The indispensable doctrine

Outside of the church, Muslims are killing people, American taxpayers are giving over a half-billion dollars a year to Planned Parenthood so they can murder babies, and judges nationwide are giving a middle finger to God and Christians by forcing “same-sex marriage” down our throats, and there is so much more I could say.

Inside of the (professing) church, Joel Osteen still has clean teeth and is making his millions peddling fortune cookie wisdom, Christian bookstores are bowing the knee to the dollar by peddling his heresy and the unbiblical and antibiblical teachers of others, the largest Southern Baptist Church in the world is led by a man who has redefined the Ten Commandments as promises, and oh, there is here also so much more I could say.

Why is all of this happening? Why are there so many problems both inside and outside of churches? Why is the world the way it is?

The easy answer, of course, is sin. And it’s the correct answer, too. Rebellion against God. A dissatisfaction with His provision and His command and a lust for the idol of self, the idol of more, the idol of my way.

But let’s dig a little deeper. Where does sin come from? Well, not so ironically, the same place we find out what sin is.

The first sin of man, resulting in the fall of man, occurred in the Garden of Eden. You know the story, but you should read it again anyway to be reminded. God told Adam, He “commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die'” (Gen 2:16-17, emphasis mine).

So God spoke.

Then this happened: “[The serpent] said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”‘ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:1b-6).

God spoke. And man disobeyed.

Man wanted more. Man departed from the word of God. Man wasn’t satisfied with what God had said. So man did what he wanted to do, and as a result, you could say, hell broke loose on earth.

If only we would learn.

We are all, because of what happened in Eden, born sinners who sin. We are all born dead — spiritually dead, that is. Conceived in iniquity (Ps 51:5). Dead in our trespasses and sins, sons of disobedience, children of wrath (Eph 2:1-3). Our hearts are all, by nature, more deceitful than all else and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). We are sinners who sin.

We are sinners who do the exact thing Adam did in Eden. God has spoken, but so what!

All sin is, at its core, an abandonment, an ignorance, a rejection, a rebellion, a refusal, an abdication, an amendment to, a dissatisfaction with… the word of God. God has spoken, and we say “So what!” or “And…” or “But!”

That is why [the introduction is over now] of all the doctrines Christians must believe and need to believe and should believe, sola scriptura is the indispensable doctrine.

Sola scriptura, you might know, is Latin for scripture alone. It originated out of the Protestant Reformation, along with faith alonegrace aloneChrist alone, and to the glory of God alone as the pillars of a defection away from the bastardization of the church by Rome, who taught that while God’s word might be authoritative, so was the word of man as decreed through Popes and Church Councils.

Martin Luther was the gasoline poured upon already simmering embers of discontent with the Roman Catholic Church when, on October 31, 1517, he nailed his 95 Theses of protest on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, hoping for the reformation of Rome. When the powers that be would have none of it, the only choice Luther and any true Christian had was to wipe the dust off their feet and depart. As a result Luther was pursued, both by those who wanted to hear more from him and by those who wanted to shut him up by whatever means necessary.

A fateful day came at the Diet of Worms in 1521, presided over by Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. Luther was asked if he recanted his writings, which castigated Rome and affirmed, by and large, what those still protesting Rome continue to affirm as biblical truth. Luther responded with famous words,

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen. (emphasis mine)

The world, represented by the Roman Catholic Church in that room, rejected Luther. And the world still does. Hence Muslims killing people, abortions costing $400 while adoptions cost $40,000, and the like.

But tragically, and more and more, the professing church seems to be turning its back on Luther — at least his words at Worms — and thus, turning its back on the word of God.

Sola scriptura is the indispensable doctrine, because when you try to add anything to or subtract anything from the word of God — contained in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments — you are following in the footsteps of the first man and first woman.

Today many professing Christians are not really Christians at all, because they’ve been convinced they’re safe by pastors and teachers who derive their authority not from the word of God, but by whatever works.

Today many professing Christians are in grave danger because they trust Christian bookstores to sell books and other materials that are in line with and help explain the word of God. Meanwhile, they are buying books which claim to speak for God instead.

Today many professing Christians will do anything and everything to feel spiritual or be inspired or feel holy or that they are hearing from God — except read their Bible.

Sola scriptura is the indispensable doctrine. It’s the most foundational thing to understand. We have to know it and believe it and acknowledge it, because everything else we believe come from it… the word of God… the Bible. The Bible has to be that important. If it’s not we start believing the wrong things, doing the wrong things, and setting ourselves up for shipwreck.

As I understand the Bible, there are four things about the Bible we all need to know.

The inspiration of Scripture (the one the scholar rejects)

The Bible is inspired by God. Let me repeat that. It is inspired by God. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God might be adequate, equipped for every good work.” That word for inspired (the Greek theopnuestos) literally means breathed out. These verses are telling us the words of Scripture are breathed out of God’s mouth, so to speak. They are from Him. The Bible in inspired by God and it teaches us, it reproves us (that means it tells us when we’re wrong), it corrects us (teaching us how to be right), and it trains us for righteousness (so that we won’t be wrong next time). That’s what the Bible does, and that’s because God is righteous and the Bible, the Scriptures, are His word.

Or how about 2 Peter 1:20-21? “No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The Bible wasn’t just written by men. The Holy Spirit gave them the words. The Bible is inspired, breathed out, by God.

The inerrancy of Scripture (the one the skeptic rejects)

The Bible is inerrant. Meaning without error, completely truthful and completely trustworthy.

