THE FIVE PILLARS OF THE GREAT REFORMATION
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 31, 2017
Five hundred years ago, one brave man took on a corrupt giant in a battle of biblical proportions. His weapon was not a stone and a sling, but a pen and some paper. The ninety-five theses Martin Luther nailed on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 sparked a debate that ignited a movement called The Great Reformation. All who worship God according to any Protestant or Reformed tradition can trace the birth of their freedom in Christ to this pivotal moment in history.
The Great Reformation came to rest upon five pillars, each one called a “sola” (Latin for “only” or “alone”):
Sola Scriptura means the Bible alone is the final authority on matters of Christian doctrine and cannot be overruled by Pope or council or creed;
Sola Gratia means grace alone is the basis of salvation, God’s grace apart from any merit in man;
Sola Fide means faith alone is the means by which we receive the grace of God for salvation, a faith conjoined with the matching grace of repentance not aided by any work we offer;
Solus Christus means Christ alone is the source of our salvation, His perfect life and sacrificial death; and,
Soli Deo Gloria means the glory of God alone is our ultimate motive for Christian worship and work.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
— 2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV
John 3:16 means very little unless we embrace 2 Timothy 3:16. Bibliology is chapter one in systematic theology because it is the foundation upon which all the truths about God and man and salvation rest. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God.
The Bible is the Inspired word of God
The original language uses one word, “theopneustos,” which is variously translated “breathed out by God” (ESV), “given by inspiration of God” (KJV), “inspired by God” (NASB), and “God-breathed” (NIV). What this means is that God’s Spirit spoke through select prophets (ref. 2 Peter 1:21) to produce “Scripture” or writings that give authoritative and eternal truths (ref. Isaiah 40:8) about God and God’s will for His people.
What authors and what writings? The 39 books of the Old Testament as preserved by devout Jews and the 27 books of the New Testament as attested to by the Apostles and early church fathers. In their original autographs and preserved in reliable translations, the sixty-six books of the Bible are the inspired word of God for the Christian, the church, and the world.
We do not worship the Bible, we worship the God of the Bible. But, the Bible is the inspired and definitive instruction on how to know, enter into a relationship, worship, and serve God. Psalm 19:9 refers to Scripture as the “fear of the Lord,” a source of authority and reverence that leads to faith, obedience, and love.
When you love someone, you want to hear them speak to you. In the Bible I can hear Moses, David, John, and Paul. I’ve gotten to know them over the years and I love them. But when I read or hear the Bible, I truly hear the voice of God. I get to know Him better at every turn of the pages of Holy Scripture. I love Him more and understand more about how to please Him, how to be used by Him to bless others, how to have joy and peace in my own life. All of this I owe to the Bible, the inspired word of God.
The Bible is the Inerrant word of God
Virtually every confessing Christian affirms the inspiration of Scripture; however, not all of them believe in its inerrancy. In the first full year I served as a pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, a breakaway group called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship organized and adopted the following statement: “The Bible neither claims nor reveals inerrancy as a Christian teaching.”
How can the Bible contain errors if it is “breathed out by God?” If biblical authors wrote “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (ref. 2 Peter 1:21), how did they get off track? I admit there is a difference between speaking prophetically and speaking or writing prophecy. I preach prophetically, based on careful exegesis and interpretation of the text, but my mind is flawed and subject to prejudices that can cause me to make a mistake. The biblical preachers and authors wrote prophecy, the pure and unadulterated word of God, with a special dispensation of the Spirit working within them. God’s special inspiration guarded them from errors; therefore, the Bible is the inerrant word of God.
Inerrancy does not mean that translations will not differ (no language translates seamlessly into another). Inerrancy does not mean that every passage of Scripture has to be taken literally (Jesus is the door, but He is not a piece of wood with a window). Inerrancy does not mean that revelation does not progressively move forward (New Testament worship is different from Old Testament worship, and we have baptism and communion instead of circumcision and animal sacrifice). Inerrancy does not mean that different cultures can’t apply the revelation differently (ref. issues of slavery, polygamy, women leaders, etc.).
Inerrancy means that when God has spoken authoritatively, as He did through the mediation of the men who originally wrote the Bible, God can be trusted absolutely. The Bible is as inspired and inerrant as God Himself, “For you [God]have exalted above all things your name and your word” (ref. Psalm 138:2).
