Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the initials S.D.G. at the end of every piece of music he wrote for use in the church – and even some of his secular compositions. Handel did it, too – but less frequently. Anyone want to guess what the initials stood for?
Soli Deo Gloria – to the glory of God alone.
As a doctrine, it means that everything that is done is for God’s glory to the exclusion of mankind’s self-glorification and pride. Christians are to be motivated and inspired by God’s glory and not their own.
To glorify does not mean to make glorious – John Piper says it’s not the same principle as with the word beautify – to make beautiful. God is already glorious in and of Himself – so to glorify means to recognize that glory. To acknowledge that glory. When we think of God, we should think of Him as glorious.
God is big. Infinitely big. And powerful. Infinitely powerful. And good. Infinitely good. And that’s heavy – but heavy in a good way – like a big, heavy, warm comforter on a cold winter night. God is so gloriously powerful and good and loving that it should comfort them – as long as they are in a relationship with Him.
If they are outside that relationship, it should be scary.
Everything that our glorious God does is for His glory:
God created the universe to reveal His glory.
God’s plan of redemption was to demonstrate His glory.
God’s calling a people to Himself was to show them His glory.
God’s protection and provision for us is a sign to us of His glory.
God’s gift of eternal life is for His own glory: we will spend eternity enjoying His glory forever.
Does that trouble you in any way – to think of God doing everything to glorify Himself? Doesn’t that make God the ultimate narcissist?
No, it does not. Human beings who do things
It must be frustrating to be God. God created everything. God is in control of everything. And yet the most advanced beings in His creation are constantly judging Him by their standards.
What if you built a toaster from scratch. You plugged it in, put a slice of rye bread into it, and pushed the lever down. Then your toaster spit it back up at you and says, “What idiot likes rye toast? You have awful taste!
I will only toast organic, gluten-free raisin bread.”
It’s your toaster. You made it, yet it dares to tell you that you are flawed. Actually, that’s the danger I see as we keep pushing Artificial Intelligence forward – that our creations will turn on us because they will consider themselves to be superior to us.
God has the right to tell His creation what to do, yet the crown jewel of His creation – the ones who can have a relationship with Him – are constantly judging Him and telling Him that His behavior and attitudes do not meet our human standards. That’s pretty presumptuous on our part, isn’t it?
So God – who is glorious beyond our wildest imaginings – has the right to do things for His glory – because He is the only one who is truly glorious. That’s what it means to be God.
How many times have we thought or said, “If I were God, I would put an end to war – or eliminate cancer – or make a half-gallon of ice cream really a half-gallon again.” Right there we are acknowledging that God has the prerogative to do whatever He wants. And He wants to demonstrate His glory – because that’s what a glorious God does.
In a human being, that is egotistical – because we are not worthy of glory. We are flawed, broken, fallen, and sinful. But God is perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-being – so wanting to glorify Himself is perfectly consistent with His being all-in-all. Human beings can never be “all that” – but God really is “all that.”
So everything we do in this life should be for His glory. Paul wrote to the Colossians: “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
And in his first letter to the Corinthians: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” And in our passage today from Romans 11:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen
Everything comes from God – so everything goes back to Him. He reveals His glory to us, and we return it by glorifying Him. This is why God will not tolerate idols. He says in Isaiah 42 that “I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”
This is why everything that we say and do is to reflect the glory of God – and I would add everything that we think. For we want God to reveal His glory to others through us. That is why we share His love with others. That is why we take care of the poor and the sick, comfort the dying, seek justice for the oppressed, care for His creation, and proclaim the Good News of life in Jesus Christ – not so we can have the biggest or hippest church in the Ohio Valley – but so people will catch a glimpse of God’s glory – and He will be glorified
To Him be the glory forever!