If we believe the Bible, as it was inspired by God, has any errors, then what does that say about God? It would mean we don’t believe God is completely truthful. It would mean we don’t believe He is powerful enough to give us His word so that, now thousands of years after He gave it to us, we can still trust it. What does that Bible say about itself?

How about Psalm 119:89? “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.” Paul is talking about the Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 when he writes, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.” What that is saying is that God has given us His word in a way that we can know it, and we can’t know it if there are errors.

Now I know that one of the favorite hobbies of some is to say, “The Bible is full of contradictions.” To which I say, “First of all, show me and let’s talk about these so-called contradictions. Second of all, you’re wrong. And through diligent reading and studying of God’s word I’ll show you you’re wrong.”

God is truth. Jesus said He is the truth. His Spirit is the Spirit of truth. And as Jesus said in John 17:17, the word of God is truth, by which we are sanctified (made holy). The Bible is inerrant.

The authority of Scripture (the one the sinner rejects)

The Bible is authoritative. We all have authorities. For students, teachers and school administrators are their authority. For children, fathers and mothers are their authority. For citizens (and I suppose even illegal aliens), the officials we elect to government offices and law enforcement are authorities.

But ultimately God is the One in charge. God is our King. Jesus is our King… But Jesus isn’t on the earth reigning as King right now, is He? So how do we know what He, our authority, wants of us? He has given us His word, the Scriptures, which in Psalm 19 is referred to as the law of the LORD, the commandments of the LORD, and the judgments of the LORD.

What does it say about what we think of God if we believe His word to be inspired and inerrant, and yet we reject it as authoritative? It means we are rejecting God as our King, much the same way the Israelites did in 1 Samuel 8. Do you remember what happened to them? God gave them Saul, who was an epic failure. And Israel’s history would be one of many kings who did not consider God’s word authoritative, and brought disaster upon themselves and the people.

The Bible is authoritative. Not you. Not what you want. The Bible is authoritative, which is why Jesus repeatedly taught by telling people, “It is written…” Paul quoted the Old Testament. Peter did, too.

Many people can write things about God. We can have confessions and statements of faith, catechisms… but ultimately all of them have to be in line with what the Bible says, because the Bible, the word of God, is the only word that is authoritative. God is in charge through His word.

The sufficiency of Scripture (the one the professing Christian rejects)

The Bible is sufficient. Sufficient. Sufficient. Sufficient. What that means is that what God has given us in the Bible is enough. It’s enough.

If our Christian bookstores had nothing but the Bible in them that would be enough. The word of God is enough.

We don’t have to go looking for more from God, like signs and wonders and prophecies or visions or voices in our head or devotional books that claim to be what Jesus told somebody, because what God has given us in the Bible is enough.

The Bible tells us all we need to know about creation, all we need to know about the commandments, all we need to know about our own sin, all we need to know about our one and only Savior, Jesus. Read again toPsalm 19:7-9: “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.” God tells us… the Bible is enough.

Jesus Himself said, to Satan no less, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). He was quoting Deuteronomy 6, by the way.

A lot of people have a lot of ideas about how Christians should be, how families should be, how churches should be. But what matters is God’s word. Is what you believe what the Bible says, or do you rely on the Bible plus something else? Or do you maybe conveniently edit out in your practice parts of the Bible you don’t like quite as much. The Bible is sufficient. The Bible is enough. God has spoken. His word is what we need.(1)

Sola scriptura, of all the five solas, really was the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. By going back to the word of God — affirming that the Bible is God’s word (inspired), that it (unlike the opinions of men) is without error, that it is authoritative, and it is sufficient — Christians left the Roman Catholic Church, and now here we are today.

Then again, where are we today?

Rome certainly hasn’t repented, and yet Protestantism’s protests are decreasing, the willful ignorance of professing Christians is increasing, and many are shaking hands with a spiritual harlot, the one the Reformers called “antichrist.” Where is sola Scriptura?

It’s from the Scriptures we realize that the most important thing, period, is the glory of God, so we do all things to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). It’s from the Scriptures we realize we are saved by Christ alone — His perfect life without sin and His death on the cross where He bore our sins, and His resurrection by which we are given eternal life (solus Christus). We’ll talk later on this semester about sola gratia, grace alone. Unlike what the Catholic Church teaches, Christians are saved by grace alone — God giving us what we do not deserve. We learn that from the Scriptures. And also sola fide, faith alone. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not in the things we do, but by believing in Jesus and what He has done. It’s only through the Bible we learn this.

That’s why sola Scriptura is the indispensable doctrine. No matter how many times and how many different ways I repeat it in this post, I cannot tell you how important it is to realize how important the Bible is. It’s inspired by God. I’m not, but the Bible is. It’s inerrant. I’m not perfect, but the Bible is. It’s authoritative. I’m not in charge, but God is, and I find out what God wants from the Bible. And it’s sufficient. I’m not enough, but God is, and He gives me all I need to know in His word, the Bible, the Scriptures.

Sola scriptura. It is the indispensable doctrine. We can’t do without it. When we treat the Bible correctly, everything else we must believe will come.

Father, may Your church repent where it has decided Your word is not enough, and turn back to the Bible. Your word is truth. May we be sanctified by Your truth. May sinners hear Your truth and be made alive by the Holy Spirit. And may Your Son Jesus Christ be glorified as a result. Amen.

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(1) Let me be clear that my belief in the sufficiency of Scripture is not my way of saying we shouldn’t read Christian books and stuff like that. I’m not that guy. But I will say that our acceptance or rejection of any “Christian book and stuff like that” should be predicated upon a bedrock commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. If what we read does not meet that standard, it should be discarded with yesterday’s trash.

Author: Matt Privett

Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor.

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