Sola Scriptura: Scripture Alone
2 Timothy 3:12-4:5
17th Sunday after Pentecost–October 1, 2017 (am)
Definitions and Introduction
The Bible alone is the final and ultimate and normative authority for the faith and practice of all Christians. And as a Protestant, you are protesting in favor of Sola Scriptura.
A branch of Christianity which originated with the Reformation as a movement against the errors and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). The term Protestant is derived from the letter of protestation written by German Lutheran princes in 1529 against an edict of the RCC which condemned the teachings of Martin Luther as heretical, and also denied toleration to Lutherans.
The Protestant movement began in Germany in 1517 when Martin Luther published his Ninety-five Theses as a reaction against errors and abuses of the RCC, particularly in the sale of indulgences. The RCC teaches that before you can enter into heaven, you would spend time in a place of torment called purgatory, where you would be completely purged from the guilt of your sin (death of Christ as insufficient!). An indulgence means that you could purchase with money your early release from that punishment in purgatory. Or you could pay for someone else to be released early from purgatory.
“A member of a Christian church whose faith and practice are founded on the principles of the Reformation, especially in the acceptance of the Bible as the sole source of revelation, in justification by faith alone, and in the universal priesthood of all the believers. A Christian church adhering to the theologies of Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli” (The Free Dictionary 2017).
Martin Luther and others had witnessed first-hand these errors and abuses of the RCC, and they led a protest against those false teachings and practices. Now one of the primary issues of the Reformation was regarding authority. Who has the final and ultimate authority to determine the correct beliefs and practices of the Church? Who has the power and authority to confer salvation to a lost soul?
What is Authority?
The right to define our belief system and the power to enforce our conduct (Matt 29:18-20). God has given to Man the gospel concerning His Son, to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations (Rom 1:1-5), God will judge all mankind according to the requirements of His gospel (Rom 2:6-11).
How does God have this authority? Q2 è “God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in His power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice and truth. Nothing happens except through Him and by His will.” This is God’s universe – He created it and He owns it. Therefore, He has all authority over whatever does, does not, or should happen.
Revelation, Religion, and Relevancy
How do we know what is truth, what we are to believe, and how we are to live? Well, God has revealed to mankind the truth about Himself and His will. True religion is a revealed religion. Christianity is a revealed religion. God has taken the initiative, and He has revealed Himself and His will to us. God has revealed Himself to Mankind in creation, in miracles, in the Holy Scriptures, and in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14).
Now, what about for peoples living on Earth after the historic times of Jesus and His apostles, what is the primary means by which you may know God and His will? Where do you find the authority to determine: (1) what you are to believe, and (2) how you are to conduct your life?
This was a huge issue in the Middle Ages – and there were competing convictions – some believed that the Scriptures were the final and ultimate authority for God’s people, while most others thought that the Roman pope and RCC councils had an authority at least equal to that of the Bible. Wonder of wonders, right? The party in power thought the Bible was not clear enough on some issues, so that they could then determine the truth and conduct for God’s Church – it’s the same situation as what the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes did in Jesus’ day, claiming authority for their man-made rules, which led to doctrinal errors and abuses of power that are recorded in the NT (Matt 15:1-9). Cui bono – follow the money.
But regarding what actually is the final and normative authority for the Church; we know what the answer is è the Holy Scriptures. The Bible records God’s creation of the world, it records many of the miracles that He performed, -- and it is a record of the life, the teachings, and the ministry of God the Son, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we are Protestants because we are protesting against the errors and abuses of Roman Catholicism. And one of the primary reasons that we are Protestants is that we believe that the Bible alone is the final and normative authority for God’s people (Sola Scriptura). And we should all keep in mind the courage and bravery of those early Protestants. During the Middle Ages, the authority of the RCC and the pope was held as paramount, and the people feared the Church. The Roman Catholicism too often wielded its authority in a way that was fatal to its opponents. Men such as John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, and Jan Hus were martyred for their teaching about the primacy of Scripture and other Biblical truths.
And yet those men, along with Luther, Calvin, Zwingli – what were they guilty of? They had only taught and upheld the truth that had been the teaching of our Lord Jesus and His Apostles, and the tradition in the Early Church, and found in pockets throughout European history – that the Holy Scriptures alone are the ultimate and normative authority for the beliefs and practices of the Church. We say ‘ultimate’ because they are the final authority to which we appeal; we say ‘normative’ because the Scriptures always have and always will be the final authority for our beliefs and practices.
This Biblical doctrine of Sola Scriptura has been recorded in various Protestant creeds:
The Belgic Confession (1561); “We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”
The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 begins with this sentence; “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.”
The Westminster Confession of Faith (1658): “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God… the full discovery of it makes the only way of man’s salvation…
Our own Grace Church of DuPage Constitution states “We teach that the Bible constitutes the only infallible rule of faith and practice (John 16:12,13; 17:17; 1Cor 2:12,13; 2Tim 3:15-17; Heb 4:12)… We teach the Scripture is God’s Word for all generations. Only from the correct understanding of the intended meaning can we: 1) discover the commands which God gives us to obey; or 2) discern the fullness of God’s truth which endures as relevant to, authoritative over, and applicable for our lives today. The truth of Scripture forever stands in judgment of us; never do we stand in judgment of it (Grace Church of DuPage Doctrinal Statement: The Holy Scriptures).
