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God's Glory Alone

The last several weeks we have been exploring the five solas, which sum up what made the Reformers stand out against and apart from the Roman Catholics: 1) we are saved by grace alone 2) through faith alone 3) in Christ alone 4) according to Scripture alone, 5) we believe these things, we hold to these things, we live in light of these things all for the glory of God alone—soli Deo gloria.

It’s this final sola that we will focus on now. The Reformers took their cue from passages like Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Perhaps “glory” is an overused term in our Christian circles. Do we know what it means? In its verbalized form, “glorify,” it certainly holds the sense of worship, praise, and honor. Hence the 17th Century English Reformers asked the question, “What is man’s chief end? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But when we speak of God’s glory, what do we mean? Simply put, God’s glory is the splendid, majestic, and marvelous manifestation of any and all of His attributes. As one pastor puts it, when the holiness of God is revealed to men, it is called glory. God’s glory is everything that makes Him God. And can you imagine claiming that as our own for even one second? No. We glorify God by attributing to Him everything that is His. At the time of the Reformation, this especially meant attributing to God, from beginning to end, the work of salvation.

Perhaps at first blush this sola might not seem as distinctively Reformed as the other four. The Reformers were saying we are saved by faith alone (which is a gift of God’s grace), not by any works we might merit. We are saved through our one and only Savior, Jesus Christ, and there are no other saints or martyrs or mothers to appeal to. And we hold to Scripture as our only authority, not man-made traditions or rules. That’s all distinctly Reformed. But giving God glory? How is that a Reformed thing? Don’t all Christians of every stripe—even Roman Catholics—want to give God glory?

Well you see, in all of these other solas the Reformation was stressing one thing: salvation is all of God’s doing and man has no part to play. Man has nothing to do with it at all. And the moment you give even an iota to our participation in the work of salvation, you know what you lose? Soli Deo gloria. You lose God’s glory—God’s inherent love, goodness, grace, mercy wisdom, justice. If there’s something worthy in me, then why should I waste my time worshipping Another when I could be worshipping myself?! So in a sense it could be said that this sola sums up the rest, or holds them together—or even that if you want to sum up the Reformation to its most key aspects, it is this: soli Deo gloria. Everything that they believed and taught could be boiled down to glorifying God, honoring God, praising God, exalting God. That’s what their faith was to them, and nothing else.

Is that what your faith is to you? As John Calvin put it, “We never truly glory in Him until we have utterly discarded our own glory. The elect are justified by the Lord, in order that they may glory in Him, and in no one else.”

Jonathan Cruse