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Monday, June 21, 2010

True Confessions of a Reformed Catholic: Soli Deo Gloria!

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8.28-39).

As in the days of Paul, and as in the days of the 16th Century Reformers, so in our day; there are all sorts of competitors, a whole cacophony of voices trying to win our allegiance away from God alone, or trying to divide our allegiance between God and gestalt; the Divine Other and our "divine selves"; the True God and true grit. But all rivals are only demigods and distractions and devaluations. This is why the Reformers elevated the ancient family heirlooms, the 5 solas. What are the 5 solas? Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria. In this post we will admire the final sola: Soli Deo Gloria

What Soli Deo Gloria Means: Simply put, it means “To the Glory of God Alone”. Now that’s not an unusual statement, at least part of it. You often hear people touting ‘Praise God’ or ‘Hallelujah’. Great Popes and Good Pianists have closed their works with statements like: “To the Greater Glory of God” and so forth. But this 5th Sola has something weighty and rich and more singular in mind. It is the theme running throughout the other 4 solas, and wraps them all together in an inseparable bond:  Scripture alone is the ultimate standard of our faith and life, to the praise and majesty of God alone-no rivals allowed. Scripture, our salvation, creation, etc, is centered on Christ alone, to the praise and majesty of God alone-no rivals allowed. Our salvation and liberation is solely by the grace of God alone, to the praise and majesty of God alone-no rivals allowed. God’s gift of life and salvation in Christ alone is received by faith alone, to the praise and majesty of God alone-no rivals allowed. It doesn’t mean ‘Glory to the Father alone’ to the exclusion of the Son or the Spirit. Instead, it is glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons one God, alone. And the key thought is this: no creaturely, revelatory, mediatorial, priestly, devotional, hierarchical rivals. There are no rival ways, no competing alternatives, saviors, or approaches. It is all from God (the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit) alone, to the glorious majesty of God (the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit) alone, because there is no greater good than God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) alone. Romans chapter 8 pictures this for us.

In Romans 8 we see that clear back from verse1 all the way to the end (verse 39) there is one thing that is very, very clear: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are busy! They are all over this passage busily doing something. Why are they busy? Because sin is just killing us (5.12). Sin spawns suffering, and suffering gives birth to death. But notice how God is busily bringing forth the remedy to what is ailing us:
  • Christ died for us, and so there is no longer any condemnation (1-4, 31-32 and 34). Soli Deo Gloria! 
  • Christ died for us, and so there is no longer any separation (used 2 times:35 and 39). Soli Deo Gloria! 
  • Instead we are loved by the Father through Jesus Christ and are made by the Holy Spirit conquerors against the death of sin. Soli Deo Gloria!

Because of this unstoppable love of the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, a new meaning is given to suffering. Once it was part of our condemnation, but now it is part of our identification. It is part of our family connection (16 and 17). Nevertheless, suffering is temporary, erupting into something greater, exploding into the future redemption of all creation, the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (21), to the “adoption, the redemption of our body” (23), to our being “heirs of God, and co-heirs with Christ (17). Soli Deo Gloria!


Therefore, because we are IN Jesus we see that the Father is now working out all things for our good (28), and that He is for us (31-32). Nothing can take this away from us! Just because we may forget our identity, God doesn’t forget it because He gave it to us (35-39). As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it; “What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end“ (WSC 36)! Soli Deo Gloria!


 Living Soli Deo Gloria. How do we live this out, then? 
  • Our worship should forcefully show Soli Deo Gloria by the central focus of our worship being primarily about declaring and spouting out the majesty of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Soli Deo Gloria! 
  • Our evangelism should be aimed at rehearsing what God has done. The He has initiated, executed and is finalizing our salvation. If we turn the focus to people’s felt needs, then we are forming them to do what Jesus denounced in John 6.26-seeking Jesus to satisfy their appetites. Thus we are devaluing God, and devaluing them. And we are building competing gods to run their life (Philippians 3.18-19). Soli Deo Gloria!
  • In all our suffering, sadness, and sickness, we need to remember Soli Deo Gloria: Romans 8.35-39.




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