Soli Deo Gloria
Probably when you hear the phrase Soli Deo Gloria you think of the Christmas song “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The chorus goes:
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
Gloria, in excelsis Deo
I’m sure many have wondered what those Latin words mean. While not exactly the same words as “Soli Deo Gloria” This song does capture the same idea. Unfortunately, for many these words and this song is nothing more than a pleasant tradition. It is a nice song to sing with Christmas lights and a manger scene in the background. It brings us warm and comforting feelings of Christmas, family, and Christmas story.
Yet when we look deeply at these words we find meaning and significance for our life and for eternity that is vital to the gospel message, foundational for our church, and integral to the Christian life.
For the Reformers the idea of Soli Deo Gloria was core to their message of a gospel that was by faith alone, grace alone, and Christ alone!
In fact when the Reformers reintroduced the idea of Soli Deo Gloria it was anything but a nice traditional Christmas song, in ran against the prevailing tradition of their time. This kind of teaching was condemned by the Catholic Church and some of the Reformers lost their lives for making such bold statements as “Soli Deo Gloria”
What is Soli Deo Gloria?
Simply put the Latin phrase means “To God alone be glory.”
This is the culmination of the the 5 Solas. It is the logical conclusion of the other 4 Solas. If God saves by faith alone, grace along, and Christ alone then logically He is the only one who can receive glory for our salvation.
On the other hand if we take Catholic theology which denies salvation by faith alone, grace alone, and in Christ alone, then how can we say that it is all for God’s glory alone? We can’t!
If salvation is a cooperative effort of myself, my priest, the sacraments and God, then the glory for my salvation must also go to each of those things which had a part in my salvation.
Furthermore, Catholic theology condones what they call the veneration of the Saints. This includes the making of statues, the preservation of bodies or parts of the body of saints. Faithful Catholics venerate these saints by bowing and kissing there statues, praying to them, asking them for protection and help, putting their statues in prominent places where they can be venerated, making pilgrimages to see the relics of the saints or to visit places where the saints have been.
In order to justify themselves they call this “veneration” and not “worship” However, without the clarification it is plain to even a child that if you drop to your knees before a statue, pray to that statue, light a candle in honor of that statue, and put your hope in that saint performing some good work in your life, such as keeping you safe, or giving you health, or providing for your material needs:
That is worship in every sense of the word!
Pastor John Piper defines God’s glory this way:
“In speaking of God’s glory, the Bible assumes that this infinite value has entered creation. It has, as it were, shined. God’s glory is the radiance of His holiness, the out-streaming of His infinite value. And when it streams out, it is seen as beautiful and great. It has both infinite quality and magnitude. So, we may define God’s glory as the beauty and greatness of His manifold perfections.”
The angels gave God glory
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
This is the passage where our song “Angels We Have Heard on High” comes from. It is instructive to us on God’s glory and why it is important.
God’s glory shines
…and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
Often when we find God’s glory we find fire and bright light
The Greek word “Doxa” seems to convey the idea of light or shining. While the Hebrew word for glory, “Kadosh” literaly convey’s a heaviness or a richness.
Nevertheless both in the OT and NT we see that the glory of God is associated with something bright and shining.
God’s glory in the cloud and fire
God’s presence was first shown to Moses in a burning bush. Later God’s glory would be seen in the cloud by day and a fire by night.
Exo 16:10 It came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
The idea of God’s glory was central to his plan for the children of Israel. He led them with his glory, he saved them for his glory, he taught them to live for his glory. Yet, the Israelites themselves were always somewhat in fear of that glory. It was only Moses who asked to see God’s glory.
18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”
19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock,
22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.
23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Moses could not be shown God’s full glory because it would have been far to overwhelming for him. It is like looking at the sun. Recently we had the solar eclipse. Everyone wanted to look at the sun but we were warned that we shoudn’t, we must find some way to shade eyes otherwise they will suffer permanent damage.
