Understanding Soli Deo Gloria
The five solas we hold to remind us of how central the glory of God is in the five solas. In these, incidentally, we see the definition of soli Deo gloria. Scripture alone reveals God’s infinite glory. By grace alone God “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him in love, by predestining us to adoption as sons through Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which he graciously bestowed on us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4–6). Through faith alone, God enables us to trust in him, and to trust that we are already part of his eternal purposes. In Christ alone, not apart from him, we are reminded that we are saved in Christ alone. At the cross of Christ, the wrath reserved for us and the mercy we did not deserve met.
So, when we think about our salvation as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, God alone should receive all the glory for saving us. We should never boast in ourselves, but we should glory in God our Redeemer. He is infinitely worthy to be praised and lifted high. We must acknowledge that God is worthy of praise, and that there is nothing in creation that makes him this worthy because he is intrinsically worthy.
To define the glory of God is to do injustice to it, because everything about God is glorious, far more than we can think. We cannot comprehensively and exhaustively define the glory of God because every word you use to define the glory of God will require you to define that word by using superlatives of its meaning, and there is none you will find to describe God’s infinite glory.
Soli Deo Gloria in the Life of a Believer
However, this infinitely glorious God has chosen to use his creation to declare his glory. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1) yet do not give us special-salvific knowledge of the glory of God. Special revelation of God comes to us only through the word of God. Once we come to know God in this special way, we become part of his special-redeemed creation that declares the glory of God.
This should be understood alongside the understanding of the divine attribute of divine aseity (Acts 17:24–30). So, what we are trying to do, as we live holy lives, as imperfect as that may be, we give glory to God in a small way. When we pray or read the Bible, we give glory to God in a small way. When we share the gospel, we give glory to God in a small way. It means we realise that we are part of God’s eternal purposes. We do not add anything to God.
God is perfectly and eternally content. When we give God glory by living out his word, we do it for our good. We partake in something of the goodness, mercy, and grace of God. Knowing that God is content, but allows you to be part of his eternal purposes, means that you must count it a highest privilege when God grants you life to breathe daily. This God, who does not need you, is inviting you to praise him. Count it an act of amazing love that, out of billions of people who have died and passed into the night, God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3); chosen you to blamelessness before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4); predestined you to adoption as his son through his Son (Ephesians 1:5); bestowed his grace on you in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6); redeemed you through his blood (Ephesians 1:7); forgiven you all your transgressions (Ephesians 1:7); caused the riches of his grace to abound to you (Ephesians 1:8); revealed the mystery of his will to you (Ephesians 1:9); made you an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11); and sealed you with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).
Soli Deo Gloria in the Life of the Church
These truths compel us to desire to have fellowship with those who believe them. Redeemed believers are committed to the communion of the saints. When you survey the New Testament, you do not find a single believer who did not regularly meet with other believers to give God the glory through corporate singing, praying, and the hearing of God’s word preached. Set everything aside on the Lord’s Day, to show the worth of God in your life, to show that God is the most important Person in your life.
God’s people throughout redemptive history have understood the importance of praising God as the most important Person in our lives. Think of the Israelites, who understood and practised this during some of the most difficult times of their lives. Such is found in 1 Chronicles 16:8–36, which is carefully taken from Psalms 105, 96, and 106. The people of God were lamenting that their nation was not what it used to be. Their city and lives were in ruin. They had no temple. They were small, weak, frail, and uninfluential. They were wondering if they will ever be a mighty people of God.
It was during these times that Chronicles was written, to remind the people of God of God’s faithfulness in the past, which should serve as the foundation for their trust in the future faithfulness of God. Sections of praise such as 1 Chronicle 16:8–32 are divinely inspired to cause people who are in distress to continue being a praising people. So, then, whether in distress or during a time or rejoicing, continue being a praising believer.
Psalm 105 begins with commands to believers to always give thanks to God, followed by reasons for giving thanks to God. His works are wondrous. We are his chosen ones. He is Yahweh our God. His judgements are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever. His word endures forever. Glory in his holy name.
The glory of God should be understood as pervasive in everything God does in the redemptive theme of Scripture. This glory is seen in how God reveals himself as in all of Scripture. The five solas show us how God applies this eternal glory to us through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the ways we glorify God is by recognising the privilege of being saved and to commit to a life of walking in a manner of this salvation. Corporately, we must join the worship of the believers who gather weekly to give glory to God.
Hope Bible Church
Tsholo Kukuni serves as pastor-teacher of Hope Bible Church in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Tsholo is a graduate of Christ Seminary in Polokwane. He has a strong desire to see Hope Bible Church involved in planting biblical churches in the nearby townships where he grew up. He is a native South African Tswana and is a competent speaker of Setswana, Sesotho, and English.
He and his wife Keitumetse have two children.