The Five Pillars of the Reformation
4.25.2021 – Week 1 – Sola Scriptura
Sola Scriptura – “Scripture Alone”
“We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured. We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian’s conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of revelation.” – The Cambridge Declaration, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
What it means:
- Inerrant –Scripture contains no errors or contradictions. It is completely trustworthy. Apparent contradictions are a result of faulty human interpretation. 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:19-21
- Revelation – General: God’s truth revealed in the created order and in humanity. Special: God’s Word in the Old and New Testaments. As Calvin said, the Word provides us with “spectacles” by which to understand rightly the world around us. Psalm 19, Romans 1
- Binds the conscience – We do not receive it as the authority of man’s word, but as God’s. Scripture is the set of scales by which we measure all other words. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
- Necessary – We cannot live without the Word of God. It is the only way for us to know the truth about God and our need for Him. Deuteronomy 8:3
What it does not mean:
- “Just me and my Bible” – We should not try to sit down with our Bible from scratch and try to figure out our system of doctrine alone, ignoring religious tradition. Ignoring how others interpret the Bible, or “reinventing the wheel”, often leads people to heresy that the church has already dealt with in the past. Scripture is NOT the only authority. It is the only infallible authority.
Application and Discussion Questions:
1) Why do you think this doctrine was so important during the Protestant Reformation?
2) Sometimes people say things like “God told me”. What would the reformers say about this? What does Scripture say about it? (Revelation 22:18, 19)
3) Are church creeds equal to Scripture? Why or why not?
4) Christians often claim that the Scriptures are our only rule of life, but is that true in practice? What other things tend to guide the church’s decisions, or the decisions of an individual Christian?
5) If Scripture is not the ultimate authority in this world, what must we conclude?
“The difference between us and the papists is that they do not think that the church can be ‘the pillar of the truth’ unless she presides over the word of God. We, on the other hand, assert that it is because she reverently subjects herself to the word of God that the truth is preserved by her and passed on to others by her hands.” – John Calvin
“Rather than adapting Christian faith to satisfy the felt needs of consumers, we must proclaim the law as the only measure of true righteousness and the gospel as the only announcement of saving truth. Biblical truth is indispensable to the church’s understanding, nurture and discipline.
Scripture must take us beyond our perceived needs to our real needs and liberate us from seeing ourselves through the seductive images, cliches, promises and priorities of mass culture. It is only in the light of God’s truth that we understand ourselves aright and see God’s provision for our need. The Bible, therefore, must be taught and preached in the church. Sermons must be expositions of the Bible and its teachings, not expressions of the preacher’s opinions or the ideas of the age. We must settle for nothing less than what God has given.
The work of the Holy Spirit in personal experience cannot be disengaged from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak in ways that are independent of Scripture. Apart from Scripture we would never have known of God’s grace in Christ. The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.” – The Cambridge Declaration