Why is the sky blue? Why are some eggs brown, and others white? Why do vegetables have to taste so bad? Why do I have to go to bed so early? My kids are on a constant quest to know why. I’m sure they’re not alone in that adventure.
But we should never really ever grow out of asking why. Even as we follow Jesus into adulthood and grapple with huge and complex theological ideas, healthy questions help us to frame our understanding of God, of the Bible, of how we live in light of the gospel. Good questions help us understand the church and her history—how we got here.
This year—the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, in particular, there’s a great deal of looking back to the reformers and weighing the impact of their lives and teaching on the history of the church. We’re looking back and asking healthy, helpful questions. Why sola Scriptura? And why sola fide? Why sola Christus? And why sola gratia? Why salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone?
If you find yourself asking these “why” questions, I want to propose to you the ultimate answer to every “why” question in the world: Soli Deo Gloria, for the glory of God alone.
Why does God save his people even when they sin against him? Time and time again, all throughout the Old Testament, God’s people turned away from him. They indulged in idolatry and immorality, over and over again, and they deserved wrath and destruction before a holy God. But God did not destroy them. Why? For his glory.
Even as the prophet Ezekiel pronounced the coming judgment and eventual restoration of Israel, he reported exactly why the Holy Lord had chosen to both discipline and redeem his people: “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations” (Ezek. 36:22, ESV). The supreme motivation behind salvation is the global glory of God—God saves his people because he loves his glory.
Now, this isn’t the way many people, even in the church, think about God. We do not picture a God who is zealous for himself. But this is what the entire book of Ezekiel is about, a God who loves his glory above all else. Seventy different times in Ezekiel, God repeats the singular reason for everything he does: “Then they will know that I am the Lord.” Now, for you and I to love our own glory, to delight in our fame, to center around ourselves, would be inappropriate for us as human beings. But it is more than appropriate for God.
“If God were to exalt anything or anyone else above himself, he would not be the God worthy of all exaltation.”
God should be God-centered. Who else should he center around? There is nothing greater than him, nothing more delightful than him, nothing more glorious than him, nothing more worthy of exaltation than him. He is God! If he were to exalt anything or anyone else above himself, he would not be the God worthy of all exaltation.
Soli Deo Gloria is the single reason for every one of the other solas of the Reformation. Sola scriptura, because only God’s Word, not the word of popes, poets, priests, or kings, can have final and absolute authority. Sola fide, sola Christus, and sola gratia, because faith is the humble acknowledgement that we must trust entirely in the work that Christ has done for our salvation. We put our faith in his grace, because the One who gives all the grace gets all the glory.
God is at the center of his universe, and everything he does, including our salvation, revolves around him. God has saved us for his glory among the nations, so let us live for God’s glory among the nations. The spread of God’s global glory is not just for missionaries, and it’s not just another program in the church. Global mission is the purpose of your life. Everything you have been given in your life – your breath, your salvation, your family, your gifts, your resources, your position – everything you have, you’ve been given for this reason: the spread of God’s global glory.
“Everything you have, you’ve been given for this reason: the spread of God’s global glory.”
Now obviously, that doesn’t mean that every single Christian moves to another country or becomes a missionary in that sense. That doesn’t mean that every single Christian does any particular job. It means that every single Christian lives for the spread of God’s glory, wherever God has us, wherever he leads us, with whatever he’s given us. That may be pastoring a small church. That may mean serving as a professional in the city. It may mean going to school, or it may mean going to a place where the gospel has never been. Our lives are God’s to lead however he wants and wherever he wills for the spread of his global glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!
David Platt is the president of the International Mission Board. Follow him on Twitter @PlattDavid.