Grace’s Sunday bulletin insert always displays the Holy Liturgy that will be followed and other various notes regarding the Divine Service. Recently, at the bottom of that insert, some of you may have noticed that it now concludes with these words in the center of the page, “Soli Deo Gloria!”
These words are Latin for “To God alone be the glory!” It is very important that we carry this understanding and confess it not only in our churchly life but in our vocations in the world as well. Why, you might ask, should we do this? Not because it seems nice to do and we think it is proper, but, as with everything, it’s because the Word of God reveals this to us!
Over the next couple of Grace Notesarticles I will deliver some catechesis (teaching) regarding why we should confess to the truth of this Latin saying. I will make known how God gets the glory in (1) the Divine Service; (2) prayer life; and (3) good works. I begin this month by looking at the Divine Service.
Many have the misunderstanding that worship is what WE offer to God (or how WE can serve Him).
God-pleasing worship, however, is not determined by YOUR religious feelings or ideas. Rather, it is determined by what God has revealed and does through His powerful Word.
A popular verse of Holy Scripture that applies to all 3 areas that we will look at regarding the topic of God getting all the glory is Philippians 2:13, it proclaims:
“...for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (NKJV)
This applies to worship! God is the One who calls and gathers you by the Gospel - just as we believe, teach, and confess in the explanation to the third Article of the Creed:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.
Why does God call, gather, and enlighten? To SERVE us, and thus, KEEP us sanctified and IN the one true faith! But what could we be served with that would KEEP us sanctified and IN the one true faith? Matthew 20:28 & Mark 10:45 have Jesus proclaiming,
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (NKJV)
Just like a typical catechesis question, the answer is Jesus. He, and the forgiveness of sins that He has earned for us, ARE delivered through the Word and Sacraments. That is why Lutherans prefer to call the chief service of Word and Sacrament the ‘Divine’ Service. It’s divine indeed because it’s God’s service to us.
Worship is not about being busy ‘serving.’ Worship is about receiving from God what HE has to serve! The temptation to emphasize OUR giving in worship over receiving is not new. After repeatedly, and thoroughly, examining God’s Word, the early Lutherans stated publicly and unashamedly in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession:
“The greatest possible comfort comes from the doctrine that the highest worship in the Gospel is receiving forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness” (Apology, IV:310)
The greatest possible comfort is indeed received for it’s ALL about what Christ has finished for us in His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return. HIS continual serving us with forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. This IS served to us in God’s Word and Sacraments. ALL God’s doing!
Therefore, Soli Deo Gloria! To God alone be the glory - for HIS service to us!
With you IN Christ!