Soli Deo Gloria

I talked last time about how the Lutheran perception of the sacraments differs from a number of other denominations. This is an important distinction and is fundamental to the way Lutherans operate across the board. This all stems from how the Bible describes God and His relationship to us. One such instance is in John 9:

“As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'”

St. Peter declares that the promise given to the ancient Israelites, and the role and responsibility they were given has now been passed to the whole church. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Being a priest is our job and the role of a priest is to be the go-between for God and creation. God’s grace, mercy, and love need to be communicated to the world around us. That’s what the Israelites were called to do. They failed, or rather refused, to do the job, thus the flow of God’s grace to the world ceased. This is not something God tolerates, and so the Israelites were escorted off stage to make way for a new group who would be called to the same position.

All of the work God does is aimed at declaring who He is and what He offers to His people. If we are the lost and condemned sinners, and we are, then God alone has the power to save us. Everything God does, from beginning to end, is with that goal in mind.

This is especially true of the sacraments. God’s grace must take center stage or the primary purpose of the sacraments is lost. We have nothing to offer God until He gives us something of His own. Then, and only then, do we take up an active role in what is taking place.

Through the sacraments, the works of God are displayed in us. Through the sacraments we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness. The sacraments are a proclamation of God’s glory. St. Paul further confirms this in 1 Corinthians 11, “As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” By humbly receiving God’s gives and the transformative restoration that begins through them, we proclaim what God has done for us through His death and resurrection, through His grace and mercy.

The liturgy surrounding the sacraments and the proclamation of God’s Word emphasizes this further. Everything we do is in response to what God is doing or has already done for us. We are never the primary actors. Even when we do act, it is only to point the way to Christ. This is our role and duty. This is who we are as Christians.

The phrase “Soli Deo Gloria,” often abbreviated “S.D.G.” means, “Glory to God alone.” The term became popular during the Reformation as a way of summarizing Reformation ideas. Those who followed this idea, notably J. S. Bach and George Frideric Handel, would sometimes append their works with this phrase, as a way of declaring their work was done to give glory to God. In truth, it should be append to all our work in life, as everything we do is a reflection and proclamation of what God has first done for us.

So, when you come to the font or to the table, praise God and give thanks. Not because you are coming to God on your own, but because He has already called you out of darkness. Give thanks and praise to God because He has already given Himself to you, through Word and sacrament. Let your reception of His gifts and your life as a whole be a proclamation of His grace so we all may say with confidence, “Glory to God alone!”

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