What Exactly Is Sola Scriptura?

What Exactly Is Sola Scriptura?

A long time ago, in a galaxy that wasn’t really all that far away, the gospel of grace and the infallible Word of God were held hostage by the evil Empire, er, uh, I mean the Roman Catholic Church, both kept under lock and key, hidden from sight by an intricately woven web of church councils and papal edicts.

The standard for life and faith during these dark times before the Rebellion — which strangely, was led by a monk with a mallet and a fiery temper — was whatever the church said, which, as you might imagine, resulted in all sorts of unbiblical practices that tended to oppress the laity while propping up leadership.

Alas, these days came crashing to an end — praise the Lord — as the monk mentioned above boldly took a stand on the Word of God and ushered in the Reformation, freeing the Bible from the evil clutches of church corruption and placing hope and faith back in the hands of the average dude. And lady too. Can’t forget the ladies.

Out of this glorious revolution came several key principles we know today as the “five solas.”

We’re going to be talking about the solas over the next few days, but in one of my rare moments of genius — so rare I don’t think I’ve legitimately ever had one — I thought it would be a grand idea to kick things off with the principle of “sola Scriptura.”

Now, I can tell all you folks who are new to Reformed theology — maybe you’re dipping your toe in the water for the very first time — are a tad bit frightened by what appears to be some sort of scary, “ivory tower” kind of word.

I can almost feel the blood curdling scream building up in your throat, but before you let that bad boy out, allow me to slay your fears with a bit of knowledge.

The term, “sola Scriptura” simply means, “Scripture alone.”

That’s right, you can let out a huge sigh of relief now. I can already tell that scream is crawling back down your windpipe and plopping back in your belly, although it appears you’re now scratching your head wondering what I mean when I say “Scripture alone.”

Never fear, compadre. I was just about to explain that.

Basically, when folks holding to Reformed theology talk about sola Scriptura, we mean that the Bible is completely, totally, 100 percent sufficient for everything the believer needs for faith and godliness.

Whatever a Christian needs to know concerning salvation and how to live a life pleasing to the Lord is contained within the pages of the most awesome book ever written.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” — 2 Peter 1:3

Now, this doesn’t mean that every single bit of truth or fact in the known universe is contained in God’s Word. For example, you won’t find any chapters breaking down the intricacies of quantum physics or explaining how a DNA strand works, but if you want to know how to approach a situation in a manner that glorifies the Lord, it’s in the Good Book.

The Bible is the very words of our God and Creator, and therefore, it is the final authority on matters of faith containing everything that is binding to our conscience and that the Lord requires of us.

It is the only perfect, holy standard of spiritual truth,  source of salvation, and righteous living.

While extra-biblical documents like the Westminster Confession of Faith are fantastic summaries of the theological truths taught in the Scriptures, they still don’t carry the kind of weight and authority as the Bible.

At the end of the day, it’s not about church counsels or traditions, but whether or not what we say and do is grounded in the infallible Word of God.

As the Apostle Paul would say in 2 Tim. 3:16:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

Since the Bible is God’s holy, perfect, infallible word containing everything we need to receive salvation and live a holy life, Scripture repeatedly warns us against adding to, or taking away from His Word.

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” — Deut. 4:2

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” — Rev. 22:18-19

Basically, God’s Word is so amazingly and awesomely perfect — since it is a reflection of His holy, righteous character — there’s nothing we, as finite, sinful, corrupt human beings could possibly add to it to make it any better.

To attempt to do so is like hocking a loogey in God’s face and telling Him He’s not as perfect as He thinks.

It’s also wrong to take hard truths and cut them out of the Bible and toss them in the waste basket.

I think you get the point.

The bottom line, of course, is that we as Christians are to live according to the infallible standard of the Bible which provides us with everything we need to be saved and equipped for every good work.

We as believers are to take all we are taught and exposed to and measure it against Scripture to find out if it’s true. Failure to do this, to test all things according to the Word, is how folks end up walking into some crazy cult and following for all manner of falsehoods.

Want to know how we’re to properly worship God? It’s in the Bible. Want to know how we should approach making ethical decisions on social issues and personal matters in our lives? Read the Bible.

I might sound like a broken record, but hey, humans learn best through repetition, so deal with it!

As a final note, I’d like to add that ALL of the Bible is the supreme authority for how we live our lives to the glory of God. Folks today seem to have this misguided belief that unless it’s the New Testament they can just shrug off the entire first half of the Book and toss it in the closet without a second thought.

Nope. Sorry. No siree. Christians are to live by the entire counsel of God’s Word. The Bible is not Burger King. You can’t have it your way.

With that being said, it’s time to bring our introductory journey into the five solas to a close.

Coming soon: Sola Fide

Michael Cantrell
Michael Cantrell is a Christian with a deep passion for Reformed theology, theonomic ethics, and teaching fellow believers how to engage in politics and pop culture with the good news of the gospel. Michael has been writing professionally for eight years and is currently a writer for Young Conservatives.

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