The Authority of the Bible or “Sola Scriptura”

by Baptist.org Editorial Team on March 24, 2011 · 3 comments

The authority of the Bible or “Sola Scriptura” (the Bible only) is at the heart of the vast doctrinal differences that separate Bible believing Christianity from Roman Catholicism. Bible believing Christianity bases its doctrine and practice solely on the Bible. We are often asked by our Catholic friends such things as:

“By what authority do you preach and teach the Bible?
Are you a qualified teaching authority of the Catholic Church?
Did you not know that you Protestants would not even have a Bible had it not been for the Catholic Church?
Where did all the Reformers come from?
Did you not know that they all came out of the one true holy mother church?
Do you not understand that your Protestant champion Luther was once a Catholic?”

In this thread then, we will clearly defend our Biblical position of “Sola Scriptura”. Our Catholic friends will quite obviously disagree with our conclusions; however we will derive our final conclusions from the Bible. By what authority do you preach and teach the Bible? The Lord Jesus Christ called me into the ministry thirty-six years ago. As a blood bought child of the King, I have the Holy Spirit dwelling in my heart.

John 14:16-17 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you.”

John 16:13 “Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”

I John 2:27 “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Although I am not infallible, I have an infallible guide. Are you a qualified teaching authority of the Catholic Church? Absolutely not and I do not need to be.

II Timothy 2:15 “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The Greek word that is here translated “rightly dividing” is a compound word that has the connotation of proper handling of the word of truth.”

What is truth? The truth is the simple Gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone. The truth is that salvation is in Christ and Christ alone.

Acts 4:12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby ye must be saved.”

Ephesians 1:7 “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” The man who properly handles the word of truth does not waver or deviate.

We cannot overstate that Scripture always reaffirms Scripture. As a Bible believing Christian, I hold to the same truths that I did thirty-six years ago and have not wavered.

Jude 3 “and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Did you not know that you Protestants would not even have a Bible had it not been for the Catholic Church?

II 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.”

The Greek wording translated “given by inspiration of God” literally means God breathed. All of the writers of the sixty-six books of the Bible were directly inspired by God to pen the words that they wrote. Also notice the word “perfect.” The Greek word translated “perfect” has the implication of completeness or sufficiency. We will not discuss the Apocrypha during this particular study.

II Peter 1:20-21 “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.”

No, I do not attempt any private interpretation of the Scriptures. The views that I convey, although disavowed by our Catholic friends, are the same views that would be conveyed by any Bible believing Christian who is a student of the Bible. Bible believing Christians guided by the Holy Spirit can validly interpret Scripture. The fact that there are differences comes not from any uncertainty of the Holy Spirit, but that in some non-essential matters, human error is possible. No, we also will not discuss the supposed 28,000 different Protestant denominations as claimed by the Roman Catholic Church during this discussion either. In verse 21, the Greek word translated “moved” literally means to be born or carried along by the Holy Ghost. So then, the holy men of old who penned the Scripture were directly inspired by the Holy Ghost as they wrote. The last book in the Old Testament is Malachi and it was written about 450BC.  We discover that Ezra was concerned with the sacred books in the fifth century BC.

For instance, in Ezra 7:6-11, let’s consider excerpts of his own words: “and he was a ready scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: . . . For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. .. . even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes of Israel.”

After the Jews returned from the exile, they were extremely interested in restoring the religious institutions of the nation. Even more than this, there is ample evidence that the Old Testament canon was complete by the end of the fifth century BC. Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandra (20BC-AD50), repeatedly quoted from all thirty-nine books of the Old Testament. Josephus, a Jewish historian (AD37-95), clearly accepted the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament as divine Scripture. In his writings “Against Apion 1.8”, he wrote: “We have only twenty-two books among us, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine. It is true, our history has been written since Artaxerxes very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time.”

In his list of Old Testament books, he combined some of the books like I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, and etc. so as to have only twenty-two books in his list. Notice that he empathically stated them to be the “only true and divine books which contain the records of all the past times.” Furthermore, the Jewish historical scholars David Kimchi (AD1160-1232) and Elias Levita (AD1465-1549), both empathically state that the Old Testament Canon was finished by Ezra during the fifth century before Christ. Finally, the most ancient extant list of both the Old and New Testament books was compiled by Melito of Sardis in about AD170 and it has listed the exact sixty-six books that are in our Bible today. God gave us the sixty-six books of the Bible. The Holy Spirit used men to write the original sixty-six books of the Bible and guided their very thoughts. The sixty-six books of the Bible were approved by God nearly three hundred years prior to the Council of Carthage in AD397. You see, God does not need a council to decide which books belong in His Word. The Council of Carthage merely reaffirmed what God already had established. No, the Roman Catholic Church certainly did not give us the Bible; God did. The Roman Catholic Church believes and teaches that the Bible is the verbally inspired and inerrant Word of God. To that we add our most sincere and hearty AMEN! We certainly do commend them for that. It however, also holds that tradition is of equal value with the Bible.

In 1965, Vatican Council II issued the following statement: “There exist a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tends toward the same end. . . . Consequently, it is not from the sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and sacred scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of devotion and reverence.” (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, chapter 9,10, p. 682) Vatican Council II merely reaffirmed what was clearly established in 1546 at the Council of Trent. From Vatican Council II we also read, “The sacred synod encourages the sons of the Church who engage in biblical studies constantly to renew their efforts with complete dedication and in accordance with the mind of the Church. Sacred theology relies on the written Word of God, taken together with Sacred Tradition.” (DEI VERBUM, Vatican II) Did you not know that all the Reformers including Luther were once Catholics? Yes, we do. All that proves is that they had enough of the corruption and apostasy that was prevalent in the Catholic Church at that time. After thoroughly investigating the Scriptures, they realized that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church were at odds with the clear teachings of Scripture.

