Glory to God alone. Here’s a hypothetical. An alien invasion is happening, but not just any kind of aliens. These aliens are alien zombies, so not only are they from another planet, but they’re the undead from a planet far, far away. People are helpless. We have no technology that can stop them. And because they’re zombies even when we shoot them, they don’t stop coming. You might say, “Shoot them in the head,” but they don’t have heads. They’re aliens. Then along comes a guy who single-handedly flies his helicopter into the mothership hovering over New York City, detonates a nuclear device he built in his basement from a series of unrelated DIY videos on YouTube, which destroys the ship and the devices that were controlling the alien zombies remotely. Who deserves all of the credit for stopping the invasion? The guy in the helicopter, no doubt, no questions.
“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8) In all of the blogs I’ve written in this Sola series, this one is the one that all the others are driving towards. Glory to God alone. It is God’s grace alone, through faith alone (which God gives us) in Christ alone, and we know this because it is by Scripture alone that we understand the nature of God because it is His Word written for us. Salvation from beginning to end is a work of God. Why? So that God alone will get the glory.
In my last blog I ended with two questions: Why would Christ endure everything he endured? Why would God send his Son to die for sinful humans? If you were raised in church, you were taught from a very young age that Jesus loves you. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” You were taught that if you were the only one who would ever believe in him, Jesus would have died for you. You were taught that when Jesus was on the cross he was thinking of you. “Like a rose, trampled on the ground, You took the fall, and thought of me, above all.” So the sentiment we are left with is that God sent His Son for me to die for me so that I can have eternal life if I believe in him. Then I can spend eternity in my new body with my Savior. Is this sentiment true and accurate? At the end of the day many of us have an understanding that somehow everything God has done has been for my personal benefit. Is this right?
Hebrews 12:2 says, “[we] looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” What was the joy that was set before him? Was it really the thought of taking the just punishment of the ones who were going to murder him, or was it something bigger more glorious? I’m going with bigger and more glorious. He momentarily bargained with the Father to find another way. “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) He didn’t want to drink that cup. But stronger than his distaste for the cup was the joy he found in the glory of His Father’s will. Glorifying the Father by completing His will was the joy set before Jesus.
Don’t misunderstand me. This in no way minimizes the truth that Jesus loves us, nor does it minimize the truth that His death was substitutionary, meaning that He did die to take the punishment we deserved. There is something very personal in what Jesus did on the cross for everyone who believes. But the truth is that God was not motivated to save us because we are worthy of saving. We are His Son’s murderers. What about that possibly makes us worthy motivators? God saves us for one simple fact: it brings Him glory. And because our salvation brings Him glory, our salvation gives God great joy. How can this be? Saving the very people who murdered your son glorifies God because it is the clearest display of His love and mercy. This is why it is written, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) God’s love and mercy is most clearly shown, brings Him the most glory, by dying for sinners, i.e. His son’s murderers, i.e. you and me.
So let’s return to the statement, glory to God alone. The Reformers of the sixteenth century called this one (in Latin), soli Deo gloria. They protested the Roman Catholic Church because they felt that too much glory was being given to their canonized saints, the Pope, and generally speaking the hierarchy of the Roman church. They reasoned that if salvation was a work of God alone, then God alone should receive all glory. What is happening in contemporary culture is man is becoming central in salvation. Many churches no longer teach that salvation is a work of God alone, even though that is clearly what Scripture teaches. They teach was is called synergism, which means that we cooperate with God in salvation. Every heard the saying God helps those who help themselves? That is synergism in proverbial form, and where salvation is concerned, it is unbiblical.
What the Bible teaches is monergism, or that God alone is the initiator and finisher of our salvation. We have seen that grace and faith both come from God, so God clearly initiates salvation. But what about the finishing work? How is God the finisher of our faith? Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God doesn’t leave it up to us to complete our redemption, but instead He promises to complete our redemption. For those whom God saves, all of life is one long process of God sanctifying us and transforming us into the completed work He has in mind. And when we see him we will cry out, not about our cooperation, or about our merits, but to Him alone will we give all glory. Soli Deo Gloria!!
I hope that this small mini-series about the five solae of our faith has been a blessing to you. I have been richly blessed just doing the digging for writing these articles. Let me close by saying that remembering these five truths will keep us from a host of errors: Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, Scripture Alone, Glory to God Alone. It only takes a brief survey of the evangelical landscape to see that many of the excesses and extremes (and in some cases omissions) we see taking place in religious practice and thought happen because we stray from these truths. And not only will they keep us from error, but they will keep us humble and filled with gratitude to Christ. “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling!”