|SOLI DEO GLORIA
Series: Reformation - Part Five
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
October 29, 2017
This month we’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. October 31, 1517 - Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle church, Wittenberg, Germany - which was kind of the social media posting of the time. 95 Theses that were essentially 95 questions that encapsulated the issues that were circulating in the church - questions that Martin Luther wanted to the church to formally discuss - to give answers to. What Martin Luther did - 500 years ago - triggered the Reformation.
At its heart, the Reformation was a desire to “reform” the church - to call the church back to the foundations of our faith. That foundation is what we’ve been looking this month. What has been summarized by five... “solas” coming out of the Reformation - bullet point summaries of what the reformers were calling the church back to - of what we believe.
“Sola” meaning… “solo” - only. Meaning this alone is foundational to our faith.
Let’s see how we do with these.
“Sola Scriptura” means… “only Scripture.” Which was the reformers way of saying that “by Scripture alone.” Only the Bible - because it is God’s word - only the Bible contains everything anyone needs to know for salvation and the Bible alone is the highest authority over how we do life with God.
“Sola Fide” means… “only faith” or “by faith alone.” Which was the reformers way of saying that we’re saved only by grace through faith. Meaning that faith is not a work. Faith is not something we do that God recognizes and then God gives us salvation. Faith is our welcoming what God - by His grace - has already and completely done for us by Christ’s work on the cross.
Last Sunday Pastor Andrew shared about “Solus Christus” which means… “only Christ” or “by Christ alone.” Which was the reformers way of saying that there is only one redeemer and mediator between God and man and that is Jesus Christ. Only by Christ’s work on the cross are we saved from God’s wrath. Only through Christ can we enter into a relationship with God, knowing Him as our Father now and forever. Not Christ and… but only through Christ Jesus.
This morning we’ve come to our last “sola” which is “Soli Deo Gloria” which means… “only God’s glory” or “to the glory of God alone.” “To God alone be the glory.” Which was the reformers way of saying that all of what exists exists for the glory of God. We exist for the glory of God. Salvation and how we live life is all about God’s glory.
To help us unpack what that means for us we’re looking at Psalm 19:1. Would you read this with me: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.
That’s a pretty familiar verse. Yes? But, let’s make sure we’re tracking together with what we’re being told here.
“The heavens” describes all of what’s up there - the cosmos. The place where God has put the sun and moon and planets and galaxies and whatever else is out there. “Sky” is a different word in Hebrew that has to do with how all the vastness of what’s out there is spread out - arranged - ordered.
All of what’s out there “declares.” In Hebrew that means it tells us - it speaks to us - it recounts to us - the glory of God. Meaning that all that is out there so that when see all of that - what is the immeasurable and unprocessable for our brains magnificence of all that is out there - all of that tells us about Who God is.
“Proclaim” - in Hebrew - has the idea that what’s out there - in the way all that is spread out and arranged - all that “proclaims” - it informs us - reports to us - gives us the evidence - confirms for us - that all of that is the work of God. What God has worked points to God. What God does.
Meaning that space is not just some disorganized random chance - it exists because it spontaneously had to exist and so it does - emptiness. There’s radiance and regularity. Motion with meaning. God has - by His own hand - purposefully and thoughtfully arranged and ordered all of that out there to declare and proclaim to us that He is and Who He is and that He is at work in His creation.
Let’s make sure we understand what’s meant by “the glory of God.” Because “the glory of God” is the bottom line - the point and purpose - of what God has created all that to go on declaring and proclaiming.
“Glory” translates the Hebrew word “kabod” - which speaks of the weightiness of a person. The idea is that someone possessing glory is weighed down with riches and power and position. What it is about a person that is worthy of honor and respect.
By definition God’s glory is the revelation of His divine attributes and perfections or a visible display that indicates the possession and presence of God’s divine attributes and perfections. Like the burning bush and Moses. Or pyrotechnics taking off the top of Mount Sinai. Or creation - heavens and sky. Or Jesus on the cross.
