Table of Contents
What is Sola Scriptura?
Is Sola Scriptura Found In The Bible?
Is the Bible Sufficient?
Is Sola Scriptura a Protestant Concoction?
What is Sola Scriptura?
The Latin "Sola Scriptura" means "Scripture Only," or "Scripture alone." This was one of the distinctive features of the Protestant Reformation and signaled the Reformed departure from alleged Papal infallibility and the authority of Romish tradition contained in the writings of the Church Fathers and oral tradition. Sola Scriptura does not mean that we cannot use other sources. It simply means that "all other sources" must submit to the sovereign truth found only in holy scripture. No man, no belief system, no personal view should be allowed in our churches, pulpits and classrooms that do not stand up to a close, in depth and arduous challenge to "Scripture Alone" as being the final source of truth! (The "catholicity" of American Baptists by Sam Hughey)
“First, it is necessary to understand what Sola Scriptura does and does not assert. The Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of Sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that "scientific truth" for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture -- but Scripture is a "more sure Word," standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is "more sure," according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our own senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter to which it speaks”, (Dr. John F. MacArthur, Jr. Sola Scriptura! The Protestant Position on the Bible, chapter 5)
by James G. McCarthy
Today, even as in the time of the Reformation, thousands of Catholics worldwide are leaving Roman Catholicism for Biblical Christianity. And once again, the rallying cry of the sixteenth century, Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone, is being heard.
Roman Catholic defenders have responded to this challenge by going on the offensive. A typical argument sounds something like this:
The Bible cannot be the sole rule of faith, because the first Christians didn’t have the New Testament. Initially, Tradition, the oral teachings of the apostles, was the Church’s rule of faith. The New Testament came later when a portion of Tradition was put to writing. It was the Roman Catholic Church that produced the New Testament, and it was the Church that infallibly told us what books belong in the Bible. It is the Church, therefore, that is the authoritative teacher of Scripture. Sola Scriptura is not even taught in the Bible. The rule of faith of the Roman Catholic Church, therefore, is rightly Scripture and Tradition together.
Christians confronted with such arguments should keep the following points in mind:
Christians have never been without the Scriptures as their rule of faith.
The unforgettable experience of two early disciples shows the fallacy of thinking that the first Christians were ever without Scripture as their rule of faith. Three days after the crucifixion, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking home. A fellow traveler, whom they took for a stranger, joined them along the way. The conversation quickly turned to the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem. With deep sorrow, the disciples told the story of how the chief priests and rulers of the nation had sentenced Jesus to death and had Him crucified by the civil authorities.
To the disciples’ shock, the stranger rebuked them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25, NIV). Then beginning with Moses and proceeding through the prophets, the stranger explained to them the truths concerning Jesus in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Eventually the two disciples realized that their fellow traveler was no stranger at all but the Lord Jesus Himself! Later they recalled, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32).
The experience of those two early disciples was not unique. With the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, and with the aid of the apostles’ teaching, Jewish Christians rediscovered their own Scriptures. Their common conviction was that the Old Testament, properly understood, was a revelation of Christ. There they found a prophetic record of Jesus’ life, teaching, death, and resurrection.
The Old Testament Scriptures served as the standard of truth for the infant church, Jew and Gentile alike. Within a short time, the New Testament Scriptures took their place alongside those of the Old Testament. Consequently, the early church was never without the written Word of God.
Scripture is not simply written Tradition.
Roman Catholic descriptions of the origin of the New Testament stress that the oral teachings of the apostles, Tradition, preceded the written record of those teachings, Scripture. Often the New Testament is presented as little more than a written record of Tradition, the writer’s recollections, and a partial explanation of Christ’s teaching. This, of course, elevates Tradition to the same level of authority as Scripture—or, more precisely, drops Scripture to the level of Tradition.
But the New Testament Scriptures are much more than a written record of the oral teaching of the apostles; they are an inspired record. A biblical understanding of inspiration makes clear the significance of this distinction. Peter writes,
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NIV)
Here we see that Scripture is not "the prophet’s own interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20, NIV). The word translated "interpretation" means to solve or to explain. Peter is saying that no writer of the New Testament simply recorded his own explanation of what he had heard Jesus teach and had seen Him do. Scripture does not have "its origin in the will of man" (2 Peter 1:21, NIV). The writers of the Bible did not decide that they would write a prophetic record or what would be included in Scripture. Rather, they were "carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21, NIV).
The word translated here "carried along" is found in the New Testament in Mark 2:3. There it is used with reference to the paralytic whose friends carried him to Jesus for healing. Just as the paralytic did not walk by his own power, a true prophet does not write by his own impulse. He is "carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21, NIV). Men wrote the New Testament; "men spoke" (2 Peter 1:21, NIV). Their writings reflect their individual personalities and experiences. But these "men spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:21). Men wrote but God was the author.
