Reformation 500 – Soli Deo Gloria

At the end of every composition Johann Sebastian Bach affixed the letters SDG. They, of course, stood for Soli Deo Gloria—To God alone be the glory. He did it as a way to remind himself and those who would later see it and play it that its goal was to lift people into the heavenlies and direct their thoughts and attention to God alone. And the apostle Paul did the same. In a sweeping summary statement encapsulating every area of our lives he says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). The verse is really amazing. Evidently there is a way to dishonor God in the things and way we eat and drink. The most menial task of our existence is elevated to a canvas for the glory of God! Oh, and then there is, ah, everything else in life. Work. Play. Sex. Money. Worship. Whatever you do. In other words, everything. This is the goal of the Christian life. This is the end for which we were created. This is what it means to be Christian. It’s to this goal that we invite our friends and family and neighbors. Come, make the aim of your life the glory of God. “Declare his glory among the nations…” (Ps. 96:3). I think this is what our forefathers were directing us to and getting at when they opened our catechism with this simple question and answer: Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Whenever you see a list of the 5 Solae you always find this one—Soli Deo Gloria—listed last. And that is not an accident. It’s not listed last because it’s least important, but rather because it is the logical goal of all the others. This is where everything is going. This is why the other ones are there; so that God gets the glory and not someone or something else.

I can still remember back over 15 years now when I walked into New Life and being so taken by the Doxology — from the Greek, doxa meaning “glory”— we sing at the end of every service. I’m still taken — taken up and taken back — by it today. I love that we sing the Gloria Patri—Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. I love that we sing To Him Who Sits on the Throne — To Him who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory…

This Sola has the power to reshape our entire existence. It has the power to challenge every action, desire, thought, and pursuit. Imagine if everything in our lives were scrutinized using this Sola.

Almost three years ago now I wrote about the first question of our catechism and ended my little article with this paragraph:

Notre Dame football is famous for a lot of things. One of those is the sign that all of the players touch as they prepare to take the field. It’s an old sign and it reads, “Play Like a Champion Today.” I like that sign. Sometimes I think it would be cool to have a sign above the door in my house that reads, “Glorify God and enjoy him today.” I’d touch it every day as I left the house.

You know what? I have one of those signs now! After reading those words two members of our church had one made for me! One of the most thoughtful things anyone has done for me. Every day I see that sign I am reminded of our chef end: Soli Deo Gloria. SDG.