Misunderstanding the Five Solas—Soli Deo Gloria

Misunderstanding the Five Solas—Soli Deo Gloria

Today I’m continuing a short 5-part series on the five solas of the Reformation.  This post would normally be posted on Tuesday, but since tomorrow happens to be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I will be writing a completely different article on that subject tomorrow.

The five solas are specific Latin slogans that emerged from the Reformation era as a means of identifying specific doctrinal positions that stand in contrast to the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  The slogans are:

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  • Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)

Today’s focus is on the fifth sola—Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone). If the five solas are built upon the firm foundation of sola Scriptura—it’s appropriate that we come to understand that the work of God in saving sinners is all for the glory of God alone.  When Johann Tetzel and others would say, “When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”  This was to ascribe glory to man’s alms or the Roman Catholic Church’s authority to make the transaction.  This is nothing but a blasphemous doctrine.

Why Soli Deo Gloria?

The work of salvation is a work of God alone.  Sure, man responds to God in the process, but not until the work of God has already been accomplished and put into motion.  Man is dead in trespasses and sin and cannot work his way to God, will his way to God, worship his way to God, or pay his way to God (Eph. 2:1-5).  Salvation in many evangelical circles has been reduced down to a three step process whereby people make a decision to follow Jesus by asking Jesus to come into their heart.

All throughout the Bible, we see that salvation is something far different than a human decision.  Salvation, as Jonah said, “belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).  John the apostle, in his Gospel put emphasis on the fact that sinners are born of God (John 1:12-13).  He makes it clear that we are not born again by the will of man, the will of the flesh, by blood relationships, or any other common belief.  We are saved when we are born of God.  John returns to that same thought as he writes to a group of churches in his epistle known as 1 John.  He writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Robert Robinson penned these famous words in 1758:

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;

As the Bible places great emphasis upon the fact that God saves sinners and that the work of salvation is a work of God in divine mercy saving a people who not only don’t deserve to be saved, but are completely unable to save themselves—it only makes sense that salvation is for the glory of God alone.  That’s why the Reformers pointed back to God—not the pope, priests, saints, or any other religious hierarchy.  Salvation of fallen sinful man is to the praise of God alone.

The next time you hear people giving a congratulations to sinners who have just been rescued by the sovereign grace and mercy of God—remember that the sinner didn’t do anything to deserve or earn salvation.  Instead of praising the new Christian—we should praise God.

Last of all, let it be known that for us to praise God and for God to desire the praise and glory is not in the slightest degree sinful.  We should never equate the football player who struts into the end zone with arrogant chest pounding displays of human effort with God who desires the praise of His people.  When people desire to be praised it’s an ugly thing, but when God desires to be praised it’s a wonderful thing.  God’s jealousy is not birthed out of arrogance and sin.  Instead, it flows out of the purity of God’s holiness (Ex. 20:3-5).

Revelation 4:11 — Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.


Who is Worthy of Glory?

We sing and talk about the glory of God often within the church, but do we really mean it?  We quote Bible verses like 1 Corinthians 10:31, but do we really practice it?  Who is worthy of glory?  Last year about this time, I received a visit from a church member who was concerned about a particular letter he had received in the mail.  The letter was from a certain evangelist’s ministry.  It was sent out to people who had contributed to this ministry in past years.  The letter was very persuasive and insisted on a donation as a means of thanking the evangelist for all he had done for the Lord.  The letter described him, his accomplishments, and spent more time giving praise and glory to the evangelist than to the Lord.  The reason of concern in the heart of this church member was because the letter was written in such a way that if he did not send money, it seemed that he would not be thankful for this man’s ministry.  Furthermore, the letter also made comments that claimed the particular evangelist was personally responsible for thousands of people being in Heaven rather than Hell.  To this particular church member, this was an arrogant letter and one that robbed God of His glory in the salvation of lost sinners.In Galatians 6:11-18, Paul was ending his letter to the Galatian churches with a summary statement of what his entire argument had been about for the first 5.5 chapters.  It was during his conclusion that Paul revealed the true motivation of the Judaizer’s ministry.  According to the Apostle, the reason that the Judaizers preached a message of circumcision was:1.  In order to avoid the persecution that comes upon those who embrace and preach a message of the cross.2.  In order to glory in the number of converts as trophies of their ministry.The first reason for their heretical message was cowardly.  The Judaizers wanted to avoid any stigma and possible persecution that may come upon them as a result of proclaiming that Jesus Christ alone was the source of salvation.  They were guilty of adding to Grace.  Their message was a snare to lost souls.  It was a works based salvation system – much like we see today in baptismal regeneration.  Why would they preach such a heretical doctrine?  According to Paul, it was easier to preach that type of message.  Their doctrine was easy to preach because it avoided the controversy of the cross, and it was easy to accept because it added a work of man (something tangible) to their faith.The second reason that the Judaizers preached a message of circumcision was in order to lift up the discarded flesh of the circumcised gentiles as a trophy for other people to see.  It was a trophy of success in the eyes of others who examined the ministry of the Judaizers.  It was a notch in their belt!  Paul revealed these perverted motivations to the eyes of the Galatian church in order that they would be spared from their works based salvation heresy.Following the exposure by the Apostle Paul, he then revealed the one thing that he gloried in throughout his ministry in Galatia and around Asia Minor.  Paul gloried in the cross of Christ alone (Gal. 6:14).  Paul did not glory in the amount of converts he had witnessed in his ministry.  Paul did not glory in any trophy he received for his preaching ability.  Paul embraced the very symbol that the Judaizers were ashamed of and lifted it up to the eyes of people.Although heresy may not be a large problem in our present day pulpits, in the Southern Baptist Convention we have many pastors and evangelists who are guilty of using numbers and converts to bring glory to their name.  To read biographies (often autobiographies) and accomplishments of many ministers on their websites or brochures often leaves a person thinking that God couldn’t possible go on another day if it were not for their ministry.  Let’s face it, without “numbers” many evangelists feel as if they’re not “successful.”  The amount of people that respond in their revival meetings and conferences are often used to demonstrate that God is using them.  Many of these men feel that unless they have “numbers” to share with people in their newsletters, websites, and brochures that churches will not extend an invitation for them to preach in their annual meetings. Is it any wonder that many evangelists are seeing a decline in the use of the evangelist within the local church?  Could this “numbers driven” ministry be the cause of it?Charles Haddon Spurgeon tells a story that once happened to the famed John Bunyan.  “Somebody once told John Bunyan that he had preached a delightful sermon. “You are too late,” said John, “the devil told me that before I left the pulpit.” Satan is adept in teaching us how to steal our Master’s glory. As an entire Southern Baptist Convention, it would be profitable for us to examine our hearts to see if we are guilty of this particular sin.  Evangelists are not the only group that is guilty of using numbers to drive their ministry!  Pastors are likewise guilty in this area.  Many pastors use the annual printout from the local Baptist association to see how they stack up against other churches in respect to money and baptisms.  If a church has a large budget and leads the association in baptisms, they are viewed as successful in the eyes of people.  It is extremely concerning that we don’t see many men like the Apostle Paul out on the mission field, as a traveling evangelist, or as a pastor in the local church.  Not many ministers are interested in lifting up the cross alone as their trophy!  Often men are more interested in climbing a man made ladder to a platform that showers glory upon them rather than God. We should ask the question, “Who is worthy of the glory?”May God cause us to avoid the “Judaizer motive” and cling to the cross with the Apostle Paul because Christ is the only One who is worthy of praise, honor, and glory!Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom​​ the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.Pastor Josh Buice