Soli Deo gloria is not precisely parallel to the other four solas because in one sense, it is both the beginning and the end of the other four. The Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures to the glory of God alone. Christ humbled Himself to the point of death and was raised and exalted to the right hand of the Father to the glory of God alone. Grace and mercy are offered to rebellious sinners to the glory of God alone. Justification is by faith alone to the glory of God alone. Soli Deo gloria, therefore, is central.
It is important to understand that when we talk about God’s glory, we are talking first and foremost about an attribute of God. As the Westminster Confession of Faith explains: “God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself” (2.2) He is the God of glory (Acts 7:2). He also manifests His glory in the works of creation and redemption, most significantly in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8).
God also glorifies Himself in and through the church. We as believers are called to do whatever we do to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). We are to use our gifts to serve one another “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:10–11). The Psalms are filled from beginning to end with ascriptions of praise to the glory of God, and this demonstrates where the focus of the church’s worship should be. Worship does not exist for our entertainment. Worship exists for the glory of God alone.
There are a number of books that can help us grasp the significance of the doctrine of soli Deo gloria. The following five works are good entry points.
- John Hannah, How Do We Glorify God?
In this brief booklet, John Hannah explores the answer to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
- R.C. Sproul, How Then Shall We Worship?
In this book, Dr. Sproul outlines the principles of God-centered, God-glorifying worship.
- Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship: The Right Way of Drawing Near to God
Burroughs was a Puritan whose writings remain edifying and encouraging to this day. This book was enormously influential on Dr. Sproul.
- Michael Horton, A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of Christ-Centered Worship
Horton’s book is a contemporary defense of God-glorifying worship as opposed to the “worship as entertainment” views so common today.
- Philip Graham Ryken, Derek W. H. Thomas, and J. Ligon Duncan III, eds. Give Praise to God
This is a helpful collection of short essays by different writers on various aspects of worship.
This article is part of the Top Books on the Five Solas collection.