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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

Glory to God Alone

As we have seen over the past few weeks, Scripture alone reveals that our redemption was accomplished by the work of Christ alone, and is received by grace through faith alone. In short, God gets all the credit for our salvation from start to finish. As Paul says in Rom 11:35-36, “Who has given him a gift that he might be repaid? For of him and through him and to him are all things, to whom be the glory forever.” On this program, the hosts conclude their discussion of the solas of the Reformation by taking a look at the famous slogan: Soli Deo Gloria, “to God alone be glory.”


“‘Declare his glory among the nations,’ Psalm 96:3.  That’s ultimately what the great commission is all about, right? Give ascribed glory to God. Go into all the world, declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.

“So, if you believe that salvation is of the Lord, if you believe in all of this that we’ve been talking about, you believe that salvation is by grace alone because of Christ alone, received through faith alone, then you’re going to declare the glory of God among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. You’re not going to say, you know what, I think that people are really going to respect the church if we dig wells in Africa or if we build a community center or if we have a center for unwed mothers and so forth. Fine, have all sorts of centers you’re talking about. But you’re talking about the wrong motive. ‘Ascribe glory to God among the nations.’ Point to what he has done, his marvelous works–that’s going to be the rationale for the church’s mission.”

Michael Horton


“God’s Alien Work vs. God’s Proper Work”

Martin Luther, and subsequent Protestant theologians, made this distinction between God’s ‘proper’ work of grace and God’s ‘alien’ work of judgment. According to revelation, we know that God is wise and good. His judgment against his people is something he can use for their benefit: ‘But when our flesh is so evil that it cannot be saved by God’s proper work, it is necessary for it to be saved by His alien work’–that is, God must destroy our ungodliness in order that we might be saved (Luther’s Works, vol. 16, pp. 233-234). This distinction, related to that between law and gospel, is a recurring theme in Luther’s theology. He references a text from Isaiah to demonstrate these distinctions. ‘For the Lord will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed–strange is his deed! And to work his work–alien is his work!’ (Isaiah 28:21)

Luther writes of this passage in The Heidelberg Disputation: “Isa. 28:21 calls [this the] ‘alien work of God’ that he may do his work (that is, he humbles us thoroughly, making us despair, so that he may exalt us in his mercy, giving us hope).” “Thus, God conceals his eternal mercy and loving-kindness beneath eternal wrath, his righteousness beneath unrighteousness.” God’s nature is life-giving, fully revealed and expressed in the gospel. His wrath, while very real, is a function of his holiness after the fall and is alien to his nature, though something he uses to bring us to himself. Many people, thus, wrongly conceive of God as intrinsically wrathful. Yet, we know from the revelation of his son, that properly “God is love.”

(Adapted from Luther’s Works, 16:233–34; 18:633)

More from this Series: The Solas of the Reformation

  1. Scripture Alone Listen Now ›
  2. Christ Alone Listen Now ›
  3. Grace Alone Listen Now ›
  4. Justification by Faith Alone Listen Now ›
  5. Glory to God Alone Listen Now ›
  6. The Radical Reformation Listen Now ›