Soli Deo Gloria
Perfectly unique, beyond comprehension, infinite in character, and eternally existent is our God. So great and wonderful is His character that He decided to create a vast universe to shout His goodness using galaxies, stars, music, and man—indeed, all things as a mouthpiece for His praise. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens display your glory and the sky above proclaims your handiwork.” Romans 11:36 takes this even further when it says in perfect clarity, “For from him and through and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.”
God alone is God, and there is none other beside Him. He shares His glory and praise with no other, or to put it negatively, He hates the boast of any other. It cannot be overstated, God loves to be glorified and hates to be ignored. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver” (Psalm 50:22). This reality will either invoke disgust or praise from the hearts of man.
This fountain of truth and unshakeable ground was the very ground unearthed in the sixteenth-century Reformation. It was this reality that would drive and motivate, in years to come, the penning of what would be known as the Five Solas (or alones) of the Protestant Reformation. The dispute arose in the Church and is still disputed to this day regarding the question of how dead man is in sin, and how deep his guilt is before God. The Reformers believed humanity is really dead in sin. Only God’s grace (sola gratia) could raise us, and only Jesus could be our punishment and our right standing before God (solus Christus). These two miracles of wrath removal and eternal life could only be received by faith alone (sola fide) so that this beautiful salvation would be God’s trophy, and He alone would be glorified (Soli Deo gloria). This was all built on the authority of the Bible (sola scriptura).
For the purpose of this article, I will leave the history lesson up to the reader and ask two questions of this bold proclamation: “To God alone be glory!” First, what is Gods glory? Second, how does this effect our salvation?
What is God’s glory?
To start, words (especially my words) will always fall short of reality, in particular ultimate reality. That said, God has given us words to describe Him so that we will stand in awe of Him. God’s glory is the display of His perfectly holy character. It is the manifestation of His worth—invisible made visible, word made flesh. Isaiah, in describing God, says “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” When God’s holiness is beheld and processed by the man of dust, it is called glory. God’s glory is the shining of His being, and His being is holy.
At its root, to be holy means to be set apart from what is common. An analogy that helps is the holiness of man, who is holy among all animals, for there are no animals the same as us. This, however, is like a candle against the sun in relation to the holiness of God, for there is none like Him in space, time, or existence (Psalm 86:8). God is infinitely separate from all that is, and this is what makes Him infinitely valuable. What must also be observed by us is that God’s glory existed before the world. God did not create so that He could finally be glorified by a speck of dust that is man. No, the echo of God’s overflowing character existed before the world itself. Jesus says in John 17:5, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (emphasis mine).
Ascribing glory to God is to say that there is a reality outside of us that doesn’t change, and a reality to which all human praise, wonder, awe, and admiration are pointing. We were built to take joy in boasting in something, and we long to boast in the best of the best. We were built by God and for God, and our restless hearts will not be at peace until we attain Him. This unquenchable longing is great evidence that our greatest joy comes in being the recipients of the gift of everlasting glory, not the creators of it. We long for rest.
The Glorious Effect
It is on this rock of God’s glory that all things stand, including our salvation. God’s glory reveals His character and His character is what upholds our salvation. It is by His perfection that we have hope, and by His grace that we are saved. If God is worthy of all praise, then He must be the author and finisher of our salvation and we must not imagine that we can add anything to improve it. We are but beggars and joyful ones at that, revelling in the gift that is ours in Jesus.
If God is totally glorious and the sole provider of our salvation, we can praise and enjoy Him forever, for we know that our hope rests in Him alone. God shows us by glorifying Himself and putting Himself on display that He is the surest, most secure, and longest lasting joy that can be had, for all other fountains will fail. God’s glory is the gospel. It is His word. It is our message. I urge you, as one dying man to another, settle for nothing less.