We need to be impressed with Who God Is. What God has revealed to us about Who is - His nature and essence. What theologians call The Attributes of God.
There is a URL on your Message Notes that’ll take you to a study of these where you can go deeper than what we have time for this morning. (1)
But, this morning - thinking about the attributes of God - who God is - theologians divide God’s attributes into two groups.
Group one is called The Communicable Attributes of God.
Meaning that there’s something about them that communicates with us - connects with us - in our ability to process things. There are aspects of God’s nature and essence that we get - in part - because God has given us the mental capacity and experiences in life that when God does something we can sort of understand a little bit about God.
Here’s the list. Hold onto to something.
· Faithfulness meaning that God is always true to His word. God always keeps His promises - His covenant agreements.
· Grace meaning God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment. The unprovoked and undeserved acceptance of God. God’s unmerited favor.
· Goodness meaning God is the final standard of what’s good. Everything God is and does is good - worthy of approval. God graciously and kindly provides for His creation.
· Holiness meaning according to His moral excellence God is separate from everything else. There is nothing immoral in God.
· Justice meaning that God acts according to His holiness in relationship to Himself and creation.
· Love meaning God has committed Himself to the ultimate good of His creation. Love is what motivates God to reveal Himself to us.
· Mercy meaning God’s goodness towards those in misery, distress, and the pitiable condition of sin. God’s compassion towards us in our depravity.
· Omnipotence meaning that God is all powerful.
· Omniscience meaning that God is all knowing. God knows everything… everything. Past - present - future.
· Patience meaning God - for a period of time - withholds punishment towards those who sin - us. More than once…
· Sovereignty meaning God upholds all things by His power and determines their just end.
· Spirituality meaning God isn’t confined to a physical body. Still holding on to something? Spirituality means that God in substance is invisible and without composition, extension, or spatial existence.
· Truth meaning God is THE reliable source of all truth.
· Wisdom meaning God is complete in His knowledge and in the perfect application of that knowledge to achieving His will
Those are the attributes that communicate or connect with what we can wrap a part of our minds around.
Theologians call these The Incommunicable Attributes of God because the go beyond what is possible to communicate to us humans.
Still hanging on to something? Turn to someone near you and say, “Hang on.”
· Infinity meaning that God is free from all limitations. Which in part qualifies all that God is. God is not limited by any defect or imperfection. He is infinite love - infinite grace - infinite holiness - infinite whatever His attribute. God is not limited by time or space. He transcends all of that - always.
· Eternity meaning that God is free from the succession of time. God created time. Uses time. Exists outside of time. Isn’t limited by time. God is timeless. God never began to exist. He didn’t have a beginning point - like we did. He just is. And God sees everything that’s happening in time - and outside of time - equally. Not dimly but vividly. To God who is, it is.
· Immutability meaning that God never changes. Imagine if God could change. Is He changing for the better or the worse? How trustworthy is God? What if God changes His mind? That God is immutable means that - from our perspective - God may seem to change how He acts towards His creation. That God is already everything that God is and means that God does not change in His purposes and what He wills to do. He is infinitely worthy of our trust.
· Omnipresence meaning that God is not limited with respect to space and occupies all space with the entirety of His Being. Which doesn’t mean that God is part of the chair you’re sitting on. That would mean that God is somehow contained or limited by the space of what that chair is. Everywhere present means that God may act differently in different places but wherever anywhere is God is - all of God.
· Self-existence meaning God’s existence does not depend on anything outside of Himself. God did not become a god or the God. God was not created. He did not need to exist and so became. God does not need us or creation in order for God to exist. We depend on things for our existence. But God depends on nothing. He is.
· Simplicity meaning God’s attributes are united without division or separation. When God acts in love He’s also acting with justice. In other words - in the Old Testament when God is acting in His entirety with justice and wrath He is also acting in His entirety with love and mercy and grace. Just as in the New Testament when God is acting in His entirety with love and mercy and grace God is acting in His entirety with justice and wrath - and all His other attributes - omniscience - omnipresence - whatever.
