Subject: The Sufficiency of Scripture with emphasis on Biblical Authority
Text: Psalm 19
What I will say today is in the context of the originals and not the different versions of the Bible. I will be reading from my King James Version.
As you know, the Latin phrase “Sola Scriptura,” Scriptures alone, comes from the Reformation and is the teaching that only infallible Scriptures are a sufficient basis for deciding issues of faith and practice. Sola Scriptura does not mean that the Bible is more preeminent than Christ. It simply means that they are sufficient because they are the only inspired revelation of God.
I remember as a boy attending a little country church in far west Texas with my grandfather. The Sunday school teacher asked each pupil to read from the quarterly and then asked: “What does that mean to you?” Well, that is the problem. The question should be: “What is God telling us?” Second Peter 1:20 says: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” The Greek word translated private is ἴδιος, e’de ahs, meaning: of ones self. You will recognize another English word that comes from e’de as – the word idiot! Why is private interpretation idiotic? Peter answers that in verse 21: “(because) 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.” Holy men! who spoke only as they were moved along by the breath of God! Do we dare interject our own self-conceived notions into God’s Word? Absolutely not!
Peter also said in verse 16: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables (inventions of men), when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,” We not only have no right to private interpretation, but we must never build our faith on the inventions of others. That is the very thing for which Jesus severely rebuked the Pharisees, saying they made the Commandments of God void by their traditions.
We fully subscribe to the regulative principle which says that we are bound to those things taught in scripture regarding worship and everything else is prohibited. That is essentially Sola Scriptura. Every thing in the church MUST be tested by the Bible.
I think Pastor Montgomery may have mentioned John Calvin’s “Necessity for Reforming the Church” written in 1543. Calvin wrote first of Evils that Compel us to Seek Remedies, comparing adoration of images and relics of that time to the idolatry of ancient Egypt; ceremonies that are “partly borrowed from the heathen, and more adapted to some theatrical show than to the dignity of our religion.”
He said, “Having observed that the word of God is the test which discriminates between his true worship and that which is false and vitiated (ineffective), we thence readily infer that the whole form of divine worship in general use in the present day is nothing but mere corruption. For men pay no regard to what God has commanded, or to what he approves, in order that they may serve him in a becoming manner, but assume to themselves a license of devising modes of worship, and afterwards obtruding (imposing) them upon him as a substitute for obedience.” That was written 469 years ago, but I saw it on TV last week.
Here is the crux of the Calvin’s argument. He said that the knowledge of our salvation comes to us in three different stages (I will abbreviate):
First, a sense of our wretchedness when the depravity of our nature is set before us and we see our rebellion against God;
The second stage is turning to Christ who reconciles us to the Father;
The third stage is to know the grace of Christ and rest in him with firm and solid confidence.
He strongly condemned sermons that contain no repentance, ritual baptisms and communions that mean nothing.
Calvin’s second point was: Remedies Employed to Correct the Evils, in which he condemns human reason, calling it a delusion. He referenced Colossians 2:23, where the apostle used the word ἐθελοθρησκία e-the-lo-thrā-skē'-ä, meaning: arbitrary worship. From there, he set forth a list of errors that had crept into Christianity over 15 centuries since the apostles: images, praying to the saints and salvation by works. His strongest and most important argument was the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone. All of these things fixed in the authority of Scriptures, not in the church.
Calvin’s third point was: Reformation Required Without Delay, where he calls the church to hear the voice of God through the teachings of the apostles. We must understand that the Bible is the very voice of God.
A.A. Hodge, of Princeton Seminary fame, said in Outlines of Theology: “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, having been given by inspiration of God, are the all-sufficient and only rule of faith and practice, and judge of controversies.” In question and answer format, he argues for the sufficiency of Scriptures in matters of faith as opposed to Scriptures AND tradition. But the most important argument, in my opinion, is the necessity of “Plenary inspiration, completeness, perspicuity or clarity, and accessibility.” Plenary inspiration is the kind of inspiration that gives the Bible authority over every thing else.
