BACK TO BASICS – SOLA SCRIPTURA (2)

The great Reformers challenged the people of their day to depend on Scripture alone as the source of spiritual truth and instruction. They rejected the dogmas of the church that had been added to the Bible as an authoritative, divine source of truth. They also rejected the popular mystical expectation that God spoke through various miraculous manifestations. Their catch-cry Sola Scripura expressed their confidence that the written Word of God, the Bible, was alone authoritative, alone inspired by God, alone infallible and alone trustworthy. Because they believed all of this about the Bible they also believed in the sufficiency of the Bible.

To their minds, the Bible is all we need to know God, to know what God has done for us, and to know how we should live as his redeemed people. To look beyond or beside the Bible for truth is both unnecessary and dangerous.

This raises an important question: Does the Bible actually affirm this confidence? And the answer is: Yes. It does.

The Psalms repeatedly state that persistent delight in the written word of God, love of the written word of God, meditation on the written word of God and trust in the written word of God results in joy, spiritual growth, maturity and stability. So greatly did the Psalmist love and honour God’s word that he said ‘Streams of tears flow from my eyes for your law is not obeyed’ (Psalm 119:136).

Jesus was committed to the Old Testament scriptures and lived and died in fulfilment of those scriptures: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them’ (Matthew 5:17). Repeatedly, in the Gospels, we find the words ‘It is written ...’ explaining the reason Jesus did what he did and taught what he taught.

Jesus stressed the permanent relevance and application of the written Scripture: ‘Anyone who breaks on of the least of these commandments and teachers others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:18).

And affirmed also the permanence of his own words (Matthew 24:35).

Jesus rebuked those who did not believe in him, pointing out that the Old Testament spoke about him and was sufficient to make them culpable. Their failure to believe in him indicated their failure to actually believe ‘Moses’ and the prophets (read John 5:36 – 47).

Both Jesus and the apostles affirm that the whole Old Testament (Moses, ‘the prophets’, and the Psalms) contains the truth about Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:45; Acts 26:22; 28:23).

Paul taught ‘... the holy Scriptures ... are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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’ (2Timothy 3:15 – 17).

Peter affirmed the integrity, authority, relevance and inspiration of the Scriptures (2Peter 1:16 – 21).

The integrity of the apostles’ teaching, which is now known as the New Testament, was affirmed by accompanying ‘signs’ and serious warnings were given about adding to or altering that teaching (2Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3, 4; Galatians 1:6 – 9).

It is also clear from the Bible that in Jesus Christ God has spoken his final word, beyond which there is no more to be revealed. The Old Testament speaks of Christ in anticipation. The New Testament speaks of Christ from the perspective of fulfilment. What was in the Old Testament just a shadow, a hidden mystery, is, in the New Testament the reality, the mystery revealed. There is a finality about the New Testament records that prohibits any additional revelation:

‘... the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets ...’ (Ephesians 3:4, 5).

‘... this mystery has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery. ... so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they might know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 1:26, 27; 2:2, 3).

‘In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ...’ (Hebrews 1:1, 2).

To look beyond the Scripture for additional revelation is not only to be discontented with the written Word of God, but to be discontented with Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020