Inerrancy means the Bible is truth and the Bible is true. It’s “teaching” is true, so we should learn what is right in the sight of God and practice it. It’s “reproof [and] correction” is needed, and what God says is wrong should be abhorred and abandoned. It’s “training in righteousness” applies immutable principles to the Christian and the Christian church, and even the world could learn a thing or two about right and wrong if people would just listen to the God of the Bible.
They won’t, of course, and even we followers of Christ struggle. We struggle, but we cannot fail. Because the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God.
The Bible is the Infallible word of God
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (ref. Isaiah 55:10-11).
God cannot fail; therefore, the word of God cannot fail. It is infallible!
In this high and holy verse in 2 Timothy about the nature of Scripture, the Apostle Paul claims that when a child of God grabs a hold on the inspired, inerrant word of God, he or she will “be complete, equipped for every good work.” Here are a few things that cannot fail in your life if you embrace the authoritative truths of the Bible:
You cannot fail to be completely saved (ref. Romans 10:13). You will be justified by faith (ref. Romans 5:1), sanctified by the Spirit and the word (ref. 2 Thessalonians 2:13, John 17:17), and glorified in Heaven with God someday (ref. Romans 8:28-30).
You cannot fail to do good works for God (ref. Ephesians 2:10). You will worship Him in spirit and truth (ref. John 4:24) with an assembled church (ref. Hebrews 10:25). You will witness for Him in word and deed wherever you go (ref. Matthew 28:18-20). You will keep His commandments if you love Him (ref. John 14:15) and find that His commandments are not hard to keep (ref. Exodus 20:1-17, 1 John 5:3).
If the Bible is your bedrock guide for faith and practice, then you will sometimes struggle to understand all of it and apply all of it to your life. You will err in judgment and make mistakes and commit sins. But you will not fail to be loved by God, you will not fail to find forgiveness from Him, you will not fail to in some ways great and small to glorify Him, do good unto others, and have peace within your own soul. If you embrace the teachings of the infallible Bible then you cannot fail!
Martin Luther lived in a world where bad preaching and corrupt practices plagued a church craven for power and money. These misguided and market-driven traditions obscured the word of God and silenced the true gospel. His renewed emphasis on the Bible as the word of God was greatly needed to reform the church in his world.
Welcome to our world! We need The Great Reformation today as much as the church did five hundred years ago. So let us take our stand with Luther. When great trials came because of his devotion to Scripture, he said, “My conscience is held captive by the word of God. Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me!”
May God help us, with Sola Scriptura as our guide!
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
— Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV
Amazing Grace, I like the sound,
That saved a deserving person like me.
I wasn’t lost, didn’t need to be found,
’Twas a little nearsighted, but now I see.
With apologies to John Newton, this is the song of the modern church. Grace is something to say before you eat, not a deep doctrine of Christianity that testifies to the radical nature of sin and the miracle of salvation. Grace is one of many doctrines of the Great Reformation that merits a fresh look.
Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards sinners. Therefore, salvation cannot be earned.
God does not save people because they are good. Salvation comes “... not from yourselves …” (ref. also Romans 3:10ff). God does not save people because they do something good. Salvation comes “... not by works …,” not by any energy spent performing church rituals or civic duty (ref. also Isaiah 64:6). God does not save people because they think good things about themselves. When salvation is real, “... no one can boast …” (ref. Jeremiah 17:9).
God saves people because He is good (ref. Matthew 19:17), because He decided to do something good to save people (ref. Romans 8:3ff), then He decided upon the people He would save (ref. Ephesians 1:4; John 15:16). So if you are one of the people God chose to save, you are saved by grace, and by grace alone. You didn't deserve it, you didn’t earn it, God simply gave salvation to you by grace.
Now be warned that almost no corner of so-called Christianity will deny the need for grace. But there is a sinister counterfeit gospel that is passed through cults and churches that declares that salvation is a combination of grace plus works. It may be grace plus baptism, or grace plus other church rituals, or simply God’s grace plus your own goodness. Like a teaspoon of strychnine in a glass of milk, tampering with the pure doctrine of grace can kill you, eternally. Salvation is by grace, alone.
Grace is God’s unconditional love towards sinners. Therefore, salvation cannot be lost.
