Sola Deo Gloria-Glory to God Alone
Created by Jon Taylor - Wednesday 27 Jun 2018
Jon Taylor
In John 17 there are many things that we could consider as our Lord prayed for Himself, His disciples and all believers in His words that were spoken just prior to His betrayal and arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. To mention just a few, we could expound the doctrine of election, assurance of salvation or equality within the Godhead. These doctrines are unquestionably of vital importance although they also serve the ultimate purpose of glorifying God.
Equally we could study the other four solas, Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace alone and Faith alone and they also point to the fifth sola-to the glory of God alone. Last year marked the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and many in Christendom before that gloried in the glory of Rome, a ‘Church system’, themselves, tradition and their own works rather than God’s grace.
The glory of God is God revealing His attributes, character, greatness and His ways or more simply God revealing Himself. The glory of God is so great that inevitably we struggle when we attempt to describe it. Nonetheless if we tried to gaze upon the sun on a hot scorching day we would have to avert our eyes in no time at all. Considering that we cannot even look directly at the brightness of the sun, how can we possibly gaze upon the glory of God who created the sun, innumerable galaxies and the universe?
God being glorified, and all the glory being ascribed to God alone, is pivotal to understanding God’s purposes. John 17:5 reveals that Jesus was glorified with His Father before the world was. We must remember that God didn’t create us because He was lonely and needed companionship. He wasn’t and enjoyed perfect uninterrupted fellowship within the Godhead from eternity past. He didn’t create us because He needed us although God graciously uses us to serve in a privileged part of fulfilling His purposes. He didn’t create us merely because He had time on His hands. God is outside of time and space yet chose to enter our time and space and dwell among us.
How God isn’t glorified
Some people take great issue with God being glorified. Some recoil at the thought of God being worshipped. The reason being is that they want God to conform to their idolatrous perception of how they think God should behave and govern His creation. However, God is infinite and perfect in every attribute and it is only right that all glory, honour and praise should be given unto Him. The great irony is that rather than being a ‘cosmic killjoy’ our greatest joy is ultimately in glorifying Him.
Our problem is sin, carnal nature, rebellion against God and a desire to receive the glory for ourselves and do things our own way and at our own convenience. But God receiving all the glory has desperately critical implications and consequences. Consider how Lucifer rebelled against God (c.f. Isaiah 14:12-21; Ezekiel 28:11-19). Where did Lucifer’s problem originate? He wanted to ascend into heaven, exalt his throne, to be worshipped (Matthew 4:9) and to be like God. In short, he wanted the glory of God for himself.
Satan was an angelic being and should have known better. But what about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10? They were the sons of Aaron. They knew how to please God, yet they offered profane fire that wasn’t commanded; the fire consumed them, and Aaron held his peace. God is indescribably holy, and He must be glorified. We cannot expect to use human methods to please ourselves rather than glorify Him and neither can we use human methods to solve spiritual problems and expect God to be glorified in that. God is glorified when we worship Him on His terms and ascribe all the praise and glory unto Him.
We are often reminded that we have an innate capacity to worship in whatever we glorify most in our lives. We also have an innate desire to glory in ourselves so therefore we need to examine our motives carefully. In 1 Corinthians 1:31, Paul instructs that whoever glories (‘or boasts’-depending on translation), let him glory in the Lord. Paul was citing Jeremiah 9:23-24 which counsels us not to glory in wisdom, might or riches but to glory in understanding and knowing God.
It is all too easy to glory in our wisdom, might or riches so we need to maintain a biblically realistic assessment of ourselves. We need to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, not according to our standards lest we fool ourselves. Consider Solomon and his astounding attainment of wisdom which God gave him, yet His heart was led astray. Let that be a warning to us all.
It is all too easy to glory in our might and the ultimate exhibition of that is in the sporting arena. That is not to say that there aren’t many virtues to sport and exercise (there are), though we need to exercise caution with how athletes and sportspeople are so often idolized. I was disturbed recently when I heard one of the greatest soccer players at present explaining that ‘he had everything’. We discuss sporting icons. I remember at school and a classmate stated that a certain high jumper was ‘his idol’. Many athletes would prefer a gold medal over a record since records are there to be broken though apparently the glory of a medal is something that cannot be taken away. There is absolutely nothing wrong with winning a medal or a trophy fair and square though when that prize becomes an all-consuming display of one’s glory there is a problem. Again, the slogan ‘pain is temporary, glory is forever’, sometimes quoted by endurance athletes is another example of glorying in self and self-exultation. We would be far wiser to strive for the imperishable crown for God’s glory.
Concerning the glory of riches, sometimes it is easy to over esteem and even worship those in privileged positions. Note, this is neither a statement that has anything to do with whether I am for or against the royal family. That is to some degree irrelevant since the bottom line is that they need their sins forgiven and the Saviour too. We do need however to be careful not to worship or idolise them. I have no doubt that some professing to be believers would be more excited about meeting the royals rather than meeting with God and that is idolatry and should never be so. We should respect those in authority with a healthy respect not one that deifies them.

