To the Glory of God Alone: The Reason for Everything

This message was given at the Reformation Heritage Celebration on October 31, 2021.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

My assignment for today is To the Glory of God Alone: The Reason for Everything, based on 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  There are several assumptions in this title.  First, is that there is a God.  He is not one of many gods.  We are not given a choice of gods to believe in and follow.  Not all religions are roads to this God.  Nor is he just the god for those who are of European descent, or of any particular race.  He was not an ancient idea that has become irrelevant today.  

He is (always has been, is, and will be) the Divine Maker and Ruler of the cosmos deserving of our worship.  He set everything in place, and is the ultimate decider of what is and what is not.  He is eternal, and sovereign, and has revealed himself to every generation.  He is not distant or removed from this life.  He is deeply personable.  He is radically involved in his Creation.  He is omnipresent.  He is everywhere, yet his Spirit resides within each of his people where they know him.  

And yet while you are interested enough to be here, like the Reformers during the Reformation, I do not assume that everyone in this room knows God.  You may know about him.  You may even go to worship service on Sundays and sing and pray and hear about him.  But in a crowd of this size, we cannot suppose that each person knows God.  My prayer is that you will truly know him.  

My purpose today, is not to prove to you that God exists.  That is the Spirit’s job.  The big push during the Reformation was not proving the reality of God, it was clarifying what kind of God, God is.  Like today, there were differing views of God.  And this is not an endless argument without any sure conclusions.  Having the right thinking about God is possible through illumination given in the Scriptures.  Clear theology is a gift that comes through the Spirit as God’s Word is opened, read, and prayed over.  And right living is taught and guided in this Word.  

Overtime the Roman Catholic Church had moved away from the Scriptures.  They developed their own methods and emphases on man’s relationship with God.  As Darren so clearly shared with us in the last session, the big push of the Reformation was the doctrine of justification.  Calvin said it was “the principle hinge by which [the Christian] religion is supported” (Institutes 3.11.1).  It was the material principle; the center of the battle.  That doctrine assumes there is a God who justifies.  

And so, the summary of the Reformation, the 5 Sola’s, accept the existence of God based on God’s revelation of himself in his Word.  And that is where I begin today.  You must wrestle with the reality of the Supreme Triune God of the Scriptures, the real God, whom each of us are created in the image of.  He is God.  

If you want to challenge his existence, there is plenty of resources to review, there are plenty of folks here who can have the conversation.  For the sake of our time, I begin with the God of the Scriptures being in reality, God.  And it is based solely on what he has revealed of himself in the Bible.  

The other assumption, in my assignment, is that there is a reason for everything.  What that says is that there is an absolute motive, or aim, or cause, for all things in this world.  Nothing is floating off by itself.  Nothing in our world is independent or exists unto itself.  This is completely counter to today’s contemporary thought, where relativism is rampant.  Where anything goes.  You have your purpose, I have mine, and we are told to accept whatever a person says or does, what they do, and how they do it.  Truth has become obscure, or is fluid based on the emotional state of a person.  

The Bible proclaims there is One God who brought into being all things for a single purpose.  Relative truth has no anchors here.  It has nothing to grip on to.  It hooks the air and falls flat.  Absolute truth, the driving force behind all of life, converges at a single, absolute, glorious reality.  The God who exists creates and sustains life for one reason.

These are my assumptions.  They not wishful thinking.  They come directly from Scripture.  Nor do I hold them alone.  Every Christian who’s immersed in the Scriptures and treasures Christ holds to these truths.  The Reformers spoke and wrote much about these truths.  

And this is how the Apostle Paul began his First Letter to the Corinthians.  If you’ll turn with me in your Bibles to 1:1, you’ll see what Paul accepts as truth.  Paul introduces himself in verse 1, and says, “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus…”  In v. 3, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The titles of God, and Father, and Lord, are grounded in the biblical understanding of Creator God revealed in his Word, having universal lordship over all things.  And then in v. 19, of the same chapter, Paul quotes Isaiah, the Scriptures of the time, and what is now part of the OT today, to explain his preaching.  

So, when we get to today’s passage in chapter 10, Paul is assuming the same truths about God’s existence, the absolute authority of the Scriptures, and as we will see, the ultimate reason for this life.  

