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Searching for a
by Pastor Lars Larson, PhD
(A sermon delivered on November 2, 2008, at the First Baptist Church, Leominster, Massachusetts, USA)
Today we will consider the fifth and final major principle of the Protestant reformation. We have already covered Sola scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola gratia, and Sola fide, these meaning “by Scripture alone”, “through Christ alone”, “by grace alone”, and “through faith alone.” Today we wish to focus our attention on Soli Deo Gloria, which means “to the glory of God alone.”
These words describe both the importance and relevance of our topic. They also describe the consequences if we were to lose sight of Soli Deo Gloria.
V. Soli Deo Gloria -- to the glory of God alone”
A. The biblical teaching of Soli Deo Gloria
Let us begin by reading Romans 1:16-32.
The Bible is a book in which God has revealed to us the most basic but most important truths of life. It answers the questions that thinking and inquisitive people have posed for thousands of years. The Bible answers the questions: “Who and what is God?” “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is God’s purpose for me?” How should I order my life?”
1. The purpose for which God created us.
God reveals in His Word that He created us for a purpose. We may see this expressed in the opening chapter of the Bible. Genesis 1:26 and 27 read,
God created you and me in His image. This is important implications for our understanding of who we are and why we are here. The expression, image of God, has been a matter discussed and debated a great deal over the centuries. The idea essentially signifies man’s unique ability to know God and recognize and reflect the glory of God in his existence; linked with this is the idea that man is God’s representative on earth to rule over his creation on his behalf.
This necessitates that man was created originally “like” God in that he was pure and rational, capable of thinking intelligently and rationally, and living in a manner consistent with God’s holiness. In other words, God created us in His own image that we may represent Him and live for Him in such a manner that our lives display to the world who He is and what He is like. When the Bible speaks of our giving glory to God, it means that we are to recognize, acknowledge, publish, and celebrate who He is in truth and what He has done. This is ultimately the reason that God has made us. This is the purpose for which we are to dedicate our lives.
2. Man’s failure and refusal to live for God’s glory.
God has placed us in a world which He created that was designed to reveal who He is to His creatures. As Psalm 19 states:
Again, we see that mankind is to respond to this revelation by first recognizing God’s glory, and then to express praise and thanksgiving to Him for who He is and what He has done for us. But sin corrupted both our desire and ability to live in this way. Sin has made us deaf to the “speech” of creation and blind to His works of providence so that we do not hear Him nor see His hand in our lives. Rather than living for Him, we live for ourselves. And this is the essence and nature of sin. This is what unfolds in the Romans 1 passage that we read.
Rather than live for the glory of God, fallen man lives for himself, for his own pleasure, for his own glory. Rather than serve God in righteousness, he chooses to serve himself and his own lusts.
3. God has purposed, nevertheless, to continue to manifest His glory through His creatures
We would be mistaken if we think that man’s refusal to live for God’s glory results in God not glorifying Himself in them. God has purposed to glorify Himself by His creatures, and this is what indeed occurs. How is God glorified in them? He glorifies Himself through His judicial dealings with them. We read in Romans 9:22, “What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…” God reveals aspects of His nature through them. He shows forth His power in sovereignly controlling even their evil intentions and deeds to accomplish His purposes. God manifests His wrath in judging them in history. He shows Himself as longsuffering in His patience, as He prolongs there life and forestalls His just dealings with them. God manifests His glory through His enemies, though they have no thought or intention to live for His glory.
4. God redeems His people that they would live for His glory.
a. God does this first by revealing to them who He is in truth through Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ is the true and full image of God. Hebrews 1:1-3:
When Jesus came into the world and lived among us, He manifested the glory of God to us; we saw who God is and what He is like in all His wonder, purity, love and grace. John wrote,
When Jesus Christ is revealed to us as Lord, then the glory of God is revealed to us.
b. God then transforms us through redeeming us from our sin through Jesus Christ.
He saves us from our sin, pardoning us, and transforming us into ones who see and delight in who He is. He so works in us that we are desirous to live for Him and make Him known. In His work of salvation in us, He renews the image of God in us, by making us more like Jesus Christ, who is the image of God. As Christians. therefore, we are to live for Him. Paul wrote of this in 2 Corinthians 5:14f.
Jesus Christ came into the world to glorify His Father in His life and death, and now through Jesus Christ, God calls us to live in like manner. We are not to live chiefly to please ourselves, but rather we are to live to please Him, serve Him, and serve others in His name.
5. How then, do we live in order to bring glory to God?
1) We glorify God by having high thoughts of God. We are to be “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
2) We glorify God through our speech. 1 Peter 4:11, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
3) We glorify God by living holy lives. 1 Cor. 6:18-20. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
4) We glorify God through our good deeds. Matthew 5:16,“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
5) We glorify God by serving others, seeking their well-being. Romans 15:1ff. "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, '“The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.' …Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
6) We glorify God in the nature and manner in which we deal with suffering. Jesus Christ glorified His Father most in His submission to His suffering according to the will of God. Similarly, when we suffer patiently for doing rightly, we glorify God. Paul wrote to the suffering church at Thessalonica: "Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 1:11f). And Peter wrote: “Yet is anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Pet. 4:16).
7) We glorify God through praying. Jesus encouraged His people, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
8) We glorify God by our private and corporate worship. Ephesians 3:21, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” When we gather on the Lord’s day, we come to glorify God. We attempt to rehearse before ourselves who He is in truth and what He has done and will do through Jesus Christ. We celebrate these things. We exalt His name.
We introduced our subject with a reading from the reformed document of 1996, entitled The Cambridge Declaration. Let me now conclude with words from the same:
We say “Amen” to that statement and we are resolved as best as we are enabled by Him to order our lives and our church life to the end that He might be glorified.
 For a number of weeks we have been addressing what it is and why it is that we are a reformed church. We use the term, “reformed”, to identify ourselves with the principles and beliefs that were held by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th and 17th century. These foundational principles are five in number. They are commonly identified by five Latin phrases that were developed during the Protestant Reformation, each containing the word “sola”, being translated in English as “alone” or “only.” They are as follows: Sola scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola gratia, Sola fide, and Soli Deo Gloria. These five expressions are translated as the following: by Scripture alone, by Christ alone, by grace alone, by faith alone, and to the glory to God alone. These are the main tenants and principles that were espoused through the Protestant Reformation.
 For a discussion of the issues involved, see the article by C.F.H. Henry, “The Image of God” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), pp 545-48.
 Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, vol. 1, (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1957), p. 146f.