For these reasons, Scripture is revelation perfectly communicated in God-given words:
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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV)
The phrase "inspired by God" is the translation of a compound term made up of the words God and to breathe. The verse can be translated: "All Scripture is God-breathed. . . " (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV). Scripture is therefore rightly called the Word of God.
In reducing Scripture to simply written Tradition, Catholic proponents are able to boost the importance of Tradition. But in doing so, they distort the meaning of inspiration and minimize the primary difference between Scripture and Tradition.
The Bible contains all essential revelation.
It is true that the New Testament does not contain a record of everything that Jesus did. John makes this clear in the conclusion of his gospel:
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written. John 21:25
John’s point in concluding his gospel with this comment was to acknowledge that the life of the Lord Jesus was far too wonderful to be fully contained in any book. He was not commenting on the general purpose of Scripture or the need for Tradition. Neither was he implying that he had left out of his book essential revelation received from Christ. Indeed, earlier in his gospel, John implies the opposite:
Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31
We can infer from this statement that John included in his gospel all the essential teachings of Christ necessary for salvation. Significantly, he makes no reference to seven sacraments, the Sacrifice of the Mass, sanctifying grace, penance, purgatory, or an institution such as the Roman Catholic Church—all necessary for salvation according to Roman Catholicism.
The Scriptures achieve their stated purpose: "that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17 NIV). They are the perfect guide to the Christian faith. Unlike Tradition, the Scriptures are accessible and open to all. Translations of the entire Bible have been made into the primary languages of the world, 276 in total. It is the most widely distributed and read book in all of history.
To define Roman Catholic Tradition as a font of extra-biblical revelation is to add to God’s Word. Scripture warns us "not to exceed what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6). "Do not add to His words lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar" (Proverbs 30:6). The last book of the New Testament ends with this solemn warning:
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. Revelation 22:18-19
At question is the authority of Tradition, not Scripture.
There are hundreds of verses in the Bible establishing the truth that the Word of God is the church’s sufficient and supreme rule of faith. Psalm 119 alone dedicates 176 verses to the unparalleled value of God’s Word. The Lord Jesus taught:
Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4
Though Scriptures can be multiplied on this theme, it is not necessary to do so. The Roman Catholic Church agrees that the Bible teaches that the Word of God is the supreme rule of faith and that all theology must rest upon it. There is no question as to the sufficiency or authority of the Word of God.
The controversy revolves around the identity of God’s Word. Namely, is the Word of God Scripture and Tradition? Or, is the Word of God Scripture alone?
In the ongoing debate, Roman Catholic proponents enjoy taking the offensive by challenging non-Catholics to prove that God intended that the Scriptures alone were to serve as the church’s rule of faith. "Where does the Bible teach Sola Scriptura?" they demand.
Though this tactic is effective in putting their opponents on the defensive, it is in fact misleading. Both sides agree that the Scriptures are the Word of God and that as such they speak with divine authority. The Lord Jesus Himself, in John 10:35, clearly identifies the Word of God as Scripture.
The point of controversy is Tradition. The Roman Catholic Church asserts that Tradition is also the Word of God.
The question which the Roman Catholic Church must answer, therefore, is: Where does Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles teach that Tradition is the Word of God? Or, more precisely: Where in the Bible can it be found that Scripture and Tradition together, as interpreted by the pope and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, are to be the church’s rule of faith? This is what Roman Catholicism is really asserting and should be the topic of debate. And since the Roman Catholic Church is the one asserting the authority of Tradition and the Magesterium, the burden of proof lies with Rome.
Adapted from The Gospel According to Rome (Harvest House Publishers: Eugene, 1995).
1. Compare: Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," no. 19
2. Patrick Johnstone, Operation World (Grand Rapids, MIchigan: Zondervan, 1993), p. 22
3. Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," no. 21 and no. 24. [TABLE OF CONTENTS}
Is Sola Scriptura Found In The Bible?
by Evangelist Mike Gendron
Are the Scriptures alone sufficient and authoritative for the Christian life? The Word of God says "yes!" The Roman Catholic Church says an emphatic "No," foolishly declaring its tradition is also the Word of God and therefore equally authoritative. However, as we study the Bible we see overwhelming evidence as to why Scripture stands alone as the supreme authority in all matters of faith. The internal testimony of the Bible reveals the Word of God is pure, perfect, inerrant, infallible, living, truth, light, holy, eternal, and forever settled in heaven. It illuminates, cleanses, saves, frees, guides, converts, heals, quickens, judges, and sanctifies. It also brings conviction, gives knowledge, gives wisdom, produces faith, refutes error, searches the heart, equips for every good work, and is used as a weapon. God has magnified His Word according to His Name (Psalm 138:2)
Compare this with what the Bible says about tradition. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day that by holding on to their tradition they were nullifying and invalidating the word of God (Mat. 7:7-13). Paul warned his readers: "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col. 2:8). Every time Paul spoke of tradition in a positive sense, it always referred to the tradition they had already received from the apostles. There is not one indication from Scripture that new traditions should be followed or developed. In fact Jude exhorts all Christians to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Yet the Roman Catholic Church has developed new traditions over the last 1600 years that oppose and nullify the word of God and the grace of God. In doing so they supplant the authority of God’s word with traditions of men. Because of this Catholics who fear God should take the exhortation of Peter seriously: "we ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). The Bible represents the perfect character of God, whereas Roman Catholic tradition represents the imperfect character of man.
