It has been said that Soli Deo Gloria is “the glue that holds the solas together”; the way we view God influences everything about us. It influences how we parent our children. It influences our work ethic. Our view of God influences the way we relate to our spouse. It influences the way we worship. Indeed, the way we view God influences the way we live our daily lives.
Defining the Glory of God
Before we dig deeper into Soli Deo Gloria, we need to define the glory of God. The term glory means “heavy or weighty”. The term implies “honor, splendor, or reverence”. Wayne Grudem adds, “The glory of God is not exactly an attribute of his being but rather describes the unmatched honor that should be given to God by everything else in the universe…In another sense, God’s glory means the bright light that surrounds God’s presence.” Since the Hebrew term translated glory, means “to be heavy”, it conveys the idea that the one possessing the glory is overflowing with riches (Genesis 1:31), power (Isaiah 8:7), and position (Genesis 45:13). Additionally, glory in the New Testament implies “brightness, shining, radiance, amazing might, or a demonstration of power, praise, or greatness.”
The Glory of God in the Book of Isaiah
Notice several aspects of God’s glory that emerge in the book of Isaiah.
- God’s glory is related to His majesty. “It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God” (Isaiah 35:2).
- God’s glory is a canopy and provides a divine “Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy” (Isaiah 4:5).
- God’s glory is capable of covering the whole earth. “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory”” (Isaiah 6:3).
- God has a passion for revealing His glory. “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5).
- God will not give His glory to another. “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8).
- God expects His people to give glory to Him and praise His “Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands” (Isaiah 42:12).
Jonathan Edwards and God’s Glory
Jonathan Edwards beautifully summarizes God’s glory in his epic work, A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World: “The great end of God’s works, which is so variously expressed in Scripture, is indeed ONE; and is most properly and comprehensively called, THE GLORY OF GOD.” This glory is all-consuming and soul-satisfying. This is exactly where we turn our attention to.
Describing the Glory of God
The Word of God clearly teaches that God created and chose Israel for His glory (Isaiah 43:6-7). Jonathan Edwards observes, “It is wholly a promise of a future, great and wonderful work of God’s power and grace, delivering his people from all misery, and making them exceedingly happy; and then the end of all, or the sum of God’s design in all, is declared to be God’s own glory.”
Additionally, God sent the Messiah so that He would be glorified. God sent the Messiah to be a light to the nations, open blind eyes, and bring prisoners from the dungeon: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6–7).
And God sent the Messiah to extend salvation to the very ends of the earth. John Piper reveals the depth of this stunning reality:
“It is our unspeakable privilege to be caught up with him in the greatest movement in history—the ingathering of the elect ‘from all tribes and tongues and peoples and nations’ until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and all Israel is saved, and the Son of man descends with power and great glory as King of kings and Lord of lords and the earth is full of the knowledge of his glory…Then the supremacy of Christ will be manifest to all and he will deliver the kingdom of God the Father, and God will be all in all.”
God sent the Messiah to reveal the glory of God (Isaiah 40:5; John 1:14). Piper continues, “The exaltation of God’s glory is the driving force of the gospel…And grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.”
Finally, God’s glory is revealed in the redemption of the elect. Notice the shift that takes place in Acts 13:46-48:
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
In Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul unfolds the plan that God has for His people, including both Jews and Greeks: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” Now that we are armed with some basic knowledge concerning the glory of God, we can move forward with a three-fold challenge.
Realize God’s Purpose in Creating the World
Our first challenge is to see God’s purpose in creation, which is to make His glory known. Consider a few passages the point to the public display of God’s glory:
- “But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord,” (Numbers 14:21).
- “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14).
- “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3).
Jonathan Edwards adds, “The work of God promised to be effected, is plainly an accomplishment of the joy, gladness, and happiness of God’s people, instead of their mourning and sorrow; and the end in which God’s design in this work is obtained and summed up, is his glory…And he expresses the way in which we are to make God our end, in making his glory our end.” We not only realize God’s purpose in creating the world; we recognize God as the Creator who formed us.
Recognize God as the Creator Who Formed Us
Four indisputable truths describe this powerful calling. First, He calls us by name (Isaiah 40:1). Jeremiah 30:22 affirms, “And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Second, He calls us His possession. “The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (Isaiah 43:20-21). Third, He calls us out of darkness. Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1st Peter 2:9). Fourth, He created us for His glory. “I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:6-7). God’s purpose in creating the world was to showcase His glory. But the astounding thing is that God chooses to make known His glory through His people!
Respond Properly to God by Glorifying Him
How do we glorify God? The Bible calls us to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in every area of life (1st Peter 2:9). Additionally, we spread a passion for the great worthiness of His name. Isaiah 43:21 says, “The people who I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
“In other words,” writes John Piper, “to extend the pleasure that God has shown in his own name he chooses a people to enjoy and praise and proclaim that name to all peoples.” The glory of God shined brightly during the days of the Protestant Reformation. In Nate Pickowicz’s excellent book, Why We’re Protestant, he demonstrates how the Reformers transformed marriage and family. They reformed education and society and government. “Over and above all else, the Reformation was an effort to move religion away from a man-centered scheme of self-justification and self-salvation to the God-glorifying, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered religion of the Scriptures.” Calvin adds, “We never truly glory in God until we have utterly discarded our own glory…The elect are justified by the Lord that they may glory in him, and in none else.”
Applying Soli Deo Gloria in Our Day
The glory of God impacts the way we live our lives. Every step, every word, every action, every decision, everything should be done for the glory of God. The glory of God impacts the way we spend money. When our focus is on God’s glory, His kingdom priorities extinguish the other things that have captured our attention. The glory of God fills us with joy and hope. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). The glory of God motivates me to take the gospel to the nations. “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:28). The gospel reminds us that the glory of God and our everlasting joy are not at odds. John Piper observes, “The exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls are one thing.” May we strive with all our hearts to fulfill the purpose for which God created us, namely, to glorify God in all the earth. Soli Deo Gloria!
 David Vandrunen, God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015), 14.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 221.
 Jonathan Edwards, A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World.
 Jonathan Edwards, Cited in John Piper, God’s Passion For His Own Glory (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1998), 193.
 John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 165-166.
 Ibid, 157.
 Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust), 108-109.
 Nate Pickowicz, Why We’re Protestant, 122.
 John Calvin, Cited in David Vandrunen, God’s Glory Alone, 13.