· Unity meaning God is uniquely one as the only true God. There is only one God not three separate gods that hang out and do things together. The Trinity is One God - three persons. All equally God in nature and essence - always.
That’s a lot to take in. Isn’t it? Pretty weighty stuff. And that’s the point. We need to impressed - humbled - by the glory of God. What the heavens declare. Who God is.
We need to also be impressed with What God Does.
The purpose of creation. What we’ve been studying since January. In Genesis - God creates. Man falls.
Born in Adam’s fallen image each of us is destined to judgment and forever separation from God - conscious and eternal punishment. Which is what life is apart from God. Punishment. Horrendous forever punishment.
Look around at where we live life. That’s what life is apart from God. All the fear and anger and hatred and depression and suicide and war and violence and brokenness and addictions and bondage and horror of what we’ve done and keep on doing to ourselves. And these are the good old days. It only goes down hill from here.
Which is our total depravity. Right?
Which doesn’t mean than any one of us is any more or less sinful than anyone else. Depravity isn’t about how much or how little we’ve messed up in life and all the horrible things we’ve done or not done. Depravity isn’t about making us feel guilty or giving us an excuse to give up on ourselves or think less of other people.
Total depravity means each of us is totally corrupt in every part of our nature. There’s nothing within us that’s worthy of God’s approval. And in how we live life - every one of us displays our depravity as thoroughly and completely as we can. That is who we are individually and as a race since Adam fell.
We’re glory hogs. We want the glory for ourselves. We want to live independent of God. We’re born with that desire which is our God given free will bent and distorted by sin. Our sin - which confirms Adam’s sin. We even have this distorted idea that salvation is about us and life with God is about us - and not for God’s glory alone.
Since January we’ve been seeing God’s purpose behind His creation. God creates. Man falls. God saves.
Which is God at work in His creation - purposefully - relentlessly - through people like Abraham and Sarah and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and Joshua and Rahab and David and Solomon and Ruth and Mary and Joseph - at work moving to the great dividing line of history - the cross driven into the dirt of Jerusalem and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the resurrection which gives all of us hope that there is more to life than this taste of death and hell that we live in.
Sola Scriptura - only in Scripture - not in the traditions of a church. But only in God’s word - the Bible - do we find breathed out from God and written infallibly for us - the explanation of what God is doing and how He wills for each of us to be included in His great plans and purpose for His creation.
Only by grace - God’s unprovoked and undeserved acceptance - not because we’re worthy within ourselves or through works of penitence and piety established by a church - but solely through grace.
Only through faith - welcoming what God has done for us - what God - by His grace - has already and completely done for us by Christ’s work on the cross.
Only by Christ - the truth of God - the Word made flesh - choosing to dwell here with us - taking on what it means to be human - fully man - fully God - Christ Jesus setting aside His prerogative to act with His divine attributes - so that taking on the role of a slave Christ - demonstrating God’s love - Christ might die in our place - that as we welcome what God has done for us God gives to us the righteousness - the right relationship with Him - of Christ and places our depravity on Christ - so that He is our way - not some priest or some church - but Christ alone is the only way to the Father and the life that we are so desperate for now and forever.
God’s purpose for His creation - which is all to the glory of God - who from the beginning of creation has arranged His heavens to declare Who He is and to proclaim that He is at work in His creation. To God alone be the glory.
Let’s be clear. God’s glory is the central motivation for salvation, not improving the lives of people - which it does as a by-product.
But Jesus didn’t die to start a self-help program or a social warfare institution. Jesus didn’t allow Himself to be crucified because we needed guidance or insight on how to do life and deal with our issues and failures. Jesus substituting Himself for us - His all sufficient and complete work of atonement on the cross - isn’t about Jesus being a means to an end - giving us yet one more option of what we can choose to believe about what comes next and how to get there.
