The Reason "Sola Scriptura" is the Only Biblical Position by Cooper Abrams Sola Scriptura "Scripture alone" is a term which states the Bible alone is a Christian's sole infallible and inerrant authority for his faith and
practice. It is not only the biblical position, but also is the only logical position. If believers do not follow the Bible alone, then in fact,
they are to some degree following fallible men instead of God. God is the
author and finisher of our salvation and not man, therefore biblical
Christians accept only what God has stated in His word the Bible. The first
distinctive of a true biblical New Testament (ekklesia)
(translated "church" in our English Bibles) is that the Scriptures alone
are the sole authority for its faith and practice. 1
the Bible as their sole Authority for Faith and Practice?
The Reason "Sola Scriptura" is the Only Biblical Position
by Cooper Abrams
Sola Scriptura "Scripture alone" is a term which states the Bible alone is a Christian's sole infallible and inerrant authority for his faith and practice. It is not only the biblical position, but also is the only logical position. If believers do not follow the Bible alone, then in fact, they are to some degree following fallible men instead of God. God is the author and finisher of our salvation and not man, therefore biblical Christians accept only what God has stated in His word the Bible. The first distinctive of a true biblical New Testament (ekklesia) (translated "church" in our English Bibles) is that the Scriptures alone are the sole authority for its faith and practice. 1
Jesus Christ is the Word
To understand why the Bible is the believer's sole authority for our faith and practice, we must understand that Jesus Christ is our God, Savior and the head of the local church. He is the Word and that All power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth. (Matt. 28:18b) Hebrews 1:1-3 explains the situation today as to how God is speaking to and leading His children:
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."
The passage says that God, in the past, spoke or revealed himself to man in various ways, but in the last days (the dispensation of the Church Age begun in Acts 2) "has spoken to us by his Son" who is Jesus Christ. Note that the statement is past tense meaning it was spoken prior to this time. John 1:1, 14-15 plainly identifies Jesus Christ as the "Word."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me."
Further Revelation 19:11-13 also states that Jesus Christ is the Word. "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God."
Therefore, it is plain that God is telling us that He is revealing, and directing us today by His Word, Jesus Christ. The "Word" is the Greek word "Logos" which refers both Jesus Christ and the written Word of God. There can be no mistake that this means God's preserved Word the Scriptures, the Bible. You cannot separate Jesus Christ from the Word, because He is the Word. The New Testament proclaims Jesus and His Word are one. God explains in 2 Timothy 3:16-17
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
If you preach or teach any teaching not found in God’s word it is a personal attack
on Jesus Christ Himself. That is why it is imperative for a preacher or teach to know God’s word. God cannot, nor will He bless the ideas, speculations, or opinions of a man. He only is the word and it is the epitome of sin and arrogance to misuse God’s word and in doing so grossly disrespect our Savior.
Some object to this verse saying it only refers to the Old Testament Scriptures which Timothy was taught and not the New Testament. This is a foolish conclusion because the word "Scriptures" always refers to God's written inspired revelation. It refers to the written word that God has revealed The Bible says that "all" Scripture is given by inspiration of God, which would refer to all of God's written and inspired word. Note first that in following the Bible, God's written word, one is following God's "inspired" word. God tells us how He chose and what was the process of His giving His written Scriptures:
"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21)
Further not only does God say He inspired the Bible, but also note the thoroughness of the Scriptures. God states that His Scriptures enable a man to be perfect, and thoroughly furnished unto all good works. In other words, there is nothing that the Scriptures do not address in word or principle and that a man who follows them can be perfect in all he does. There is no need for the world and God's people to go anywhere else but God to learn of Him and how to receive forgiveness of sin, eternal life, spiritual guidance. This leaves no need of anything other than the Bible's instruction for a man or local assembly to follow the Lord completely. God’s word, the Bible is our sole source of knowledge about our God and Savior.
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11)
“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORDare true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:7-11)
In these and many other passages, God tells us His word is perfect, without error, and our sole foundation on which to base our faithfulness to Him.
If, however, anyone follows those who are denying the sole authority of the Scriptures, that person or church is following men who are consciously or unconsciously following Satan. Satan is the deceiver and those who add to God’s Word and claim modern revelation, then people are faced with having to follow the dictates of some fallible group or individual instead of going to God directly. To read and follow the Bible is going directly to God and get our instructions from Him.
