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Soli Deo Gloria – The Idea

This speech was given by Rev. G. Vanden Berg at the Mass Meeting of Aug. 18, 1967, of the Protestant Reformed Young People’s Convention held in Hull, Iowa.

 

Delegates, visitors and friends:

I am very grateful to you, for more than one reason, for the privilege and opportunity of addressing you at your twenty-seventh annual convention. In the first place, I say this because of what you are. You are the youth of the church and as such are a rather distinctive audience. I am not just speaking tonight for a group of young people but I am aware that I speak to you as those who represent Christ’s cause and upon whom presently, therefore, will rest the burdens and responsibilities of His Church as it exists in the present world.

In light of this my gratitude is greatly increased by the fact that you have chosen as the theme of your convention: “Soli Deo Gloria.” Whoever is responsible for the selection of this theme is to be commended but we must remember that it is not the theme of the host society or the Federation Board. It is your theme! I am going to presuppose tonight that your presence at this convention is indicative of the fact that you personally subscribe to this theme. It is and must be the theme of the life of each covenant youth and certainly your purpose in this convention must be to serve this theme. If it is not, it were better that you were not here; better that you go home because in the measure you do not promote the idea of your convention theme in all of your activities, you will be contributing to the failure of this convention. Our convention can be said to be successful only insofar as each of us expresses and manifests the glory of our God.

The beauty of this most appropriate theme lies in its thoroughly Biblical character. All of the Word of God, from Genesis through Revelation, is permeated with the idea “Soli Deo Gloria.” Upon the event of the incarnation of God’s Son, the angel from heaven proclaimed it: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good-will toward men” (Luke 2:14). All the works of God in creation and providence and redemption have their ultimate purpose in His glory. “The Lord has made all things for Himself . . .” (Prov. 16:4). Soli Deo Gloria! No wonder then that the apostle Paul, after expounding the truth of God to the church of Rome, breaks forth with these words: “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory forever. Amen.”

Soli Deo Gloria is the heartbeat of the church. It is said that this was the motto of the life of the great Reformer, John Calvin, and it certainly is expressive of Reformation life and doctrine. Each word in this thoroughly Scriptural idea is worthy of and ought to receive special emphasis. The key word is GOD. God is all! All glory is HIS. I recall some twenty-six years ago when our churches, under the sponsorship of the Young Men’s Society of the First Church, began radio broadcasting, that in the very first radio address the late Rev. H. Hoeksema selected as his theme: “GOD IS GOD.” He stressed the truth that God is ALL. There is none beside Him. None can be compared to Him. No one else has any honor or glory. To none other may it be ascribed. GOD, and He alone, is ALL.

Let it suffice to say that as far as the term “Gloria” is concerned, we must understand that we are speaking of something that is absolute and in no sense partial We come back to this presently but remember that when we ascribe glory to God, that glory is inclusive of all glory that ever was, is now and ever shall be. And this same basic idea is further emphasized in the word “Soli” which may not be overlooked.

This theme is taken from the text of 1 Peter 5:11. It is part of the closing doxology but it is not the first and only time Peter mentioned it in his letter. It is found also in chapter 4:11 where the saints are enjoined to use their spiritual gifts “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and dominion forever and ever.” Tonight I will briefly direct your attention to the Idea of this doxology. And I will consider with you three things: (1) Its Meaning, (2) Its Object and (3) Its Significance.

 

1. Its Idea:

We are concerned tonight with the glory of God. Let us, at the very outset, make clear that in dealing with this subject we are not treating some physical or material substance that we can touch, taste, see or hear with our natural senses. What is more, the glory of God may never be construed as something that we are supposed to form or create and bring to God as though something that we in some way add to Him makes Him glorious. This can never be. Anything that we do or anything that we bring can only detract from His glory and so we must completely discard this notion in order that we may see His glory as it really is and He reveals it.

The glory of God then is that which belongs to the very essence or being of God Himself. HE IS from all eternity unto all eternity the unchangable and all glorious God. It is not that He ought to be or that He sometime shall be made glorious but rather the truth is that nothing can ever detract from, alter or destroy the glory of God because glory is synonymous with God Himself. He IS glory! He is All-Glorious! All glory is His alone!

Now we also know that Scripture speaks of glory in the plural as well as in the singular and that it also attributes glory to various creatures. It speaks, for example, of tile glory of the sun, of the moon, the stars, of man who is made in God’s image and crowned with glory and honor, but we must remember that also this glory is not the creatures but the Creator’s! There is no glory anywhere apart from God. The glory of the Almighty God is reflected in the sun, moon and stars as “the heavens declare His glory and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Likewise with all God’s creatures, including man, and all of it remains God’s alone and apart from Him there is no glory at all. It is exactly the folly of man that he strives to establish a “glorious” society and to “glorify” himself in that society without God. But this, his folly is also his min. Soli Deo Gloria.

We may describe the glory of God by relating it to two other terms that are frequently used in connection with it in the Word of God. These are the terms: praise and honor. Distinguishing them we may say that glory is the manifestation of that which is virtuous; honor is the acknowledgement or recognition of glory; and, praise is the expression of that recognition. Specifically, the glory of God is the manifestation of all His infinite perfections. When we are given to recognize these virtues; to see Him in the beauty of His own self-revelation, we acknowledge that He is good and we honor Him. Then we break forth to tell of His glory and this telling constitutes our praise. Hence, we see that all that is in God is glorious because He is the God of all virtue. He is good and there is none beside Him. His magnificence, His excellency, His preeminence, sovereignty, dignity, etc. are His glory.