Jesus died on the cross because - Scripture tells us - we are totally depraved - hopeless in sin and under judgement - and only by God’s grace - through faith - in Christ the only means of salvation - are we saved. The purpose of which is to the glory of God alone.
We need to impressed - humbled - by what God does - to the glory of God alone.
Processing all that… (Still hanging on to something?
Paul in Romans - in the first major section of His letter to the church in Rome - Paul is writing about our need for God and about the Gospel which is God’s answer to our deepest need. Paul is writing about what it means to live by faith - to live the reality of the Gospel in our lives - as we live in the real world of where we live our lives.
Paul writes in Romans 1:19,20: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
Are we hearing Psalm 19:1?
God - in His creation since day 1 - God has been revealing Himself to us - so that - bottom line - end of verse 20: So they are without excuse.
The Greek word translated “excuse” is “anapologetos” which comes from the verb “apologeomai” - sounds like... “apology.” Meaning “apologeomai” is where we get our English word “apology” from.
To apologize is to make an excuse. To give an explanation for some offense or fault or accident asking for pardon.
“Apologetics” - heard that term? “Apologetics” is a branch of theology that deals with the defense of our faith using a logical reasoning. Not apologizing in the sense of whimpering and groveling. But giving a logical - well thought out - well presented - defense of our faith that we hope - and pray - will bring about a favorable response.
Being “without excuse” in the face of the overwhelming evidence that God has placed out there in the heavens and arranged in the sky - declaring and proclaiming Who He is and what He is doing - being without excuse means that - as we live our lives today and when we stand before God as our judge - there is no possible logical - well thought out - well presented - defense we can give for rejecting Who God is and all that God has graciously done for us through Christ’s work on the cross.
There are limits to what we can process about Who God is. God is God and we’re not. What can be known about God’s invisible attributes God clearly makes visible - plainly understood - “clearly perceived.” God the creator who by His eternal power calls all that is into existence out of nothing - sets it out there to help us grab onto that He’s there and Who He is.
John Calvin - Reformation theologian and pastor - John Calvin wrote: “By saying that God has made it manifest [made it plain to them], he means, that man was created to be a spectator of this formed world, and that eyes were given to him, that he might, by looking on so beautiful a picture, be led up to the Author himself.” (2)
What can be known means that there are things about God that we just can’t process. But God is knowable. He makes Himself to be knowable.
Meaning there’s no excuse for us saying that there is no God. No excuse for us to deny that He is our sovereign creator who is the God of order and design and purpose who lovingly desires for us to know Him.
We need to hear choice in that. We know God. We need to choose how we will respond to all that He has revealed about Himself and His working in and through His creation.
Take a look at this list of names (below).
Many more names could be added to this list. The list is representative of many many more people. Question: Other than the obvious default cop-out answers like, “They’re all human” - What do all these people have in common?
Answer: They’re all martyrs of the Reformation. Martyred because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
James Abbeys, Thomas Cranmer, John Denley, Alice Driver, Alexander Gough, Joan Waste, Thomas Hauker, John Huss, Walter Milne, Rose Allen Munt, and Rowland Taylor - all burned at the stake.
Anne Askew was racked - her joints and bones were pulled out of place. She fainted from the pain. When she regained consciousness, she preached for two hours to her tormentors. On the day of her execution she had to be carried to the stake because her bones were dislocated so she couldn’t walk. She was offered a pardon if she recanted. Her response: “I did not come here to deny my Lord and Master.” She died praying for her murderers in the midst of the flames.
John Bradford was repeatedly offered the opportunity to recant and be pardoned. He didn’t and they burned him at the stake. Before they tied him to the stake he called the crowd to repentance - bent down and kissed the firewood - forgave his persecutors - begged the crowd to pray for him.
