Sola Sciptura

5ola (The Five Solas)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:38
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The Christian life in the late 15th and early 16th centuries was a complicated one. There was one church, centered in Rome. Now there were multiple cathedrals and parishes, but everyone reported to Rome and more specifically to the Pope. Scripture was practically chained to the pulpit and it was only read in Latin. Whether you spoke German, French, Spanish or English - Latin was the means by which would hear Scripture. Priests and Monks were the only ones authorized to read and teach the word.
Beyond that, there was a complicated system of obtaining salvation. Repentance was part of the picture. Praying to saints, paying indulgences, and performing acts of contrition all worked together to keep faithful Christians in a sort of bondage of wondering.
While the Papacy claimed to be infallible, corruption marked by greed and infidelity was all to common. One Pope practically bragged about having a child out of wedlock with a physicians daughter. Another Pope was so eager to expand the Vatican that a fundraising campaign was famously launched with the phrase - “A coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”
Matthew Barrett noted:

With the appropriate amount of money, repentance was now for sale, and any sin could be covered

This was the Spiritual environment that prompted several men of God to lobby for reforms in the church. They wanted to bring the church back to its roots.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther famously posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg church. The conversations and debate that he hoped for spun into what we now know as the Protestant Reformation.
While there is a lot that happened in the early decades of the reformation, there are five significant pillars that became markers of reformation churches. These are known as

The Five Solas

Namely, these consist of...
Sola Scriptura - Scripture or God’s Word Alone is the authority for church
Solus Christus - Salvation is through Christ Alone
Sola Fide - Salvation through Christ is by Faith Alone
Sola Gratia - Salvation is an act of Grace Alone - not of works
Soli Deo Gloria - For the Glory of God alone
Over the next five weeks, we’ll consider each of these pillars. In doing so, we’ll reflect a bit on what brought that particular sola about, but we’ll also consider why each one is still important today.
As you know, normally when I preach, I try to go sequentially through a book. The sermons over the next few weeks will be necessarily a bit more topical. We’ll still look closely at some scripture passages, but we’ll also jump around a bit.
So let’s begin where the reformation began....

Sola Scriptura

In order to think through this, let’s go way back to the first century. When Jesus was born, the books that we know of as the Old Testament was quite firmly established as the biblical canon, known as the Tanakh which consisted of
Torah - or the Law - Genesis through Deuteronomy
Nevi’im - the Prophets - Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets
Ketuvim - the writings - Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and the books of Poetry.
As Jesus’ ministry gained an impact and the church began to grow, people began to circulate letters beginning around 50AD. By roughly 150, the books that we know of as our New Testament were generally accepted as scripture.
There were other letters written to churches that seemed introduced divergent views of theology. This prompted the church to convene some councils to solidify or canonize the full body of scripture.

A matter of Authority

Here is where one of the first big argument over scripture began - that is over authority. Does Scripture have authority over the church or does the church have authority over scripture?

The debate within the Church

I didn’t fully understand why there was such a debate until about 10 years ago. I was listening to a news talk station here in the area. It’s a secular station. One of the DJs is a devout catholic. One morning as he was talking, the issue of scripture came up and he made a comment that helped me realize why Catholics and protestants view the bible so differently. He said that since the church canonized the bible, the church, its officers, and tradition have authority over the bible.
For Martin Luther and the other reformers, their view was that the authority rested in scripture. Scripture trumped tradition, the church, and its officers.
So let’s define what Sola Scriptura means. According to Barrett - who wrote an excellent book entitled “God’s Word Alone,”...
God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture Chapter 10: God’s Speech Is Enough: The Sufficiency of Scripture

Sola Scriptura means that only Scripture, because it is God’s inspired Word, is our inerrant, sufficient, and final authority for the church

During the time of the reformation, the doctrine of Sola Scriptura became a big dividing line between the protestant and Catholic churches. This debate forced the Catholic church to revisit that over and over again in various councils. To this day, the Catholic church maintains a view that the church and tradition - which may include some unbiblical beliefs (like views on Mary, transubstantiation, etc), trump scripture.
Now, I don’t bring this up to cause division between us and our Catholic brothers and sisters, but rather to help us understand where the debate ensued.
Why is this a big deal? Well, if the practice of the church and the teaching, reading or understanding of scripture is left to a few and it’s only communicated in a foreign language, then those teachers and leaders could say almost anything and declare it to be true, right or valid. Unfortunately they often did. Sure, the leaders in the church valued and revered scripture. I think they were generally truthful in their instruction, but doctrines like praying to saints, venerating Mary, purgatory, and paying indulgences are all non-biblical practices that were a big part of church life.
As a result of this element of the debate several people began to translate the bible into the languages of the people. Luther had his German translation. Wycliffe and Tyndale worked on their translations. The invention of the printing press made mass distribution of Scripture readily available. Now reading, studying, and applying scripture wasn’t reserved for the Spiritual elites, but for the common folk - in a language they could truly understand.
But this conflict with the authority of Scripture didn’t just exist among the churches. Right on the heals of the reformation came...

