Daily Devotional

Soli Deo Gloria

1 Corinthians 10:31 - “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

If you ever have the misfortune to receive an email from me, you’ll notice a few strange words below my email signature. They read Soli Deo Gloria, a phrase in Latin. What is the significance of this phrase (besides telling you I’m a total nerd for including Latin in a perfectly good email)? For me, Soli Deo Gloria has biblical, historical, and personal significance.

First off, Soli Deo Gloria translates to “to the glory of God alone.” The phrase has roots in multiple biblical passages, such as 1 Corinthians 10:31 (above). Here, Paul instructs believers to do everything, even eating and drinking, in such a way as to bring God glory. To use Paul’s example, when we eat food, we take what God has made to nourish us and please our senses and use it for these purposes; By fulfilling God’s wise and loving design, we give Him glory: doubly so if we verbally praise Him for this blessing while we eat. When we praise the Lord in song, when we love our neighbor, when we enjoy the beauty of nature, when we experience joy, we are glorifying God. Soli Deo Gloria is the Christian’s M.O. (modus operandi, another Latin phrase!), the reason why we do all that we do.

Another passage with this idea is 1 Timothy 1:17, “to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” This is where the soli (“alone/only”) part of Soli Deo Gloria comes into play: all glory and honor and praise, in every square inch of the universe, belongs ultimately to God, who made all things to reveal His glory. The glory of God not only motivates the Christian, but is the true purpose of everyone, of everything, of existence itself. Soli Deo Gloria is the rhythm of the cosmos.

But this phrase also has historical significance. Traditionally, it is the fifth of the “Five Solas” that define Protestant theology, alongside sola Scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratia, and sola fide. The Protestant Reformation defended the idea, encapsulated in these phrases, that salvation is in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone, as revealed in Scripture alone. Soli Deo Gloria also pops up in history in the music of German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, one of my personal heroes. Bach penned a small “S.D.G.” at the bottom of many of his compositions, standing for Soli Deo Gloria. For Bach, it was a reminder that his beautiful work was created to honor God, not himself.

Inspired by the example of Bach, I began using the phrase Soli Deo Gloria in a similar manner in early high school, attaching it to the end of term papers and eventually to emails. But my personal history with this phrase started in infancy, in a way. You see, my mother, while caring for myself and my four younger siblings as babies, prayerfully chose a hymn for each of us. She sang these hymns to each baby often, in hopes that the words would come to characterize our lives. My hymn was To God Be the Glory. When I realized this connection to Soli Deo Gloria, long after I started using the phrase, I was dumbfounded. Clearly God’s hand was at work here.

These three Latin words, Soli Deo Gloria, have become very dear to me. They provide everyone I email with a subtle reminder of my Christian faith. They help me to stay humble, acknowledging that God gets the credit for anything he accomplishes in my life. But most importantly, they are a reminder of my purpose and a challenge to live accordingly. I think I’ll even put them on my tombstone. Soli Deo Gloria is my life motto. What’s yours?
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English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
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