Like many other subjects, history is a fantastic thing to study. It teaches us about where we came from. In the Christian context, it teaches about the various arguments that Christians have faced and how they have responded to them. In the historical context, it is easier to see both the good and the bad ways that people have responded to various issues. For example, Martin Luther had some really great moments, such as his standing up at the Diet of Worms and telling the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V that he would not change his position unless convicted by scripture. On the other hand, there is his oft-reviled book, On the Jews and Their Lies. But there is a danger with history, like anything else. Only having part of the story very often leads to misrepresentations. A specific Reformation example of this happening is with regard to John Calvin and Michael Servetus (see video link below for more information). The reason this is important is that we want to have a correct understanding of things. Notably, we want to have a correct understanding of the principles of the Reformation—the Five Solas, as they are commonly referred to. The first of those principles, Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Alone, will be the subject of our next couple of Tuesday morning devotionals. What does it mean? Why is it important today?
A Firm Foundation
Matthew 7:24-29 tells us that everyone who hears the words of Christ and does them is wise. The words of Christ are referred to as a firm foundation. This is, in essence, the heart of what it means to hold to Sola Scripture. Scripture alone is our firm foundation. It is our standard for all of faith and practice. The noted theologian Cornelius Van Til summarizes it succinctly by saying, "The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything." (Christian Apologetics, p.19) The idea is simple: scripture is the final authority on everything it talks about, and in one way or another, it speaks to everything. This does not mean that the Bible lists everything there is, but that there are principles in scripture that speak to every aspect of life. From how we are to do church to how we are to conduct the study of our world. It speaks to the creation of the world and how businesses should conduct their affairs. If we build our lives on the scripture, then we will have an answer to all the questions about how we are to live.
The Words of Christ
Before we start getting to other related subjects, such as natural revelation vs special revelation, we need to deal with a basic question that comes up. What are the words of Christ? Today, we have what are commonly referred to as red-letter editions of the Bible. These are Bibles that highlight the words that are directly spoken by Jesus in the New Testament, usually by printing them in red ink. There is a problem with this though. It creates an artificial distinction between the words that are directly spoken by Jesus and the rest of scripture. Just this week, I read an argument from someone who wanted to say that we should use love to interpret the Bible. Part of their basic argument was that Jesus never referenced the Law, that is, the Old Testament when talking about love. Central to this person's point was the idea that the first and second greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40) were new commandments that Jesus gave. Obviously, this disregards the context of those commandments, namely the question Jesus is answering and the summation of his answer. It also ignores that Jesus is quoting passages from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, respectively. But the issue goes deeper than that. When we make an artificial separation between the words of Jesus and the rest of scripture, we are making a distinction between Jesus and God. Paul, in his letter to Timothy, states that "ALL scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis added). Here, breathed out simply means that it comes from God. It is his word. He is the source and power of the Scripture. It depends on his authority. To say that Jesus' words in the gospel accounts are more important or carry more weight than the rest of scripture is to say that Jesus has more authority than the words of God. If we are going to build our lives on the firm foundation of Scripture, then we need to understand that we are talking about the whole of Scripture.
Summing it up
Sola Scriptura means, in part, that we use scripture that is given to us as God's authoritative word as the foundation for every aspect of our lives. There is no part of our lives that Scripture does not talk about. Some people want to say that the Bible only talks about church stuff but has nothing to do with science. But scripture speaks to everything and is authoritative in what it says. It is the basis for the entirety of our lives. If we have questions about what we are to do in a given situation, such as which job we should take or who we should marry, then we should take those questions to scripture. That does not mean that we are going to find something like John should take the job in Dallas over the job in Austin, but it does have something to say about the kinds of jobs we should take and how our work should not take away from our other responsibilities, such as care for our family and our church. It commands us not to marry someone who is an unbeliever. There are other things that apply, but I think you can get the general idea. So whatever you do, do it with regard to what scripture. Scripture Alone is our firm foundation.
Soli Deo Gloria
Calin and Servetus - Ryan Reeves