Today we will look at the final sola of the Reformation, the one that sums up the point of all the others. The truth that the Reformers were most concerned to promote and what can be seen as the central theme of Scripture is soli Deo gloria — to God alone be the glory.
The first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that “man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” God’s glory is the highest good and therefore is the purpose for which we were created. We were made to glorify Him, to reflect His glory and proclaim it to all creation (Isa. 43:6–7). In saving His people and defeating their enemies, His glory is displayed (Ex. 14). Salvation must be sola fide, sola gratia, and solus Christus — through faith alone, by grace alone, and on account of Christ alone — because to attribute redemption to our efforts in any way is to rob God of His full glory. If God and God alone is not the one who saves, then He shares His glory with creatures. But as the prophet Isaiah tells us, God will share His glory with no one (42:8). Sola Scriptura — Scripture alone is the final, infallible authority — must be the church’s confession. If any other source is placed on par with or above the Bible, then the Word of God is no better than the fallible words of creatures, and therefore the one who superintended the writing of the Bible is mocked.
We often think of the Reformation as involving only a doctrinal dispute, but for John Calvin and others, the purity of worship was a major concern as well. Calvin and others took seriously the teaching in Romans 1:18–32 that the basic sin of humanity is its refusal to honor God as God and thank Him for all that He has given us. Instead of bowing the knee to the Almighty, we suppress knowledge of Him and make all sorts of lesser gods.
Some idolatry is crass, such as the worship of trees or nature. Other forms of idolatry are more refined, such as the exaltation of human reason above divine revelation. But any time we substitute something else for the God of the Bible, we attempt to have Him share His glory with another. Any time we deny one of His attributes, we conceive of Him as less than the sovereign Lord of all.
It is not all that uncommon to hear someone say, “I refuse to worship a God that would send people to hell.” But those who would define God’s love in a way that denies His holy wrath do not worship the Creator. Others say, “To me God is….” But it does not matter how we define God, it only matters how He defines Himself. Let us be careful not to adopt the views of God common in our culture but rather allow Scripture to reveal to us the God who is.