Yesterday we began a 5-week series at White Fields in which we are looking at the 5 Solas of the Reformation: the slogans that the Reformers used to summarize their core beliefs:
- Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
- Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
- Sole Fide (Faith Alone)
- Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
- Soli Deo Gloria (To the Glory of God Alone)
We started by looking at the first of these: Sola Scriptura.
Sola Scriptura means: the Bible alone is our highest authority.
Martin Luther and the other Reformers found themselves in a situation, where – having read the Bible, they discovered that many practices and teachings of the church in their time were actually in direct opposition to the clear teaching of the Bible – particularly on the issues of absolution of sin and justification.
This is what led to Martin Luther’s famous statement at the Diet (Congress) of Worms:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against this knowledge. May God help me. Amen.
Sola Scriptura does not mean that we reject other sources of truth and wisdom, nor that we reject or ignore tradition. To do so would not only be foolish, but it would be ignorant of the fact that the very way that we got the canon of Holy Scriptures that we now have was in large part by God working through reason and tradition to transmit the Scriptures to us.
What Sola Scriptura means is that when it comes to what we believe and how we live, there is no higher voice, no greater authority than the Holy Scriptures, and everything must by judged by them.
So, if church councils say one thing, but the Bible says another: Who wins? The Bible does. If our culture and society says one thing, but the Bible says something else, then who do we believe? Who do we submit to? The answer is: the Scriptures.
Did the New Testament Writers Know They Were Writing Scripture?
2 Timothy 3:16 says: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness
What Scriptures are being referred to here?
Obviously it is referring to the Old Testament scriptures, but interestingly, this comes from 2 Timothy, the last letter which Paul wrote, at the end of his life. By this time — almost all of the books that we have in our New Testaments had already been written, and were being distributed amongst the Christians, to be read and studied in their churches.
So, when Paul says, “All Scripture” — he’s not just talking about the Old Testament, he’s also talking about the New Testament!
In the New Testament, what you find is that the Apostles understood that God was using them in their time to bring about a New Testament of Holy Scriptures, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few examples:
- In 2 Peter 3:15-16, Peter refers to the writings of Paul as “Scriptures”
- In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul referred to his own message as “the word of God”
- In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul takes a quotation from the Gospel of Luke – and he calls it “Scripture” (Luke 10:7)
- In some of his letters, Paul instructs the recipients to distribute his letters and have them read in the churches. (Colossians 4:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:27)
What Paul is telling Timothy in this text is to stick to the Scriptures, because they come from God, not from man.
The Bible is not only inspired in the sense that it is like a great work of art that we might say is “inspired” – but it is inspired in the greater sense, that the words it contains were breathed by God Himself!
What that means is that the Bible is no ordinary book — it is the very word of God to us, and therefore it alone is worthy to be the highest authority in our lives.