SOLI DEO GLORIA
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:5-11, ESV
“Soli Deo Gloria,” or the Glory of God Alone, is the fifth of the five pillars of the Great Reformation. To recount them all, “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone) gives biblical authority to the fact that salvation is by “Sola Gratia” (Grace Alone) through “Sola Fide” (Faith Alone) in “Solus Christus” (Christ Alone) for “Soli Deo Gloria” (the Glory of God Alone). Today we close this series, just as the world we now know will come to a close, with the glory of God.
Philippians 2:5-11 in the original language is typographically set as a poem or hymn. It could have been an original verse written by Paul, or something the Apostle picked up while singing with the early church. Either way, it is beautiful, biblical truth that expresses the alpha and omega of the divine purpose, which is to display and disseminate, to show and to share, the glory of God. This is done through the full gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes the good news of His first and second coming.
The Glory of God
Paul, pharisaically Jewish before becoming thoroughly Christian, understood the Old Testament concept of the glory of God before he penned a large part of our New Testament. This passage in Philippians is based upon a text in Isaiah, also presented in poetic or hymnotic form (incidentally, it was this text that led to the conversion of Charles Haddon Spurgeon):
22 “Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
24 “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
to him shall come and be ashamed
all who were incensed against him.
25 In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
shall be justified and shall glory.”
— Isaiah 45:22-25
You can see the parallels. Both Isaiah and Paul speak for God. Both preach the gospel. Both declare salvation for the faithful and condemnation for the faithless. Both view bent knees and confessing tongues. And, both open the gates of glory, the glory of God, alone.
The Hebrew word for glory is “kabod.” There is a sad scene in the early days of Samuel the prophet, when the reigning high priest Eli died, and his evil sons were killed, and a grandson was born. They named him “Ichabod,” for at that time there was no glory, or, “the glory of had departed from Israel” (ref. 1 Samuel 4:21). They had forsaken God, the source of all glory.
Glory in the Old Testament literally means weight, but in a metaphysical and magnified sense, the heaviest weight, or the most importance, in the world. It means value, of the highest degree. It means authority, in the ultimate power. And this weight, this authority, this glory belongs to God, and to God alone.
In our text and 165 times in the New Testament, the word for glory is “doxa.” We sing “The Doxology” each Sunday to give praise to God and acknowledge God’s glory, and God’s glory alone.
In secular Greek the word meant “opinion,” and certainly it is God the Father’s opinion, the highest authority of all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. But like is counterpart “kobod,” “doxa” also speaks of the highest degree, the greatest possible honor, or praise, or worthiness to be worshipped. This, of course, belongs to the Father, and the Son, who along with the Holy Spirit, were and are and always will be God. Glory belongs to God, and to God alone!
We give God glory when we acknowledge Him, with bended knees and confessing tongues, that He is the most important person in the universe, the most worthy of praise and thanksgiving, the highest authority over our bodies and souls. The only things that prevent people from giving glory to God are sin and unbelief. The only remedy for sin and unbelief is the gospel. Only by accepting the gospel can we see and share the glory of God.
The Glory of God in the First Advent of Christ
The glory of God was shown in the cloud by day and fire by night during the Exodus under Moses. But one greater than Moses has come. The glory of God filled the temple completed by King Solomon, but one greater than Solomon has come. So when the first coming of Jesus Christ was announced to the shepherds that night, “The glory of the Lord shone around them” (ref. Luke 2:9).
The glory of God is best seen in the person and work of His Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is glory in His incarnation, as no baby was every born like Jesus. There is glory in His humiliation, for no one ever lived, perfectly, meekly, with lovingkindness, like Jesus. There is glory in His crucifixion, for no one’s death was more undeserved, and no one’s death mitigates more undeserved grace and mercy, than the death of Jesus. There is glory in His resurrection, for no one conquered death and the grave like Jesus. There is glory in His coronation, but we will get to that part in a moment.
When you exercise repentance (vs. 5) and faith (vs. 6-8), you discover the glory of God in the first coming of Jesus Christ. You find grace, you find faithfulness, you find glory, and all you say and do from that moment forward should be for the glory of God, and the glory of God alone.
When you accept Christ as Lord and Savior, instead of trusting only in yourself or some false god, you are surrendering your glory to the glory of God. When you obey Christ by obeying God’s word, instead of doing whatever makes you happy, you are putting the glory of God above your own. When you worship Christ, rather than selfishly spending all of your Sundays for yourself, you are establishing the priority of the glory of God. When you put Christ first among all other people and things in your life, instead of clinging to idols, you are living for the glory of God.
Surrendering to the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to discover the glory of God for yourself. Then, the greatest moment of your life becomes a lifestyle of living for the glory of God. And one day, the glory you live for will be the glory you live in, but only if you are saved.
Listen to Isaiah and Paul again:
Thus says the LORD:
“In a time of favor I have answered you;
in a day of salvation I have helped you.
— Isaiah 49:8
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
— 2 Corinthians 6:2
Now is the time, indeed, for time will soon run out.
The Glory of God in the Second Coming of Christ
My New Testament professor in seminary, Richard Melick, has written a most excellent commentary on Philippians. This key text that we study today is, in his opinion, eschatological. In other words, while showing the first coming of Jesus, its primary focus is on the second coming of Christ.
“Therefore,” in light of what Jesus Christ has done to bring us God’s gospel and God’s glory to bear upon the earth, God the Father has glorified God the Son with the highest place and highest name in heaven and earth (vs. 9). And one day, every person who has ever lived (vs. 10), will see Him and stand before Him in all of His glory (vs. 11).
This means one of two things. Either universal salvation is afoot for all human beings; or, only those who truly confessed and bowed before the Lord Jesus Christ in this life will be able to share in God’s glory in the afterlife.
If universal salvation is true, then God is a liar, and all five pillars of the Great Reformation come crumbling down. If unitarians are right, and most people are practicing unitarians, then the Scriptures are a myth, the gospel is a hoax, and the cross was the greatest waste of time ever perpetrated in human history. But universal salvation is not pictured anywhere in Scripture, and especially not here.
Philippians 2:5-11 is a song of praise to the glory of God in Christ, set against the backdrop of Judgement Day. The bowed knees and confessing tongues are pictured in the past tense. This means that only those who humbled themselves before God in gospel repentance, only those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ with a confessing and living faith, only those whose earthly lives were spent in the pursuit of the glory of God, alone, will live with God forever in glory.
Glorify God now, by giving your life to the one who gave His life for you, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have not, what are you waiting for? Put up the five pillars in your life. Let Holy Scripture, alone, be your truth and guide. Let God’s salvation, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, be your salvation. Then live, now and forever, for the glory of God, and the glory of God alone!