As you know, this past Tuesday marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. I have the privilege of directing your attention toward the fifth Sola: Soli Deo Gloria.
The Five Solas are:
- Sola Scriptura: The Bible alone is our highest authority.
- Sola Fide: We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
- Sola Gratia: We are saved by the grace of God alone.
- Solus Christus: Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
- Soli Deo Gloria: We live for the glory of God alone.
Glory belongs to God alone. God’s glory is the central motivation for salvation. The motivation is not to improve the lives of people—though that is a wonderful by product. God is not a means to an end. He is the means and the end.
The goal of all of life is to give glory to God alone. As the Westminster Catechism says, the chief purpose of human life is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
While this concept is profound and central to all of the Scripture and the Reformation, I am concerned that the idea of God receiving glory has become all too familiar to most of us. We recite I Corinthians 10:31 before eating at every meal at The WILDS Christian Camp. Most of us know and sing often songs like, “To God Be the Glory,” “10,000 Reasons,” “How Great Is Our God” or the “Doxology.”
“Praise God to whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise God above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
We know the truth of Psalm 115:1: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”
But do yourself a favor and take a deep breath.
For the next several paragraphs, sit back and contemplate with me one of the most important themes in the Reformation . . . and I would even say, in all of the Bible!
So what can we learn from the phrase “soli deo gloria”?
The Demand for Soli Deo Gloria
You’ve no doubt heard of Johann Tetzel. Paul F. Pavao writes that Tetzel “was given the task of raising money for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (by Pope Leo X). He was exceptionally good at it, and his claims for the effect of indulgences were exceptionally extreme and superstitious.”
Tetzel’s sales pitch was:
“As soon as the gold in the casket rings; the rescued soul to heaven springs.”
Tetzel did not understand some basic truths of Christianity.
1. Salvation is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9).
The Catholic Church promoted the view that salvation is a cooperative venture between God and man.
The Reformers, on the other hand, taught that salvation is by grace alone (Sola Gratia), through faith alone (Sola Fide), in Christ alone (Solus Christus) based on Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)—not church tradition.
2. All of life is sacred to God (I Cor. 10:31).
The Catholic Church promoted a division between the sacred and the secular. The Reformers taught that God alone should receive all of our glory all the time.
Martin Luther said,
“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
3. All believers have direct access to God (Heb. 4:14-16).
No longer do we need a priest to access the throne. We can each individually receive direct access to the throne of God. We call this “the priesthood of the believer.”
Unfortunately, to this day, Protestants carry over the idea of a distinction between the sacred and the secular. This manifests itself in Sunday morning only church attendance and expecting the “professional pastors” to DO the work of the ministry instead of the congregation “owning” the work of the ministry and looking to the pastors to equip them in that work.
On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed a list of grievances against the Catholic Church onto the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. These “Ninety-Five Theses” became the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
500 years ago, one man had the courage to risk everything and stand for truth. One man took on the most powerful institution in his day. One man holding to the conviction that the Scriptures alone teach justification of sinners by grace alone through faith alone in God alone—ultimately pointing all men to the glory of God alone.
But what does that mean for us?
1. Submit to the priority of God’s glory. Life is not about you! It is all about God’s glory!
2. Reject the dichotomy between the sacred and the secular. Stop relegating ministry to the professionals.
3. Enjoy the privilege of direct access to God through Christ Jesus. Are you burdened down today with the weight of the world? Call out to God to find grace to help in time of need.