Jesus Christ is the Head of the Local Ekklesia (Assembly or Congregation)
First the New Testament is clear that Jesus Christ is the Head and the authority in the church "ekklesia". Note the following passages:
1 Corinthians 11:3 "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God."
Ephesians 4:15 "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."
Ephesians 5:23 "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body."
Nowhere in the New Testament do you find any statement that says anyone else but Jesus Christ is the head of the "ekklesia" which is a local assembly of believers we call a church. The New Testament never mentions any man as being His vicar or any ecclesiastic entity as being the head over the body of Christ. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of His flock. (1 Peter 5:4) A bishop or pastor is, according to Acts 20:28, simply the "overseer" of the Lord's flock. (1 Peter 5:2) Paul clearly stated the pastor's responsibility "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." (2 Timothy 4:2) He is not the authority in a church, but a God appointed man to see that a local congregation follows God’s word. He does this by preaching, teaching and personal example. He has no sanction from God to change, add to, corrupt, or impart his personal views or opinions to the Bible.
As God's overseer the pastor is to preach "the Word." There is no mention in the New Testament, he is to preach or teach the "traditions" of churches. The reason is because the pastor, any individual, church or church official is the authority for what is God's truth, doctrine, church polity, or practices. The pastor is the under-shepherd who tends to the Lord's flock of sheep with longsuffering and doctrine as the Master has instructed him.
"Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood."
Further, Peter warned the pastor "Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." (1 Peter 5:3) A pastor is not the “lord” of the congregation, but his position is to oversee and direct them as God’s word instructs.
Ephesians 4:11-16 states:
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
God used the prophets and Apostles to record His revelation to man. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21) Since, the original ones died there are no more apostles or prophets. When the Bible was completed, there was no further need of such men. Today, that leaves only those God calls to preach and teach His word. Paul states their calling:
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:12-15)
Paul, under the inspiration of God, stressed the pastor, in edifying the local congregation, was to bring them to "the full unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God." In this way the believer could be brought toward being "a perfect man" which means a fully mature believer who would not be subject to being deceived false doctrine. Clearly, it is the word of God that matures a believer in Christ.
The Scriptures are the Only Reliable Test for God's Truth
One critical principle that must be understood is that we are to test everything by the written Word of God, the Bible. It stands alone as the only authority because it is God's own words to us. God's written word gives us the means to test what we are told by men and churches. Without the written word, we have not conclusive way test the polity, traditions, supposed revelations and teaching of a church or by man. If we do not accept the Bible as our only authority then we have no effective way to test the authenticity of what we are told. (I have an article titled " Is God Still Giving Men Revelation Today" which addresses the issue of those who claim God is still giving revelation today. (See my article at http://bible-truth.org/norevtod.htm )
Many churches do not follow the clear teachings of the Bible, yet claim they are valid churches representing God's truth. For example, the Roman Catholic, and most Protestant churches baptize by sprinkling. However, the New Testament word used for baptism and the instruction concerning proper baptism absolutely preclude any other mode other than immersion. The question is, "Where did these churches get their authority to baptize by sprinkling?" The answer is from their church fathers and/or church traditions. They are in clear violation of God's word. What happened was that some council of men with unlawful authority in their church, ignored God's word, and instead they instituted the practice based on human reasoning and without any biblical basis for doing so. Using human, fallible logic, they determined they know more than God. They ignored sound hermeneutical principles of interpretation which establishes that immersion alone is the proper mode of baptism. Thus, the church or individual who follows such teachings are not following the Lord, but are being misled by the teachings of man. Therefore, these churches who claim to be representing God, are in fact teaching false doctrine and practices that is contrary to God's instructions. It is the Bible that tells us they are wrong and are misleading their people. Many other examples could be given, but this illustrates the point. (Click this line for an article that explains God's method of interpreting His word - http://bible-truth.org/Principles.html )
Sinful men and churches became so arrogant that the even set men in power over God’s heritage as exampled by the pope of the Roman Catholic church, or an archbishop over the Church of England. Protestant churches also are ruled by ecclesiastical authority bestowed on a few men who control their churches with absolute power. Even some Baptist churches allow an unbiblical board of elders or deacons to hold the power over their church’s pastor and the congregation. Yet, biblically, God instructions are the authority rest solely with God’s word as the local congregation follows God’s written word.
"Sola Scriptura" is the Only Biblical
and Logical Position for a True Child of God.
