Soli Deo Gloria
Discussion Questions for September 8, 2013
Sermon: Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)
by: Bob Korljan
Series: The 5 Solas
This last study is a bit different than the others. It is designed to help you "put it all together". First, take turns as a group reading this excerpt from JI Packer's 'Growing in Christ'. The group leader can use their discretion to temporarily stop along the way to discuss specific sentences. Then, once the reading is done, open it up to share any notes people made from the excerpt and draw out important highlights. This whole time will be used best if the group leader does their best to keep the discussion practical, working towards the real-life application of the doctrine of Sola Deo Gloria in the Christian's life. There are a few pointer questions at the end if your group gets "stuck" but don't use them if you don't need them.
*The reading excerpt begins below
“Growing in Christ” by J.I. Packer
Glory Be To God
In the Lord’s Prayer, what does “hallowed be thy name” ask for? God’s “name” in the Bible regularly means the person he has revealed himself to be. “Hallowed” means known, acknowledged, and honored as holy. “Holy” is the Bible word for all that makes God different from us, in particular his awesome power and purity. This petition, then, asks that the praise and honor of the God of the Bible, and of him only, should be the issue of everything.
The idea that “glory be to God alone” is a motto that says that the praise of God, as distinct from the promoting of ourselves, is the proper purpose of man’s life. “Not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name give glory” (Psalm 115:1).
A Sense of Direction
Who can pray this request and mean it? Only he who looks at the whole of life from this point of view. Such a man will not fall into the trap of super-spirituality, so concentrating on God’s redemption as to disregard his creation; people like that, however devoted and well-meaning, are unearthly in more senses than one, and injure their own humanity. Instead, he will see everything as stemming ultimately from the Creator’s hand, and therefore as fundamentally good and fascinating, whatever man may have made of it (beauty, sex, nature, children, arts, crafts, food, games, no less than theology and church things). Then in thankfulness and joy he will so live as to help others see life’s values, and praise God for them, as he does. Supremely in this drab age, hallowing God’s name starts here, with an attitude of gratitude for the goodness of the creation.
But it does not stop here. Hallowing God’s name requires praise for the goodness and greatness of his redemptive work too, with its dazzling blend of wisdom, love, justice, power, and faithfulness. By wisdom God found a way to justify the unjust justly; in love he gave his Son to bear death’s agony for us; in justice he made the Son, as our substitute, suffer the sentence that our disobedience deserved; with power he unites us to Christ risen, renews our hearts, frees us from sin’s bondage, and moves us to repent and believe; and in faithfulness he keeps us from falling, as he promised to do (see John 10:28; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:3–9), till he brings us triumphantly to our final glory. We do not save ourselves! Neither the Father’s saving grace, nor the Son’s saving work, nor our own saving faith originate with us; all is God’s gift. Salvation, first to last, is of the Lord, and the hallowing of God’s name requires us to acknowledge this, and to praise and adore him for the whole of it.
Nor is this all. God’s name is only fully hallowed when he is worshiped for ordering all things for his people’s ultimate good (Romans 8:28), and also for the truth and trustworthiness of his written Word, which every believer should prize as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “Thou hast exalted thy word above all thy name,” says the Psalmist (138:2), and so responsively must we. God’s name—meaning, God himself—is dishonored if his children live in fear, as if their Father had lost control of his world, or in uncertainty, as if they dare not follow their Elder Brother’s example and receive the teaching and promises of the Bible as instruction from the Father himself. There is, unhappily, widespread failure today to hallow God’s name in these ways.
The hallowing throughout is by gratitude; what dishonors God is non-appreciation and lack of gratitude, which Paul pinpoints as the root cause of men’s falling away from God (Romans 1:20). It is by being, not merely knowledgeable, but grateful, and by expressing gratitude in thankful obedience, that we honor and glorify our Maker. “Hallowed be thy name” expresses the desire that we ourselves and all rational beings with us should give God glory in this way.
Scripture calls the spirit which hallows God’s name the “fear” of the Lord, hereby signifying awe and esteem for God’s majesty on the one hand and humble trust (yes, trust, not mistrust or scaredness!) on the other. A classic text here is Psalm 111. “Praise the Lord … Great are the works of the Lord … full of honor and majesty … faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy … he has commanded his covenant for ever. Holy and terrible is his name!” And then, “The fear of the Lord [the response of praise for God’s works and words, which the psalm has been voicing] is the beginning of wisdom” (discernment of the way to live).
The old term of respect, “God-fearing” (rarely used today, perhaps, because there are few to whom it would apply), normally carried the implication of good sense and mature humanity as well as that of godliness, and thus reflected our fathers’ awareness that the two go together; true reverence for God’s name leads to true wisdom, realistic and shrewd, and when Christians appear goofy and shallow one has to ask whether they have yet learned what the hallowing of God’s name means.
Man’s Chief End
“Man’s chief end,” says the Shorter Catechism, magnificently, “is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” End, note, not ends; for the two activities are one. God’s chief end, purposed in all that he does, is his glory (and what higher end could he have?), and he has so made us that we find our own deepest fulfillment and highest joy in hallowing his name by praise, submission, and service. God is no sadist, and the principle of our creation is that, believe it or not (and or course many don’t, just as Satan doesn’t), our duty, interest and delight completely coincide.
Christians get so hung up with the pagan idea (very dishonoring to God, incidentally) that God’s will is always unpleasant, so that one is rather a martyr to be doing it, that they hardly at first notice how their experience verifies the truth that in Christian living duty and delight go together. But they do!—and it will be even clearer in the life to come. To give oneself to hallowing God’s name as one’s life-task means that living, though never a joy ride, will become increasingly a joy road. Can you believe that? Try it, and you will see.
Questions for Thought and Discussion
• How does this phrase (“hallowed be thy name”) in the Lord’s Prayer differ from prayers we would form if left to ourselves?
• In your own words, what does it mean to hallow God’s name?
• How does the belief that all comes ultimately from God affect one’s outlook on life?
For Further Bible Study
Discuss the ways in which God is glorified in Psalm 148 and 149.