Sacred Winds Ensemble and Ministries

Christian outreach through the arts, music, and education.

Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone

by Scott Gilbert

The five solas of the Reformation represent guiding biblical principles for the Reformers. As two of the major issues of the Reformation were authority and the means of salvation, the first four solas present a clarion call to stand on Scripture alone, which tells us that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. The fifth sola, therefore, functions as a kind of summary and culmination of the others.

Indeed, the cry of soli Deo gloria—to God alone be the glory—is a theological conclusion that naturally flows out of the other solas. God has granted his Word to people, which explains that mankind is fallen and sinful before a holy God. Due to the depth of our sin, we are incapable of saving ourselves or meriting grace from God. Instead, our salvation is entirely accomplished by God’s grace as a gift to undeserving sinners by means of the death of Christ and his imputed righteousness. Our salvation cannot ever come from our own efforts, but only through faith as we repent of our sin and trust in Christ as the only way of salvation. Because salvation is entirely of God, he is the only one deserving of glory.

We see this truth clearly in the book of Romans. Throughout the first eleven chapters, Paul meticulously explains God’s work in providing salvation: the deadness of man in sin, the human impossibility of overcoming sin, Christ’s sacrificial death, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the transforming power of God’s grace, and God’s sovereignty in salvation. What is Paul’s conclusion to God’s work in salvation? “To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36)—to God alone be the glory is the only conclusion that makes sense when we consider the riches of his grace in kindness toward us!

But the cry of soli deo gloria does not derive only from God’s work in salvation, but from his very essence. As the creator of all things and the only one to whom the angels cry out, “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), the triune God is glorious by nature. Even the creation itself testifies to the Creator. As David writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). He has a worth of majesty that is infinite.

This recognition of the glory of God consumed the reformers. John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion begins with a discussion of the knowledge of God, and he explains that when we understand the glory of God, we begin to see the infinity of his supremacy and the depth of our sin. This knowledge of who God is as the glorious creator causes us to bow in his presence, recognizing that he alone is worthy of glory. The preeminence of God’s glory in all things led the writers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (which was written by the Westminster Assembly in the mid 1600s and is informed by Reformation principles) to focus on God’s glory as the driving motivation of life. The first question is, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

In considering soli Deo gloria, we need to remember that this principle must still drive our lives. Because of who God is and all that he has done in salvation, the ultimate purpose of our lives is to glorify him. This means that everything in our lives is not ultimately for us, but for him. Our jobs, our families, our possessions, our talents—everything that we have belongs to him and is for his glory. How do you view your life? Do you primarily consider it in terms of yourself? Or do you recognize that everything you do and all that you have is for one greater than yourself—for God, so that he will be the one to receive the glory?

Yet, believing in and seeking to live out the truth of soli Deo gloria should not be viewed as an imposition on our lives or as a difficult task. Rather, submitting our lives to God and being consumed with his glory is the path to true joy in life. The writers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism were right: God’s purpose for our lives is to glorify him, but glorifying him includes enjoying him. There is nothing greater than God, and thus he deserves all glory. But there is also no greater joy or privilege than knowing God and walking in fellowship with him. So let us live according to soli Deo gloria. Let us seek to glorify him with all that we are. And let us find our greatest joy and delight in him, for knowing and glorifying him is the chief end and joy of our lives.

Scott Gilbert is Pastor of Discipleship and Children’s Ministry at Grace Baptist Church in Somerset, KY.

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Your performances of the Symphony No.7 movement [IV] are very touching and beautiful.

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