Thus, the Scriptures provide our only trustworthy and objective basis for authority. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who provides illumination, conviction and discernment, we have confidence that the Bible is true. This dual authority, the Spirit of God working with the Word of God, is sufficient in all matters of faith and Christian living. Catholics, on the other hand, submit to a dual authority of tradition and Scripture, under the subjective interpretation of their church. The pope, who believes he speaks for all Christianity, is said to be infallible in all matters pertaining to faith and morals.
Many Roman Catholics have asked, "Where does it say in the Bible that Scripture alone should be the authority for faith?" Is "Sola Scriptura," the battle cry of the Reformers, found in the Bible? First we must define what "Sola Scriptura" means: Scripture is the sole source of written divine revelation and is sufficient to function as the sole, infallible rule of faith and practice for the Church. Everything that one needs to know, understand and believe for salvation is found in the Scriptures. The Scriptures (as the sufficient rule of faith) do not refer us to or point us to any other rule of faith. Given this definition, there are at least nine biblical justifications for Sola Scriptura.
1. All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God and useful for reproof and correction of error (2 Timothy 3:16). Since Scripture is used to correct and reprove then it must be the authoritative standard by which everything else is judged for its truthfulness.
2. Jesus said, "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:34). The character of God is on the line. "God is not a man that He should lie... and hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good (Numbers 23:19). Submitting to the authority of God’s revealed word will guide us in His perfect will.
3. Christ used the authority of Scripture to rebuke Satan’s attempt to deceive Him (Matthew 4:1-11). He gave prepositional statements to accurately convey the truth that Satan attempted to distort. Jesus was our perfect model for rebuking deception.
4. Jesus used the authority of Scriptures to rebuke false teachers (Matthew 22:29). The only way false teachers can be confronted and exposed is in the power of God’s Word.
5. Repentant sinners are saved by hearing and believing the Word (Ephesians 1:13-14). The integrity of the Gospel must be maintained and proclaimed for true conversions (Gal. 1:6-9).
6. Jesus prayed for Christians to be sanctified (set apart) by the truth of His Word (John 17:17). Christians must separate themselves from apostates and false teachers (2 Cor. 6:14-17). God uses His word to divide and to show which people have His approval (1 Cor. 11:19).
7. One must look to the authority of Scripture to be set free from religious deception and become a disciple of Christ (John 8:31-32). Those who follow the traditions and teachings of men remain in legalistic bondage and are often led astray.
8. Christ rebuked the religious leaders for nullifying the Word of God with their tradition (Mark 7:13). Any tradition or teaching that nullifies the Scriptures must be exposed and renounced so others will not be deceived (Eph. 5:11).
9. The Scriptures were written to all people, not to popes or the Magisterium to be interpreted for lay people. Paul delivered the uncorrupted Word of God to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor. 4:2). Anytime we allow others to interpret God’s word for us, we leave ourselves open to deception. That is why the Lord Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
God foreknew the teachings and traditions of men would become corrupt and would lead many astray. In His wisdom, He left us with His Word, as the only objective, absolute authority for truth. Why would the Roman Catholic Church want to add anything subjective to the objective standard God has given us? Apparently, it is to control their flock with legalistic bondage by supplanting God’s authority with an authority of their own.
Catholics will also argue that we would not have the Bible today if it were not for the Catholic Church. Did the Catholic Church really determine which books to include in the Bible? Did the Catholic Church protect the Bible throughout the centuries? On the contrary, I believe we have the Bible today in spite of the Vatican, which kept it hidden in a dead language (Latin) for hundreds of years. In recent history Catholic priests often refused to absolve the sins of any person who possessed a Bible. Their sins could not be forgiven until the Bible was returned. It would do Roman Catholics well to consider the following facts about the origin of the Bible.
1. Since the books were written under the inspiration of God, they were canonical the moment they were written. A council was not necessary to affirm what was already true. No book became canonical by the action of a church council. What the council did was determine which books did not meet certain tests for canonicity.
2. All the Old Testament books are quoted in the New Testament except Esther, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. None of the books of the Apocrypha, which the Catholic Church added to its canon in the 16th century, are quoted.