As stated in the introductory comments "sola Scripture" is not only the biblical position it is the only logical position as well. A man who follows the Bible, God's word, can be assured that he is pleasing and obeying God. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God. The preacher or teacher who teaches the Bible can know that he is teaching God's truth. Following any other "authority" degrades God, His word and puts some man- or man-made institution between us and God. God instructs us not to go to any man or church as our authority, but to God, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself:
" Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Let me reiterate, the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, most Protestant churches and the cults are opposed to accepting the Bible as the only authority for faith and practice. They purport that their "church" officials have the authority to interpret and establish teachings and practices that are not found in the Bible. These “authorities” are claimed to have great wisdom and the believer in the pew. Some of these false teaching, established by "church" traditions is papal authority, a universal church, praying to Mary and dead "saints", Purgatory, infant baptism, sprinkling as a mode of baptism, transubstantiation, immaculate conception, Mary as the "Mother of God", indulgences, and a host of other practices, nor of which are not found in God's word. In fact, these teachings contradict God's word as stated in the Bible. Not only do these teachings and practices contradict the Bible, the traditions of each of these groups contradict each other.
How then can an honest Christian know what is the truth? What authority does he appeal to? One certainly could not accept these church organizations as the authority because they contradict the Bible and each other! No belief or practice that contradicts God's word can come from God Himself or from a church that was truly following God. If a practice violates the written word of God, it cannot be from God. God cannot contradict Himself.
Biblically, it was Christ who instituted the local church and doctrine. A church does not establish doctrine or truth. A church is to preach, teach, and its members live according to God’s Word. It is Christ, through His written word that instructs, establishes and dictates what is His word. God inspired and selected the writers of the Bible to record His written word.
Does 2 Thessalonians 2:15 allow for accepting the traditions
of church to be authoritarian?
"Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
Often 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is used as a proof text that church traditions have authority from God also. It is revealing that those who use this argument are appealing to the Bible as the authority for their teachings, yet, in this case are misusing and misinterpreting the verse.
The word translated "traditions is the word "paradosis" and referring to truths to the orally delivered and inspired writing from the Apostles. In 1 Corinthians 11:2 the word is translated "ordinances." "Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances (teachings), as I delivered them to you." (1 Corinthians 11:2)
Paul is emphatically stating that his instructions to the churches did not originate from himself, but came by inspiration of God. (See Acts 17:13; 2 Cor. 2:17, 5:19; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 2:5) Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, addresses the issue of false teachings that originated from some within these churches that was contradictory to what he had taught. He proclaimed with all authority that his teachings were inspired of God. Therefore, the "traditions" Paul is referring to was his inspired teachings to the churches. There are traditions that are not inspired of God and Paul is warning the churches about them. The Bible is the only means to determine which are inspired and those that are not.
The Biblical Example
The biblical example the sole authority of Scripture can be seen the lives of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. Jesus when tempted by Satan, as Matthew 4 records, each time appealed to the Old Testament Scriptures. In Matthew 15 when Jesus was confronted by the scribes and Pharisees as to why the disciples transgressed the traditions of the Jewish elders, Jesus' reply made a sharp difference between the traditions of the Jewish religious leaders and the scriptures. In Matthew 15:3 Jesus said, "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3) The traditions of the elders referred to the writings of various rabbis in the Talmud. Even the Jews did not accept the Talmud as inspired of God.
In His teaching and answering His Jewish critic the Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly referred to the scriptures and not once to the traditions set forth the Talmud. (See Matt. 21:42; John 2:22; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2:2; 2 Peter 1:17-19, etc.)
Paul warned of accepting false teaching when he warned the Colossians about being beguiled by the enticing words of man which he called vain. (Col. 2:4) He counsels them about false teaching saying , "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Colossians 2:8) Note, he refers to philosophy (humanistic ideas and opinion), vain (worthless) deceit, that are based in the traditions of worldly men and are not based in Christ.
The classic passage addressing the authority of the scriptures was seen in Paul's encounter with the Bereans. "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11) They did not search the writings of the rabbi, but rather the inspired word of God as recorded in the Old Testament. They fully understood that only God’s written and preserved Word was the authority the truth.
The Misunderstanding of How the Canon of Scripture was Established.
