Scripture Alone is Inspired and Inherently Authoritative
The Biblical message breathed out by God is revelation in written form. (2 Timothy 3:15-16). The Biblical claim is that what God has inspired was His written word (2 Peter 1:20-21). When the Lord Jesus Christ said, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35), He was speaking of God’s written word. The events, actions, commandments, and truths from God are given to us in propositional, i.e. logical, written sentences. God’s declaration in Scripture is that it and it alone, is this final authority in all matters of faith and morals. Thus there is only one written source from God, and there is only one basis of truth for the Lord's people in the Church.
The Truth and the Scripture
The Lord Jesus Christ, in His great high priestly prayer, declared clearly the truth of God's Word. He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” This was consistent with the declarations right through the Old Testament in which the Holy Spirit continually proclaims that the revelation from God is truth, as for example Psalm 119:142, “thy law is truth.” The Lord Himself therefore identified truth with the written Word. There is no source; other than to Scripture alone, to which such a statement applies. That source alone, the Holy Scripture, is the believer’s standard of truth.
In the New Testament, it is the written word of God and that alone to which the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles refer as the final authority. In the temptation, the Lord Jesus three times resisted Satan, saying, “It is written” as for example, in Matthew 4:4, “he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” In stating “It is written,” the Lord used the exact same phrase that is used in the Holy Bible forty six times. The persistence of the repeated phrase underlines its importance. The Lord's total acceptance of the authority of the Old Testament is evident in His words found in Matthew 5:17-18,
“Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.”
Other Sources of Authority Condemned
Furthermore, in refuting the errors of the Sadducees, the Scripture records the Lord saying, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Christ Jesus continually castigated and rebuked the Pharisees because they made their tradition on a par with the Word of God. He condemned them because they were attempting to corrupt the very basis of truth by equating their traditions to the Word of God. So He declared to them in Mark 7:13 “[You are] making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such things do ye.” Since Scripture alone is inspired, it alone is the ultimate authority, and it alone is the final judge of Tradition.
The Word of the Lord says as a commandment in Proverbs 30:5,6 “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” God commands that we are not to add to His Word: this command shows emphatically that it is God's Word alone that is pure and uncontaminated.
Aligned with Proverbs, the Lord’s strong, clear declaration in Isaiah 8:20 is: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The truth is this: since God’s written word alone is inspired, it and it alone is the sole rule of faith. It cannot be otherwise.
The Expression "Sola Scriptura"
From the time of the giving of the Decalogue on Mt. Sinai, when Holy God wrote with His finger on the tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18), until this present day, the written word of God has been extant in the world. The term “sola Scriptura” or “the Bible alone” as the measure of truth is short hand, as it were, for the emphatic and repeated statements of Scripture and of the commandment of God. The very phrase “ It is written” means exclusively transcribed, and not hearsay. The command to believe what is written means to believe only the pure word of God. It separates from all other sources the corpus what a man is to believe. What is at stake before the All Holy God is His incorruptible truth.
In the very last commandment in the Bible God resolutely tells us not to add to nor take away from His Word.
“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) His Word is absolutely sufficient in itself. (Psalm 119:160)
The Prescript and Interpretation
The principle of "sola Scriptura" is consistent with the very way in which the word of truth that comes from God, is to be interpreted, as Psalm 36:9 explains, "For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light we see light". God's truth is seen in the light of God's truth. This is exactly the same as the Apostle Paul says, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:13). It is precisely in the light which God's truth sheds, that His truth is seen. (Cp. John 3:18-21, II Corinthians 4:3-7.)
The Apostle Peter, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, declares, "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:20-21). Logically then, Peter makes it very clear that in order to maintain the purity of Holy God's written word, the source of interpretation must be from the same pure source as the origin of the Scripture itself. Scripture can only be understood correctly in the light of Scripture, since it alone is uncorrupted. It is only with the Holy Spirit's light that Scripture can be comprehended correctly. The Holy Spirit causes those who are the Lord's to understand Scripture (John 14:16-17, 26).
