Soli Deo Gloria

by Pastor John Kim

The Protestant Reformation brought a whirlwind of change to the state of the church during the 1500’s and the five Sola statements were probably the most significant and memorable catchphrases to make a long-lasting impact. While each of the statements are impactful in their own right, I would like to say that the statement “Soli Deo Gloria” (to the glory of God alone) envelopes the other four statements: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Solus Christus. It is because all of these statements ultimately point to God being central instead of man and so God is the one who deserves and receives the glory. This flies in the face of today’s self-absorbed culture which unfortunately has penetrated even the heart of evangelical churches far and wide. So let’s take a moment to consider the statements of the Reformation.

Scripture alone points us to the fact that it is God’s word alone that has the final authority due to the fact that it is inerrant, infallible, inspired, and sufficient in its clarity and purpose. Man’s word falls by the wayside when we measure it against the Word of God, and it was such a clear statement against the Roman Catholic Church during the time of the Reformation, which claimed that it was the church that was to be the final interpreter of the Word of God. When Martin Luther boldly preached the Word of God and took his famous stand in Worms before the emperor, it was the watershed moment in which the line was clearly drawn regarding what authority was to be trusted. When I was in Worms last fall on the Reformation Tour, it was a fitting moment to have John MacArthur preach from the spot that marked the site where Luther made his famous statement. While that building no longer exists, the truth that was stated continues to this day. 2 Timothy 3:16- 17 shines brightly in declaring that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Grace alone reminds us that the grace of God initiates the work of salvation, sustains the work of salvation, and culminates the work of salvation. Left to ourselves we only have our sinfulness to bring before God which automatically results in condemnation. We would be hopeless on our own. But the grace of God, initiated by the love of God on behalf of sinful mankind again points to the greatness of our God who majestically and unconditionally bestows His super-abounding grace on an undeserving sinner. It is by grace alone that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is truly a gift from God; a gift that continues to abound all the more when we consider how incredible it is in light of our sin.

Faith alone challenges us to consider that it is a full trust that is placed in God and His provision through Jesus Christ. There is nothing that we can do to merit our way to salvation. It is a faith that understands the truth, believes in the truth, and places full confidence in the truth that it is only in Jesus Christ that we can be saved from our sins. To exercise a faith that is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) is one that strips man of all his self-sufficiency and calls him to place his confidence in Christ alone.

Christ alone really calls us to an exclusive position, one that the world does not take too kindly. To insist on the exclusivity of Christ is to declare that there is absolutely no other way to the Father except through Jesus Christ alone. Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and to water down this truth, like many do today in various circles, is to deny the only way to salvation. It is God’s prerogative to declare that there is only one way and it comes down to whether you are willing to come to God on His terms or not.

The reason why I say that Soli Deo Gloria really encompasses all the other phrases is because when you consider the substance of each of the other phrases, it results in God receiving the glory and not man. Man is ever seeking to draw attention to his own ability and his own worth and it usually is at the expense of God’s glory. Whatever it might be, man has always had the inherent problem of grasping for glory. This stems from the first temptation in the garden, where Satan tempted Eve with the thought of becoming like God. Man has continued to exchange the glory of God for the corruptible things of this world and so the great challenge for us as Christians is to exchange the corruptible things of this world for the glory of God. It is to submit all things under His Lordship, to see His kingdom be spread, to uphold His righteousness, to have every part of our lives, even our eating and drinking be in relation to how God might receive the glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

My hope is that Lighthouse Bible Church will be such a church that does not seek to promote its own glory but the glory of God alone. Too many churches are filled with people who only seek an earthly agenda that is more reflective of their self-serving interests rather thant the kingdom of God. We should learn from those who have gone before us. If you have some time, take a moment to read a book on the Reformation, like The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World or Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, both by Stephen J. Nichols. It would challenge many to consider how significant an event it was that changed the course of history.

As we celebrate Reformation Day on October 31, let’s not be so conformed to the world as it celebrates a distorted and twisted holiday about demons and witches and other nonsense. Instead, let us celebrate the greatness of God in Him receiving all the glory as we seek to be faithful slaves to our glorious Master and Redeemer.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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