejected and rejects the glory of God, and man is separated from the glory of God, and man, according to Romans 3, has “fallen short of the glory of God.” But God, for some marvellous, gracious, merciful, compassionate reason has provided salvation for us!
To God be the Glory
A simple strand which runs through the whole Bible and by which we can tie the whole Bible, or the whole history of redemption together, the whole story from the fall of man to the 13th day of October 2019 - is the story of God endeavouring to reveal to man His glory that man might reverse his rejection, see His glory, and come to Him, and acknowledge Him for who He is.
We can be thankful that God has not given up. Thousands of years of patient love. God has continued to call man back to the place of the recognition of His glory.
It is not all that uncommon to hear someone say, “I refuse to worship a God that would send people to hell.” But those who would define God’s love in a way that denies His holy wrath does not worship the Creator. Others say, “To me God is….” But it does not matter how we define God, it only matters how He defines Himself. Let us be careful not to adopt the views of God common in our culture, but rather allow Scripture to reveal to us the God who is.
As we are praying and thinking about what we have shared this morning in our fellowship, we are reminded individually, and as a congregation that we must be committed to be set apart for the glory of God. We must have one goal and one purpose and one motive and one incentive and one objective in mind, and that is to glorify God Himself. Think of the message given by the angels on the hillside in Bethlehem proclaiming the birth of Jesus - “Glory to God in the highest”. That should be the testimony of us all, no matter the circumstance, no matter the repercussions.
Glory belongs to God alone. God’s glory is the central motivation for salvation, not the improving of lives of people—though that is a wonderful by-product for the human race. God is not a means to an end—He is the ‘means’ and He is the ‘end’.
The goal of all of life and all creation, is to give glory to God alone