Episode 134 - The Reformation: God's Glory Alone

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Today, as we finish up our Reformation series, we're going to talk about the glory of God in salvation and in life. In October in 2017, and more specifically on October 31st, we remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, or at least the start of it, where it hearkens all the way back to when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses—95 points he wanted to discuss about the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. And from there, one thing led to another and, as people went back to the scriptures and read them in their original languages, with their original intents, we had basically a return to Christianity, away from the idolatry, away from the sacramentalism and everything of Roman Catholicism and back to the authority of scripture over all other authorities.

And so from that, we've been talking about the SOLAs—the statements of something “alone”—that came out of the Reformation and, as we've talked about on previous episodes, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and we know this because of scripture alone, and this is all for the glory of God alone, and that's what we're goning to talk about today.

For the glory of God alone, Soli Deo Gloria, that would be the Latin phrase for this SOLA: God's glory alone. In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which is set of questions and answers designed to teach people about Christianity and scripture, the question is asked, "what is the chief end of man?" (We can talk about this for so long, because I think it would provide so much clarity and peace for a world that is not living for its chief end and, as a result, does not have peace, does not have an actual sense of purpose.)

Well, the Westminster Shorter Catechism answers, "man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." And we find in scripture, that man, as an image bearer of God, is supposed to not reflect man's own glory, but to reflect God's glory. That's what it means to "bear another's image", not to bear our own image, not to live for ourselves, but to live to actively image the one who created us. And we see that this image was defaced, not erased, but defaced in the fall. Man does not live and reflect perfectly the image of God any more.

This image language gets picked up again in Romans, and many other places, but we see in Romans 8, at the end of the chapter, that Paul says, "everything works together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose." And he goes on to say that, no, this doesn't look like kittens and rainbows and big yachts and things like that. It looks like conformity to the image of Christ. And see, God is restoring us to better reflect the image of Himself because that was what we were created to do, to glorify Him, to image Him in this world and in His creation.

So let's talk about what the SOLAs we've looked at before—faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, scripture alone—have to do with the glory of God in salvation and otherwise, and then we'll also talk about the glory of God in everyday life.

Now with regards to salvation, we have said, and shown from scripture, that salvation is an act of the grace of God alone. It is the grace of God, not plus anything else, that brings the sinner to salvation. He doesn't start the process and take you half way, or nine-tenths of the way. No. Grace, that specific act of divine power, actually brings the dead sinner, like we see in Ephesians 2, to life. It is not in addition to works.

Now the mechanism, or you might say, the instrument of that sinner coming to life is actually faith, which is a gift given by God to the sinner, when he could not want it, which that person places in Christ. We are even given the faith in order to be saved and trust God. So faith is a gift of God and we add no works to that.

Grace is what is responsible for all of our salvation. From the beginning to the end, God accomplishes that salvation. And we saw in John 6, where Jesus says you can't come unless the Father gives you to the Son, everyone who's drawn comes, and Jesus raises them all up on the last day. There's a very tightly knit chain there, and no one is lost from the giving to the raising up.

Now what should we say about people who disagree with some of these SOLAs, or one of them? Well, a detraction from any SOLA actually detracts from the glory of God and allows man to share in that glory, even if in some small way. So the SOLAs very much were a reaction to Roman Catholic theology, where your works actually contribute to the merit that you are owed by God.

No one's saying grace isn't necessary, no one is saying faith isn't necessary, but your works can add to Christ's merit. And we have to ask ourselves, "if I can add merit to Christ's merit, and Christ is worthy of glory for His merit, wouldn't I be worthy of some glory for my merit?" Well, the consistent answer would have to be yes, and yet, couldn't we boast in that? I think we could.

And yet, in Ephesians 2:8 and 9, we see Paul saying that the work of grace of God—that He gave us the faith, He gave us the grace, He gave us the salvation—this is so man cannot boast. And he says, "it's not from works." And so, when we deny the sufficiency of the grace of God in salvation and the sufficiency of faith in salvation, what we are saying is there is something for man to boast in, because if God didn't accomplish salvation unilaterally on His own, and it was up to man to contribute something, well then man can boast in that and that detracts from the glory of God. Maybe just a little, but it still detracts from the glory of God.

Now why are we even talking about the glory of God and salvation? Well, Ephesians 1 is a great chapter, I would encourage you to read it. And in fact, the majority of the chapter is one long, about 12 or 13 verse, sentence. Paul just had one huge sentence there, like he couldn't stop, there was so much he wanted to say in a row. But what we see is that we were predestined, adopted, in additon to many other things God did for us. Now remember, as in Chapter 2, this was when we were dead in sin and could not want these things, but Paul tells us why this was. And he says twice in Ephesians 1, that this was done "to the praise of the glory of His grace.”

Why does God save sinners? Well, we often say it was because he loves us, because he cared about us, because we made a mistake. And those things are true, but that's not the answer Paul gives here, and I would also say that's not generally the answer given in scripture, even if those things are true. The primary answer is: God saves sinners for His own glory. He glorifies Himself in the saving of His people. We see this in Israel, time after time after time, He restores them, He takes them back, He disciplines them. He even, initially, brought them out of slavery, but all of this, so they would be His people and glorify Him.

