If a man is saved, it is because God has saved him.
— Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones
Of all of the five solae, soli Deo gloria is the one I looked forward to most. It is my personal favorite of the solae, and it is my life motto. After all, there is no one who deserves the glory for all things more than God. God is the One who creates all things, sustains life in the universe, provides His creation with everything they need. God is glorified just for the fact that He even exists and that He is the Only God. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) it says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” All things were created with the intention to glorify God.
However, in a recent study of passages in Romans, I saw something I had never seen before in Romans 1:20-21 (ESV) which says, “For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” What interested me was the fact that God was worthy to be praised and glorified for all He had done, but take notice that He was not honored. The hearts of mankind were darkened to plain reason, and their thinking was futile.
What also interested me is that though God is indeed to be glorified for His attributes and for His nature, soli Deo gloria was not focused on glorifying God in the general sense, but in a grander sense. As it was said in Romans 1:20-21, God was worthy of glory, but what stopped people from glorifying Him? Their hearts were darkened. By who? A better question is: by what? Men’s sin blinded them from God. Unrighteousness defiled their hearts, and this unrighteousness stemmed all the way back to the garden of Eden, when Adam sinned and brought death into the world. Creation was corrupted because we chose to rebel against God. Thus, God did as was recorded in Romans 1:24-25 (ESV): “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
God allowed men to dwell in their sin, yet He also called them to repentance. This was done to show them that God was willing to be merciful, and He was willing to extend His hand to those who would be willing. The problem was that no one was willing. No one wanted to come to God, and no one wanted to choose God. Why? Psalm 14 says that there was no one righteous. In order to choose righteousness, one must first be able to recognize the necessity of it. If you were full after eating and I offered a basket of bread, you’d reject the offer. Man, believing that they didn’t need to repent of their sin and turn to God, refused righteousness and lived in their own ways.
Man’s will was corrupted and unable to choose God. I truly believe that if God ordained that salvation would be given to those who willed, then we would all go to hell. No man or woman can choose God. The will we have has been corrupted by sin and lust. That is why the Gospel is called the good news! God saves us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That means we did nothing to deserve salvation, that salvation was given, that we are justified by the faith God has given us, and that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. So, what does this have to do with soli Deo gloria?
As I had mentioned before, Man didn’t want to honor God. God was still glorified even without saving sinners from sin, but… God did something He didn’t have to do. By bestowing grace unto the elect of the human race, His glory was greater. In Philippians 2, it talks about Christ humbling Himself to die on the cross, and because He came to save the ones that the Father predestined, God had bestowed greater honor to His Son. In return, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit were also received greater glory, and the reformers knew this. That is why the Reformation was full of committed pastors and theologians who proclaimed that the salvation of the elect was soli Deo gloria: to the glory of God alone.
In Ephesians 1:11-14 (ESV) it says, “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
Mans work has no role in salvation. God is the star, producer, and director. Catch my drift? God the Father had predestined who would be saved and who would be left to justice from eternity past, God the Son made sure the elect would be justified through His life, death, and burial, and God the Holy Spirit would seal the ones who would be drawn by God’s grace. There is nothing that man can boast in. It is all to the glory of God alone! Salvation has nothing to do with us. What theologians call the soteriological view of monergism, is what I call the biblical view of the Gospel.
Sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and sola Scriptura all connect through soli Deo gloria, because all of the solae reflect the glory that God deserves for saving us. Romans 1 states that we were unable to recognize God’s glory, but by grace alone, we can. By faith alone, we are able to approach the throne of God with confidence that we are justified. In Christ alone, we are made righteous, and we now have favor with God. By Scriptural alone, we will proclaim the truth of God and lead churches in the worship of our God. All of this, and in the end… it is all to what? To the glory of God alone.
At the very heart of the Reformation, God’s glory was the greatest concern. Every word spoken by Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, every letter penned by John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, and every word translated from the Hebrew and Greek in the Geneva Bible was all to the glory of God, and to show people that God alone deserves the glory and praise for all He has done to save us. Man isn’t saved by His own efforts, but by God’s grace. Man believes because God gives Him faith to do so. God deserves all glory and honor for saving us.
May we remember the five solae of the Reformation this month, this year, and all the days that we live on this earth, so that the name of the Lord would be proclaimed by those who aren’t following the lusts of their hearts, but those who have been redeemed by God. Those who have faith, those who have seen the grace of God, and those who have read the Scriptures shall glorify their God for their salvation. Happy Reformation Month!
Soli Deo Gloria.