3. The New Testament books had certain tests for canonicity. They either had to be written or backed by an apostle (Mark by Peter and Luke by Paul). They also had to be circulated and accepted by the majority of churches. By the second century only the 27 books that now make up the New Testament were accepted by the people of God. Each book had to reflect internal consistency and character with other Scripture.
4. Peter referred to the letters written by Paul as Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). He did not wait for a church council to make that determination.
For Details See Article The Apocrypha
We have the infallible Bible today, not because of the Roman Catholic Church, but because almighty God has protected it and will continue to do so (Matthew 5:18). One day we will be held accountable for what we did with God’s word. It is His word that will judge those who supplant God’s authority with an authority of their own. [TABLE OF CONTENTS}
Excerpt From Is ‘Sola Scriptura’ a Protestant Concoction?
“.... the first step is for us to recognise that the Bible teaches that our convictions are not to be based upon human wisdom! Human wisdom isn’t always wrong; sometimes people used their intellect and their independent ability to research, and find facts and come to truths, which are very valuable. The problem is not that human wisdom is always wrong. The problem is that human wisdom is (1) fallible, and (2) not a sufficient foundation for believing anything about God. Because only God is adequate to witness to Himself!
Therefore our doctrinal convictions are not (should not) based upon human wisdom. The Christian faith is rather based upon God’s own self-revelation rather than the conflicting opinions of men or the untrustworthy speculations of men...”
”.. notice the burden of the Apostle Paul as to how to control the beliefs of the Christians there in Corinth. I Corinthians 2:5, in verse 4 he says,
"And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power..." Why?... Why is Paul making that point? Why is this necessary to emphasize? Verse 5: "...that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (ASV)
“Think about Paul’s conceptual scheme here as you read this verse. Notice how he puts the power of God over here on one side, and the wisdom of men on the other. And not only is the power of God and the wisdom of men in two different categories, he said, "Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men." In I Corinthians 2, verses 10 and 13 (you’ll notice while you’re right there) that Paul draws a sharp contrast between the words which man’s wisdom teaches and those which God reveals unto us through the Spirit. On the one hand, you have words taught by the wisdom of men, and on the other hand you have words revealed through the Spirit. Those are contrasted in Paul’s theology. And he makes the point in verse 4 of chapter 2 that the apostolic message did not originate in words of human wisdom or insight; but rather the apostolic message rests in the power of God and comes through the wisdom of God’s own Spirit!...”
...“Paul thanked God in I Thessalonians 2:13... Paul thanked God that the Thessalonians received his message (and now I’m using his words) "Not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God."
”... Paul contrasts the words of God to the words of men, the wisdom of God to the wisdom of men. These are set apart from each other. He says, "I praise God that you received my preaching not as the words of men!" (Of course, he is a man; he did use words... They were human words.) But Paul says that you received it rather as the Word of God Himself!
Man’s Authority Vs. God’s Authority
In II Timothy 3, verses 15 to 17, Paul spoke of the ‘sacred writings’ which make us 'wise unto Salvation!' And he said that "every one of them is God-breathed," is inspired by God. The Bible would have us beware of the uninspired words of men. God’s people must not submit to the uninspired words of men. Jeremiah 23:16, the prophet says,
"Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they teach you vanity; they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of Jehovah." (ASV)
There again we see in the Old Testament this contrast between a message that comes out of the heart of a man and that which comes from the mouth of Jehovah! It’s not as though the heart of man can’t ever speak the truth; it’s not as though human wisdom never gets anything right, but God’s people cannot rest secure in anything that does not come from the mouth of Jehovah Himself.
In the New Testament, in Colossians 2 and verse 8, Paul warns God’s people not to allow their faith to be compromised by any philosophy which he says is "after the tradition of men... and not after Christ!" There you have it again, the contrast between man’s authority and Christ’s authority, the tradition of men on the one hand, and the authority of Christ on the other. Not this but that, your faith stands in the power of God, in the ‘breathed-out’ Word of God, in a philosophy that is after Christ and not after human tradition. Not after the wisdom of men; not after the tradition of men! Indeed, in the 15th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, verse 6, our Lord Jesus condemned those who, He says, "make void the Word of God" because of their "tradition." (ASV)”...
The Tradition of Men
“... Let’s take our discussion a step further now by talking about the Apostles and the issue of tradition. The reason it’s necessary to do this is that many of the contemporary polemicists for returning to Rome, I think, have confused the people of God by appealing to passages in the New Testament that speak about tradition, and then just letting it be assumed (or wanting people to take for granted) that when the New Testament speaks of tradition, it means tradition in the sense of the Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox, whichever you want to pick) way of understanding tradition. There will be found in your English translations of the New Testament verses that talk about tradition as authoritative. And I’d like to now to take a look at that so you understand it properly, and especially if you see it in light of our first premise that we are not in our Christian faith to follow the dogmas that are rooted in human wisdom. The New Testament approach to tradition is not the approach to tradition of the Roman Catholic Church!