The sun which warms us, gives us energy, light to see, and by which we gauge our day. The sun that gives life to everything on earth and yet to look directly at it would surely mean that you will ruin your eyesight.
So it is with God. His goodness, his mercy, his kindness, his power, his wisdom, his creative powers, these are the things by which we live, without them we cease to exist. Yet his glory is too much for us to take in directly, thus Moses was shielding from full exposure to God’s glory.
The amazing thing is that God’s glory changed Moses, he was a different person when he came down off that mountain after seeing just a part of God’s glory. His face shone and it shone in such a way that the people didn’t want to look at him.
Later Moses face shone.
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.
31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them.
32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.
33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.
34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded,
35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.
God’s glory is manifestation of his perfections. As the rays of the sun tell us something about the great power of the sun so God’s visible glory tells us something about who God is. It is a visual spilling over of his essence and his nature. It is a way in which he can communicate to us through our senses even though he is Spirit.
God’s glory and man’s fear
…and they were filled with great fear.
The glory of God is often accompanied by fear. We can see this in Isaiah’s encounter with God.
God’s glory appears more often in the book of Isaiah than in any other of the prophets
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Isaiah gives us great insight into God’s glory.
God’s glory is for Him alone
8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
We are created to give God glory
7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
The problem in Judah at Isaiah and Ezekiel’s time was that they were not giving glory to God, thus God’s glory is seen leaving the temple in Ezekiel 10
Failure to give God glory is the root problem of men.
When we talk about giving God glory it is not simply a question of singing a few worship or Christmas songs every so often that have some words in there about giving God glory. Whether you give God glory or not is not a question of how you feel at the moment, rather it is a serious question that will determine your eternal destiny. Those who fail to give God glory will fall under his wrath.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 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.
21 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.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
Without faith in Christ not only is man unable to give God glory but he doesn’t want to give God glory. Don’t confuse glorifying God with some outward appearance of worship. You and I are good and going through the motions to make it appear to other people that we are glorifying God when in reality are hearts are far from it.
In this passage in Romans Paul shows is that all men fall into 2 categories, those who glorify God and those who glorify something or someone other than God.
What other things do men give glory to?
- To ourselves
- To nature
- To other people
- To their experiences
- To their possessions
The truth is we have all fallen short of God’s glory.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Have you ever thought of what it means to fall short of God’s glory. Most people fall short of God’s glory and don’t even realize they are doing it.
- We fall short of God’s glory when we don’t accurately reflect his perfections in our lives.
- If someone looks at you and they see something other than a life that is lived entirely for God, in God’s way, meeting God’s standard then you are not living for God’s glory.
- To fall short of God’s glory goes even deeper than that. It’s not just about appearances, it is about our heart, our desires, and our thoughts. To fall short of God’s glory means that we don’t meet God’s perfect standard, we don’t reflect the truth of who God is even in the depths of our heart that no one else can see.
- Mankind is like a house of mirrors. We may reflect some of God’s glory, we may poorly reflect aspects of God’s glory but none of us can accurately reflect the broad spectrum of God’s glory. We all in some way distort it, we are bent and broken, we are hazed over and dirty, we are unable to completely reflect God’s glory!
- The only solution to our glory problem is a glory replacement. You see, just as you can not straighten a bent mirror, you can not put back together a cracked mirror, so we can not repair our glory deficiency. Thus, we must turn to Christ, we must run to him and stand behind him because he and he alone is the perfect reflection of God’s glory!
- When we put our faith in Christ, he comes and he stands between us and God to the Father and when God the Father looks our directions he sees the glories of Christ!
- Christ gives us the glory we need
Why should we live for God’s glory?
1. He is holy
2. He is worthy
3. He is righteous
4. He made you to glorify Him
5. He will never disappoint you
6. He will punish those who don’t
7. He will give you joy when you do
8. His glory is the most glorious glory
We must recognize that without glory to God there is no salvation
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
The proper order is glory to God and then peace to men. When we come to God by faith alone, grace alone, and through Christ alone then we can only give God glory for our salvation, as a result we find peace with God.