SOLI DEO GLORIA
Spanish original: Integridad y Sabiduría: Soli Deo Gloria
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36 (ESV)
We have come to the last of the Five Solas: Soli Deo Gloria (“for the glory of God alone”).
The idea behind this principle is two-fold: first, this teaching helps us see that the reason why God does all things is for his own glory, and second, it teaches us that we should do everything for the Glory of God.
The text quoted at the beginning of this entry sums it up quite well. As others have observed, the phrases “from Him,” “through Him” and “to Him” cover all the contents of Romans chapter 11. So if anyone would like to know why all things must be for the glory of God, the reason is simple and it is summed up in three propositions from this one verse: from, through and to.
Let’s take a look the first phrase:
“From Him” – All things are from Him because He owns all things. David recognized this great truth in Psalm 24:1:
“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”
Besides, all things belong to Him because all things come from Him. Even the rain and sun that the wicked receive are received by the grace of God. “What do you have that you did not receive?” asks the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:7.
“Through Him” – All things were made by Him and all things are sustained through Him. (John 1:3, Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:17 support this idea.)
“To Him” – Colossians 1:16 says that the Father made all things for the Son, and, on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 15:28 says that when the Son is finished with all that He must do He will return all things to the Father in order that “God may be all in all”.
When God demands His glory
When God demands that the glory belongs to Him alone, He is not seeking attention. God is satisfied in His own perfection, for which He has no need of anything. He is not looking for people to applaud and praise Him, since even after we applaud God, we fall short of the tribute He deserves. God does not need something so imperfect and inferior as the worship that we can offer Him. This does not mean that He does not enjoy our worship, but that He does not need it. God enjoys our worship in the same way that a father is pleased when his children have absorbed the good things he taught them and begin to reflect them in their lives.
In this case, the more I am a worshiper of God, the closer I am to the image of His Son. And the closer I find myself to His image, the more I reflect the purpose for which He created me. And the closer I find myself to that purpose, the more fullness of life I enjoy. And the more fullness I have, the more joy I experience. And the more joy I experience in God, the more I glorify His being. As John Piper put it so well:
“God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”
On more than one occasion people have asked me whether it is egotistical for God to determine that everything should be for His glory, and we ask ourselves this question for a very simple reason: we think God is like us (Psalm 50:21). It bothers us when someone does something and then insists on taking all the credit for it, because we understand that person to be showing off their pride. In reality we know that he or she does not deserve all the credit. But when God demands His glory He does deserve all the credit because “from Him, through Him and to Him are all things.”
Let’s look at one more illustration. If tomorrow, God were to say that He is the most glorious being that exists, it would not be arrogance on His part, and the reason it is not arrogant for Him to say that is because it is right. To say otherwise would be a lie.
So then, the fact that God demands all things be done for His glory does not at all mean that God is egotistical. How do we know this?
We could answer in the form of another question: how is it that children know a good father is not egotistical when he expects them to honor and respect him?
They know he is not an egotist because their father spends his life working for them and providing for them. But let’s imagine that a child was suffering from some deadly disease, and in order for him to live, the father would have to give his blood and die, which he agrees to do. Would that son accuse his father of having been egotistical?
Of course not! God has done just that and so much more:
He gave His life for us
He sustains our lives
He has given us gifts and talents to use in life
He has provided the opportunities of life
As if that were not enough, God gave Himself when we were afflicted by a deadly disease, from which we could only escape if He were to die for us. He did this in the person of His Son—His death for our life.
Do you still doubt whether God is egotistical when He demands that all the glory belongs to Him?
For His glory, through our good
We should understand that when God acts for His own glory we alone are the beneficiaries. When God displays His power, nothing gets added to His being. However we indeed are helped by His power, because it is His right hand that sustains us. The same is true when God displays His wisdom; He does not become more wise, or when He gives us His grace; He does not suffer any change for good or for evil. . . He is God. So it’s worth repeating: when God glorifies Himself, exhibiting His attributes, we, His creatures, are the beneficiaries.
