This year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Whether he actually did or his students, the posting of Martin Luther’s famous or infamous (depending on your perspective) 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg launched a movement that changed the world. Yet, surprisingly many contemporary Christians know nothing of the event or the significance of its anniversary this year.
In honor of this anniversary I’m going to dedicate the next five blogs from myself to summarizing the five central theological tenets of the Reformation, those ideas that rocked the Catholic Church and launched a myriad of others: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Christus (Christ Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (God’s Glory Alone).
Modern man at once rejects ultimate authority and seeks it in nearly every area of his life. He loathes the necessity of obedience to one external to himself and yet longs for the sanity offered by a stable government and a standardized way of life. Oddly, this dichotomy does not strike him as incoherent or inexplicable. He is the way he is and that’s all that he is.
Christians are much the same. We want to be autonomous in our churches and in our faith. We cry for the freedom of the local church and the priesthood of all believers in one breath and decry the behavior of others with another. Likewise, we claim that the Bible is our authority for matters of the faith. Yet, we turn to the Christian gurus of our age for advice in all areas of the faith. We, too, fail to see the inconsistency of our confession and our actions.
Periodically, we must return to think again on the great doctrines of the faith, those things revealed in the Bible and revisited in history. It is time for the church to once again to relinquish our prideful control of self and submit to the final authority of the Bible once for all.
Southern Baptists began this process in the 80s and 90s as they battled for the denomination and lifted up the banner of the Bible. Unfortunately, even those who were willing to die on the hill called “inerrancy” have hedged their bets. They’ve raised one hand in allegiance and kept the other in the books of men who profess to possess the secrets of church growth and spiritual happiness.
I write here not to downplay the value of many good books that line the shelves of the church. I write here to lift up the Good Book. It is time we seriously reconsider and rededicate ourselves to that great Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura.
At the most basic level, sola scriptura claims that Christians have no greater authority than the Bible alone. This authority is not shared with man nor institutions. Tradition cannot trump God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible. Authority resides in the revealed word of God, the final word on all matters of faith and practice.
As such the Bible is not only inerrant, reflecting the perfect character of God, it is infallible and authoritative. Moreover, it is also sufficient for the church and all its needs.
The Bible is sufficient to accomplish God’s will – Isaiah 55:10-11.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.”
The Bible is sufficient for evangelism – Romans 10:17.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The Bible is sufficient for sanctification – Psalm 119:11.
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
The Bible is sufficient for guidance – Romans 12:2.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The Bible is sufficient for all areas of Christian living – 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, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
The church should praise God for the many gifted men and women he has graciously provided to guide and inspire us. However, we must never allow ourselves to blindly follow the word of men while we ignore the word of God. May he forgive us for doing so in the past. May he keep us from doing so again.