The Roots of Tradition
So where should we begin? How about with Hebrews 1, verses 1-2, for the author of that epistle tells us that in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways — but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son! The author of Hebrews makes it clear that the epitome of God’s revelation is found in the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has spoken to us in these last days by His Son! That is the high point, the apex of all of God’s revelatory manners and means. Jesus Christ is the highest revelation, the clearest revelation of God because obviously Jesus is God Himself. The grandest expression of God’s Word is found in the very person of Jesus, who John the Apostle, in John 1:1 and in Revelation 19 calls "the Word of God." Jesus is "the Word of God," he is the highest expression, the clearest, fullest expression of Who God is to us as men!
And how do we know about Jesus? Jesus isn’t on earth now, revealing Himself to men in the way that He did to Matthew, John, and the others. How do we know about Jesus today? Well, what we know about Christ is dependent upon the written word of the Gospels, the Gospels that were written by men like Matthew and Luke and Mark and John. Jesus commissioned certain men to act as His authorized representatives, i.e., Jesus delegated to certain men the right to speak for Him. They had His ‘power of attorney’ (if I can use the legal expression). In fact, that is very close to what the word ‘apostle’ meant in the days of the New Testament. The apostle of a man was considered the man himself in a court of law. The apostle could speak for that man, and the words spoken by the apostle was legally accounted to be the word of the one that commissioned him! [Also See Reliability of The Gospels]
In John 14:26 we see that Jesus inspired the Apostles with His Word.
John 14:26, "But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you." (ASV)
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be given so that the Apostles will have brought to their remembrance all that Jesus taught, i.e., Jesus wants to pass on to the world through the Apostles not their wisdom, not their insight, but His own Word! Jesus, remember, is the high point of God’s revelation. Jesus turns to the Apostles and says, "The Spirit will bring to your mind everything that I have taught."
In Matthew 10:40, Jesus explains the concept of an apostle known well in that day when He said,
"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me." (NKJV)
Jesus was sent by the Father, and Jesus turns and sends the Apostles into the world. And He says "the person who receives you (as My apostle) in fact receives Me; and in so doing, receives the Father Who sent Me!" So you see that the Apostles were spokesmen for Christ, authorised to speak His Word, not their own, but to have brought to their remembrance what He had taught. The Bible tells us that what the Apostles spoke they did not speak by flesh and blood. They did not speak according to human instruction. But rather they spoke by the revelation of the Father and the Son! (Emphasis Added)
Think of Peter’s magnificent testimony to Jesus in Matthew 16:17. Jesus says, "Who do you say that I am?" — he’s heard the Gallup Poll results of what people in the culture are saying, but He wants to know about His most intimate followers — "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter, speaking for the Apostles, says, "You are the Christ; You’re the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!" To which Jesus responds with the commendation, "Peter, flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven." "You know this, not by human wisdom, not by human reasoning; you know this by the revelation of God the Father!"
Or if you look at Galatians 1:11-12 you will see that Paul himself is jealous for the truth of the gospel and what he has taught precisely because it is not his word, but the Word of Jesus Christ!
Galatians 1:11-12, "For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ." (ASV)
Boy, we just see this everywhere in the New Testament, not man but God — not man but God! Paul says this is not a revelation that came to me from man, but it came to me from Jesus Christ Himself. (Emphasis Added)
The Father and Jesus Christ revealed the Word to Apostles — and they are taught by the Holy Spirit (as John 14:26 tells us) that Jesus would give the Spirit to lead them into all truth and remind them what He had taught. And the Bible tells us it’s in virtue of this revelatory work of the Apostles — as they reveal the Father and the Son in the power of the Spirit”...
The New Testament and Tradition
... “But the question is: how did the Church come to know this Truth? How did the Church, in its earliest days, learn of the apostolic truth from God? How did they come into contact with this body of dogma that the Apostles had every right and authority to communicate to God’s people? Well, we know that the body of truth was ‘passed down’ to the Church and through the Church. And because it was ‘passed down’ from the Apostles, it was often called "that which was delivered" or "the deposit".
Now what does the New Testament tell us about this ‘tradition’? Let’s look at a few verses together here for a few moments. Turn in your Bibles please to II Timothy 1:13 and 14. II Timothy 1:13, Paul says,
"Hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee guard through the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us." (ASV)
Here Paul speaks of the ‘deposit’ — that which has been committed unto him — the ‘deposit’ that he has received, he passes on and he says is to be guarded!