The debate with Enlightenment

During this era, also known as the “age of reason,” human reason and science began to be the big antagonists to the authority of scripture. If something couldn’t be reasoned out, setting miracles aside, then it must not be true.
Barrett notes that...
God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture (The Reign of Autonomous Reason: The Enlightenment)
What distinguished the Enlightenment was how it viewed reason. The Enlightenment individual believed he could have access to pure human reason, which would allow him to tear down traditional ecclesiastical myths that only served to oppress societies of ages past. The Enlightenment man confidently declared to the world that he had come of age intellectually, and it was now time to liberate himself from the assumptions he had previously inherited from mother Christendom. By means of pure reason, he was now capable of discovering truth for himself, and in doing so he would pioneer a new path to enlightenment. Reason was the golden ticket to a life of total objectivity, free from bias.
There are various stages within Enlightenment and the age of reason. We don’t have time here to process through the ramifications of this part of the debate. Generally speaking, enlightenment produced a variety of results from Deists who would believe that God is silent to agnostics who would say that God is unknowable to atheists who say that there is no God. For many of these enlightenment thinkers - reason is the highest authority.
Eventually the outside attack of the enlightenment gave way to the internal attacks from

The Debate with Protestant Liberalism and Biblical Criticism

Barrett again notes:
God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture Liberalism’s Theology from below: Friedrich Schleiermacher

Protestant Liberalism was an intentional renovation of Christian orthodoxy to accommodate Enlightenment thought. This did not mean that Liberalism accepted the rationalism of the Enlightenment uncritically. But it did believe in the necessity of recasting Christianity to meet the concerns raised by the Enlightenment.

Protestant Liberalism removes the authority from God and scripture and places it squarely in the hands of experience. If it is experienced then it must be true.
As a result, this caused people to look closely at the biblical autographs - or the original documents. Rather than taking the documents at face value, people began to question everything - authorial intent, integrity, history, etc. People began applying modern or contemporary standards to ancient, biblical texts.
Even today, we see the debate with the authority of Scripture as seen in...

The Current Debate with Post-modernism where truth is subject to relevance

We could say that in our day there is an...
Absolute absence of absolute truth
Today, everything is questioned. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The challenge is, what is the standard or the rule against which things are measured.
With most things in life, we want clear standards. In fact, as a nation, we have an entire agency designed to maintain and delineate standards - NIST - National Institute of Standards and Technology. That organization works to maintain how long an inch, foot, centimeter, or meter is. They maintain the exact measurements for a pound and a gram and each of their subsets, and so much more.
But when it comes to standards of morality and conduct and ethics, our society wants none. We’re removing all of the boundaries.
One of the things that the reformers challenged was that the Bible alone is the final authority (Sola Scriptura) - for matters of life and matters in the church. Authority does not rest in people or reason or science or experience - but in God’s Word alone.
2 Peter 1:3–5 ESV
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, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
Now, I realize that in such a short time, I can’t address all of the arguments for and against Sola Scriptura. In the last few weeks, I’ve spent countless hours reading books on the subject, and I fear I’ve not even scratched the surface. I’ll be happy to provide some extra reading material if you’d like some suggested reading.
The doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that scripture has value for everyday life. It means that scripture speaks into the life of the church. It means that Scripture informs, instructs, corrects, and challenges sinful human tendencies.
Let’s conclude by considering a brief...

Exposition of Sola Scriptura (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Now, Sola Scriptura does not mean Nuda Scriptura “nothing but Scripture” - but the doctrine of Sola Scriptura means that Scripture is the final authority. Everything else needs to be looked at in light of Scripture.
I think that one of the best passages of Scripture to consider is...
2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Let’s briefly consider this phrase by phrase:

All Scripture

From Genesis to Revelation, I believe this is the word of God. Every page, every chapter, every verse, ever Word is Scripture. Part of the reason I believe this is because it was…

Breathed out by God

Some translations say that all scripture is inspired by God. This could be seen as an emotional prompting - kind of like a good movie might inspire you to be a better person or a political or athletic action might inspire someone to do something different.
I believe Scripture’s origin is more than that. Being “breathed out by God” indicates that God is the origin. He is the one who moved by His Spirit with Human authors to convey His truth.
Peter describes it this way:
2 Peter 1:21 ESV
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.
In a sense, with scripture we have God moving human authors to write in such a way that His message is conveyed using their literary voices.
And because God is true, his word is true, sufficient.


All Scripture is profitable or useful - the relativism of our day is unprofitable - we need some firm standard or truth - God’s word is that truthful guide
clear - able to be understood - but also able to challenge the most intellectually astute. There are difficult sections of scripture for sure.
Gods word is profitable for…


This is instruction. God’s Word, Scripture, provides us knowledge. It gives us a framework for how we should view the world. It may not be comprehensive in every detail of life or science or history - it’s not designed to do that - but it will provide us knowledge and instruction. In other words, God’s Word, Scripture, provides a foundation of knowledge. It teaches us how we should live, how we should view the world.
God’s word is also profitable for…


In the Greek, this word translated reproof refers to an indication of someone doing something wrong with evidence or proof. This is not based on conjecture or hearsay, but is established on evidence. For example, Scripture informs us of human depravity - that we are all fallen because of original sin - a sin we inherited from the first humans. By nature we have a sinful birth defect. Beyond that, Scripture informs us that we are guilty by intentional sin - those things that we willfully do against the will and ways of God - against his standard. Think of intentional sin like breaking the speed limit by 1MPH - are we speeding? Yes! Are we Guilty? Yes! Is their photo evidence? Yes!
The beauty of this “reproof” is that we have an advocate in Jesus Christ. Consider these scriptures:
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
1 John 2:1–2 ESV
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
Not only do we stand guilty, but he has taken our guilt on himself and atoned for it. He made a way for us, guilty as we are, to be made right with God - by faith.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
What’s more, Scripture not only shows us our guilt but provides...