John 17:1 says:
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.’ ”
When God glorified the Son, He glorified Him at the cross, and we have come to be the main beneficiaries of His death. In the cross the Father displayed the love and grace of the Son toward sinners. When the Son glorified the Father, He glorified Him at the cross, completing the work that had been given to Him and satisfying His justice. Again, we are the beneficiaries in that we no longer have to be eternally condemned.
So, how do we glorify God?
We say that God glorifies Himself when He displays His attributes. But the question now is, in what way can we glorify God?
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
There are many things in the life of a believer that are not done for the glory of God. In fact, it is very likely that most of what is done in our lives is not done for the glory of God. We earn money without thinking about how it could glorify God, and we spend money without thinking about how our spending could glorify God. Rather we tend to think about how such things will satisfy the desires of our flesh.
We are also egotists when we give. We give to others, and then we expect them to be grateful to us. However, if we truly gave for the glory of God, we wouldn’t wonder about whether others were grateful or not, since that would not be why we gave in the first place.
So then, how do we glorify God?
We can glorify Him in worship, when we sing about His attributes. We can glorify Him through prayer, as we recognize who He is and how He is able to fulfill us completely, even when we do not ask Him to do so, thus showing us that He is faithful and worthy to be trusted. We can glorify God when we love Him above all things, because we demonstrate that God is worth more than anything else in life, and that nothing can compete with Him.
Being thankful is another way in which we give glory to God, because we demonstrate how God does not need to grant us an abundance in order for us to be satisfied. Many times, in our lack, God gives us more of Himself, showing His sufficiency.
Another way we glorify Him is when we turn from sin, reflecting His holiness in ourselves. However, when I turn from sin, God does not benefit in the least by my turning; I am the beneficiary. When I turn from greed, I benefit myself because I do not end up enslaved by the drive to make money. When money is the driving motivation, money becomes my slave master. When work comes first in my life, work becomes my slave master. When my sensual desires are the driving factor in my life, lust becomes my slave master. God is the only being who requires first place in my life without enslaving me. In fact, it is only when He is first in my life that I am truly free.
We can also glorify Him by being highly productive. Christ said:
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8 ESV).
Philippians 1:11 calls us to be
“filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
In this sense, we can glorify God through our gifts and talents as we use them in ways that show others how God makes it possible for us to perform with excellence.
Finally, we can glorify God as the Martyrs did. They defended His truth and died for His cause. To suffer for His sake and to give thanks to God in the midst of pain are extraordinary ways of glorifying His name. Christ did this. The reformers did this. John 9 speaks of a man who was born blind and remained blind for many years so that the glory of God would be manifested in him. Christ did not come to pass through this world with the least amount of pain possible. Christ came to display the glory of God over all the earth, no matter how much that would cost; and in the end it cost him his life.
Now, if you do not want to glorify God in these ways, you will never be able to enjoy God this side of eternity. Why is that?
The first question from the Westminster Catechism gives the reason:
Question: “What is the chief purpose of man?”
Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
Those two affirmations go hand-in-hand—our joy depends on whether we glorify Him. This is an important point: if you are unable to rejoice in God and enjoy Him now, it is because the life you are living is not glorifying to Him. It is impossible to live a life that glorifies God and not have joy. Joy is the natural result of living life to the full in God by glorifying Him in what we do and in what we do not do.
This entry closes our series of posts about the Five Solas of the Reformation. These five principles do not constitute all of the theology that the Reformed movement embraced, but they do sum up the main structure of that theology. The implications of these Solas go much farther than we can express in these brief reviews. I think that if we look at it carefully, many of the doctrinal errors that we have seen over the course of many years, in one way or another, relate to some wrong interpretation or wrong application of one of these five principles. That gives us an idea about how important it is to be able to understand and apply these teachings in precise ways.
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