Another heavy-hitter was B.B. Warfield. He succeeded Hodge at Princeton and carried on the cause for Biblical authority. His basic premise was that Christ, who is head of the church, spoke His Word through His apostles, meaning that the authority of Scriptures rests completely in the Christ who commissioned the apostles. He said the church may recognize the authority of the Bible but it does not give it the authority.
Why is this so important? Why do we make such a fuss over it? The Bible says it best: 2 Timothy 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The HOLY SCRIPTIRES are the source of the GOSPEL which is our only means of salvation. As the Apostle Paul put it, it is the δύναμις dü'-nä-mēs POWER of God unto salvation.
The Bible is given by inspiration of God, not by inspiration of the writer nor the church. 2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” So, when we talk about the scriptures being sufficient, it is in the sense that they are the only inspired and therefore inerrant words of God that we need to know the way of salvation. There is nothing in reason nor in nature that equals God’s own voice. And that is exactly what we have in holy Scriptures. God is the only speaker. Every book, every circumstance is NOT told by the writer but by God. The miracles recorded in scripture are not wrought by man but by God. Do you realize that miracles are ordinary to God? There is no separation of natural and supernatural. God is at work! He gives new life in every physical birth just as He gives new life in every spiritual birth. And the Bible is the only revelation of Him.
For that reason, the devil has been attacking the Word of God ever since man was created. When he approached Eve in the garden, she quoted God’s Word which said in Genesis 3:3: “But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.”
Let me show you how even the attack of Satan on the Word of God teaches inspiration. Turn to Matthew 4, reading verses 1-11: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But 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. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in [their] hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” Three times Jesus said “IT IS WRITTEN” as an answer to the devil. That means Jesus regarded the Bible as God’s Word. And so did the devil.
If the Bible is not the Word of God, we have no revelation from God and therefore no authority from God. Every thing that matters to us as believers comes from the pages of God's divinely inspired Word. The book that was given to the church by Christ through his apostles must always be the source of our authority.
A postmodern view of Biblical authority has emerged which says there are different levels of inerrancy. They argue that Luther and Calvin did not insist on total (or detailed) inerrancy. Therefore, it is determined by the church’s view of the Bible. What does he do with discrepancies in the Bible? For example, one Gospel said Jesus sat down when He taught and another Gospel says He stood. Charles Hodge said we all know the Parthenon was build of marble but if we find one spec of sandstone we are not afraid of the entire structure crumbling. So, what constitutes an error? Sadly, today it is a rational choice of reason rather than spiritual.
The Apostle Paul told young Timothy to preach the word, to reprove, rebuke and exhort. He told young Titus to speak, exhort and rebuke with all authority. Was it because they were superior in knowledge or position? NO it was because the authority lies in the Word of God. Paul also told Titus not to allow his message to be disregarded.
I do not know how many times people have left the church because they got upset with what the pastor said. They do not realize he is only God’s messenger. He is preaching God’s Word as if it is the voice of God speaking. Those who preach the Gospel do so by delegated authority.
Preachers are not to “lord it over” the church as if it is their authority but speak by delegated authority from Christ. In Baptist churches, it is usually a policy for the pastor or pastors to seek God’s direction, discuss it with the leaders and then take it to the congregation for a vote. That is the Congregationalist form of government.
That is not necessarily true when it comes to the preaching of the Word. A pastor seeks God’s direction and preaches by delegated authority from above. As long as he does that nothing else is necessary. His purpose as pastor is to preach the Word with the authority of God upon him.
The Bible says that we are ambassadors for Christ.
An ambassador is always a citizen of another country.
He is obligated to be faithful to the one who sent him.
And, he speaks by delegated authority.
How fitting that we represent another country.
We are obligated to be faithful to our Savior who has sent us.
We do not speak for ourselves but preach God’s Word by His direction and under His authority.
We must love it and honor it and submit to it. It is the only revelation of God. It is God’s voice.