“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? Today, we continue our examination of the biblical doctrine of Soli deo Gloria or giving God all the praise and honor for who He is and what He has accomplished.
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ 1996 Cambridge Declaration states: We affirm 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 is allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.
Of the vast sum of passages throughout Scripture that emphasize the glory of God, one of the most striking is Ephesians 1:3-14. In this extensive paragraph, the glory of God is the believer’s response because of the specific work of the Father (vs. 3-6), the work of the Son (vs. 7-12), and the work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 13-14) in the unfolding drama of salvation.
In Ephesians 1:3, the Apostle Paul prefaces this entire section by declaring that God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” The response by the believer to those blessings is to give God glory.
The believer gives God glory because of the work of the Father. First, the Father chose us (vs. 4). This election, according to God’s sovereign and independent will, happened before the creation of the world. The purpose and result of this was so that believers would be holy and blameless before Him. This means the unrighteous are declared righteous and the sinner is forgiven of all sin (Colossians 2:8-13).
Second, the Father in His love predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ (vs. 5). He marked out beforehand whom He would select as His children. He has given believers not only His name, but also His nature (John 15:15; Romans 8:15).
The ultimate purpose of the Father’s work was so that the believer would give God the glory for salvation. Paul describes this in vs. 6, as “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” This grace, of which the believer gives God glory, was freely given by God. This was a kindness that God was under no pressure or compulsion to give by any authority greater than Himself because there is no authority greater than Himself. This grace was provided through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Therefore, the believer also gives God glory because of the work of the Son.
Paul declares that the Son has provided redemption (vs. 7). Redemption means to be released from captivity and slavery by a price that is paid. For the sinner, this captivity and slavery is to sin. This redemption is solely through the substitutionary atonement on the cross. It is only through the blood of Christ. I Peter 1:18-20 states, “knowing that you (believers) were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
The redemption Christ provides results in the sinner being forgiven of all trespasses. The penalty and guilt of sin has been released or dismissed. Forgiveness is the remission of a punishment that is deserved. God releases the debt, obligation, and penalty the sinner has earned. He does so not because the sinner has earned God’s love, but rather because of the boundless riches of God’s grace. This grace was lavished upon us because of the kind intentions of God (vs. 9-10).
Secondly, Christ provides an inheritance to all believing sinners. The inheritance is the promise of future glory in heaven with God. The promise of this inheritance is so certain that Paul speaks of it, in vs. 11, as if it has already been given. This future destiny is according to the sovereign purpose of God who does everything according to His perfect will. The Apostle Peter describes this inheritance as imperishable, undefiled, and one that will not fade away ( I Peter 1:4).
Accordingly, the ultimate purpose of redemption and the believer’s eternal inheritance in Jesus Christ is to give God glory. Vs. 12 states, “to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”
The believer also gives God glory because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul does not comprehensively focus on everything the Holy Spirit does in the believer’s soul in this text, but rather on the mark of identification the Spirit accomplishes. The Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner. Most specifically, the Holy Spirit is the seal. The seal describes a guarantee, a proof of authenticity, ownership, and authority by the One who not only is the seal but Who also does the sealing. Ephesians 1:13-14 states, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
As one commentator has written, God’s own Spirit comes to indwell the believer and secures and preserves his eternal salvation. The sealing of which Paul speaks refers to an official mark of identification placed on a letter, contract, or other document. That document was thereby officially under the authority of the person whose stamp was on the seal.” Four primary truths are signified by the seal: (1) Security. Daniel 6:17; Matthew 27:62-66; (2) Authenticity. I Kings 21:6-16; (3) Ownership. Jeremiah 32:10; (4) Authority. Esther 8:8-12.
God gives the Holy Spirit as a pledge so that what He has promised regarding eternal life in Christ will be completely fulfilled. There is nowhere in Scripture where believers are exhorted to be sealed. The sealing takes place when God brings the sinner to saving faith in Christ. The believer’s response to the work of the Holy Spirit, by the sovereign plan of the Father carried out by the Son, is to give God the glory.
Believers glorify God by rejoicing in the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that the Lord has given by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Reformers may have rekindled the fires of God’s people glorifying Him because of salvation’s worth, but the New Testament writers spoke clearly and often concerning this primary purpose of man.
But how does the believer go about giving God glory? Is giving God glory only through singing and praising Him with music? Or does giving God glory involve much more?
Soli deo Gloria!