“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 may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Well, somehow we have turned another page on the calendar so that it now reads “October.” Besides the ubiquity of all-things pumpkin, it also means that we end this month celebrating the work of God through men like Martin Luther.
The Protestant Reformation’s theology centered around five solae, or “Alones,” as we state them today. They represented a break from the beliefs of the Western Church of that day, which history tells us had departed a great deal from Scripture. Therefore, it is fitting that we start with Sola Scriptura, or “By Scripture Alone.” We’ll look at the other four through the remainder of the month, finishing the fifth on November 1st, which also happens to be “All-Saints Day.” The five solae are: sola scriptura (Scripture alone); sola fide (faith alone); sola gratia (grace alone); solo Christo (Christ alone); and soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).
It is important to understand what is meant by this historical phrase, “by Scripture alone.” John MacArthur states it this way, “Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.” It is not about trying to find answers to questions of science in Scripture, though they may be there. It is not about using Scripture to predict the end of the world (the Scriptures warn against that). Nor is it about how Scripture will support your team winning the Super Bowl (or something worse).
Rather, it is simply the view that the Scriptures (the Old and New Testaments that come to us in the 66 books of the Bible) provide all the answers and guidance we need in order to understand how we might be saved and also how we are to live life in a way that is pleasing to God.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)
Jesus says that the Scriptures tell us how we might have eternal life: they bear witness to Him. He is the key. The Scriptures point to Him, and by coming to Him, we might have salvation. The Bible tells us God does the calling, the truth revealing, and the convicting. Our salvation is solely due to Him. This touches on another sola, about faith alone, but we’ll get to it in turn. The fact is that Christ made it plain that the Scriptures teach us about salvation. All we need to know about how to be saved is contained in the Scriptures.
Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:31)
The Scriptures give us the Law. The Law tells us what we must do to be found righteous in the sight of the Lord. Paul’s point in his letter to the Romans is that the Scriptures convict us. We cannot live up to them. We would have to do so perfectly in order to not need salvation. As we saw yester, that is the point of the law – it came because of transgression. We fail. We fail constantly. This is why we need Christ and His grace every day. With that said, the Scriptures tell us what is righteous. And though one might think, “I’m saved, so I can do anything I want,” once we are His we are compelled in our hearts to live by God’s moral Law. We know we won’t be perfect. We know it doesn’t save us. But, after coming to faith in Christ Jesus, we demonstrate our love for God by keeping the commandments (though again, not perfectly).
We don’t need other “holy books” to tell us how we might be saved and how we ought to live. We don’t need interpretation by someone who is “privileged” to share in “hidden knowledge.” That isn’t the way God works. He has revealed to us in the Scriptures, through the work of the Holy Spirit, what we need to know to be saved and to live a life that is pleasing to Him. That is why we affirm “Sola Scriptura:” by Scripture alone.