They full well understood the implications of II Corinthians 6:17-“Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.”

EXPOSITION OF THE SCRIPTURE The first passage that our Catholic friends attempt to use to prove that tradition is of equal value with the Bible is

II Thessalonians 2:13-15: “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

The Greek word translated “traditions” in verse 15 simply means “giving over or handing down.”  The apostle Paul is simply referring to the teachings that he handed down to the Thessalonians; namely the GOSPEL which he has mentioned in verses 13 and 14. He had preached to them and orally instructed them while he was in Thessalonica and now he is writing down the earlier oral teachings. Is Paul here speaking about Roman Catholic “tradition”-the transmission of God’s Word by the Magisterium of the church? In The New Catholic Catechism we read this: “100-the task of interpreting the Word of God has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.” Our answer is an empathic NO! The main issue that Bible believing Christians have with the Roman Catholic Church is not that God’s revelation was initially passed onto the church by word of mouth of the apostles. This is certainly not in dispute. We also do not dispute that Christian doctrine is passed on from generation to generation in both written and oral form. Doctrine is taught orally in our preaching and teaching ministries. Our question is simply this, “Why should church tradition be placed on an equal par with the written Word of God?” Roman Catholic traditions are always clearly at odds with the clear teachings of the Word of God. The next passage used is

John 21:25-“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.”

We wonder why our Catholic friends fail to mention John 20:30-31? “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

This is obviously similar to 21:25. Oh, I know why! Jesus clearly states that what is written is sufficient for man to understand who Jesus is and to believe unto salvation that he is the Son of God. Our salvation is in Christ and in him alone. We are saved by grace through faith alone. In previous threads, our Catholic friends have stated that they believe this too. Then they follow it up by stating that to experience salvation, we must keep the commandments; we must participate in a sacramental system; we must add to salvation by continually doing something. It has already been done. Christ did it all on Calvary.

Titus 3:5-“Not be works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boost.”

Ephesians 1:7-“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;”

Colossians 1:14-“In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:”

Romans 3:22-25 “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;”

Romans 5:1,2,8,9-“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.”

This is a good clear presentation of the Gospel. We are clearly saved by grace through faith alone. What does the Roman Catholic Church say to this?” Session six of the Council of Trent Canon 9-“If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.” The “anathema” does not simply mean to be excommunicated as our Catholic friends contend; rather to be cursed or damned to hell. To be excommunicated actually puts a Catholic outside of the protection of the sacramental system; the sacraments are refused them; and in actuality they are damned to hell by the Catholic Church anyway.

Canon 11-“If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.”

Canon 12-“If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.”

Canon 14-“If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.” This is the final result of man’s tradition; absolute rejection of the Biblical plan of salvation by grace through faith alone. When one thoroughly studies and fully understands the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church only one conclusion can be reached. Clearly everything that we as Bible believing Christians believe is condemned by the Catholic Church. The above four Canons are a clear condemnation and rejection of the true Apostolic Gospel. Finally, let’s see exactly what the Bible has to say about the “Traditions of man.”

1. Christ condemned the traditions of man.

Matthew 15:13-“He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?”

Mark 7:7,8-“In vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the traditions of men.” In looking at the first twenty-three verses of this chapter, Jesus strongly rebukes and condemns the Jews for following after man’s traditions. Verse 13-“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”

2. Jesus tells us to search the Scriptures for our answers; not to look to man’s traditions.

John 5:39-“Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me.”:

Matthew 22:29-“Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.”

3. The apostle Paul warns against the traditions of man.

Colossians 2:8-“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.”

The Bible then is the only true standard that we have available to us today. Any manmade tradition that differs from the clear and precise teachings of the Holy Scriptures must be rejected.

– REV. ROBERT J. THOMAS CALVARY MINISTRIES TO CATHOLICS www.excatholic.baptist.org John 8:32-”Ye shall know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
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  • Kurt

    Thessalonians 2:13-15 says “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” 
     
    EPISTLE means “a letter, especially a formal or didactic one; written communication.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/epistle?s=t)
     
    Paul wrote parts of the Bible.  Specifically he wrote letters to the early church.  He wrote epistles.  These epistles were delivered to the early church within Paul’s lifetime.  The “Bible” was not established as a cohesive book for the first time until 393 AD.  This means that for at least 250 years, the early church stood on tradition alone, and NOT on the Bible.
     
    Now that we have established that tradition was a vital and inescapable part of the early church, I will need a passage from the Bible that can clearly establish the timeframe in which the church was to transition from accepting tradition to relying solely on the bible.  Even if the Bible does not clearly state how and when this transition should occur, I am still willing to accept your point of view.  Except wait, if the Bible does not clearly state this, then we are now establishing that the Bible is incomplete in matters of spiritual guidance.  If the Bible is incomplete, then doesn’t that contradict your claim that the Bible should be the sole source of truth?
     
    This reminds me of when Galileo Galilei said the earth revolved around the sun.  The church argued with the laws of gravity for over 100 years before accepting that their interpretation of church doctrine was wrong.  Today we have 30,000 different protestant churches that are claiming that the Holy Spirit, equipped only with a Bible, can teach church doctrine without error.  The protestant churches are arguing with the laws of gravity at this point.