How God is Glorified

God wants us to understand, know and glorify Him in everything to the praise of His glory. Is our motivation for all that we do including church life to the praise of His glory? Do we glorify God in our lives? Do we want Him to have all the glory? Is He at the core or at the periphery of our lives? Are we jealous for His glory alone? Our greatest joy will be when we glory in God alone.
We often hear the response to the first statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ Sometimes we categorise that in terms of ‘glorifying God’ and ‘enjoying God’ as parallel truths. Importantly though, they are wonderfully interrelated! That is why John Piper coined the phrase and refers to himself as a ‘Christian hedonist’! He lives and enjoys the glory of God.
Until we live for God’s glory we are still wrestling with the meaning of life when the vital question remains, what is the purpose of our existence? God has already revealed that to us in Isaiah 43:7 since we have been created for His glory. That is why we are here, why we were created and is the purpose for our existence- to bring glory to Him. In addition to that, everything He has made, has been made for His glory.
Consider creation. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1) and God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen by the things that are made (Romans 1:20). An artist displays their sculpture or painting and the glory of that object displayed expresses something of the artist whilst creation stunningly displays something that points us to the glory of God. It is amazing how many people visit Stonehenge for the summer solstice and glorify the creation rather than the Creator though God will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).
Throughout Scripture we see how God’s grace reconciles man to God. That is imperative since we need to be saved from hell, destruction and trust in Him alone for salvation. But ultimately our salvation is for His glory and therefore we would be wise to pray for people to saved for His glory. John 17:10 says, “And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”. Once more this helps us to glorify in God rather than ourselves so that we glorify Him.
How can we glorify God?
We can glorify God as we read, study and meditate upon His Word. God has spoken and revealed Himself through His Word which shows us how to glorify Him. He desires that we should know, understand and glorify Him in the way that He has established. Therefore, the more aligned we are to the Bible, the more we can please Him through exercising faith and glorifying Him.
We can glorify Him through song worship. Songs should with clarity bring glory to God. Some contemporary ‘Christian songs’ are so vague that they fail to bring glory to God and have little more meaningful spiritual content than popular songs. Other songs are so focussed on self and are hyper-feelings oriented that they glorify ourselves rather than God which should never happen. Revelation 4-5 confirms that we will do a lot of singing in heaven for His glory, not ours. Heaven will be exceedingly joyful, and all the praise, honour and glory will go to Him.
We can glorify God through fellowship. As we encourage, love and disciple one another, this is to the praise of His glory. Meeting for fellowship is of great importance (Heb. 10:25) an involves an attitude that seeks to please Him. John 17:23 reminds us that God also wants unbelievers to see Him at work in our lives.
We can glorify God through our prayers by praying according to His will. Even our Lord prayed to His Father ‘Yet not My will but Yours be done’. We should pray for God’s will to be exercised in our lives and that will inevitably affect the content of our prayers. That way, the nature of our requests will glorify Him, not us and give the glory to Him alone.
We can glorify God through evangelism so in that God receives the glory alone. As we pray for opportunities to share our faith let it be for His glory. When we preach or explain the gospel we are also declaring the glory of God and of His wondrous work. As the Lord uses us by His grace and enabling to draw people to Himself, He will be glorified as Lord and Saviour.
We can glorify God by loving our neighbours and giving food to the hungry, a drink to the thirsty, clothing those who are naked and visiting those in prison. It is no mere accident that so many charities and institutions that ourselves and others benefit from greatly today, have strong Christian foundations and numerous missionary organisations also include extensive practical ministry.
How our glorification will bring glory to God alone
In John 17:24, Jesus prayed that we may be with Him and behold His glory and Romans 8:30 reminds us of ‘the already and not yet aspect’ in that those He justified He also glorified. When we are with the Lord in heaven that will bring glory to Him. In the same way that the moon reflects the light and brilliance of the sun, in heaven our glorification will be a mere reflection of His glory as we are united with Him. Our reward will be to be with Him, enjoy Him and to see Him.
From time to time, we see a concerned look and a question voiced, “What will we do in heaven?” The concerned look follows the insinuation that we will worship God either all, or most of the time and that in some way that could be boring. Not so! There is a lot that we don’t know about heaven, though we do know that it will be exceedingly joyful and considering the greatness and glory of God, anything but boring! Moses asked to see the glory of God and Peter, James and John saw the Lord transfigured. It will be an indescribable blessing to gaze upon the glory of God and to fellowship with Him and an innumerable company of believers. Our joy will be complete in Him. All the glory will be directed to Him. To God be the glory and to Him alone be the glory. Sola Deo Gloria.
Wednesday 27 Jun 2018