Sir Patrick Hamilton was born of royal blood. Came under the teachings of Martin Luther in Germany. Returned to Scotland to preach the word of God there. Hamilton’s teachings became a cornerstone of Protestant theology in Scotland and England. Great numbers of people came to faith through his teaching. Hamilton was arrested. Even in prison his faith was so contagious that a priest who visited his cell was converted. When they tried to burn him at the stake they had trouble keeping the fire lit. So Hamilton used the opportunity to preach to the crowd.
William Hunter at the age of 19 was burned at the stake because they found him reading the Bible in English.
Heinrich Möller [Mōller] was a Dutch member of the same Augustinian order that Martin Luther belonged to. He studied under Luther at Wittenberg. Preached in Holland. Was burned at the stake.
William Tyndale translated the Bible in to English. Was strangled and then his body was burned.
Ulrich Zwingli killed by the sword - his body was quartered and then burnt.
Apologetics is more than what we say we believe. It’s also how we live. To God alone be the glory.
It’s been said that there are those who believe and those who believe they believe. Meaning that there are a lot of people who profess belief in Jesus Christ and they may be very sincere in that profession of faith - verbal apologetics. But at the heart level they don’t believe. Not really. Not based on how they’re living life. A living life apologetic.
It’s the bottom line of what Jesus called His disciples to: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself.” (Luke 9:23-25)
The cross is a cruel and horrendous instrument of torture and death. Jesus isn’t being philosophical or theoretical. He means what He says in the most graphic and ultimate sense. He’s very bottom line serious. Die to self and follow Jesus the way to life or seek after the world and its temporal profits and lose what is eternal.
Adam chose self. Independence from God. Chose not to have faith in God. Chose not to trust God - what God said about right and wrong - sin and death verses obedience and life. And choosing himself, Adam chose death.
Today - that same choice is always in front of each of us. Independence from God or utter dependence on God. Faith in ourselves or faith in God.
Question: What do you believe? Our lives are always going to be lived based on what we really believe. Always.
If we really get God - what He’s revealed to us - what He’s done for us in Jesus - if we really are choosing to live by faith - then death to self is a daily - moment-by-moment reality. Life is about God. To God alone be the glory.
How we live is always the fruit - the outward demonstration - the apologetic - of what we really believe. Our actions - the choices we make - what we focus on and allow into our lives - what we do with our time and talent and treasure - how we respond to God - demonstrates what we really believe about God - Who He is - What He’s done on the cross through Jesus.
Meaning if we really get all that and really believe all that what could possibly be more profitable - what could possibly keep us from total commitment to Christ and His Church. When God creates us and calls us and enables us to gather together - even here - what could possibly be more profitable - more valuable - what could possibly keep us from being here to worship Him? Early and eager? What could possibly keep us from the serious reading and study of His word. From prayer and going ever deeper in our relationship with Him. From intentionally sharing His Gospel and our faith with others.
What is there that could possibly be more profitable - what could possibly keep us from the total commitment of all that we are and all that He’s blessed us with - what could possibly keep us from the total faithful obedient commitment of all of that to Him - trusting Him even when what He asks of us goes beyond our capacity to understand or ability to accomplish? So that God alone gets the glory.
There is only one Creator God who’s created and set in motion the universe. Who gives order to His creation and is intimately working in its unfolding history. God who continually displays His eternal power and divine nature and essence all around us in His creation.
God who creates the atoms of our existence and holds them together. God who creates us for relationship with Him now and forever.
Which is the bottom line of Sola Scriptura - Sola Gratia - Sola Fide - Solus Christus. The bottom line: Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the glory.
If the other four “solas” are the bricks of the Reformation structure - “soli Deo Gloria” is the mortar that holds it all together. God’s glory is what gives purpose and meaning - cohesion - to everything that we are - to everything that we believe - to everything that God is doing in His creation.
We need to get this. There are only two choices in life. Every moment of our lives we’re either choosing self or God.
Question: Who gets the glory for your life? May the answer always be: To God alone be the glory.
2. John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, translated and edited by John Owen (Whiteish, MT: Kessinger, 2006) - cited by Chuck Swindoll, Insights on Romans - Zondervan, 2010
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.