“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8).
How may God be glorified? What does it mean for God to be glorified?
One of the Sola’s of the 16th century Protestant Reformation was the phrase Soli deo Gloria. You have obviously noticed that I conclude each devotional with that phrase.
In April 1996, the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals held its first major meeting of evangelical scholars. The Cambridge Declaration, first presented at this meeting, was/is a call to the evangelical church to turn away from the worldly methods it has come to embrace, and to recover the Biblical doctrines of the Reformation. The Cambridge Declaration explains the importance of regaining adherence to the five “solas” of the Reformation.
Thesis One: Sola Scriptura. We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
Thesis Two: Solus Christus. We reaffirm that our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone. His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to the Father.
We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.
Thesis Three: Sola Gratia. We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God’s wrath by his grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerate human nature.
Thesis Four: Sola Fide. We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice. We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.
Thesis Five: Soli deo Gloria. We reaffirm that because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God’s glory and that we must glorify him always. We must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone. We deny that we can properly glorify God if our worship is confused with entertainment, if we neglect either Law or Gospel in our preaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.
The Reformation was not only a break from the apostate system of the Roman Catholic Church, but also a return and recommitment to the essential biblical truths of the nature of salvation that Jesus Christ and the apostles taught in the New Testament Scriptures. The true nature of salvation, based upon the authority of Scripture alone, is that salvation from the penalty, power, and eventual presence of sin is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Grace alone is the operative word of God wherein He sets His love, mercy, and unmerited favor upon the fallen sinner. This is initiated upon the sinner by the monergistic work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating the sinner through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (John 3:1-8; I John 3:9).
When regeneration, or the new birth occurs (John 3:1-8), the sinner is given the ability to commit to, trust in, depend upon, and worship the God of salvation and in turn be saved. This is the instrument of faith alone. Along with grace, faith is a sovereign gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 2 Peter 1:1; Acts 13:48). The sinner exercises this God given faith into the only object sufficient to save the sinner: Jesus Christ.
What must the sinner believe about Jesus Christ? The sinner must place faith in Jesus’ eternal sinless existence as God, His incarnation as the eternal God-Man, His sinless life, His substitutionary death for sinners on the cross, His bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His soon return in power, might, and glory. These are the indispensable truths that must be believed for the fallen sinner to become a child of God.
At this moment of trust, the sinner is declared by God to be righteous in His sight. This righteous standing is not on the basis of anything the believer has done, including believing, but completely on the merit of Jesus Christ and the grace of God the Father. This imputed righteousness is known as justification.
What must be the believer’s response to such a change of standing between him and God? The sinner, who once was condemned before God, is now a justified child of God. Where hell and eternal damnation was the destination of such an individual, now heaven and eternal life is the confident expectation based upon the promises of God. What must the response be to such graciousness and mercy? Soli Deo Gloria! To God be the glory!
We will take the next several days to comprehensively explain this biblical doctrine. Let us all pray and consider how we may truly glorify the Lord in our lives.
Soli deo Gloria!