Before we get into v. 31, context is needed.  Paul was writing to a church that was in a Christless culture.  Very much like ours today.  And he’s telling the church how to live out their faith as devoted Christians.  And this is still very important today.  We face the same vile world.  Sin is praised and piety is castoff.  

In this part of his letter, Paul has just finished addressing eating meat offered to idols.  Back in that day, it was acknowledged and commonplace to dedicate the sustenance that one had to those who provided it.  A common belief was it came from the gods.  These were gods of all sorts.  It was a widely accepted practice of sacrificing meat in pagan temples and then taking it home and eating it in privacy with your family with appreciation that the gods had bestowed favor.  

This sounds like an ancient practice and problem that has no resemblance of what we face today.  But listen to the Reformer, John Calvin, as he writes about this in his commentary:  

“Men become so vain in their imaginations as to render divine honor to creatures, rather than to the one God, this punishment [of provoking the Lord’s jealousy for this in v. 22] is in readiness for them—that they serve Satan… No one can have fellowship at the same time with God and with idols… The Corinthians wished the liberty that they took to be reckoned excusable, as there is not one of us that willingly allows himself to be found fault with, but, on the contrary, we seek one subterfuge after another, under which to shelter ourselves. Now Paul says, and not without reason, that in this way we wage war against God.”  (John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians, Logos)

The Reformers did not see this issue of eating sacrificed foods to idols as an ancient, outdated problem.  Although it happened 1,500 years before.  Attributing gratitude and appreciation to idols was a problem during the Reformation, and it has continued.  It is a human problem.  In Paul’s day, Calvin’s day, and in our day.  We may not dedicate ourselves to carved idols or sacrifice our meals at pagan temples, but we certainly bow down to the idol of Self, and attribute our accomplishments and our treasures to what we have done.  We who are just mere created beings.  This is a problem that must be dealt with, or we will face a judgment of wrath that is to come.  

In another letter, this time to the Romans, Paul calls this worldwide problem of humanity, sin.  In Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Thus, Paul puts on opposing sides, the worldwide problem of the sinfulness of man that includes self-worship on one side and the glory of God on the other.  There are not more divergent and conflicting sides.  The gap between them is an eternal expanse.  The sinfulness of man is refusing to honor God as God and to thank him for who he is and all that he does for us.  

Man is bondage to his sin, he cannot escape it, and in it he loathes God and makes him his enemy.  And the penalty for sin, for falling short of God’s glory, of not attributing to God what he deserves, is eternal death.  Later in Romans, Paul says “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).  How we escape this death became the point of the Reformation.  We cannot work our way into being justified.  It cannot be bought by indulgences, or compensated with religious rituals, made up for with pilgrimages, or families cannot pray for us after we’ve died.  There is no in between state from this world and eternity.  These are what the Roman Catholic Church taught, and what needed to be reformed.  A return to the Scriptures was needed to see what God says, the One who decrees from on high and who descends to this world has determined a way for sinners who idolize themselves to be justified.  

The key to our justification before God, is for him to act on his own goodwill, apart from anything from us, to give grace and raise us from spiritual death.  As Paul puts it in the second part of Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  We are saved apart from the law, apart from works, by God’s grace, through faith that Christ has fulfilled the law, has completed the work, needed to bring about our salvation.  We are justified by God’s grace as a gift, through redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  Addressing this ubiquitous sin with each of us dedicating ourselves to the lifeless things of this world, thus falling short of God’s glory and reaping eternal death, Paul tells the church to trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin.  In that faith we take the attention off our sinful ourselves, off our limited abilities, and all human accomplishments, even if it can be attributed to something important we’ve done, or a freedom we think we have, and we then live, we do it all in Christ, for the glory of God.  

The 2 opposing sides of our sin and God, are now joined, that eternal expanse is now connected, by the cross of Christ.  What was sinful and incapable of being, through the gift of faith, punishment is diverted, and God’s glory can be enjoyed and worshipped.  This is in everything.  That’s why in 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  The sin that we all have, and the recovered understanding from the Reformation that we are justified by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, all happens for the glory of God alone.  

God’s glory is the pinnacle of our salvation.  It is the reason for our faith.  Thus, the Reformers penned Soli Deo Gloria—To the glory of God alone!!!  The other solas advance God’s glory as the highest end for which all of life exists.  