"Once saved always saved” is not a good way to put this. This statement has been used by people who make a public confession of faith in Christ, then go out and live like the devil. They want their heavenly cake while they eat the sinful fruits of earth at the same time, and grace doesn’t work that way. “Eternal security” is another cold way to express the depths of God’s grace. It is accurate but not active.
The old way of stating this idea was “the perseverance of the saints.” In other words, if God saved you by grace and made you a saint (literally “sanctified one”), you will remain a saint until you are taken up into Heaven.
This statement is true to the nature of God (ref. Philippians 1:6). This statement is true to the meaning of Scripture. Words in God’s word are important (ref. Romans 10:17). What do you think words like “... never perish ... eternal life” (ref. John 3:16) and "no condemnation” (ref. Romans 8:1) mean? God says what He means and means what He says.
Salvation is not based on what man does, it is base on what God does. And God loves, unconditionally. If there is nothing you did to earn God’s salvation (grace!), there is nothing you can do to lose it (more grace!). But there’s one thing more.
Grace is God’s undeniable change in a Christian’s life. Therefore, salvation cannot be hidden.
I do not believe in salvation by works, but I believe in a salvation that works. When God saves someone by grace, something happens. The recipient of grace is a changed person (ref. 2 Corinthians 5:17).
The heart is changed (ref. Ezekiel 36:26). Love of self and sin are no longer the beats of your heart. Your love is for God and the things of God (ref. Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). And who you love and what you love determine who you spend time with and what you do. The hands are changed. In other words, grace changes the course of your life now devoted “… for good works, which God prepared beforehand …”
I think it is very possible to act like you are saved when you are really lost. The world and the church are both full of hypocrites. But it is rather difficult to act like you are lost when you are really saved. Grace is greater than that. When it explodes in your life, it changes life’s habits and alters life’s course.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
— Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV
The gospel is full of paradox. It comes to us from the Bible, words of man and the word of God. It centers on the person and work of Jesus, a man sent from God and God sent to man. It tells us that to live we must die, but if we die we shall live.
The one thing that puts all these paradoxes together is a great paradox, too. It is this thing called faith. Faith alone saves. Faith is never alone. Faith is a paradox.
Faith that saves is extremely simple and incredibly complex.
The great reformer Martin Luther’s contention was that the Roman church had made faith too complex. The church of five centuries ago had externalized the gospel into an intricate system of sacraments and sacrilegious practices that confused people on earth and kept them out of Heaven (no Bible in the common language, the seven sacraments, exclusive priesthood, purgatory, indulgences, syncretism, etc.). Faith is not supposed to be that complex.
While we would agree with Luther that the medieval church had made faith too complex, our observation today would be that the American church has made faith too simple. We have externalized it in other ways, like walking an aisle, praying a prayer, filling out a card, and joining a church. If you can say you’ve been baptized, that you’re a member of a church, then you can say you have faith. Faith is not supposed to be that simple.
Faith is not external; it is internal. Faith is a matter of the heart that is both simple and complex. Faith is simple, singular trust. Faith is a complete, complex trust. It is like an effective drug that is easy to take, yet once taken spreads completely throughout the entire body. Faith is simply believing in Jesus Christ, but faith is completely believing in Jesus with all of your intellect, emotion, and will.
Faith that saves is absolutely free and exceedingly costly.
The spark that ignited Luther’s fire was the selling of indulgences by the Roman church (much like the “money changers” in Jesus’ day, and so-called “word of faith” preachers of today). Putting salvation, forgiveness, faith up for sale should ignite the passions of all who believe in “Sola Fide,” in salvation by grace alone through faith alone.
The gospel declares often that salvation is free of charge. Yet Jesus Himself preached that the cost is everything a person has in this life. I agree with Luther, but most of all I agree with Jesus. Faith is free, but a profession of faith and possession of faith is indeed “the pearl of great price.” It costs you everything you have.
The cost of faith is really a matter of placement. True faith places everything and everyone else under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Faith makes Christ greater than money or material possessions, and faith makes Christ the greatest person in one’s life, greater than family, friends, and especially one’s own self. No wonder the Scriptures declare faith is “more precious than gold” (ref. 1 Peter 1:7)!
Faith that saves requires no work and demands much work.
