Last in the BA’s 2017 sola series commemorating the five-hundredth year of the Reformation is the sola to which all the other solas point. The Reformers were convinced that Christ and Scripture alone, and faith and grace alone, are only valid when understood and lived for soli Deo gloria — for the glory of God alone. We confirm this conviction. God’s glory is paramount, and we stress the necessity of keeping our focus on Him in the here and now.
Jesus Christ is, of course, central — the unique Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). Jesus is the subject of Scripture (John 5:39), the object of our faith (Galatians 3:26), and the One to whom God’s grace invites this fallen world (Titus 2:11). He is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23). Christ’s preeminence is grandly expressed in “That’s My King,” a sermon by Pastor S. M. Lockridge. As he says, Christ truly is “the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world.” But Christ’s centrality, to God’s glory, is meaningful only if He is the greatest phenomenon to ever cross the horizon of your life. Has He?
The early chapters of Luke narrate how Jesus Christ represented a life lived to the glory of God. That glory began at His birth, when the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest . . .” (2:14). At the age of twelve, He was already about His Father’s business, bringing Him glory (v. 49).
At Jesus’ baptism, God was “well pleased” with His Son’s obedience (3:21, 22). Chapter 4 begins with Jesus in the wilderness, where He was tempted of the Devil. Notice His resolve in living for the glory of God alone. He refused to make bread of stones, because glorifying God did not give place to satisfying physical cravings. Earthly power and glory were as rubbish; God’s glory was all He sought.
During His temptation, Jesus was not tricked by a quote from Scripture (4:10, 11). He knew Psalm 91, describing the blessedness of the one dwelling in the secret place of the Most High. He recognized the important words “in all your ways” (v. 11) that Satan left out. Our Lord remained steadfast, determined for all His ways to be in God’s secret place — the place of God’s glory.
Finally, Luke 4:17, 18 tells about Jesus giving a sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth, stating His reason for glorifying God. His message was based on Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God . . . to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (vv. 1-3).
Notice that the purpose of Jesus’ calling, the reason for His ministry and its effect upon those who became His followers, is that God might be glorified. Think of it like this:
Jesus was anointed, that God be glorified.
Jesus preached, that God be glorified.
Jesus healed, that God be glorified.
Jesus proclaimed liberty, that God be glorified.
Jesus opened prisons, that God be glorified.
Jesus proclaimed the acceptable year of the Lord, that God be glorified.
Jesus proclaimed the day of vengeance, that God be glorified.
Jesus gave beauty for ashes, that God be glorified.
Jesus gave oil of joy for mourning, that God be glorified.
Jesus gave the garment of praise for heaviness, that God be glorified.
Why all this? That we “may be called trees of righteousness” — to God’s glory (v. 3).
God’s glory remained the emphasis throughout Jesus’ ministry. When He was told that His friend Lazarus was sick, Jesus said, “This sickness is . . . for the glory of God . . .” (John 11:4). When Jesus was asked why a man was born blind, He said, “that the works of God should be revealed in Him” (9:3). He concluded His model prayer with “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13). In the garden, Jesus rightly summarized His life as having glorified His Father on earth (John 17:4).
Sin and God’s glorious plan
The Reformers proclaimed, “Christ alone for the glory of God alone.” Salvation through Jesus Christ is solely God’s plan (1 Peter 1:18-21). All the glory, honor, and credit go to Him! Glorifying our God is our highest purpose.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! . . . For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33, 36).
The obstacle is that we’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23). Sin prevents us from glorifying God, in word and in deed, as we ought to.
Jesus understands what we’re going through and helps us overcome. He was tempted as we are, yet didn’t sin (Hebrews 4:15). He chose the glory of God when tempted with “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). He chose the glory of God when tempted with “carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life” (Luke 21:34). Christ chose God’s glory, and He “received us, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
Jesus is the only answer to our sin. Through Him and the gift of His Spirit, we glorify God and become the trees of righteousness that Isaiah foretold. Therefore, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) — just as Jesus did.
Our glorifying response
God is supremely glorious! By His very nature, He manifests its most exalted definition. His glory is eminent to the highest degree. Paramount! He didn’t receive such glory; He didn’t learn to be glorious. God is, by nature, glorious and always will be. Jesus shared this glory with the Father before the world was. He shares it now and gives it to us (John 17:5, 22). Glorifying worship is where our response to the eternal glory of God begins:
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the whole earth is full of His glory (Psalm 19:1; Isaiah 6:3). The heavens and the earth have no choice. His glory exists whether or not anyone acknowledges it. But God has given us a choice. He is glorified when the lost is found. He is glorified when those who have been casual or careless about Him repent and earnestly rededicate themselves. He’s glorified when His Son is granted center place in our lives and when we use His Word as our rule for life. He’s glorified when our lives show evidence of our faith in Christ and His grace at work deep within us. He’s glorified when His church reflects His glory through Christ and when we actively participate in its life.
There is no better representative of, and conclusion to, the theme of soli Deo gloria than Fanny Crosby’s beloved hymn “To God Be the Glory.” Sing it as you read it:
To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life our redemption to win,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.
Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport when Jesus we see.
Praise the Lord,
praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice;
Praise the Lord,
praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice;
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory; great things He hath done.