Since the Spirit does this by Scripture, obviously, it is in accord with the principle that Scripture itself is the infallible rule of interpretation of its own truth "it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (I John 5:6).
Those truly desiring to be true to Lord in this very matter of the standard of "sola Scriptura" must turn to the Lord to obey His command, "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you" (Proverbs 1:23). If one is yearning of truth in this essential matter, in the attitude of Psalm 51:17 "with a broken and a contrite heart", the Lord God will not despise, but reveal to him or her the basic foundation where the Lord Christ Jesus stood, as did the apostles. In the words of the Apostle John, "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true." (John 21:24). The Apostle John wrote, as did Peter and Paul, in order that those who are saved should know that his testimony is true.
The Adequacy of Scripture
The total sufficiency of Scripture is declared by the Apostle Paul, “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.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). For final truth and authority, all that we need is the Scripture.
The Claim That Sola Scripture was not Possible
In an attempt to justify a tradition as an authority, an appeal is often made to the very last verse in John's gospel where it is stated, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen”. (John 21:25) Of course there were many of the deeds and sayings of the Lord, which are not recorded in Scripture. Scripture is the authoritative record that Holy God has given His people. We do not have a single sentence that is authoritatively from the Lord, outside of what is in the written word. To appeal to a tradition for authority when Holy God did not give it is futile. The idea that somehow sayings and events from the Lord have been recorded in tradition is simply not true.
Another desperate attempt to justify Tradition, is the statement that the early church did not have the New Testament. The Apostle Peter speaks about the writings of the Apostle Paul when he states, "…even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter also declares that he was writing so that the believers could remember what he said. So he wrote, "Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12).
From the earliest times a substantial part of the New Testament was available. Under the inspiration of the Lord, the Apostle Paul commands his letters to be read in other churches besides those to which they were sent. This clearly shows that the written word of God was being circulated even as the Apostles lived. The Lord's command to believe what is written has always been something that the believers could obey and did obey. In this matter we must have the humility commanded in the Scripture not to think above what is written. "…that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Corinthians 4:6).
THE REGULATION AND OUR LOVE OF GOD
The Lord brings the topic of truth to bear on our love for Him. This again underscores its importance. “Jesus answered and said to him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings; and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent Me” (John 14:23-24). And then again “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
The Lord himself looked to the authority of the Scriptures alone, as did His apostles after Him. They confirmed the very message of the Old Testament. “The law of the LORD is perfect” (Psalm 19:7). The believer is to be true to the way of the Lord, holding alone to what is written: “Thy Word is truth.” All true believers therefore must acknowledge that there is an absolute measure by which a thing may be judged to be truth or false. In times past, that standard was called “the rule of faith” or “the basis of truth”, meaning the measure by which truth is known. This principle is as we have seen clearly demonstrated in both the Old and New Testaments, is that the written word of God itself is the basis of truth.
The basis of truth for the Roman Catholic Church is a relative standard.
For Roman Catholicism, the basis for truth is not absolute. Rather, its basis is threefold: the Bible, tradition, and what is proposed as divinely revealed by the Roman Catholic Church. Of these three sources, the ultimate authority is the decision and decrees of the reigning pope. This is seen in official documentation from Roman Catholic sources.
Post-Vatican Council II Canon Law
Canon 750“All that is contained in the written word of God or in tradition, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the [Roman Catholic] Church and also proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the [Roman Catholic] Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium, must be believed with divine and catholic faith . . .”
Canon 749“The Supreme Pontiff, in virtue of his office, possesses infallible teaching authority when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful...he proclaims with a definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held as such.”(Sec.1)
“A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim it with a definitive act; therefore the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching. ”
Canon 333“There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff.” (Sec. 3)
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994)
Paragraph 80“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine wellspring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal.”
Paragraph 81“Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.
And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching.”