Luther championed the verses in Ephesians that show faith that saves, not works. Yet Luther doubted that the verses in James which speak of faith being justified by works. Luther was right, and Luther was wrong.
Faith that saves requires no work (literally man-made energy). Yet faith, without works, is dead. This paradox should be painfully clear. If you exert any energy to try to obtain or cooperate with God in your salvation, then you do not have true faith and you are not truly saved. However, if you claim to have faith, but never exert any energy for the sake of the gospel or the kingdom of God, then you are not saved.
You do not have to be baptized to be saved, but if you are saved you have to honor baptism. You do not have to be a member of a local church to be saved, but if you are saved you have to submit to church membership. You do not have to tithe, witness, or help the poor to be saved, but if you are saved you long to tithe, witness, help the poor. Faith that saves requires no work and declares we are each a “workmanship” for the cause of Christ.
Faith that saves is a sovereign gift from God and the sole responsibility of man.
Where does this wonderful, saving thing called faith come from? It comes from the hand of God, and it springs from the heart of man. Perhaps this is the greatest paradox of all.
No one will be saved unless God gives them faith. This is the truth of this text and others (ref. Ephesians 2:1; 2 Peter 1:1; also Acts 11:18 and 2 Timothy 2:25 on repentance as a gift from God). Dead people cannot do for themselves, they cannot even think for themselves, therefore they cannot save themselves. God has to do it. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the author, finisher, and provider of such saving faith.
On the other hand, no one will be saved unless they freely chose to profess faith to God and confess faith to others. The truth of the Bible is that God invites you to believe, expects you to believe, and will hold you accountable if you do not believe; therefore, you must willingly put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
How do you reconcile the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man? C.H. Spurgeon said on this matter, “I never try to reconcile old friends.” Fictional theologian Forrest Gump said of providence and freedom, “I think both things are happening at the same time.” I prefer the real Spurgeon over the Hollywood Gump, but I understand what both have said. So please, freely choose to follow the Lord Jesus Christ; and, when you do, know that it is grace alone that gave you the faith alone that saves you in Christ alone.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, ESV
“Sola gratia” and “sola fide” preclude salvation by means of merit or good works, yet these pillars need to rest upon another. Grace must have a source and faith must have an object. The source of grace of course is God, from whom all blessings flow. God is the object of faith, too, but particularly the God who has revealed Himself in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Salvation, then, is by grace alone through faith alone “in Christ alone,” our subject for the fourth pillar of The Great Reformation.
We must remember that Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk before God called him to the great work of The Great Reformation. He was a thousand years removed from his mentor, the great saint Augustine. However, Augustine’s writings had helped Luther to develop a laser focus on Scripture, particularly the Pauline doctrines of grace.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic church had hidden such truths about salvation from the masses in order to strengthen their own power and prestige. By medieval times they had twisted the great theologian’s words about the church in order to hold people in superstition and sell them salvation. Luther aimed to set things aright.
As the great Presbyterian patriarch B.B. Warfield summarized, albeit with a broad brush, “The Reformation was a triumph of Augustine’s soteriology over his ecclesiology.” But let’s go back before Luther, before Augustine, to the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and allow Scripture alone to convince us that salvation is absolutely by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Salvation is in Christ Alone
A person cannot be saved by being “in church.” Even though the internal membership and outward activity of the New Testament church is near and dear to the heart of God, many are involved in it who do not have God in their hearts. You can be godly without knowing God, and religiosity does not necessarily equate with a saving relationship with the Lord.
A person cannot be saved outside the church, simply by being “in good standing” in the community. I hope you are free from criminal warrants or overdue debts or any other adversarial relationship with others. However, being right with your fellow man does not necessarily make you right with God. God is higher, holier, and harder to please.
A person can only be saved by being “in Christ,” in Christ alone. Coming to Christ on God’s terms makes one “a new creation.” This requires being “born again” (ref. John 3) through repentance (“the old has passed away … the new has come”) and faith “in Christ,” and in Christ alone. From start to finish, salvation is “all … from God,” by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
When Luther discovered this amazing truth, he wanted to share it with everyone. The same can be said for Augustine. The well they drew from was the Scriptures as originally penned by the Apostle Paul, whose grace-soaked, faith-based, Christ-centered gospel was intended for all audiences.
