Although the Latin phrase was coined in the 16th century, the concept of “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Alone) has been the cry of men and women of the faith long before the Protestant Reformation.
To profess that Scripture itself is sufficient rule to faith and practice. This claim of sufficiency, in its very nature, must be rooted in infallibility and inerrancy.
Now for those of you who kept reading after that potentially boring sentence, let me put it in another way: the bible that we own is 100% true, it cannot fail, and contains everything we need to come to and grow in our faith.
This was the cry of the Reformers as they separated from the Roman Catholic Church 500 years ago, but fast-forward with me 500 years. What about today? With many prominent voices in modern day evangelicalism like Andy Stanley preaching that the Bible may not be entirely accurate nor sufficient to bring someone to the faith, have we abandoned the authority of God’s Word in every area of faith and practice?
But first let me ask you this: what does it mean when we say Scripture is our final authority? Many people will read it, and we might come to many understandings, but most will affirm that the bible is authoritative. But I am here to submit that it is not simply that we hold the bible in a high regard, nor that we approach it for answers only sometimes. To hold Scripture as our highest authority is almost self explanatory- that it is held higher than anything else we might be tempted to throw above it such as traditions, experiences, feelings, etc.
There’s not much wiggle room for our feelings when the bible says “Thus saith the Lord” is there?
But don’t take my word for it. Take what the Word says about itself.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God might be complete, equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)
Which is why Christians must defend the bible and all that it says vigorously, because it is the very Words of God. A direct revelation from the Divine to His creation intended to make known His attributes and the narrative of His redemption plan. No, not every single verse needs to be taken literally, but every single verse needs to be defended. However, it should be understood that each book had an immediate intended context, and was inspired in the original languages, but still speaks to His people today and provides everything we need to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3)
This topic should encourage a lot of discussion and discourse simply because of the nature of the question “what does the bible say?” And no, we should not shy away from that. Because neither you nor I know it all, and we belong to an awesome website that encourages thought provoking challenges to our perspectives. We should approach the Scriptures with a heart that desires to understand what God would speak, but when we do, we must come with an understanding that He HAS spoken. There is no new interpretation. No new revelation. What He says goes, and we should not look any further or for any other explanation.
Which is why every decision we make and every opinion we hold should be looked at and taken in light of what Scripture says. And there’s a little prerequisite to that position- we should know what Scripture says. We should know what it says on homosexuality, on women in authoritative positions in the church, on correct and essential doctrine, etc. We approach the Text with a heart that is ready to be shaped by what has been written for millennia instead of approaching it with an agenda to change the interpretation of the Text to be shaped to our hearts and how we feel.
There’s a fundamental difference in these two different types of bible-readers. One is seeking to find a God in His revelation, and the other is seeking to find a God that agrees with his opinion. How many times have you heard someone say “Well I could never worship a God that does that” or “the God I love wouldn’t mean it like that”? How easy is it to have a preconceived idea of what God is supposed to be instead of opening the pages of His Word and searching to know who He actually is?
Maybe the God you serve isn’t exactly how you play Him out to be in your mind, and if you’re not willing to accept that then maybe you don’t serve the God Scripture presents.
When the early Reformers coined Sola Scriptura it was much less about changing the doctrine the Church has held on for thousands of years and more about retracing our steps to get back on track to where the biblical characters were. Look at how Jesus handled God’s revealed Word when the religious leaders were mishandling it:
“… Have you not read what was spoken to you by God…?”
(Matthew 22:31, NASB)
As you can see, even Jesus understood that the words that have been passed down throughout the years, throughout countless dedicated scribes, were not merely words on a scroll. They were Divinely inspired words, spoken by God Himself.
And how did Jesus handle the Word of God? I could use a number of examples, but let’s focus just on the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 5. He dismissed the three temptations of the deceiver by simply using Scripture. He understood the weight of God’s Word, and held it to the highest regard.
How much more do we need it? If our Savior, who was without sin, used God’s Word to refute the devil than how much more should we rely on what God has spoken? The Church should rely on every word that comes from the mouth of God and not on cheap substitutes that satisfy for the moment like the bread that was offered to Jesus in the wilderness. Instead of defining God by our feelings, our feelings should be defined by every Word that He speaks. We should be people of the Book, and how we view Scripture determines our method of evangelism, our pursuit to spiritual maturity, and even our approach to life.