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December 17, 2017 Five Part Six (Final)

 

 

[I. Introduction] Every other Sunday evening some of us are reading and discussing a blessed book entitled, Knowing Scripture, by R C Sproul. As part of our study we take a quiz. There are true and false questions on this quiz. The participants prefer those to either multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank (least favorite). I think that is because, even if you don’t have any idea of the answer, you have a 50% chance of getting it right!

 

Here are some true and false questions, but not from our class:

 

True or false? Only the Roman Catholic Church has the authority to properly understand and interpret Scripture.

 

True or False? There is no salvation outside the RCC (one must be a member) if one has been exposed to the RCC. (The RCC makes a concession for those who have had little or no exposure to the RCC.)

 

True or False? On earth, the Pope has the same authority as the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

True or False? The traditions of the RCC are equal in authority to Scripture.

 

True or False? Both faith and works (your best obedience to God’s laws) are necessary for you to get to heaven and avoid hell.

 

True or False? You must work to get God’s grace.

 

True or False? The merits of Mary (her own obedience) can be applied to you.

 

True or False? Penance (the works that you have to do to make up for your sins) is necessary for your salvation.

 

True or False? Mary was born without sin.

 

True or False? Mary is our Mediatrix (someone who intercedes for us and makes us acceptable to God by her life and prayers).

 

The answer to each one these is “false.” Yet, each one of these things are held to be true and are taught by the RCC. These doctrines can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (an official publication) and they are common knowledge to all practicing Catholics.

 

It was because of these false doctrines, among others, that Martin Luther and the other Reformers proclaimed the blessed truth of Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone.

 

This is the final “Sola” among the five Solas of the Reformation. Whereas the first four Solas focus upon our initial salvation, Sola Scriptura has to do with how God exercises his authority in our personal lives and the life of the church.

 

What does Sola Scriptura mean? As we have done with defining grace and faith, it is a good practice to cover what it does not mean in order to disabuse ourselves of any misconceptions.

 

It is not a rejection of other revelation. There is what is known as general revelation, meaning both the testimony of creation and the moral law of God written upon the hearts of men which testify to God’s reality and the general requisitions of our living in accordance to his holy nature. Further, God reveals Himself and His will by other means: through dreams and visions, through the counsel of older, wiser brothers and sisters in the Lord, especially through those whom he has raised up as leaders in the church, even the “still small voice” of the Spirit in our conscience can be an avenue of revelation.

 

Neither is it a denial of the church’s significance and authority. The church has both. The idea of a loner Christian with just him (or her) and his (or her) Bible under a tree is antithetical to the life we have been called to live. I will tell you right now if you are a loner Christian or someone who only spends time with their family (as good as that is) then you are outside the will of God. The church needs you and you need the church. If you have absented yourself from the church I say to you that you need to repent and ask forgiveness from the Lord. Sola Scriptura is not a denial of the church’s importance or authority.

 

Finally, it is not a denial of other sources of knowledge. There are many sources of knowledge besides Scripture.

 

We have explained what it is not. But, what is it? Perhaps one of the better explanations is found in that great statement of faith known as the London Baptist Confession of 1689:

 

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience…”[1]

 

Another way of understanding this statement is simply that the Bible is the ultimate, or final, authority of what we believe and how we are to live. In fact, the LBC says this very thing in a few more words.

 

“The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit…”[2]

 

This good quote from the Confession addresses councils, writers, and doctrines. Of course, the Scriptures supersede all of these. What is not mentioned, and what is a more pervasive influence upon us presently is culture. Sadly, the church has been allowing itself to be influenced and even directed by what the culture says rather than what the Bible says.

 

[II.] As with the other Solas, this was not merely an idea of Martin Luther and the Reformers, but it is the testimony of Scripture itself. It also flows naturally from two facts. These two facts are:

 

  1. God breathed out the Scriptures.
  2. They are without error and, therefore, certain.

 

Other forms of revelation, although they may be from God, are not certain. Therefore, all other forms of revelation are subordinate to the Bible.

 

Let us see the testimony of Scripture itself about this matter. There were two main groups of Jewish leaders at the time of Christ. One was the Pharisees. They were the fundamentalists of their day. For all the bad things we can say about them, we can at least say they believed the Old Testament and took its words as the words of God. They believed in a future resurrection. Mainly because the book of Daniel makes it so clear that there will be one.[3] The Sadducees were the other group. They were the liberals of their day. They did not believe in a resurrection. These two groups would debate on this subject. The Sadducees came to Jesus trying to trick him with a funny question. Jesus answers them:

 

            But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30      For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31       And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32        ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” [4]

 

Notice three things about our Lord’s answer.  First, he says that they were wrong because they didn’t know the Scriptures. If we wish to be right about matters of faith we must know the Scriptures. If you want to be wrong about things then ignore the Scriptures or read them with unbelief as did the Sadducees. Second, he says in verse 31, “have you not read what was said to you by God?” Don’t you think that this phrase is somewhat unusual? Usually, after “have you not read,” we would expect, “what was written to you by God.” Why does Jesus mix these terms? Because He is saying Scripture is God speaking! Do you see that? Jesus is saying that Scripture is God speaking! Jesus held them accountable as if God had spoken directly to them! The third thing is that Jesus’ argument rested upon the tense of one Hebrew verb – the fact that it was in the present tense rather than the past tense. Clearly, he thought that Scripture was true even down to the verb tenses.