Returning to Romans for a moment, in 15:8-9, Paul wrote, “8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’”  

If you come to faith in Jesus Christ by God’s free will and grace, you are redeemed for the purpose that you glorify God for his mercy in saving you.  To praise him among people you mingle with, to sing his name so all in earshot can hear it.  To honor him with new affections and obedience.  The Scriptures tell us the promise of salvation is confirmed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by the grace of God given through faith in Christ.  This truth is shared with us Gentiles in order that we might glorify God.  This glorifying is central to everything, in all we do!  It is the aim of our salvation.  

Thus, Paul’s word to the Corinthians goes beyond attributing to God, a cursory prayer for provision and meal preparation, it touches whatever you do.  The end, or the goal, of all things is the glory of God.  The motive and cause, that moves you in life, the reason behind all you do, is the glory of God.  We are to be radically focused on God.  To truly grasp this, in the same manner as the Reformers, but beyond that, to bask in this great reality of God, we have to spend time understanding what the glory of God is.  The Psalmist in Psalm 19 is helpful here.  He tells us in v. 1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  Isaiah tells us in 6:3, the whole earth is full of his glory!”  And in 43:7, men and women are created for God’s glory.  The whole earth, everything in it, exists to display God’s glory.  Every flower is a rendition of the divine artist who paints with such beauty.  Every mountain is his.  Every animal is brought about by his hand.  Governments, those in authority who govern rightly are meant to be little echoes of God’s divine authority and rule.  Every aspect of life, from Creation, to Redemption, every act of history, to your next breath, is shouting out the glory of God.  

To better comprehend this, think of a person that you admire.  They have some kind of skill, a talent that is better than most.  They’re someone you want your kids to look up to.  Maybe when you were younger you tried to be like them.  Whatever that talent or skill may be, in every person, their strongest characteristic is also their biggest flaw.  It is an Achilles heel.  A person who has great speaking ability, at times will say the wrong things at the worst time.  Their words are not always the best.  A person with a strong personality can intimidate people.  The nicest people can be railroaded and be taken advantage of, thus their kindness is seen as a weakness.  It doesn’t matter what the talent or skill is, no one’s abilities or strengths are complete.  What seems to be their best is imperfect and falls vastly short.  

But when God is considered, and we think of his attributes, he is proven to be perfect.  We have a hard time conceptualizing perfection.  Because nothing of this world is perfect.  Think of God’s goodness.  God is perfectly good.  We do not say that God has good in him.  Nor do we say that God can do good.  He is the only One who is good.  God defines what is good.  Goodness has value and worth because it is of God.  

God reveals his glorious perfection in yet a greater way.  Most notably as we are helpless and dead in our trespasses, God saves us in Christ.  The greatest display of God’s glory is in fact in Christ.  He is as the Hebrew writer tells us, the radiance of God’s glory (Heb 1:3).  He is the sparkle of the divine.  The brilliance of the eternal treasure.  The shocking way God gets us to see his glory, is counter to human wisdom.  It is in the humiliation of the radiance.  His Son hung on the cross.  The great Reformer, Martin Luther, put it this way, “It is not sufficient for anyone, and it does him no good to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross.”  The gospel message of Christ going to the cross for sinners, to save them deprives men of all glory, wisdom, and righteousness, and gives all honor and glory to God alone.  He does the impossible, the most glorious act, through the humiliation of the cross.  

So, God’s glory is the display of the very essence and nature of God.  His infinite perfections, his beauty and grace, his unfathomable love, and divine essence are seen in the climatic work of reconciling sinners to himself through the way of Christ on the cross. Christ revealed God’s glory to a world that is intoxicated with its own praise and honor.  His’s life, death, and resurrection, is a living, ongoing, example of glory to God.  This is why Paul will say in 11:1, follow Christ’s example, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”  We live to the glory of God, b/c our Savior does; for his name, not ours.  

Notice in 1 Corinthians, Paul says to do “all to the glory of God.”  It does not read; offer glory to God, as if God needs more.  We do not add to God’s glory.  God is not lacking in glory and in need of us to give him some.  What we do is, taking in and embracing God’s divine excellence and perfections and grace given in Christ, and reverencing him accordingly, we make known our high esteem of him.  