The Bible is the Final and Normative Authority
Therefore, the Bible and the Bible alone is the final and normative authority for God’s people, the Church – regarding what you are to believe and how you are to live. And the Bible has this supreme authority because it is God’s Word, God Himself is the author of the Scriptures. This is the clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures. Examples?
When God instructed His people that they were to enter the Promised Land, Moses said to Israel, “The LORD our God said to us…” (Deut 1:6). The Israelites knew for certain that God Himself had spoken to them (Ex 19:16-20 and 20:18-21). Moses later stated that the LORD had revealed His law to them (Deut 29:29), so that they would obey their God and creator.
The Lord Jesus taught about the truth and authority of God’s Word when He was teaching about a rich man who was concerned for the eternal destiny of his brothers. This man asked Abraham to send poor Lazarus back from the dead to his family to alert his brothers, but Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them.” When the man stated, “No” – that someone must go back from the dead to bring about their repentance, Abraham simply stated, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:27-31).
God’s Word alone has the power and authority to bring about repentance and faith that leads to eternal life. Peter speaks to the fact that you have been born again through the Scriptures; (1Peter 1:22-25). God’s authoritative Word, His living and abiding Word, presents all the truth that you are to believe and obey - leading you to eternal life (Rom 1:16,17).
Both Jesus Himself and His Apostles recognized the power and authority of Jesus’ words. Note John 6:35,40,47-51,60-63,66-69. Even though the statements that Jesus had made were hard sayings – difficult to understand and hard to accept as true – yet both Jesus and His Apostles knew that the words Jesus spoke were powerful, were truthful, and had full authority for life – for the beliefs (Jesus = Holy One of God) and practices of God’s people (follow Jesus, even with hard sayings).
But the Biblical passage that we want to look at this morning regarding this issue of Sola Scriptura is 2Tim 3:12 – 4:5. In this passage, Paul sets forth the principle that the Scriptures were written under the inspiration of God – the very words of Scripture were breathed-out by God (3:16).
I. What is Inspiration?
Inspiration is that supernatural superintending influence of the Holy Spirit upon certain men; that while utilizing their own personalities, cultural backgrounds, education, and writing styles, He moved upon them to accurately record, without error, God’s Word (2Peter 1:20,21). So we conclude, as have so many scholars and theologians; “What Scripture says, God says.” (C. Hodge). The Bible is God’s Word.
Because God is omniscient and holy, righteous and good; therefore God’s Word is infallible and without error; God, being God, cannot make mistakes. And because God is all-powerful and the sovereign LORD over His universe, His Word has the final and normative authority for what you are to believe and how you are to live. And because Scripture is God’s infallible Word.
II. We preach and teach the Holy Scriptures
Because the Holy Scriptures are God’s Word to God’s people, we are to teach and preach the Scriptures. Why?
- God’s Word makes us wise to salvation è 3:15
- Bible is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness (3:16) è such that we grow in our love for God, grow in our faith in God – and becoming competent, equipped for every good deed
- We preach the Bible è reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and teaching
- God’s Word strengthens you for the persecution that will come against God’s faithful Church 3:12
III. What if you reject God’s word?
What if you think that our modern culture has more authority, or your personal experience, or what a consensus of scientists or politicians believe about what is true?
You will be deceived by evil people and imposters (3:13), you will live according to your own passions, and as you turn away from the truth of Scripture, you will wander off into myths (4:5). You will remain lost and separated from God – remember that Jesus warned of many false christs that would come (Matt 24).
As the Bible is God’s Word, the ultimate authority for your beliefs and practice–learn God’s Word! Take every avenue to learn all that God has said to His people.
- Listen to God’s Word being taught and preached. Pay close attention to what God is saying, with the earnest intent to live out God’s Word. Note that Timothy had learned the Scriptures from his family and from Paul (2Tim 1:5; 3:14,15 and 2:1,2).
- Read and study God’s Word, recall what was said of those noble-minded Berean believers, they examined the Scriptures daily to understand what God had revealed (Acts 17:11). Read all of Scripture, regularly, in large chunks.
- Memorize and meditate upon God’s Word, spend significant time learning God’s Word by heart (Prov 22:17-21). Think deeply about God’s Word, Abide in His Word, considering how to live it out daily.
Even though Sola Scriptura is true, that the Bible as God’s Word is your final and normative authority – yet the Bible is not your only authority. The “Scriptures alone” does not mean it’s just you and your Bible alone. God has appointed other authorities in your life, which are subordinate to Scripture – church elders, church councils (Acts 15), parents, creeds, and teachers. Listen to them and heed their words – as they are given by God for your benefit (2Tim 1:5 and 3:14,15; 2:1,2).
Remember, we are still Protestants. The Roman Catholic Church is still teaching purgatory and selling indulgences, still teaching that salvation is by faith and works, still teaching the equal authority of their church councils and their infallible pope. Love your Catholic neighbor, and speak to them about salvation by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone – to the glory of God alone.