 

2. Its Object:

When you then say, “Soli Deo Gloria” it is important that you not only realize that you are speaking about the manifestation of virtue but that you have in mind the virtues of GOD. Your theme demands the introduction of a second, closely related principle which is expressed in the words, “Sola Scriptura,” which means, “Only Scripture.” This is because in your doxology you are ascribing glory alone to God but at the same time we must be positively sure that we mean the God of Scripture. If we make our own god, fashioned after our own minds, made as we want him to be, the result is that we do not have a God Who is alone glorious and Whose is all glory. Our theme simply has no application whatsoever to the god of Arminianism and Modernism. To ascribe our theme to the vanities of our religious world is to make of it a most blatant lie. Any god that is equal to or inferior to the creature is not a glorious God. The idols of human philosophy have no glory and even the fact that millions bow before them does not make them glorious.

The true and living God to Whom is all glory forever and ever is revealed to us in the Scriptures. The Scriptures tell us Who and What He is and only as we are able, by His grace, to see Him in the light of His own Word and to believe on Him can we participate in the theme of our convention in truth. And although those Scripture reveal far more about Him than we can speak about tonight, I am going to mention three things about God that we must maintain without compromise. The denial of these truths is implicitly a denial of our theme.

First, Scripture informs us that the all-glorious God is the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth and all that they contain. That GOD is alone glorious. Discard all of those theories of evolution that try to explain the origin of things apart from God and also those theories that speak of a god but deny His omnipotence, wisdom and sovereignty. Deny the claims of science and philosophy so-called. Hold to the Word of God and confess, “I believe in God, the Father, Almighty Maker of heaven and earth . . .

In the second place, this all-glorious God is the sovereign sustainer, preserver and governor of all things. He made all things with a purpose and He controls and directs all things unto the realization of that purpose — His glory! Even the wicked unto the day of evil are made to serve that purpose. And don’t forget that in His wise providence, God makes war and peace, famine and prosperity, death and life, sickness and health, etc. He does all these things. Be still and know that He is God, o’er all exalted high. Don’t criticize Him when He does things that are not to your liking. All things are His and He does with them all as He pleases and in all He does, “Soli Deo Gloria.”

Finally, remember that in the verse preceding the one from which the theme was taken, He is called the God of all grace. In grace He calls His church into His own eternal glory through Jesus Christ. This is the central, highest revelation of His glory. All things in heaven and earth converge in the purpose of His grace, the realization of His everlasting covenant with His people in Christ. And in that grace is included really all His virtues. In Christ we see not only the glory of His love but also the glory of His justice. We see election but also reprobation. We see the merciful kindness of God but also the righteous wrath of the Holy One. “Soli Deo Gloria” to Him and to Him alone!

 

3.  Significance

In speaking now of the significance of all this, we do not have in mind the significance of the fact itself that “Glory is alone God’s.” From what has already been said this ought to be evident. It lies simply in the fact that GOD IS ALL and man is nothing. This is true in all things. His Name is to be honored, praised, magnified, memorialized unto all eternity and no other name may be compared or likened to His. This is especially true in the matter of salvation. That is from God and from God alone. No flesh can, may or ever shall glory in His presence. All that we are we owe to Thee. Saved by grace . . . and that not of self, it is the gift of God.

But we have in mind especially now the significance of our expressing this in this doxology, in our confession, in our life. Another speaker will elaborate on this and so I will just mention two things here. First, this is significant because the very expression of the glory of God in us, the desire to declare it and manifest it in our personal lives, our societies, our convention, is evidence that God has called us into His glory and that we are partakers of His salvation. Apart from that grace man does all he can to hide and to destroy every evidence of God’s glory. Just look at the world in which you live today to see the proof of this. But when He calls us into His glory, establishes with us His covenant, this is different Then we crucify our old nature and walk in a new and holy life, showing forth the praise of His glory in all that we do.

And finally, confessing His glory, we have a source of constant comfort and strength in every trial, tribulation and affliction that we may be called to experience in this present world. We know that also these things He works for our good that in the day of Christ our faith may be found to the praise of His glory. And so, I will close with the following quotation:

“He blesses them with all spiritual and heavenly blessings. What can he want, all whose need the God of grace, of all grace, promises to supply, according to His glorious riches?” He can, He will, fit for the combat; He can, He will sustain during the conflict; He can, He will, make victorious in the conflict; He can, He will, reward after the conflict. If there be any necessary blessing not included in all grace, then the struggling Christian might have some cause to despond but when Jehovah, God Almighty (rather all-sufficient) says, I am the God of all grace, and ‘my grace is sufficient for thee,’ well may he glory in tribulation, count it all joy to be brought into manifold temptations, and sing with the apostle, I have all, and abound: having nothing. I possess all things: I am complete in Him. Most gladly will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of the God of all grace may rest on me; though troubled on every side, I am not distressed: though perplexed, I am not in despair; though persecuted, I am not  forsaken; though cast down, I am not destroyed. The God of all grace has pledged His Word ;and oath to me that I shall want no good thing; and what would I have, what could I have more?” (J. Brown. Comm, on 1 Peter)