The Apostolic ‘deposit’ then is the pattern of sound words for the Church. Notice that? "Hold the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee" — that ‘deposit’, that ‘pattern of sound words’ that is the system of doctrine (‘pattern of sound words’), that system or network of healthy truth and teaching, the ‘pattern of sound words’, is the Apostolic deposit.
In I Timothy 6:20-21, we learn that this is to be guarded:
"O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith." (ASV) “...
...”Indeed, the Apostolic deposit, "the pattern of sound words," passed to the Church by the Apostles was the standard for Christian life — look at II Thessalonians 3:6 —
"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which they received of us." (ASV)
Here the English word ‘tradition’ is used — "that which was delivered from us and you received" — if any brother departs from that, then you’re to withdraw yourselves from him! That is the standard for Christian living: "the pattern of sound words" delivered by the Apostles to the Church and received by the Church.
Look at II Peter 2:21,
"For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them."
Now the question is: how was it passed? In what form was it passed to the Church? And to answer that let’s turn in our Bibles to II Thessalonians 2:15. Paul says,
"So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours." (Emphasis Added)
Paul says, "Stand fast in the traditions," that is, what the Apostles have delivered, handed over to the Church! Stand fast by that pattern of sound words, the truth, the deposit that they have from God to give to God’s people. Stand fast by it! And how did the Church learn about this deposit? How did the Apostles hand it over or deliver it? Well, Paul tells us right here. They did it not only by word but by epistle, by letter, by writing (if you will). "So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours."
“... the truth was passed to the Church orally and in writing. In two ways that same deposit (or pattern of sound words) came to the Church. Is there any hint at all in this verse that what Paul means is part of the tradition came orally and part of the tradition came in writing — so make sure you keep the two of them together so you get everything? Is there any hint of that? It’s just the traditions; it’s just the deposit; it’s just the pattern of sound words that is communicated in two different ways! Paul doesn’t suggest that one or the other supplement the opposite. He simply says guard the traditions — and you received them in writing and you received them orally!
”.. why is it that the truth could be passed through the Church orally and that would be binding on the Church? It’s because the one who was speaking this word had Apostolic authority! Remember Jesus said, "He who receives you receives Me!" So when the Apostles went to various congregations and taught, that was to be received as the very Word of Jesus Christ Himself. When the Apostles speak the Word of Christ, then that binds the Church.”
Indeed, in the NT, what the Apostles wrote was to be accounted as the very Word of God. Look at I Corinthians 14:37,
"If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord."
The office of Apostle is not a continuing office in the Church! To be an Apostle it was required to be a witness of the resurrected Christ as we see in Acts 1:22 — also reflected in Paul’s defence of his Apostolic credentials in I Corinthians 9:1. Moreover, it was required that you be personally commissioned by the Lord Himself which is what Paul claims in Galatians 1:1, that He is an Apostle not by the Word of men but by revelation of Jesus Christ! The Apostles were those who were witnesses of the resurrected Christ and personally commissioned by Him. And thus the Apostolic office was restricted to the first generation of the Church.
Paul considered Himself "the least" (perhaps translated "the last") of the Apostles in I Corinthians 15. And Paul’s personal successor Timothy is never given that title in the New Testament. And so in the very nature of the case, Apostolic revelation did not extend beyond the Apostolic generation. It never extended beyond the foundational days of the Church! Ephesians 2:20 says the Church is founded upon the Apostles and Prophets, Christ being the chief cornerstone. And beyond the foundational days of the Church, the foundation-laying days of the Church, there is no Apostolic revelation. And that’s why when you look at Jude (the 3rd verse) you see the author in his own day — when Apostolic instruction was still current by the way — Jude in his own day could speak of "the faith" as "once for all delivered unto the saints." The ‘faith’ here is the teaching content of the Christian faith! It is that dogma (if you will), that truth given by the Apostles through the Revelation of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Jude says "the faith" has "once for all" been "delivered unto the saints."
Now, what governs the Church today? Is it the oral teaching of the Apostles? Well, that couldn’t very easily be true; the Apostles are dead (just to repeat that point). And so it has to be the teaching of the Apostles in some objective form. That means it would be the written word of the Apostles.
Why The Written Word?
Where God had spoken by personal address orally, if that was going to be a standard for the Church at large (for all of God’s people), that oral instruction (as authoritative as it was in itself) needed to be reduced to writing so that it would be an objective standard that governed all of God’s people... An objective standard to test the prophets who proclaimed these words... An objective standard to test later claims to revelation... To have a standard by which to compare what other alleged prophets would say... An objective standard for the establishment of a corporate body as the church and by which it could be defined in all generations... An objective standard for the better preserving and propagating of that truth... An objective standard to guard against corruption and the malice of Satan and the world who would love to foul-up the lines of communication if we’re just going to depend upon oral instruction... An objective standard to communicate assurance of salvation to people against human opinions, and the way in which even their preacher or their priest might communicate God’s Word to them.
