Today churches across the globe are celebrating Reformation Sunday. We gladly join that celebration. Though there were precursors a century before like John Wycliffe and Jon Huss, the formal beginning of the Protestant Reformation is typically recognized as All Saints Day (October 31) 1517 when Martin Luther, a young Augustinian monk, nailed a list of 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. It was a public challenge to the Church concerning its practices of indulgences and understanding of repentance.
The Five Solas of the Reformation were not composed by any of the first generation Reformers. Rather, they were composed by a later generation of theologians who sought to sum up the key Protestant distinctives which drove the Reformation project. Sola Scriptura addresses the chasm between Rome and Protestants regarding the issue of authority. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Solus Christus address the chasm between Rome and Protestants over the doctrine of salvation. These are obviously first order issues which must not be compromised for any reason.
Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone) addresses such issues as church government and worship. Key to Protestantism was not the reformation of the doctrines of authority and salvation only. The Reformers were equally committed to the biblical reformation of the government of the church and the practice of worship. In these matters they rightly saw that what was at stake was the glory of God. So long as the head of the church was understood to be a man in Rome rather than Jesus Christ, the glory of God was diminished. So long as the church’s worship was corrupted by unbiblical practices the glory of God was defaced.
Beyond church government and worship, Soli Deo Gloria may also be understood as the glue which holds the five Reformation Solas together. Throughout the Scriptures we see that God saves His people from their sins for a number of different reasons but none so great as for His own glory. God saves His people from the guilt and penalty of sin for “the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:12, 14). So we may rightly say that in Scripture Alone is revealed a salvation which is by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ Alone, for the Glory of God Alone.