Worship to the Glory of God Alone

Scott Aniol

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All five Solas of the Reformation find their fullest expression in the public worship of God’s people. We can see this in just two verses in Hebrews 12:

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

In previous articles, we have seen how Scripture alone, grace alone, Christ alone, and faith alone are all embedded in the biblical idea of acceptable worship.

Finally, acceptable worship is worship that brings glory to God alone. There are two ways in Hebrews 12:28–29 in which the public worship of God’s people is the fullest expression of this Sola as well as the others.

First, once again, the word “acceptable” highlight the fact that worship is for God’s glory alone. The word translated “acceptable” comes from a root that means, “to please”—we saw the same term in chapter 11—without faith it is impossible to please God. We are to offer worship to God that pleases him.

It’s his worship after all. It’s for his glory alone. God created all things for his glory alone. Before the foundation of the world he chose a people for his glory alone. He sent his Son to redeem that people for his glory alone. And he calls his people to worship him acceptably for his glory alone.

Worship is not for our glory; worship it not ultimately to please ourselves. Worship is meant to please God alone.

‌Worship is not for our glory; worship it not ultimately to please ourselves. Worship is meant to please God alone.

But second, worship is acceptable only when it is offered in a particular manner that brings God glory alone. Often Christians assume that as long as we worship the right God and we do so by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, then the manner of our worship does not matter. All he cares about is the sincerity of our hearts. We may worship in whatever manner pleases us. Whatever manner makes us feel close to God.

But on the contrary, what does verse 28 say? “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”

There is a standard for the manner of our worship, and that standard is not us. The standard is not what makes us feel near to God. The standard is not determined by the culture around us, or what is familiar and comfortable to us.

According to the standard of God’s authoritative Word, there is a manner of worship that brings God glory alone, and it is worship in reverence and awe. This involves more than just the object of our worship, more than just the means by which we offer God worship, more than just the sincerity of our hearts. To offer God worship in reverence and awe encompasses everything about the manner in which we draw near to God.

‌According to the standard of God’s authoritative Word, there is a manner of worship that brings God glory alone, and it is worship in reverence and awe.

We draw near to God, not presumptuously, not as if we are the ones initiating worship, not inviting God to come down and join us, not concerned with pleasing ourselves, not concerned with making worship “feel” exciting.

No, we come with humility and meekness, recognizing that we do not deserve to be in God’s presence; we come only at his command and through the means that he has provided to give him the glory he deserves and to renew our gospel covenant with him.

Calvin noted, “All men have a vague general veneration of God, but very few really reverence him; and wherever there is a great ostentation in ceremonies, sincerity of heart is rare indeed.” In other words, the more complex and showy our worship is, the less reverent it is. Calvin said specifically of this text in Hebrews, “Although readiness and joy are demanded in our service, at the same time no worship is pleasing to him that is not allied to humility and due reverence.”

We ought to comport ourselves in corporate worship in a way that manifests reverence and awe. The way we dress for worship ought to manifest reverence and awe. The way that we read Scripture publicly, and pray, and preach ought to be performed in a manner that exhibits reverence and awe.

‌We ought to comport ourselves in corporate worship in a way that manifests reverence and awe.

And our singing ought to embody reverence and awe. The acceptability of our worship music involves more than just the doctrinal accuracy of the lyrics, though our lyrics must be regulated by Scripture. But the music itself must embody reverence and awe. This ought to influence what kinds of songs we choose to sing, the way we sing, what instruments we use, how we play those instruments.

This was a significant emphasis of the Reformation. Martin Luther warned against “profane music, which is unspiritual, frivolous, proud, and irreverent,” and instead said we should sing music that is “sacred, glowing with love, humble, and dignified.” Calvin, too, insisted that music should have weight and majesty rather than being light or frivolous. He said, “there is a great difference between music which one makes to entertain men at tables and in their houses, and the psalms which are sung in the church in the presence of God and his angels.”

How we pray, how we preach, how we conduct ourselves, how we dress, and how we sing—the manner of our worship—is not culturally neutral or mere preference. No, there is a manner of worship that pleases our flesh, and there is a manner of worship that gives glory to God alone.

In fact, everything preceding this flows to this final end—the glory of God alone!

Only worship that is regulated by the Word of God alone—Sola Scriptura—will bring glory to God alone.

Only worship that is a grateful response to the undeserved gift of an unshakable kingdom—Sola Gratia—will bring glory to God alone.

Only worship in which we draw near through the blood and high priestly ministry of Christ alone—Solus Christus—will bring glory to God alone.

Only worship in which we draw near to the heavenly sanctuary by faith alone—Sola Fide—will bring glory to God alone.

And only worship in which our manner exhibits reverence and awe—Soli Deo Gloria—will bring glory to God alone.

So many Evangelicals today say they believe in Sola Scriptura, but their worship betrays their enslavement to the authority of culture and self.

They say that they believe in justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but their worship betrays a works righteousness in which somehow what we do ushers us into God’s presence.

They say they believe in the glory of God alone, but their worship betrays the glory of self.

Oh how we need a fresh Reformation of worship today, worship that embodies the great Solas of the Reformation, worship that is deeply rooted in the authority of Scripture, worship that renews us in the gospel of Jesus Christ, worship that truly pleases God.

Oh how we need a fresh Reformation of worship today, worship that embodies the great Solas of the Reformation.

Churches might say that they are striving to be biblical and gospel-centered; churches might even say that they are Reformed. But churches will not long maintain allegiance to the sufficiency of Scripture and the primacy of the gospel if their worship is not Reformed according to Scripture.

But if we do not refuse him who is speaking, offering to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, then God is duly glorified, and nothing, nothing is better for our own souls.

When we draw near to God in obedience to his demands, by grace, through faith, in Christ, for his glory, then we have come to Mount Zion and to the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We will join our hearts and voices with the angels and saints who forever surround the throne, upon which Jesus the mediator of a new covenant sits, we are joining with those who are forever singing Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!

That is what we have come to when we draw near to worship God acceptably in reverence and awe.

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Scott Aniol

Executive Vice President and Editor-in-Chief G3 Ministries

Scott Aniol, PhD, is Executive Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of G3 Ministries. In addition to his role with G3, Scott is Professor of Pastoral Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary in Conway, Arkansas. He lectures around the world in churches, conferences, colleges, and seminaries, and he has authored several books and dozens of articles. You can find more, including publications and speaking itinerary, at www.scottaniol.com. Scott and his wife, Becky, have four children: Caleb, Kate, Christopher, and Caroline. You can listen to his podcast here.