Under the heading called The Apostolic Tradition and the sub heading ….continued in apostolic succession. The following is stated,
Paragraph 77 “In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them ‘their own position of teaching authority.’ Indeed, ‘the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.”
Comment: Nowhere in Scripture is there reference to the existence of the apostolic succession. In the New Testament the Apostles appointed not apostles but elders and deacons. There is no Biblical text for these power-endowing sentences of the new Catechism. Paragraph77 is an example of so-called “truth” by decree.
Paragraph 78“This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, ‘the [Roman Catholic] Church, in her doctrine, life, and worship perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes.’ ‘The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer.’”
Comment: Official RC teaching as Roman Catholic authors fail to define what are the contents and precise doctrines of the claimed “apostolic Tradition”. The simple reason that is not done is because it does not exist. The only special revelation man possesses today from God that was committed to the Apostles is the written Scriptures There does not exist any corpus of doctrine form the Lord or the apostles outside of the written word of Scripture. It is truly arrogance to declare RC tradition as “living transmission accomplished in the Holy Spirit”. Colossians 2:8 sounds the warning against such manmade tradition, “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.”
Paragraph 82“As a result the [Roman Catholic] Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” [Same as Vatican Council II, Sec. 9, p. 755]
Paragraph 84“The apostles entrusted the ‘Sacred deposit’ of the faith (the depositum fidei), contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the [Roman Catholic] Church.”
Paragraph 85“The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the [Roman Catholic] Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.’ This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”
Comment: Why would anyone be motivated to read the Bible if he is not allowed to let the Bible interpret itself? (Psalm 36:9; II Peter 1:20-21).
Paragraph 67“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the [Roman Catholic] Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ of his saints to the Church.”
Comment: The teaching in this paragraph is an example of Tradition attempting to nullify the written word of God. According to Rome’s teaching, while ordinary Catholics may be vehicles for extra-Biblical revelation, discernment of the authenticity of such revelation does not extend to the ordinary Catholics themselves. Rather it must be fed through the magisterium of ‘Mother Church', which does claim such authority [See also canon 750 above.] Rome rationalizes acceptance of other sources of extra-Biblical revelation by stating that the ordinary faithful Catholics welcome whatever the magisterium of the Roman Church guides them into accepting. She consolidates her power over the rank and file Catholics by denying in practice that revelation is complete and definitive. The Bible warns, “not to think above that which is written”. Here Rome gives acceptance to private extra-Biblical revelation, but only at her discretion. What follows from such unbiblical doctrine is, for example, the tide of acceptance of apparitions of “Mary” and her “works-gospel”.
Summary: In face of the principle of Sola Scriptura, the written word of God alone being the ultimate authority, Rome has attempted to establish her own Tradition.
The Church of Rome never defines the doctrinal content of this supposed apostolic Tradition that is binding on all men! Yet one is told is that it exists, that the Roman Catholic Church possesses it, and that one bound therefore to submit to the Roman Church which alone possesses the fullness of God’s revelation from the apostles. What official RC teaching, and Roman Catholic authors fail to determine, is the contents and precise doctrines of the claimed “apostolic Tradition”. The simple reason that they do not give such is because it does not exist. If any one claims 2 Thessalonians 2:15 as establishing Tradition, they are challenged to list the doctrines Paul is referring to in which the he says he committed orally to the Thessalonians. The only special revelation man possesses today from God that was committed to the Apostles is the written Scriptures. As we have seen the Lord Christ Jesus looked to the authority of the Scriptures alone, as did His apostles after Him. They validated the very message of the Old Testament. The true believer holds alone to what is written: “Thy Word is truth.” As the Lord Himself repudiated that Tradition which attempted to make the written word of God to be on none effect, so must we.
Permission is given to copy and distribute this article.
Our MP3s are easily downloaded and our DVDs seen on Sermon Audio at: http://www.sermonaudio.com/go/212
Our website is: http://www.bereanbeacon.org