The Five Solas of The Protestant Reformation–Part 6 Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone

The last of the Five Solas is Soli Deo Gloria, translated “all to the Glory of God” or “to the glory of God alone.”  
 
Our key verses come from 1 Corinthians 10:31 which reads “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” and Colossians 3:17 which reads “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (NASB).
 
From this, we learn three ways to bring God glory:  learn from other’s mistakes, live a righteous life, and love others to Christ.
 
Learn from Other’s Mistakes
Although Paul admonishes the Corinthian church to learn from the mistakes made by the children of Israel (1 Corinthians 10:1-33),  his primary focus involves contrasting idolatry with true worship (1 Corinthians 10:1-26). In short, God was displeased with Israel’s hypocrisy in embracing celebrations involving pagan gods while also declaring their worship of the One and True God.  Paul warns the Corinthians about God’s similar displeasure in their idolatry.
 
After describing specific instances of idolatry in Israel’s history, Paul reminds the church:  “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1 Corinthians 10:6).  The verb “crave” derives from the word ĕpithumētēs meaning to strongly desire or lust after.  1   
 
This is also mentioned in Matthew 12:39 when Jesus responds to the scribes and Pharisees’ unending desire to see Him perform miracles to authenticate His claims to be the Messiah:  “But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.”  In both cases, Paul alludes to ongoing spiritual battle between our old and new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Romans 6:5-6).  
 
The message for us is clear:  giving God glory means that we learn from others who do not obey God’s commandments.  We, like the Israelities and Corinthian church, should beware of focusing on signs and wonders rather than Christ, the Giver of Life (Romans 3:23).  Otherwise, we’ll be full of pride, considering ourselves as more intelligent, sophisticated, or “spiritual” than others.
 
Live a Righteous Life   
In 1 Corinthians 10:27-30,  Paul shifts to discussing another aspect of idolatry by addressing the issue of whether Corinthian believers should or should not eat meat prepared for idol worship.  
Here, Paul clearly establishes that food is amoral.  The issue is how three groups of Corinthians viewed eating meat used for sacrifices involving idolatry:  non-Christians, weak Christians, and strong Christians.
 
For non-Christians, a lucrative and affordable meat industry helped perpetuate the culture of paganism in Corinth because of on-going idolatry involving animal sacrifices. 
Issues arose, however, as people converted to Christianity.  Some weak or spiritually immature Christians (those new to the faith or babes in Christ) struggled to understand the amorality of food and therefore associated eating meat purchased from Corinthian marketplaces with reverting to their former idolatrous ways.  
 
The third group, the stronger or spiritual mature Christians, did not have these scruples about eating this type of meat.  Nevertheless, they needed to temporarily suspend their freedom to eat such meat in the presence of new believers who may be offended or confused by such action.
 
1 Corinthians 10:23 provides clear guidance about how God is glorified by our righteous living:   “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”  Here, Paul emphatically reminds us that our personal testimony and righteous living should always trump our personal rights or idiosyncrasies.  As my mother often says, “we should stop majoring in minors.”
 
Love Others to Christ 
What is the ultimate means through which God alone is glorified?  Paul’s answer is recorded in 1 Corinthians 10:30-33 and ends with these words: “so that they may be saved.”  In context, “they” refers to three categories of people impacted by believers’ behavior:  Jews, Greeks (Gentiles), and fellow Christians. We glorify God by sharing the Gospel message (John 3:16-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
 
God is not only glorified when we point unbelievers to Christ but we when we also disciple Christians.  As Richards points out, “The answer comes when we realize that Paul operated with a basic premise—a premise that needs to be ours as we live with other Christians. You see, Paul expected the Corinthians to grow. He did not insist that everyone be doctrinally correct now.”  2
 
Paul expands on our responsibility to love others to Christ in Colossians 3:17.  In this case, he admonishes us to back up our words with actions. We also have our marching orders of discipleship clearly described in Matthew 28:16-20.
 
If believers learn from other’s mistakes, live a righteous life, and love others to Christ, God alone will be glorified.  
 
1  Strong, James. A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible 2009 : 31. Print.
 
2  Richards, Lawrence O. The Teacher’s Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987.

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