Soli Deo Gloria

by Mike Ratliff

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB) 

11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11 (NASB) 

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:4-6 (NASB) 

1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 Peter 3:1 (NASB) 

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Ephesians 3:1 (NASB) 

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 7:9-12 (NASB) 

36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36 (NASB) 

I heard a comment not long ago describing American Protestantism. The commenter was a Christian from Europe. He said that it was Protestantism, but without the historical context of the Protestant Reformation. In other words, the emphasis on the polemic points that separated Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism was missing. Because of this, there was more tolerance for relativism in the American Church. When I first heard that comment I was not so sure that he was right nor was I sure that was such a big deal. However, the more exposure I have had with the ‘emergent’ movement, Christian liberals, Christian skeptics, and Neo-Evangelicals, the more I have come to see what that man was talking about. 

There is a definite mindset in today’s Church to discount the Protestant Reformation and to not look to the wisdom and spiritual truths the reformers had, which they gave us through their wonderful books. C.S. Lewis once recommended that for every three or four “new” books Christians read they should read one “old” book. I have become convinced that that ratio should be revised. I try to read one “old” book for every “new” book I read. I suppose I “cheat” a bit here because most of the “new” books I read refer heavily to the “old” ones. In any case, God used the Reformers and the Puritans to define in stark, black and white terms what was orthodox and what was not. What was the mechanism God used for this?

God uses pressure, conflicts, controversies, and all sorts of unpleasantness in Christianity to cause His people to “address” what is Biblical and what isn’t. For example, the Reformation rescued the Gospel from the chains of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Many reformers paid with their lives in this struggle. Through this “reformation” we received the Bible in the languages of the common people. We also received catechisms and confessions such as the Westminster and the Heidleburg which define very well that which makes up the orthodox faith.

The Reformation reclaimed the Scriptural teaching of the sovereignty of God over every aspect of the believer’s life. All of life is to be lived to the glory of God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This great and all consuming purpose was emphasized by those in the 16th and 17th Centuries who sought to reform the church according to the Word of God. In contrast to the monastic division of life into sacred versus secular perpetuated by Roman Church, the reformers saw all of life to be lived under the Lordship of Christ. Every activity of the Christian is to be sanctified unto the glory of God.

In contrast to this we have the movements today in which the orthodox faith as defined by the Reformers is being replaced by a “personal,” self-defined faith. This movement refuses to accept that God defines our faith the same for all. Instead, they teach that we are all on our own separate paths to God that are defined by our own concepts and beliefs. The emergents and Neo-Evangelicals say that they are angry with the fundamentalists for their ‘witch hunts’ against the liberals over the last few decades, rooting them out of their seminaries and pulpits. They use this excuse to reject things such as the 5 Solas as definitive of orthodoxy.

For example, the first Sola, Sola Scriptura, is essential to the health of the Christian faith. Can a person be saved and not believe in Biblical Inerrancy? Sure, there is no requirement of that in order to be saved. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. We do not bring anything into this such as works or certain beliefs. However, I assure you, it is imperative that Pastors, teachers and Christian leaders grasp it. Christian Orthodoxy has as it’s foundation the 5 Solas. If we remove any one of them then we have something other than Christianity.

Soli Deo Gloria shows us the reason for our salvation. God saves His people so that they will glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. I find that those who wish to argue about Orthodoxy are not too concerned with living totally for God and His glory. Instead, they are focused on things such as unity at all costs. I am not saying the Church shouldn’t be unified. It should be, but not at all cost. We cannot claim brotherhood with those who reject the deity of Christ for example. Why? This is a major part of Solus Chistus. What about Sola Scriptura? The Bible is our foundation of truth. It is God’s Word and tells us about Christ and that everything God created is for His glory alone.

I love classical music. I usually listen to it while writing. The composer of my favorite pieces is J.S. Bach. He was a Christian. He signed each composition at the bottom with “SDG.” This stands for Soli Deo Gloria. He was saying through that that his works as a composer was for God’s glory alone. He was living out the 5th Sola in his work. He is quoted as saying, “God writes the notes, I simply put them to paper.”

Why is it important that the Church understand how imperative it is that we do all for God’s glory instead of ours? Look at the aberrations of the Gospel and the forms of “church” we see around us which are lead by “super star” preachers. What is the emphasis of these ministries? Isn’t it to bring glory to the person instead of the creator? Those who minister this way are pragmatists. That means that instead of obeying God by simply preaching the Word, they use techniques and forms of preaching intended to manipulate and control the outcomes. They change the Gospel from that we see in scripture to a form of easy believism in which people are declared Christian who have only walked an aisle, said a prayer, raised a hand, had a spiritual experience or some religious work. This is done this way in order to maintain numbers of conversions and “grow churches.” This is pragmatism and it is not biblical. This is not done for the Glory of God Alone, but for some other reason. If the emphasis is Soli Deo Gloria then the preachers would not do this, but would preach the whole Gospel that divides everyone into two groups. These two groups are genuine Christians and everyone else. The numbers may not be as large, but the harvest is sure.

When Christians grasp Soli Deo Gloria as their way of life things change. That denying self, dying to self stuff becomes much easier. If the focus of our lives is God’s glory will we drag Him with us into sinful behavior? Won’t we pray more and depend more on His grace to live this Christian life? Won’t this help us live this life as Spirit-filled believers? My brethren, the purpose of this series was not an attempt to force every believer into some form of legalism. Instead, its purpose was to give each and every one of you the foundation that will lead to true freedom in Christ. When we live our lives for God’s glory in all we do He does not leave us helpless, but draws us closer to Him, feeding us from His table and increasing our faith. This opens up our spiritual understanding of the 5 Solas.

Far be it from us to be legalistic, condemning “Christians” who are always pointing out the faults of others. No, let us take the high road always pointing the way so others may join us in our freedom in knowing and loving God’s Word from which we learn that we are saved by His Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ alone to the Glory of God Alone.

Sola Scriptura
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide
Solus Christus
Soli Deo Gloria!

In scripture alone we find Salvation is by grace alone Through faith alone In Christ alone For the glory of God alone!

5 thoughts on “Soli Deo Gloria

  1. So true. God certainly does use conflicts, distresses, and other forms of unpleasantness to make us exercise discernment. It is a dangerous situation when God’s people become complacent (self satisfied) and trade perseverance or obedience for status, fame, popularity, and money.

    The cares of the world can hinder our spiritual maturity and corrupt a holy character. We must be on guard against those things, and stand firm in the face of opposition. It will cost us. But it is worth it. Life is short.

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  2. What an excellent post! I mean it — it really gave me a lot to think about. I’m still formulating my belief system. I lean toward the reformed, and embrace the five solas, but I’m a work in progress.

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