Those of us who are “in Christ” have a mission given by the commission of God. The reconciled have a “ministry of reconciliation” as “ambassadors” to the whole “world,” beginning right here at home. Only let us make sure when we share the gospel that it is not the good news of what we have done for Christ, but the gospel of what Christ, and Christ alone, has done for us.
2 Corinthians 5:17 is a most excellent verse to explain who we are, “in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 may be the best verse in the Bible to tell us how we got there.
Salvation is in the Cross Alone
The need for “reconciliation” implies estrangement. Before a person is “in Christ,” they are by nature outside of the realm of the grace and mercy of God. This is the place of double trouble that requires a double cure.
The double trouble I am referring to is the presence of sin and the lack of perfection. To be in a saving relationship with the holy and perfect God requires the eradication of sin and the presentation of perfect righteousness. No man can bridge this gap by human effort or will, but how we have tried over the years.
The Apostle Paul contended with the Judaizers, who though a person could be saved by trusting Jesus and strictly keeping all of the Mosaic law. Circumcision was their badge of honor, and what Paul told them is hard to speak in polite company, even though it is printed plainly in the pages of Galatians 5.
Augustine battled the Pelagians who taught that man is not naturally estranged from God, that he is morally neutral and completely free. Man must merely choose to fall rebelliously into sin or climb the ladder to peace with God by his own intuition. Pelagius was branded a heretic by the church of Augustine’s day, and rightly so, yet he has been resurrected in the modern church.
Luther had the weight of the world on his shoulders it seems as he battled a corrupt catholic church that had put salvation up for sale and promised success to any should who could swim through the seas of the seven sacraments. Luther’s sharp sword was Scripture alone. He wielded it expertly and cut down pillars on which to rebuild the true gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Verse 21 tells us how Christ, alone, is salvation.
God solves our double trouble by sending forth His dear Son to provide a double imputation. In the gospel, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin.” That is, God placed the sin debt of every elect person in the history of the whole world and punished Christ for it on the cross, even unto death. In dying, Christ completed a sinlessly perfect life to offer to God on behalf of the same elect, “so that we might become the righteousness of God” in Him, in Christ alone.
Where was any man when Christ was on the cross, save causing His pain and death? What man among us can appear before a holy God, perfect and spotless and sinless on our own? No man can save himself. Only Christ, and Christ alone, is salvation.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness, Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid — Here in the death of Christ I live.
— “In Christ Alone,” Getty & Townend
Salvation is in Christ alone. Christ alone is our salvation. Glory to God.
Soli Deo Gloria
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
— 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1, ESV
The Great Reformation turned the church, and the world, upside down. In the five hundred years since it began, so much has changed. Are we better off, or worse?
Roman Catholics are better because of The Great Reformation. The excommunications and exodus of leaders, members, churches, and entire countries from their control forced them to take stock and curb their corruptions and excesses. Catholics, too, eventually gained Bibles and sermons in their own languages. The light of the gospel became brighter even in the dim corridors of the historic church after the Reformation.
Protestants are better because of The Great Reformation. Luther’s sail launched a thousand ships. Protestant denominations and non-denominational churches proliferate every landscape, with some negative but mostly positive connotations. Our church would not exist except for The Great Reformation, and we love our church.
The world is a better place because of The Great Reformation. The Reformation and Gutenberg’s printing press enhanced biblical and general education for the masses. The Reformation and the Enlightenment gave rise to democracy and the rise of human rights. It was a new birth of freedom, albeit with certain growing pains, unlike the world had ever known.
But what about you? Are you better off because of The Great Reformation? It all depends upon what you have done with the five pillars. Do you accept the Bible alone as the authentic, unequivocal, word of God and the gospel as God’s means of salvation? Have you received the gift of eternal life from God by His grace alone through simple faith alone in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone? If so, what are you doing with you life? To make The Great Reformation make your life better, you must live your life for the glory of God alone, “Soli Deo Gloria!”
Glorify God with your life.
For the Christian, your life is a gift from God, divided into three spheres. You lived an unregenerate, unbelieving life before you were saved. You were born again into the Christian life you now enjoy until you die. Death will simply transform you into greater life, face to face with God, for eternity, and eternity is a long, long time.
