Perhaps you have heard the phrase Sola Scriptura, or perhaps you have not. Nonetheless, you have now. My intent with this blog is to make it a battle cry for your life, because a Sola Scriptura foundation is what will determine if you stand or fall in the midst of a storm. With this said, stay with me because in order to get a full picture of why this phrase exists, we must walk down history lane.
Around 315 A.D., the Roman Emperor, Constantine, became a Christian. When this occurred, two kingdoms merged; the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. Out of this marriage the Roman Catholic Church was born, and like all infants, it grew. Eventually it spread throughout the Roman Empire. With the marriage of the Church and State, each institution took on characteristics of the other. In order to avoid boring you with details, let us just say that the leaders of the Romans Catholic Church began to slide away from the Word of God. This is not something that happened over night, but over centuries. During this time, the authority of the Word of God (the Bible) decreased and the authority of the word of man increased. During this time, doctrines like Papal Primacy and Church tradition being equal with Scripture originated. Because of this transition, doctrines were coming out of Rome that were not biblical. Some of these included: praying to saints, pilgrimages and the selling of indulgences. A number of people spoke out against these unbiblical doctrines. You may recognize a few of their names: John Wycliffe (1320-1384), John Huss (1369-1415), and John of Wessel (1420-1489). These men were eventually excommunicated, burned at the stake, or thrown in prison by the Roman Catholic Church for their opposition to these doctrines.
Eventually a man named Martin Luther (1483-1546) came onto the scene. Luther was a Roman Catholic monk. Similar to Wycliffe, Huss, and Wessel, Luther struggled with the unbiblical doctrines that flowed from Rome. The most evil of these, as he saw it, was the sale of indulgences. Indulgences were items that the Roman Catholic Church sold so that you could “display” your faith and therefore purchase your way out of Hell. One common phrase allegedly used to support this practice was, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs."
Luther was repulsed by these practices and wrote a scholarly objection with the intent to reform (change) the Church. His desire was to get the Roman Catholic Church back to the Word of God. This scholarly objection is known as the Ninety-Five Theses. This document was not without flaw, and it is nothing special, however these 95 points were like a match lighting a fuel that had soaked into the Church over the centuries. At times, people struggle with the split that the reformation caused, but I like to tell them that if they would have lived during that time, they would have held the nail while Luther hammered. I do not think anyone today would argue that the Roman Catholic Church had lost it way.
The question is why? Why did indulgences creep in? Why did the practice of praying to dead people (necromancy) switch from being outlawed in the Old Testament to being encouraged? Where did this unbiblical “works based” salvation come from? The answer is man, and that is where the problem lies, and this is what the phrase Sola Scriptura attempts to correct.
Sola Scriptura means “by scripture alone.” This does not mean that you can only read the Bible. Nor is this phrase in the Bible (neither is “Trinity” by the way). It is a phrase that was coined to help us understand a deep biblical truth. It is a quick way to remember warnings such as Revelation 22:18-16 and Deuteronomy 4:2, “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.”
It is also a way to accept the sufficiency of God’s Word that we are told of in Mathew 4:4, John 17:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and Titus 2:1.
- Matthew 4:4 – “But he answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
- John 17:17 – “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “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 competent, equipped for every good work.”
- Titus 2:1 – “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine”
- Matthew 7:24 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."