Monday, August 11, 2014

Did we Invent “Sola Scriptura” or is this Doctrine Implicit to Scripture?

One Facebooker claimed that the doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” is not a biblical teaching. Instead, it adds a doctrine that is foreign to Scripture:

  • Sola Scriptura is nothing more than Martin Luther’s 16th century invention to oppose the authority of the Catholic Church. It had never been a Christian belief prior to him.

The doctrine of sola scriptura claims that there is nothing more authoritative than Scripture – the very words of God. This doctrine does not claim that Scripture is the only form of knowledge but rather the supreme expression of knowledge to which all other forms of knowledge must conform.

Admittedly, the Bible doesn’t explicitly mention the words “sola scriptura,” but is this doctrine implicit within the teachings of Scripture? The Apostle Paul insisted that Scripture must sit in judgment above all other truth claims:

  • The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

All arguments opposed to Scripture had to be critiqued in its light and taken “captive” according to the revelation of Christ. There was nothing higher or more authoritative. Scripture was the Supreme Court where the buck stopped:

  • When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. (Isaiah 8:19-20)

In regards to the things that Scripture taught, it was the supreme light. God’s word, “God’s instructions and the testimony of warning,” was above all else and without competition – sola scriptura! It was the source of blessing in a way that nothing else was:

  • Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:7-8)

God warned Joshua that his response to His word would determine blessing and curse. If he failed to follow it, he and Israel would suffer, if he meditated on it to do it, he would prosper. There was no other activity that could compete in importance with Israel’s response to the word of God. It occupied an unrivaled position. No amount of philosophizing, painting, poetry writing, or practicing spiritual disciplines could even come close. Scripture was in a league of its own. This was the uniform teaching of Scripture, not just a handful of verses.

All the Apostles recognized that God worked through the understanding of His word to accomplish great things (Psalm 1). Paul therefore recited this benediction over the Ephesian elders:

  • “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)

God would use Scripture to bless and transform. Conversely, when Christians strayed from the word, they would suffer, as Paul had warned:

  • Learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.  For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Cor. 4:6-7)

Many in the Corinthian Church went “beyond what is written” and became proud to the hurt of themselves and their church. Instead, Scripture had to serve as their highest authority – sola scriptura.

How do we please God? We abide in His word above all else. Peter insisted that:

  • If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God... so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:11).

Our church traditions should never be in competition with God’s word. This was the problem with the religious leadership of Jesus’ day. They valued their own traditions above Scripture. Against this lethal tendency:

  • Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?... Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” (Matthew 15:3-9)

Our traditions or institutions cannot be placed on par with Scripture. The resulting worship is of no value! God intends Scripture to rule over all else – sola scriptura.

Jesus had the highest regard for Scripture, claiming that it could “not be broken” (John 10:35). Everything else could be changed but not Scripture. It stood over everything else – sola scriptura! Even Jesus would not do away with Scripture:

  • “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)

Because Scripture came from God, it could not just be set aside. Instead, our standing in the Kingdom depended upon our response to Scripture. However, Jesus would fulfill it, according to Divine intention.

The deceased, ex-evangelical scholar, Clark Pinnock, decided that the Bible was merely a human text:

  • It is important to insist that the Bible is a merely human text – written, copied, translated, and interpreted by fallible people. It contains all manner of internal contradictions, moral blemishes, legend and saga, inaccuracies, and the like. It is a collection of intensely human documents and is not an authority beyond criticism or correction. To regard it as God’s written Word is an idolatrous perversion of belief which must be dethroned.

However, Pinnock’s opinion was diametrically opposed to Jesus’!

  • Jesus answered [Satan], “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

According to Jesus, life is about imbibing “every word that comes from the mouth of God” – Scripture! This means that we can’t sit in judgment over God’s word, selecting what we like or think inspired. Instead, every one of God’s words must judge us!

Jesus had such a high regard for Scripture that He continually brought His disciples back to this wellspring of blessing. When Jesus encountered His disheartened disciples after His crucifixion, He could have spoken His own words to encourage them, but instead, He pointed them back to Scripture:

  • “Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:26-27)

Scripture is so central to our lives that Jesus opened their minds to understand it:

  • He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)

Never once do we see any indication that Jesus regarded Scripture as merely a human document. Instead, He copiously quoted Scripture, always as maximally authoritative. Consequently, if we want to call ourselves “Christian,” we should regard Scripture as did Jesus!

Because Scripture is God’s authoritative word, we are not free to interpret it in any manner we choose:

  • Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

Although Scripture comes through the hand and sometimes even the vocabulary of man, it is still God-given. As such, it is above our own thoughts and philosophies. Therefore, we are not free to interpret it as we please. It is God-breathed in its entirety, as Paul revealed:

  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Only about Scripture can it be said that it can make us “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Clearly, the word that God has breathed out transcends all other forms of knowledge – sola scriptura!

Pinnock insisted that “the Apostles never thought that they were writing Scripture.” However, this is obviously wrong. Only one example should suffice:

  • And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. (1 Thess. 2:13)

There is nothing like Scripture. Our Lord has ordained it to “work in [us] who believe,” through His Spirit. Scripture outclasses everything else – sola scriptura!

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