This is putting us back on the correct course - a realignment. I believe Scripture provides us a correction in thinking and in action. Imagine what would happen if we took off from Dulles Airport and travelled to Jeddah Saudi Arabia. If we were off by one degree from the beginning, we would never make it. The Word of God, Scripture, provides those constant course corrections to help us stay on track. Jesus gets us to our destination, but Scripture helps us to stay on course to truly exhibit all that God entails. (Consider referencing how this impacts various sinful actions or ways of thinking)
It’s not based on experience or whims, but on the fixed and established Word of God.

Training in righteousness

From the youngest to the oldest, God’s Word provides practical instruction. Think about this, in Dt. 6, God told parents
Deuteronomy 6:6–9 ESV
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
While sometimes scripture can be challenging to understand, there are elements that are instructive even for the most elementary of learners.
Even consider the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) - these are not difficult commands to live out.

That the man (person) of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Sola Scriptura is not mental ascent or intellectual exercises in good intentions, but rather it is intended to be practical and applicable for daily life. It’s designed to help you be the person that God intended you to be - as a student, a parent, a spouse, an employee, a boss, neighbor. As we already read from 2 Peter.
2 Peter 1:3 (ESV)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness...
So let’s conclude by...

Applying Sola Scriptura

We need to recognize that God’s Word is sufficient - for life, salvation. As Barrett again encourages:
Scripture is not merely helpful but is the source we turn to for all of life as a Christian. (Barrett, 342)
If we will view Scripture this way, then we need to take some action - not only should we recognize God’s Word as authoritative and sufficient, but we should...
Read the Word - make time daily to read the word. We can’t live out what we’re not taking in. How are you doing in your reading of the Word? Here at the beginning of the new year, consider reading through the bible this year or at least read through one of the Testaments. In the bulletin, you may have noticed a recommended reading plan. This was formulated by a Pastor named Robert Murray M’Cheyene about 150 years ago. He organized this plan to help his congregation get through the New Testament twice each year and the rest of the Bible once - typically divided among four chapters each day. If that seems like too much, use a couple of the columns for family devotional readings.
Meditate on the Word- Joshua 1:8 challenges us: Joshua 1:8 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Often we think of meditation as thinking or reflecting, but it may be better understood as muttering or murmuring. The idea is to verbalize the Word throughout the day. Find something that you’ve read and mutter it. For example, you might take the verses that we’re focusing on today and just repeat those - over and over as time allows. Before too long, you’ll find that you’ll...
Memorize the Word - I’m going to try to do a better job this year of providing a passage of Scripture to memorize each week.
Finally, Filter Everything Through the Word - When reading, listening to, watching other things - do so in light of the Word - let scripture sit in judgement/authority over all other media. In Acts 17 the Bereans were commended because they received Paul’s testimony and then searched the scriptures to verify them.
Let me close with this encouragement from Charles Spurgeon, who Pastored in England in the mid to late 1800s as he challenged his congregation to consider the Word of God - its authority, it’s authorship and inspiration, it’s relevance:

First, my friends, stand over this volume, and admire its authority. This is no common book. It is not the sayings of the sages of Greece; here are not the utterances of philosophers of past ages. If these words were written by man, we might reject them; but oh, let me think the solemn thought—that this book is God’s handwriting, that these words are God’s. Let me look at its date; it is dated from the hills of heaven. Let me look at its letters: they flash glory on my eye. Let me read the chapters: they are big with meaning and mysteries unknown. Let me turn over the prophecies: they are pregnant with unthought-of wonders. Oh, book of books! And wast thou written by my God? Then will I bow before thee. Thou book of vast authority, thou art a proclamation from the Emperor of Heaven; far be it from me to exercise my reason in contradicting thee. Reason! thy place is to stand and find out what this volume means, not to tell what this book ought to say. Come thou my reason, my intellect, sit thou down and listen, for these words are the words of God

Let’s Pray
Memory Verse: 2 Tim. 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The Lord’s Supper
1 Corinthians 11:27–29 ESV
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
Barrett, Matthew, and R. Albert Mohler Jr. God’s Word Alone—the Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters. The 5 Solas Series. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. San Francisco, CA. HarperSanFrancisco, 1984.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. San Francisco, CA. Harper & Row, 1985.
Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.
Machen J. Gresham, Christianity and Liberalism. Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans, 1923.
Mohler, R. Albert; Peter Enns; Michael F. Bird; Kevin J. Vanhoozer; John R. Franke. Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 2013.
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