 

Jesus believed that God spoke through the Scriptures. And, he also believed that they were without error. In John chapter 10 he is again debating with opposers and again quotes the OT and adds these words: “the Scripture cannot be broken.”[5] This is another way of saying that Scripture cannot be wrong. In fact, several translations render it that way:

 

The Scriptures cannot be denied or found to be in error. (Passion Translation)

 

What the Scripture says is true forever. (Good News)

 

The Scripture is always true. (Easy-to-Read Version)

 

…the Scripture, which cannot be untrue. (Living Bible)

 

The apostles followed their Lord in proclaiming these same truths.

 

15         and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16           All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17         that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. [6]

 

This is the standard go-to text wherein the Scriptures testify to their own divine origin. Although we may be familiar with this passage, it is good to revisit it. Those who are familiar, bear with me for a little while. You still may see something new.

 

Paul is writing to his protégé, Timothy. He reminds him that he has known the sacred writings since he was a child. Oh! How good this is! If you have children or grandchildren teach them the Bible. Make them memorize parts of it. Even though they may not come to saving faith as children, the Holy Spirit can use the memories of what they have seen later in life. Even though I have been critical of the Catholic church in this series, there are some good things to be said. There is some truth in it. I am grateful that I was exposed to Catholicism as a boy. I am grateful because they taught the law of God and the law of God is the instrument that the Spirit uses to convict us of sin and bring us to faith. It was my knowledge that I had violated God’s laws that drove me to faith as a young man.

 

We should acquaint our children and grandchildren with the Bible, especially the laws. Do not just use the Bible as a story book. Impress upon them the laws of God. And, don’t depend on just bringing them to church once a week. You need to do it!

 

In verse 16 we see that “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” When we read or study the Bible we are not just reading a work of men. We are reading the very out-breathing of God!

 

The apostle goes on to affirm that:

 

  • Scripture is profitable for teaching. This implies that it is correct, without error.
  • It is profitable for reproof. “Reproof” is another word for rebuke, just a little milder. If you are going to rebuke someone you had better be right – you can’t have something with mistakes in it.
  • It is profitable for correction. This might mean self-correction. We need that, don’t we? But how can we correct ourselves if what we are using is not correct?
  • It is profitable for training in righteousness. How can we be trained in righteousness if what we are using for our training isn’t right?

 

So we see that, just as Jesus Himself believed that the Scriptures were God-breathed and without error, so did the apostle Paul. If we had time we would see that the apostle Peter did as well. We have a sure word!

 

Not only is the Scripture alone the final rule of faith and the ultimate guide for the church, God’s people corporately,

 

[III.] Scripture alone is our ultimate and certain guide for our personal lives.

 

   Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2            And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3     And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4    But he answered, “It is written,

“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” [7]

 

The first words from the mouth of the Lord Jesus when he is tempted by the devil are: “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

 

Yet, is this not the way that most people, almost all people, live? They live to eat, sleep, and experience pleasure. You might be thinking of worldly people when I make that statement. Of course, that is true of them. That is the very definition of “worldly” – living according to their bodily appetites. But, I am afraid that this is also true of a great many who name the name of Christ. They live by bread alone. Maybe they read their Bibles once a week. Maybe they attend church. But many do not live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

 

Our Lord Himself says that we must live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And, we have already seen that he believed that the Scriptures were the speaking of God.

In the 1800’s, before the transcontinental telegraph system was built, the fastest way you could get a letter from St Louis, MO to the West Coast was through the pony express. The pony express was a thrilling part of early American history. It ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California—a distance of 1,900 miles. The trip was made in ten days. Forty men, each riding 50 miles a day, dashed along the trail on 500 of the best horses the West could provide.

 

To conserve weight, clothing was very light, saddles were extremely small and thin, and no weapons were carried. The horses themselves wore small shoes or none at all. The mail pouches were flat and very conservative in size. Letters had to be written on thin paper, and postage was $5.00 an ounce ($136.50 in today’s money!).

Yet, each rider carried a full-sized Bible! It was presented to him when he joined the pony express, and he took it with him despite all the scrupulous weight precautions. In those by-gone days, the riders knew the value of God’s word! It was precious to them!

 

In my own life, I have found that the word of God has been the most cherished possession that I have had. It has given me insight when I needed it, answers when I sought them, comfort in times of trouble, and hope in times of despair.  When I read it I sense the very presence of the Lord because He speaks through the pages.

 

In the same way that the church may go astray and be brought back through the word of God; so too, it is that when we go astray in our own lives that we may be brought back by a meditation upon the word of God.

 

We must not live by bread alone but by Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone!

 

[IV. Conclusion] True or False? You can live in the will of God just by eating, sleeping, and working.

 

True or False? Your own traditions (we all have them) are equal to the Scriptures.

 

True or False? The highest authority in your life are the Scriptures. This last question is one that only you can answer. But let your answer be a true answer.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] These are the very first words of the Confession, indicating how important the framers thought Scripture was. From chapter 1, paragraph 1.

[2] Chapter 1, paragraph 10.

[3] Daniel 12:2-3

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 22:29–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] John 10:35

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 3:15–17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 4:1–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.