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Friday, June 4, 2010

Sola Scriptura!

"The Church is to be judged by the Scriptures, not the Scriptures by the Church."  - John Wesley

What is “Sola Scriptura?”
Sola Scriptura is from the Latin: Sola having the idea of “alone,” “ground,” or “base;” and the word Scriptura meaning “Writings” – Referring to γραφὴ, meaning “Scripture.”

This is the teaching that Scripture is the Church's only infallible and sufficient rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines. This is not stating that the church is not important and that we cannot learn anything from other sources, but it is saying at the Scripture is the final authority and test all things and hold what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5.21). The Scriptures always speak in the name of God, and command faith and obedience. Christ and his apostles always refer to the written Scriptures, then existing, as authority, and to no other rule of faith whatsoever.--Luke 16:29; 10:26; John 5:39; Rom. 4:3;2 Tim. 3:15. The Bereans are commended for bringing all questions, even apostolic teaching, to this test.--Acts 17:11; see also Isa. 8:16. Also, Christ rebukes the Pharisees for adding to and perverting the Scriptures.--Matt. 15:7-9; Mark 7:5-8; see also Rev. 22:18, 19, and Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Josh. 1:7.

In 1.6 of the Westminster Confession explains Sola Scriptura as:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.1

            It is very important that you see the history behind Sola Scriptura and it will give you the understanding of how important this doctrine is, not only for the church to hold onto, but for every person who professes faith in Christ. This all started in the 16th Century Protestant Reformation. The main issue Martin Luther was arguing for was Sola Fide (Justification by faith alone), which we will get to soon, but what is often overlooked is Sola Scriptura that is equally important during this time period. Martin Luther had two debates with the leading Roman Catholic theologians of his day (Martin Ek and Cardinal Cajerton). As Ek and Cajerton debated the subject of justification, they pointed out that Luther's views differed significantly from the official position of the Church. For the Roman Catholic Church, both the former Church councils and the Papal declarations were binding upon all those in the Church. These men were able to demonstrate that Luther was in disagreement with both Church Councils and the Pope himself. Martin Luther was perceived by many as being the most arrogant and pompous individual imaginable. They could not understand how one man could do as Luther was doing.2

            Luther stood against the Pope and the Councils and in result of this, they considered him blasphemous. Luther admitted that indeed he stood against them. In his opinion, Church Councils could err as well the Pope himself. Of course, this was hugely disturbing and even considered blasphemous. Luther was quickly likened to the Bohemian John Hus, who had, around a hundred years earlier, made similar statements to Luther's, and was burnt at the stake as a heretic. Luther left the Diet of Worms, riding off into the night. On his way home he was kidnapped by his own people, transferred to the Wartburg Castle where he translated the Bible into German, the vernacular of the people. The Reformation sparked by Luther swept most of the countries of Europe.3

            Dr. James White has written a book called The Roman Catholic Controversy and in this book he has provided a very helpful list of what IS and IS NOT Sola Scriptura.


1. First and foremost, sola scriptura is not a claim that the Bible contains all knowledge. The Bible is not a scientific textbook, a manual on governmental procedures, or a catalog of automobile engine parts. The Bible does not claim to give us every bit of knowledge that we could ever obtain.

2. Sola scriptura is not a claim that the Bible is an exhaustive catalog of all religious knowledge. The Bible itself asserts that it is not exhaustive in detail (John 21:25). It is obvious that the Bible does not have to be exhaustive to be sufficient as our source of divine truth.

3. Sola scriptura is not a denial of the authority of the Church to teach God's truth.

4. Sola scriptura is not a denial that the Word of God has, at times, been spoken. Rather, it refers to the Scriptures as serving the Church as God's final and full revelation.

5. Sola scriptura does not entail the rejection of every kind or form of Church "tradition." There are some traditions that are God-honoring and useful in the Church. Sola scriptura simply means that any tradition, no matter how ancient or venerable it might seem to us, must be tested by a higher authority, and that authority is the Bible.

6. Sola scriptura is not a denial of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding and enlightening the Church.


1. The doctrine of sola scriptura, simply stated, is that the Scriptures alone are sufficient to function as the regula fidei, the infallible rule of faith for the Church.

2. All that one must believe to be a Christian is found in Scripture, and in no other source. This is not to say that the necessary beliefs of the faith could not be summarized in a shorter form. However, there is no necessary belief, doctrine, or dogma absolutely required of a person for entrance into the kingdom of heaven that is not found in the pages of Scripture.

3. That which is not found in the Scripture  either directly or by necessary implication  is not binding upon the Christian.

4. Scripture reveals those things necessary for salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

5. All traditions are subject to the higher authority of Scripture (Matt. 15:1-9). There can be no understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture apart from an understanding of the true origin and the resultant nature of Scripture. The Reformers had the highest view of the Bible, and therefore had a solid foundation on which to stand in defending the sufficiency of the Scriptures. 4

            This is so important that we hold to this doctrine because it is the foundation of our faith. This is also very important for sharing our faith. We are able to have full confidence in using Gods word because it does not come back void (Isaiah 55.11).  Therefore if we share the gospel faithfully, it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1.16) A.A. Hodge says it well concerning the infallible rule of faith and practice, “Whatever God teaches or commands is of sovereign authority. Whatever conveys to us an infallible knowledge of his teachings and commands is an infallible rule. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the only organs through which, during the present dispensation, God conveys to us a knowledge of his will about what we are to believe concerning himself, and what duties he requires of us.”5

            Praise God that he has given us his word and opens our eyes to the way, truth, and light. We can have faith and full assurance in the Word of God in what it says and teachings. What a blessing it is.

1 “Westminster Confession of Faith,” n.d.,
3 Ibid.
4 James R. White, Roman Catholic Controversy, The (Bethany House, 1996).
5 A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Banner of Truth, 1972), Chapter 5.

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