From God, To God: Sola Scriptura and Soli Deo Gloria
by Daniel Scheiderer
The Reformation was full of Latin terms, words like “simul justus et peccator” (at the same time just and sinner). In the previous post and this one, we are defining what are called the “Five Solas,” five Latin terms applied by Reformation theologians to summarized the major doctrinal differences between the Protestants and their Roman Catholic counterparts. Later historians and theologians have referred to the “formal” and “material” principles of the Reformation, “formal” referring to the source of doctrine and “material” to the doctrine itself. While the doctrine of “faith alone,” (sola fide) particularly in Christ alone (solus Christus) by grace alone (sola gratia), was the material cause of the Reformation, the formal cause of the Reformation was the doctrine of sola Scriptura. Couple these with the outstanding declaration that God alone receives the glory and we have begun to understand the heartbeat of the Reformation.
Last week, Matthew explained sola fide, showing how Scripture declares that by grace through faith in Christ alone, man is saved. This week we will look at the source and goal of this salvation and doctrine.
First, it is helpful to recognize what the doctrine of sola Scriptura is not. We often think of it as the doctrine keeping us from looking to tradition or church authorities for instruction and insight. This is not what the doctrine meant to the Reformers. Instead, adding to our list of Latin words and phrases, the doctrine meant that Scripture is the norma normans non normata, the norming norm which cannot be normed. This simply means that the Scripture is the ultimate authority, not the only authority. All other authorities are checked against Scripture.
Is Scripture sufficient for the task? It sure claims to be. The classic text, 2 Tim 3:15-17, says that Scripture is sufficient for salvation, sanctification, and building the church. The man of God lacks nothing when he has the Scriptures. A place certainly exists for drinking from the wells of Christian wisdom, especially from those who have proven faithful in teaching and life. But we must ultimately test them against the Scriptures, determining like Bereans whether these things are so (Acts 17:11). When the Roman Church challenged Luther, Calvin, and all other Reformers about their declaration of salvation by faith alone, they were bold to say that all doctrines must arise from and be tested against Scripture. Knox said, “of more authority is sentence of one man, founded upon the simple truth of God, than is the determination of the whole Council without the assurance of God’s Word.” (This is popularly paraphrased, “One man with God is always in the majority.”) Where the councils stray, Scripture stands and they must submit.
Soli Deo Gloria
The doctrine of soli deo Gloria, abbreviated “S.D.G.” by many afterwards, declares that the salvation promised by Scripture as “by grace through faith in Christ,” is for God’s glory alone, and wrought by him alone. Man does not contribute to his salvation; God does it all, and for his own glory. Ephesians 2 says that God graciously grants us faith, saving us for the eternal display of his glory. Further, everything that flows out of the redeemed life is done by God (Philip. 2:13) for his glory, whether preaching or plumbing, baptizing or baking.
“For from him [God] and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)