Sunday, October 01, 2017

An ode to Sola Scriptura

We regularly hear the familiar and oft-repeated passages from Scripture as proof that Scripture is the only infallible authority for and rule of life and faith. While I do not denounce this position, I want to focus in on one equally clear and important Scriptures to undergird our understanding of Sola Scriptura. Before I do so, I want to give a, hopefully, clear and concise understanding of Sola Scriptura, that is, that it is Scripture alone that is God’s Word to us. However, this is not to mean something as heinous as “God, Me and the Bible,” for Hebrews 12 warns us against not meeting together. What Scripture alone means is that Scripture is the foundation for which the Christian and his spiritual family is to operate. It would seem that any cursory glance of Scripture would clear up that misunderstanding fairly quickly.

Unfortunately, Paul and Peter’s assessment of the end times come true even today as we await the return of our blessed Lord Jesus. For example, Paul states in 2 Timothy 4:1-4, "I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, 2 preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and instruction. 3 For there will be a time when they will not put up with sound teaching, but in accordance with their own desires, they will accumulate for themselves teachers, ⌊because they have an insatiable curiosity⌋, 4 and they will turn away from the hearing of the truth, but will turn to myths.” As Michael Kruger writes in TableTalk, "At its core, the fall was about God’s people rejecting God’s Word as the ultimate standard for all of life.” Doesn’t our modern day so poetically echo the lust of our federal head in Genesis 3?

Peter similarly laments in the 3rd chapter of his 2nd epistle, "Dear friends, this is already the second letter I am writing to you, in both of which I am attempting to stir up your sincere mind by a reminder, 2 to remember the words proclaimed beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 above all knowing this, that in the last days scoffers will come with scoffing, following according to their own desires 4 and say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ⌊ever since⌋ the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued just as they have been from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when* they maintain this, it escapes their notice that the heavens existed long ago and the earth held together out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 by means of which things the world that existed at that time was destroyed by* being inundated with water. 7 But by the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly people.”

We unknowingly downplay the authority, function, and place of Scripture when we exclaim phrases such as, “God told me,” or “I felt the Lord speaking to me…” We must be extremely careful when using language like this. Justin Peters warns, "If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud.” We are told in Scripture that the Holy Spirit would illuminate the Scripture to us, allowing us to understand a portion of its practical application to our lives. What I hear when well-meaning brethren say this would sound more like, “I was reading the Scriptures and praying, and as I humbled myself to its authority, I sensed the Holy Spirit leading me to apply the word in such-and-such a way in my life.” Even the Apostle Paul, as in two head’s of a coin says on the one hand, “We must judge those inside the church,” and then says on the other hand, “Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

So, before I get any more ahead of myself, let’s read the two passages:
  • 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, F9 with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
While Peter does not downplay the amazing experience he had on the Mount of Transfiguration, he elevates Scripture above that in vs. 19, when he says we have something more sure, “the prophetic word.” And then he defines what that “prophetic word” is - The Scriptures. We are to hold to them “as a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts; in other words, until Jesus returns. On another note, while there are several places in Scripture that talk about speaking prophecies, Peter says in the book of Acts, that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit allowing the people to speak in known tongues the proclamation of the Gospel was the fulfillment of that prophecy. It was never intended to mean “new revelation.” It was meant more to mean a boldness and supernatural ability to share the gospel with those who might otherwise not be able to hear it.

Lastly, as I run out of time, let us quickly read Hebrews 1:1-2:
  • 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

And, how has Christ spoken to us? By and through his Apostles. We are told in Acts 2 that "they [those in the early church] were devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayers. 43 And fear came on every soul, and many wonders and signs were being performed by the apostles.” Does anyone see book ends, here? We are first told they held to the teaching of the apostles, and that signs and wonders are done by the apostles. Again, Peter ends chapter one of his second epistle that stating unequivocally that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” What did Abraham say to the rich man in hell? 27 So he said, ‘Then I ask you, father, that you send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he could warn them, in order that they also should not come to this place of torment!’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they must listen to them.’ And, I’m sure Peter and Paul would also include those writings in the New Testament, as well. Let us “hold fast the confession of our faith without wavering” and the “Law of the Lord” that “revives” or “converts the soul." 

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