As Christians, we have one goal and one purpose and one reason and one incentive in mind, and that is to glorify God Himself.  Our lives are vessels to display his glory.  Our faith is to demonstrate his glory.  Our churches are set apart for his glory.  Our acts of love and kindness are to his glory.  We share the good news of Christ, so his glory is worshipped by others.  We grow, we mature, we become more Christ-like, and our faith will become sight one day, to the glory of God.  Everything is for his glory.  

For the rest of our time in this session, I want to dive in now into Paul’s wording in verse 31.  I want to offer four points for us to mark and remember as we live out our new lives redeemed in Christ as understood and recovered in the Reformation.  

#1. To esteem God, to glorify him, Be satisfied in your daily life in Christ.  Like we’re satisfied when we eat.  Paul says, “whether you eat.”  The act of eating is a practical function of the body to sustain activity throughout the day.  Without eating the body becomes lethargic and shuts down.  If you’re not satisfied in Christ, your faith will dwindle.  Eating in your daily walk with Christ is feasting on the gift of faith.  It is said we do not live to eat, but eat to live.  We glorify God by depending on and being filled with our faith in Christ, eating his truth and thus being sustained.  

We consume his teachings and his love for our spiritual and emotional strength.  We are filled with his promises and trust his provision, knowing that all of God’s “yes” is fulfilled in Christ.  We say “Amen” to the glory of God.  We walk in and out of circumstances glorifying God through the act of faith.  On good days and bad days, short days and long days, we thank God for his grace, that we have Christ to hold on to, and we go to bed satisfied that our faith has been sustained.  

#2. To glorify God, Worship him in the splendor of his majestic nature.  Again, Paul says, “whether you eat or drink.”  To drink is to quench a thirst.  Christians are hydrated, we are refreshed and renewed in worship to God.  When we drink, the fluid is used in every part of our bodies.  So, it is in our worship.  It is not an outward act done only on Sunday’s, but an inward daily act that involves our whole being.  

The root word used v.31 for glory is δοξα [doxa], from which we get doxology.  It’s praise to God, giving worship to him.  Taking in his radiant splendor, we are enthralled with him, we exalt him, and like a drink of water Christ lubricates our soul.  

He is essential to our health and spiritual well-being.  He flushes away all our impurities.  He removes our iniquities, and revives our hearts.  Christ prevents damage to our eternal state, in our worship he meets us and keeps us healthy and vibrant in our fellowship with him.  This is why Christ said, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Mt. 5:6).  We hunger for Christ and thirst for his righteousness, and in daily worship, in our turning to him in our thoughts and prayers and dedicating our acts to him, he is glorified by him being the One who strengthens us and keeps us on the path to eternity with him.  

#3. So, whether we eat or we drink, we do to the glory of God.  #3, Paul adds to our daily satisfaction and worship of Christ, he says, “whatever you do.”  You can say that ‘whatever’ simply means, Life Lived.  Your life, in Christ, lived.  

Our walk with Christ, and our worship of him, are not separate acts from the life we live.  They define our life lived in Christ.  No matter where you are or what you do, what your occupation is.  At work with coworkers and a boss.  At school.  At home dealing with your kids.  Training them.  Correcting them.  Loving them.  Acts of kindness to our neighbor.  Serving at church.  In the pew, the pulpit.  It’s all done to the glory of God.  

Whatever you do, whatever you are involved in, whatever you set out to achieve, whatever is in your family plans, whatever your wife or husband or children do—to you or for you, is all life lived to the glory of God.  Every thought, every desire, every effort, every act, every response, every decision becomes sacred to the glory of God.  None of us do this perfectly, that is why we repent daily, our life is lived in repentance to the glory of God.  And in our confession God sees the glory of Christ, doing this on our behalf.  

#4. Number 4 is really a summary of the previous three.  If there is any doubt as to what part of your life in Christ is lived to the glory of God, Paul says, “all.”  We do it all to the glory of God.  Nothing is left out.  Nothing is set aside or unaffected.  Nothing is independent of him.  We are creatures for his glory, who are redeemed by glory and for his glory, so we will glorify him forever.  

That is why the divines who wrote the Westminster Larger and Smaller Catechisms, and later the Baptist Catechism, both products of the Protestant Reformation, wrote in their question and answer: What is the chief and highest end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever!  

And thus, we end in affirmation with all the Reformers and with the saints who have come before us, in unison with the Psalmist, who says, “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Ps 115:1).  Amen.