The time you have now, before launching out into eternity, is very, very short (ref. James 4:14). It would be foolish, if not impossible, for a Christian to spend their few short years on earth living for fortune or fame, pleasure or personal happiness. Why not glorify God, and God alone, with your life?
Start with the basics, like whatever you “eat and drink” (ref. vs. 31). That’s right, it is God, not the devil, who is in the details. God cares about every area of your life, God has given commandments that touch every area of your life. Therefore, God can be glorified, or not, in every area of your life.
The life that glorifies God is the life that acknowledges God, not just every Sunday of the week, but every second of the day. It means making choices that are in keeping with the word and will of God. It means eating a responsible diet, wearing appropriate clothes, watching what you watch, and going places where God is welcome and honored. It is not a life of legalism but one of love, supreme love for God and His glory.
Sundays do especially matter, however, for the best way to set your clock to the glory of God is to start every week with public worship on Sunday.
Glorify God in your church.
If your personal life is going to glorify God, it must be tied to your corporate life in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, preferably a church built upon the five pillars of The Great Reformation. The Apostle Paul’s prayer should constantly be ours, “To [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (ref. Ephesians 3:20-21).
God is to be glorified in “the church of God” (ref. vs. 32), “the church of God which he obtained with his own blood” (ref. Acts 20:28). The church is not the bricks, furniture, and rituals, the church is the people purchased by the blood of Christ assembled together in local churches. God did not save us merely to enjoy a personal relationship with Him, but to glorify Him in our corporate relationship with the church.
Just as every day of your life should count for the glory of God, so every Lord’s Day of your life should count by gathering with the church to worship and glorify God. Enough of the asinine arguments of feeble or false believers who claim worship can are conducted on the lake or at the golf course or in the hunting woods. Of course it can, if all you care about is yourself. But true, robust worship regulated by the word of God is sabbatarian, corporate, the work of the church, of which every Christian who wants to glorify God must be an integral part.
“Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (ref. Ephesians 5:19) are to be sung together, as a church, for the glory of God. When preachers “preach the word” (ref. 2 Timothy 4:2), they need not do it to empty pews. God is glorified when prayers are offered, Scripture is read, offerings are given, and holy communion is shared. These are things we do together, as a church, and the glory of God is at stake. So let us take this solemn charge seriously and glorify God in the church.
Then, when sabbath celebrations are done, we go out into the world to witness for Christ, for the glory of God.
Glorify God in the world.
God does not beam us up to Heaven the moment we are saved. He leaves us in this present world, for the sake of the people in the world, “that they may be saved” (ref. vs. 33).
God is glorified when people are saved, because He is the One who saves (refer back to the middle pillars!). But God had ordained a means of grace that brings people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is called witnessing, and we Christians glorify God when we witness with our lives and our lips.
Witness with your location, be a good neighbor, which is the second greatest commandment (ref. Matthew 22:39). Witness with your vocation, be a good and honest worker so that your fellow workers “may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (ref. Matthew 5:16). Witness with your recreation, as long as it is not the same hours as your church services. Enjoy your hobbies and glorify God in them, and let others see you do it. Above all, witness with your compassion, show people that you care about them because God cares for you, and perhaps some of them will get to know God, too, if they don’t already. Witness with your compassion, not coercion, because people can tell the difference.
When God’s glory shines from every area of your life, other people are bound to notice. I’ve seen people come to Christ as a pastor, but also as a business man before I entered vocational ministry. I’ve seen them come to Christ on the golf course, at dinner parties, and elsewhere, for as the Jesuit priest Gerard Manly Hopkins wrote, “Christ plays in ten thousand places.”
Glorify God by fully following the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the end of the day, glorifying God can all be summed up in the two monumental words from Jesus Christ in the Gospels: “Follow Me.”
The Apostle Paul followed and urged others onward, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (vs. 1). Augustine followed. Luther followed. So did Calvin, Bunyan, Edwards, Whitefield, and Spurgeon.
Today there are people in the historic Roman Catholic church who are truly following Jesus. Protestants all over the world follow Him, too. I pray that you and I can say we are glorifying God by following Jesus today.
The Great Reformation causes us to give great thanks to God. We thank the Lord for the Bibles we hold in our own hands, for amazing grace, for saving faith, for the Lord Jesus Christ, and the for the glory of God. We thank God, and glorify Him, alone, today and forever. Soli Deo Gloria!
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org