“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” – 2 Timothy 3:16
The Apostle Paul stressed the importance of God’s Word throughout his second letter penned to his young protégé Timothy. He encouraged Timothy to be a good steward of the Scriptures by practicing serious study habits. Paul told Timothy that if a person failed to handle the Scriptures carefully and accurately, they have reason to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul went on to say that the Scriptures are the fully inspired, infallible, God-breathed Word of God. They are completely accurate, true, and reliable, free of any errors or contradictions. The Apostle Paul undoubtedly had a high regard for the Scriptures, as should we. For God’s Word is truth, because He Himself is Truth (John 17:17, John 14:6). God cannot lie, and thus His words are pure (Titus 1:1-2). The Scriptures provide direction and guide the believer in the pursuit of righteousness (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word is also used to test whether or not a particular teaching is true or false. (2 Peter 3:16-18, 1 John 4:1).
But by the sixteenth century, truths surrounding the authority of Scripture had been practically abandoned by the Roman Catholic Church. “Thus saith the Lord” had been replaced with “Thus saith the Church.” The Pope’s word was valued more than God’s Word. Scripture had taken a backseat to church creeds and traditions. Priests dictated the Scriptures instead of explaining the Scriptures. The church taught and practiced traditions which were in direct conflict with the scriptures. Undoubtedly, it was a very dark chapter in church history. This was the atmosphere when Martin Luther showed up on the scene and began questioning the tactics and teachings of the Church. In his “95 Theses” hung on the church door at Wittenberg, Luther proclaimed the Scriptures as the supreme authority of the Christian faith, making it clear that God’s Word always supersedes the word of the church. Luther stressed these truths by using the Latin slogan “Sola Scriptura” which means “Scripture alone.” It was a timely message considering the Roman Catholic Church had become saturated with unbiblical traditions. And, not surprisingly, Luther’s theses was rejected by the church officials and Papal authority.
However, we should not interpret Luther’s concern about church tradition to mean that somehow all church tradition is bad. The truth is, church traditions based upon God’s Word can be extremely beneficial, enriching both the devotional life of the individual along with the overall health of a congregation. Bible Based traditions can help guide believers in righteousness. Luther’s message was simply this; any tradition conjured up by the church apart from the Word of God must be rejected. And as the Protestant Reformation gained steam, more and more people began to see the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church for what they were. Over time, Sola Scriptura eventually became a rallying cry for the reformers.
In the centuries that followed, Sola Scriptura was deeply woven into the tapestry of protestant evangelicalism. Even today, Sola Scriptura is a belief held by the majority of the evangelical community and is seen as a foundational pillar within Christian faith and practice. However, this is not the case with a handful of denominations. In recent years, some denominations have softened their position on the Scriptures and seem to no longer hold to Scripture as the final authority for the church. Denominational councils and conferences have buckled under the pressures of a changing society and have done so all in the name of “tolerance” and “political correctness.” This is why Sola Scriptura must always be seen as a theological non-negotiable; for the authority of God’s Word is not up for debate. Bottom line; a church congregation must fully embrace Sola Scriptura to maintain proper spiritual health.
Oh that we would have a deep appreciation for Protestant Reformation! Because of the reformation, our spiritual lives are not contingent upon the word of the church. Instead, we have the Word of God readily available to us as the final authority of our faith. Ponder these things today, and may we all be people who have the utmost regard for God’s holy and precious Word!
– Pastor Eric