God’s Word needed to be inscripturated to govern His people through all generations. And so it’s not surprising that this written Scripture became the standard for testing even the prophets — and this is the amazing thing — and the standard for testing the Apostles!
Now in my second point up here, I’ve already granted that the Apostles have authority in their oral instruction to deliver the deposit of God to the Church. And now I’m adding another dimension which (I think) is very important that the Apostles — when there was any question about what they taught — the Apostles who had the authority of Christ nevertheless appealed to inscripturated revelation as the basis for what they taught.
In the Old Testament, the word of false prophets was exposed by the previously inscribed Law. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 says if any prophet comes and teaches contrary to what’s been revealed before that that prophet is to be executed. That prophet presumes to speak for himself and he says something contrary to what is already written down in the Law. In Isaiah 8:20 we read, "To the Law and to the Testimony!" That didn’t mean to the oral testimony; it meant to the written inscribed testimony of God’s prophets and the Law which was already there in writing.
Even our Lord Jesus Christ, when not appealing to His own inherent authority, clinched His arguments with His opponents by saying, "It stands written!" or "Have you not read" in the Bible? He said, "Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me." John 5:39 (ASV) In Jesus’ day, Jesus acknowledges that the appropriate approach to salvation was to search for it in the Scriptures! And you know, that in Jesus’ day, the scribes had about as much authority as has ever been given to human tradition. And yet, Jesus pointed them to the Scriptures, not to the oral tradition, not to the authority of the scribes, but to the Scriptures. And then He said, "The Scriptures bear witness of Me!"
In the New Testament, the "spirit of error" was to be identified by comparing whatever the prophets are saying to the teaching of the Apostles. In I John 4:6, the Apostle John says, "He who knows God hears us!" That’s the standard; what we have taught! In I Corinthians 14:37, Paul says, "If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord." And yet, even the Apostles called for the Church to test their own instruction according to the written revelation of God, according to the Scriptures which were in hand.
Why did Paul commend the Bereans? What were the Bereans doing? In Acts 17:11, you’ll read of this commendation because (he says) "they examined the Scriptures daily whether these things were so," i.e., the things taught by Paul. Paul commends that; and he’s an Apostle! He’s got ‘Power of Attorney’ for the Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks with the authority of the Savior Himself! And yet, even with that Apostolic authority, Paul commends them, because when they wanted to test what he was saying, they went to the written Scriptures to see if these things were so.
Do Not Go Beyond What is Written;
In I Corinthians 4:6, we have what amounts to a virtual declaration of the Protestant doctrine or principle of Sola Scriptura! I Corinthians 4:6, Paul says,
"Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us you might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other."
Paul says, "Brothers, I have applied (I’ve used a figure of speech) I’ve applied these things (I think he’s referring here "these things" about pride in men, or in their ministries) — I’ve applied these things to myself and to Apollos for your benefit in order that you might learn by us," the saying, "not to go beyond the things which are written.
The RSV says, "that you may learn by us to live according to Scripture."
The Confusion of Tradition
The first question is this: What is it precisely that Rome accepts as a source of doctrinal truth and authority in addition to the Scriptures? What is it that they accept? Because, you see, when they talk to some Roman Catholics, they’ll tell you, "We accept the tradition of the Church because it stems from the Apostles!" As though the Apostles orally taught something, and in every generation that teaching has been passed on orally. I don’t know why it would never be (you know) put down in writing! But, it never was put down in writing; it comes down to us only in oral form. Other Roman Catholics will tell you that they are committed to tradition not only from the original teaching of the Apostles allegedly, but also ecclesiastical tradition (i.e., what the Church itself has generated through papal decree or the councils) whether the Apostles originally said it or not!
And so you need to be clear when you’re talking to a Roman Catholic. What is it they would add to the Scripture? What do they mean by tradition? And then after they answer that question, we have to ask, "Well, how do you properly identify tradition?" After all, not all tradition is tradition to the Roman Catholic. There are some things which were done traditionally in the Church which Roman Catholics would say should not have been done, or which they do not consider authoritative. Not all tradition counts then as authoritative tradition! Well, how do you properly identify authoritative tradition?”..
“... what is a believer to do when Church traditions contradict each other? There are many traditions in the Church and they are not all harmonious. Some traditions in the church support the office of the universal bishop; other traditions denounce the office of a universal bishop (read Gregory the Great and Cyprian for instance).
What are we to do with the tradition that was alive in the early Church that said Christ would shortly return and establish an earthly kingdom? Other traditions contradict it! What do we do about the use of images as a help to worship, or a help to prayer? Some traditions in the Church endorse the use of images; other traditions in the Church condemn the use of images! If tradition is authoritative, what are we to do with conflicting traditions?