Salvation primarily is about the glory of God. And so, since Paul states this in Ephesians 1, and goes on to support it in 2 and following chapters, we can rightly say that if man actually isn't dead in sin, he's just disabled or handicapped, or if man does contribute some works, then both of these would detract from His point in Chapter 1 (that salvation is for the glory of God). Man could share in that glory if man contributes. If man is able to save himself, well, man should share glory.

And going back to last week, when we talked about Christ alone being the mediator between God and man, if Mary can mediate between God and man, and she shares that office and some of that responsibility with Jesus, well, that would be role that would incur some glory. Right? But if Christ alone is mediator, Christ alone is glorified in that act. If Christ's merit alone is what merits salvation for the sinner, then Mary's merit doesn't come into play, because if it did, Mary would get glory. If man's merit contributes, like we've said before, many would get glory, (and so we can keep repeating this refrain).

I hope what you see is, if it's not faith alone, God's glory is detracted from. If it's not the gracious act of God alone that brings a sinner to salvation, then God's glory is detracted from. If it's shared with someone other than Christ, well, then God's glory is detracted from. And if it's a man-made authority over scripture, well then that authority is getting glory that alone is due to the God of scripture.

The glory of God is actually the chief end of man, that is what we should live for. And oftentimes, we hold beliefs that actually give ourselves far too much credit for our salvation.

I heard Albert Mohler this last week, talking about the Reformation, and he points out that when you ask someone "why are you saved?" that person almost always will talk about themselves first. They'll say, "well, I made this decision, I weighed the options, I considered this, I decided it was time to stop running from God.” I, I, I, I, me, me, me, me, me.

All of those things may be true, but see, that's a very "us" centered view and understanding of what happened there and scripture tells us what happened behind the scenes. What scripture says is that it is not an accident, it was not an act of my autonomous will that lead to my salvation. It was the fact that the Father, we see in John 6, gave me to the Son, the Son took my name to the cross and atoned for my sins, and the Holy Sprit later on applied that atonement and brought the dead person, like we see in Ephesians 2, to new life, not as a result of their works, not as a result of their autonomous will. Because, Paul has said in Romans 8, no one even wants God and they can't submit to the will of God.

So what we see here is scripture actually tells us God's side of the story. It tells us what God did to bring us to salvation. It tells us even why He did it, for the praise of the glory of His grace, or for His glory would be a shorter way to say that. And so we have to reframe how we even think and feel and remember about our salvation, in light of what scripture actually tells us happened, and that's a hard thing for us to do. Because I think inwardly, even if we know the right answer to this question, we all take more credit for our salvation than we should, and that detracts from the glory that alone is due to God.

So we've talked briefly about God's glory in salvation. There's so much more that could be said here, but let's talk about God's glory in every day life, because remember, that's why we were created. We were created to glorify God, and He saves us to glorify Him. But not just as one time act of Him being able to do something we couldn't do, but so that we can continue to live for Him which we could not have done had He not saved us.

Paul says, "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the glory for God."

And isn't that interesting? He's basically saying you can eat a cheeseburger for the glory of God. And that probably sounds silly for such a serious topic, but isn't it interesting, that when he talks about the glory of God, he talks about eating or drinking or whatever you do. He doesn't just say pray for the glory of God, he doesn't just say love your neighbor for the glory of God. No, he thinks and has a view where everything he does should be for the glory of God.

And that's how we should intend to structure our lives. Will we meet that? Will we ever love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, this side of heaven? No, we won't, but Christ did and we're credited with his perfect obedience in those areas. But nonetheless, that is the goal towards which we strive.

And so I would encourage you, as you think about, maybe it's your parenting, your media consumption, your time management, your conversations, your exercise, your eating, school, work, bible study, whatever it is, consider that you can do these things for the glory of God. There isn't this very defined separation of sacred, and secular, where sacred things can be done for the glory of God and secular things aren't. No, that's not true.

There's a Christian view on actually just about everything. You can eat for the glory of God or you can eat not for the glory of God. You can indulge in food and find your happiness and fulfillment there, or you can find those things in Christ. Exercise can be a good way of exerting dominion over your body and staying healthy. It can also be an unhealthy thing, even if you look great in the mirror, because your body can become your idol. So, once again, are you exercising for the glory of God, to be a good steward of the body, the resource he's given to you?

What about school? We can go through school with rote obedience, just trying to clock a time card, or we can understand that school and education is a great opportunity to learn more about the world God has created and we will never exhaust the depths of knowledge that can be gained about the magnificence of our Creator in understanding His creation, be it us, nature, society, music, the arts, humanities, whatever it is. So you see, there is a Christian view on everything actually. And we can live for God's glory in the mundane things or we can not. We can live for God's glory for the large things or we can not.

And in summary, our whole theological system, and how we understand salvation and life and the purpose of salvation can either glorify God or it can detract from it. If man adds to salvation, if God does not start and finish and do everything in between for salvation, well then man or someone else deserves some of that glory, but that is not a biblically available option because scripture alone is our highest authority, not man-made philosophy, not how I feel, not the words of a church or a counsel; it is scripture alone.

And so, in wrapping up this series, I hope you see that all these things fit together. They apply to our everyday life and, more than that, they help us understand our God and our Savior better.

So if you're just coming into the series now, I would encourage you to go back, listen to the five SOLA episodes and understand more fully God's gracious love and how He has redeemed a people for Himself and for His glory.

Well, I'll talk to you next week on Unapologetic.