1. A serious misunderstanding is that made by those who conclude one cannot appeal to the Bible as the sole authority because the Bible does not tell us what books are inspired of God. It is true that the Bible does not contain a list of the inspired books, but that in no way implies we cannot know which books were inspired of God and those that were not. In a nutshell, the contents of the books themselves give clear and precise as to whether they came from God or from man. I have an article at http://bible-truth.org/Apocrypha.html, "The Apocryphal Books - Are they lost books of the Bible?" which addresses the reason these books clearly are not inspired of God. There are mainly four reasons the books purported as Scripture are not accepted by biblical Christians:
1. They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms (attributing a custom, event, or object to a period to which it does not belong).
2. They teach doctrines which are false and foster practices which are at variance with inspired Scripture.
3. They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture.
4. They lack the distinctive elements which give genuine Scripture their divine character, such as prophetic power and lead men to a closer relationship with Christ.
The internal evidence shows these are spurious books that contain errors which shows their human uninspired origin. However, on the other hand, the all sixty-six books of the Bible are in historical, cultural, and doctrinal harmony. Further, none of the books that are not included in the canon even claim to be inspired of God, yet repeatedly the Bible claims inspiration.
5. A second serious misunderstanding and untruth that the Roman Catholic Church established the canon. This is a gross rewriting of the history of the canon. First no church established the canon. The word "canon" is derived from the Greek word "canon" which means a "reed" or "cane," or also "rule" used to "measure." The evidence is too lengthy to present in this brief article, but historically the sixty-six books of the Bible or canon was not established by the Roman or any church, but by believers over the four hundred years after the First Century. These believers recognized which books were inspired by God by their content, agreement with the other books of scripture. The believers knew the word of God and rejected the spurious books on the same grounds. Thus, the Bible itself is the testimony of its inspiration and authority.
The Problem of Beliefs and Practices Based on
Tradition being Unique to that Group.
One aspect of accepting tradition as a source of God's revelation is that the tradition is always unique to the group that purports it as coming from God. That should immediately raise a red flag. The unbiblical teachings of the Mormon church are a prime example. Would God give a belief or practice only to one group? Would He give instructions that could only be found by going to one religious entity? Is not God's written word given to all believers? Note what God inspired Peter to write:
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:19-21)
The principle is that God's word is His information and instructions to all. God’s written word is universal in its application. No one individual or entity has the right to making any interpretation that unique unto itself. In the final statements of God's revelation to man God said:
"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19)
In completing His word, God severely warned about adding or subtracting to the His written word. Thus, with the completion of the Book of Revelation, God has recorded all He wanted man to know. The written word is totally sufficient for man to know God, His plan of salvation and His instructions. Further, God severely warned against adding or taking anything from His written word. “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:19)
2 Timothy 3:17 states in regard to Scripture nothing else is needed. The written word of God is given, "That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:17) Clearly, adding unique beliefs and practices, that originate through the traditions of a church or religious entity violates God's word.
The Bible does not have to state the words that it is the sole authority for our faith and practice. A number of truths such as the word Trinity are also found not stated in God's word, but emphatically are taught through the Scriptures. The absence of the phrase does not deny its truth. Why would God need to state such a phrase when the truth of the phrase is so profoundly declared in His word? (To read my article on “Understanding the Trinity” go to http://bible-truth.org/Trinity.html#The Trinity)
The fact is that if one disallows the sole authority of the scriptures he is left with a serious dilemma. What does he then accept as God, infallible and errant word? Where does he go for God's truth? Does he then appeal to some church or religious leader as being the authority? Most denominations and churches have traditions, practices, and doctrines that contradict the Bible and even each other.
It is an erroneous statement to say God has not told us that His written word is the sole authority for our faith and practice. God plainly and emphatically states in 2 Timothy: "ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Nowhere in God's written word, the Bible, are we told to go anywhere else to learn His revelation. Only the written word of God can be trusted and is immutable. "Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word. So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word . And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments." (Psalms 119:41-43)
1 There is no mention of the institution of the local church in the Old Testament. Biblical churches believe and follow both the Old and New Testament, but only the New Testament addresses the polity of local churches. For clarity, let me also explain that nowhere in the Bible do you find the concept of a universal or catholic church made up of one church with a hierarchical system of government with a pope, prophet, or any other single or group ruling over churches world wide. The New Testament presents the "ekklesia" (English Bibles translated "church") as a geographically local assembly of believers who govern themselves according to the instructions and principles of the Bible and are overseen by one or more pastors. I have several articles which explain the matter biblically and they can be found by going to: http://bible-truth.org/apologeticspage.html#005