Soli Deo Gloria means to God alone be the glory. It was the first of the five Solas that I learned about as a student, and it was the first to captivate my heart. In the spirit of the Solas let me share five reasons why I love this great motto.
1. It resonates with our hearts and minds
Every time a pastor crafts a vision statement, titles a sermon, or themes an event, he is looking for a phrase that captures our hearts and remains in our headspace. The Reformers were ingenious in that they were able to summarize the trajectory of the Reformation with this single great phrase, “Soli Deo Gloria.”
If someone were to ask, “What is driving this protest against the Roman Catholic church? Why should we be committed to this, risking pain and persecution?” Rather than having to recite all of Luther’s 95 theses, one could simply summarize the five Solas and emphasize this last one — that it is all about God’s glory. Not the glory of Rome nor the glory of man, but the glory of God. And nothing is more worthy of our devotion, sacrifice, and affection than the glory of God.
2. It reminds us of our ultimate purpose
I find it amazing that even though many believers aren’t familiar with the entire Westminster Shorter Catechism, many can at least recite the first question and answer. The Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man?” And the answer is, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
Paul famously writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” In a time when many are experiencing a quarterlife crisis, struggling to find their purpose and calling, few reminders can be more profitable to us than the call to do all things for the glory of God. Should you take that job, should you pursue that degree, or should you date that person? We don’t want to oversimplify things, but if you can’t see yourself glorifying God in that context, then the answer is evident. This is why the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the initials “SDG” at the bottom of each work — to remind himself and the world that we are purposed for the glory of God.
3. It reminds us of God’s ultimate purpose
Christian Smith, a scholar from UNC Chapel Hill, has labeled this generation’s view of God as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” Basically, this means that we have reduced God to someone who exists to meet our needs without interfering with our lives. However, the scriptures remind us that God does not exist for us, but us for God.
Why does God do anything? Why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Why does he save sinners? It is true that we benefit from all His divine works. But in Isaiah 48:11, God reminds us of His ultimate purpose, saying “for my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
4. It reflects the heart of the Gospel
It has been well noted in the previous four articles that the five Solas ultimately reflect the heart of the Gospel. The fifth Sola summarizes this truth in full. How are sinners reconciled to God? How does God accomplish His redeeming work in our lives? The Scriptures alone testify that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Father sends, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies. This is what it means for our salvation to be monergistic — it is completely the work of God that overcomes our inability and depravity.
We must always remember that Christians are not a category of people who are more reasonable, logical, or humble than others. This is why God alone gets the glory in our salvation. The gospel reminds us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
5. It endures forever
The final reason why I love Soli Deo Gloria is because it is a declaration that will endure through eternity. Why should we pour so much of ourselves into fleeting hobbies and passions that do not last? For a generation seeking significance and permanence, nothing offers us more than the glory of God. In Revelation 7:1-17, we see an amazing vision of worship where John sees all the hosts of heaven declaring, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” If this is going to be our song in heaven, perhaps we should start singing it now.
Pastor Michael Lee serves as the Lead Pastor of All Nations Community Church and has served as Executive Director of the SOLA Conference. He is a graduate from the University of Southern California and Talbot School of Theology.