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InPlainSite.org Note: While the following information was written for people who claim that the Bible is sufficient for all life questions... It provides some clear exposition of verses that do not say what most people think they do. A careful reading of these verses is imperative... Wisdom and knowledge are possible from many sources.. Spiritual wisdom only from the Word of God.
Excerpts from Is the Bible Sufficient?
"Bible only" advocates rely on a handful of references to prove that Scripture provides the sole solutions to life's problems. These three are characteristic:
"You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). [NASB]
"Do not add to His words lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar" (Proverbs 30:6). [NASB]
"And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:19). [NASB]
None of these verses teach what is claimed. The Deuteronomy passage only prohibits anyone from changing the specific revelation Moses has just given. Note that 61 additional books of the Bible were written after Moses penned these lines in the Pentateuch. The passage does not forbid the use of man's observations about life and human behavior.
The Proverbs passage simply says not to add to God's Word. No Christian I'm aware of, though, considers principles of psychology equal to Scripture in authority.
Revelation 22:19 forbids adding to the "words of the book of this prophecy," that is, the revelation itself. This verse is not even limiting the extent of the canon, much less excluding human wisdom about man's problems.
The passage in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is more substantial.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
Paul writes in his last epistle,
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." [NASB]
The reasoning of "Bible only" advocates goes something like this. Paul says that Scripture is adequate. If Scripture is adequate, then nothing more is required. If nothing more is required, then the use of outside material implies the inadequacy of the Bible, contradicting Paul's statement. Therefore, nothing in addition to Scripture can be used to equip us, because nothing else is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." This function is the sole province of the Bible.
That's the argument. Here's what's wrong with it. First, in the 2 Timothy passage the word "adequate" modifies the believer, not the Scripture. The words Paul uses to describe Scripture are "inspired" and "profitable." The Bible is useful to accomplish a certain end--an adequately equipped Christian--because it is the very counsel of God. Paul's teaching in Second Timothy was meant to qualify the nature of Scripture, not to disqualify the usefulness of other material. (Emphasis Added).
Second, the argument proves too much. The Scripture Paul has in view is the Old Testament, specifically the sacred writings of Timothy's childhood (note verse 15). These are what Paul identifies as being able to "give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
If the Old Testament Scriptures are adequate, and if Paul means to suggest that the addition of any useful information about man is wrong, then how do we justify adding the words of the New Testament to the fully adequate Old Testament? Even Paul's words (as well as Peter's, John's, etc.) would be inadmissible, including the very words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which make this claim.
Since this is ludicrous and self-defeating, the entire objection crumbles. Paul did not mean to convey that other sources of knowledge were an assault on the Scripture's completeness.
Third, and more debilitating to this view, 2 Timothy 3:15 doesn’t even teach that the Scripture is adequate. A close look at the text reveals that the words “inspired” and “profitable” describe the Scripture. However, the word “adequate” does not describe the Scripture, but rather “the man of God” who uses the inspired Scripture in a profitable way. Note carefully: “...that the man of God may be adequate , equipped for every good work.” Once again, the proof text itself has unwittingly been maligned to say something it just doesn’t say, given the context.
What does "adequate" mean here? It probably means what adequate usually means, that the man of God has everything that is essential. Food and air and water are adequate to keep one alive, but their adequacy doesn't imply that nothing else is beneficial.
Some have pointed out that my argument could be used to teach that Paul thought only the Old Testament was inspired, not the New. Not so. Paul's statement was about Scripture, which at that time was what we now call the Old Testament. He did not say that no more "God-breathed" writings would be forthcoming. The corpus of Scripture was expanded by the New Testament writes and therefore it's included under the claims of this verse.
The problem only arises if one imposes a foreign sense of adequacy on this passage, i.e., nothing else is allowed. If we hold that Paul and the Apostles wrote legitimate Scripture, then that proves Paul's didn't intend such a restriction. That's my point....”
... “Wisdom from the Heathen
The Wisdom Literature of the Amenomope is a body of work from the Middle East that pre-dates Proverbs. It's of interest because it contains a section of material almost identical to Proverbs 22:17-24:22. It seems evident that the authors of the latter part of Proverbs borrowed this material from the Amenomope and inserted it into the inspired text.
Some scholars see this as a serious compromise of the doctrine of inspiration. However, a more robust (and, I would say, more biblical) view of natural theology removes the objection. Clearly, natural man apart from God is capable of discerning truth that, according to the writer of Proverbs, is from God.
Paul's classic teaching in Romans 1:18ff identifies the universal, innate ability to draw conclusions about God's nature without the aid of special revelation--a capability so effective that the willful suppression of it brings God's judgment.
Keep in mind that the specific details Paul identifies here--"His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature"--are only examples of natural revelation, not the total sum of it. He doesn't limit our knowledge to only basic information about God's existence...”
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