Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
To God Alone be the Glory!
To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. Jude 25NKJV
Question 196 of the Westminster Larger Catechism asks, “What doth the conclusion of the Lord’s prayer teach us?” It gives the answer, “The conclusion of the Lord’s prayer (which is, For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen,) teacheth us to enforce our petitions with arguments, which are to be taken, not from any worthiness in ourselves, or in any other creature, but from God; and with our prayers to join praises, ascribing to God alone eternal sovereignty, omnipotency, and glorious excellency; in regard whereof, as he is able and willing to help us, so we by faith are emboldened to plead with him that he would, and quietly to rely upon him, that he will fulfil our requests. And, to testify this our desire and assurance, we say, Amen.”
The fifth and final Sola of the Protestant Reformation is Sola Deo Gloria, meaning “To God alone be the glory.” God, by His grace and out of His love for His people, used the Reformers to bring back to the Church the clear teaching of Scripture with regard to the doctrine of salvation. In sola fide we saw that sinful man is justified by faith alone because through the instrument of faith plus nothing else God gives to the believer all of the merits and benefits of Jesus Christ. Justification is not a work done in us but it is a sentence pronounced on us. Justification by faith alone is simply shorthand for justification by Christ alone. For Jesus Christ did all of the work necessary for us to be justified, and by faith we are united to Christ so that all of our sin and guilt is ascribed to Him and all of His righteousness in good works’ obedience is imputed to us.
Thus, the second Sola of the Reformation is Solo Christo, which means Christ alone. This refers to the fact that all of the work of salvation is accomplished by Christ alone. He dies on the cross to take away our sin and He lived a life of perfect obedience to earn our righteousness. In these two acts consists all of our justification which we receive by faith. In justification because of Jesus’ blood and righteousness the believer is declared by God to be “Not guilty, but righteous.” But immediately upon being justified we begin the sanctification process whereby the believer becomes more and more actually and personally righteous, and less and less sinful. But even here all of the merit of our sanctification is by Christ alone. It is His mediation and intercession on our behalf that brings about the change in us, keeps us in the faith, and makes our imperfect works acceptable in the sight of God.
Therefore, we say that all of salvation: both the act of justification and the process of sanctification are totally by the grace of God alone. We believe in order to be justified, but our faith does not earn us anything and is even itself the gift of God given to us in the new birth. We do good works and turn from sin, and it is necessary that we do so if we are going to be saved; but our repentance also is God’s gift (2 Tim. 2:25) and all of our good works are brought about by the ongoing work of the Spirit in our hearts. We cooperate with the Spirit in the sanctification process; we and not merely the Spirit in us do good works, but none of our cooperation is meritorious or good, nor can we put any confidence in it for our acceptance with God. In fact all of our cooperation and even our best works must themselves be purified by the ongoing application of the blood of Jesus Christ if they are going to benefit us at all or be acceptable to God.
Finally, in Sola Scriptura we saw that Scripture alone is the supreme authority in the Church, communicating to Christians all that they need to know regarding what they should believe concerning God and how to obey Him in every situation. Thus, because God alone accomplishes all the work by which to save and apply that salvation to His people, God alone gets all the glory. God is the source and the sustainer of His perfect and eternal kingdom in all its power, and so we rightly give Him all the glory both now and forevermore, Amen!