Soli Deo gloria (“God’s glory alone") is the phrase that came out of the Protestant Reformation. In other words, ultimately, it isn't about you, me, or our plans. It is about God, his plans, character, salvation, etc.
(As a historical note, famous composer, J.S. Bach, used to affix the initials “SDG” at the bottom of each score he composed to clearly state that it was God and God alone that received the glory for his work in music and, more broadly and specifically, in creation and salvation.)
Unlike Bach, we are so instinctively and profoundly self-centered that we don't think we are. Hell is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on forever.
At the most practical level, SDG means that God, not man, deserves all the praise for his ability to save, sustain, and hold all those that trust in the risen Jesus alone for salvation. We bring nothing to the table. The heart of the Reformation was sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), from that flowed every other sola: sola gratia (Grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), soli Deo gloria. Salvation is all of God and not of us!
So, today, as we prepare to study SDG in more detail on Sunday, here are some “faith lessons” to remember. Truly, it is all about him – and, thank God, he does it all for our good, too.
# 1 - The Gospel is God’s Gospel.
The gospel originates with God, it belongs to God, and it is all about what God has done for his people through Christ by the Spirit. Because it’s his gospel, we must not mess with it, dilute it, change it, or complicate it.
#2 - To say, "I know we're saved by grace through faith, but just to make sure, I'm gonna work to earn God's favor"
Well, that isn't nobility, it's unbelief. It's a self-centered mocking of Jesus' declaration "It is finished!" Either he alone saved you or he didn’t!
#3 - The Bible is not ultimately about me or you. It is about Him.
God’s declaration about himself in Scripture is always more reliable than what you think you’ve figured out about him along the way. Every book in the Bible is ultimately about God. Isaiah is not about Isaiah, but about God. Job, Daniel, and Hosea are not about them, but about God. And your life is not about you, but about God.
#4 - We must return to a biblical understanding of the church as a redeemed community of spiritual men and women who have come know Christ and desire Him above all.
A few reasons corporate worship is commanded and critical to our spiritual health (Heb. 10:24-25): (1) We're insufferably self-centered. (2) It's "together with all the saints" we experience the multi-dimensional love of Jesus. (3) It's a public declaration of the "we-ness" of Gospel.
#5 - For too many Christians today, it is less "Soli Deo Gloria" and more "Soli Meo Gloria."
“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). It’s not about you, and it’s not about me, it’s not our party. We are not the point. Always good to remember. To be a Christian is to treasure Christ above all.
#6 - I don’t want a church that serves my preferences.
I want a church that gives me Jesus and makes me want to serve His. Religion makes you proud and self-centered. The gospel makes you humble and generous.
#7 - And a word to my own heart and fellow pastors:
Let us not make our ministries or sermons about ourselves, our kingdoms, our names, or our own glory—may we never forget the “soli” in soli deo gloria. Every text in Scripture is meant to point to Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to make sure we preach Jesus above all things.
#8 - Because of the cross, your sin is not the last word about you.
The true believer will glory in the person and work of Christ, and not put the smallest confidence in himself or his deeds (Philippians 3:3). His delight and proclamation will be Solus Christus and Soli Deo Gloria. In Christ alone and to God alone be the glory!
#9 - We are all natural evangelists for the things we love most, and when we love the Lord Jesus, we talk about him.
We worship no more than we know about God. If we know little about Him, we worship Him little.
#10 - If "sola fide" (faith alone) is the cornerstone of the Reformation, "soli deo gloria" is the mortar that holds the stones together.
I never cease to be amazed, as I look back through history, at some glaring weaknesses present in amazing men of God. The Christian life begins and continues through eternity by grace—saving grace, sustaining grace, future grace. Basically, all of grace. Praise God!