Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
As we find ourselves at the beginning of a new year, it is an excellent time to look back to revisit some foundational truths that will keep us on the proper course as we plot our way forward. I’d like us to briefly look back on the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation was one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the Church. I don’t have the space in this post to give you a detailed historical account, but what I can tell you is that it marked a radical return to the authority of the Scriptures and sound doctrine. The Church had become corrupted by false teaching, idolatry, and the exaltation of the traditions of men over the commandments of God.
The Protestant Reformation was not a rebellious reach forward to capture some new understanding or revelation. It was a humble, courageous return to the foundation of the Christian faith. Out of the Reformation came the five “solas”. One of the five “solas” was Sola Scriptura or Scripture alone.
The Cambridge Declaration of Faith, published by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals affirmed Sola Scriptura in this way:
We affirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.
What is Scripture?
The Scriptures are literally God-breathed, inspired by God Himself and they do not have their origin in human will (2 Tim. 3:14-17). That is why we often call the Bible the Word of God because it proceeded from Him. God moved upon men by His Spirit to speak and to write His word (2 Peter 1:20-21). The Scriptures are God’s revelation of Himself and His redemptive plan for all of creation. God himself is the source of the Bible. He is the source of all truth. God cannot lie or speak falsely because it is not in his nature to do so (Hebrews 6:18).
The Authority of Scripture
Because the Scriptures proceeded from God, they have authority. Wayne Grudem wrote, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way, that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” The Church is not to exercise authority over the Bible; the Bible is the authority that is to govern the Church because it is God’s Word. We are not to exalt our man-made traditions above the authority of the Scriptures or give our traditions equal status to the Scriptures. We are not to ascribe to any human being the same submission and reverence that we are to give God’s word.
The Scriptures are the standard by which we are to measure all things, not our opinions, feelings, or traditions. Every sermon, prophetic word, spiritual experience, sign, wonder, ministry practice, our very lives, and all the business of the Church is to be submitted to the authority of the Scriptures. If we truly honor God, then we will truly honor His Word and we will handle it reverently.
Usefulness of the Scriptures
Paul reminded Timothy that the Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible is not a book of principles designed to bolster self-esteem and set us on the path to health, wealth, and prosperity in this life. The Bible was given to us to reveal the triune God in all his glory, power, truth, and grace. Our greatest aim in life is to be conformed to the image of Christ through the truth of the Word and the power of the Spirit for the glory of God. The terms of the covenant relationship that God has brought us into with himself are set forth in one place and that one place is the Bible. God’s Word provides us with instruction in the truth and it helps us to recognize sin in our lives so that we may repent. It trains us to live in a way that God approves of and is pleased with.
Why Should We Read the Scriptures
We don’t read the Word to earn God’s love and salvation, but we do have to read the Word to learn to walk in His love and salvation. There is no sanctification without the Bible. Jesus said that we are sanctified by the truth and the Word of God is truth. Our thoughts and intentions must submit to the authority of the Scriptures. We are to take in God’s Word and yield to the working of the Holy Spirit who is working to conform us to the image of Jesus. He uses His Word to make us like Him and draw us to Him.
What is your view of the Bible? What authority does God’s Word have in your life?
Are you led more by your own way of doing things and not God’s way? Have you exalted man-made traditions above the truth revealed in God’s Word? Have you been entertaining deception instead of using the Word to pull down strongholds, cast down every argument, and take every deceptive thought captive to the obedience of Christ?
As we resolve to do many things at the dawn of this new year, let us resolve, by God’s grace, to be diligent students of his Word.