Sola Scriptura became one of the chief ideas of the Protestant church in the 16th century, as they moved away from submitting to the Pope to return to the Bible as their sole authority. Sola is Latin for "alone," and Scriptura means "the writings." Taken together it means the Bible alone is our sufficient and infallible authority. And, the confession expresses this well.
"The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and His will which is necessary unto salvation" (1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith).
To explain further, I've included three points (like a good preacher).
Inspired. "All Scripture is inspired by God" (literally "God-breathed") 2 Timothy 3:16. God has spoken. The Bible is the very word of God; the Bible alone is inspired. It is at this point where the crux of the argument lies. If God has spoken, and He has, then we must and should do everything in our power, to know precisely what He has said, to believe it, and submit ourselves to it. Also, God's Spirit moved men to write the Bible. It wasn't an act of human will, but of God (2 Peter 1:20-21). And this inspired Word of God, 66 books from Genesis to Revelation, is infallible. "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17).
Authoritative. If the Bible alone is God-breathed, that is to say, it is genuinely God's Word, then it has God's authority. There is never a time when a Christian or a church can choose to operate opposed to the Bible. It is our only authoritative judge in all matters. Jesus, in speaking of the law, stresses this point by saying, "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:19). And even the tiniest letter is to be kept and taught (5:18). Truly, the entire Bible is the absolute authority for everyone, including the church.
Sufficient. The Bible alone is inspired, authoritative, and also the sufficient Word of God. The Scriptures alone are enough to save us (2 Timothy 3:15), and sanctify us in order to be prepared for Jesus' coming. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). "Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). The sufficiency of Scripture is an important point, we have everything needed for salvation and sanctification in the Word of God.
In summary, the Bible alone is our only authority, it is God-breathed, and it is sufficient to accomplish God's will. This is Sola Scriptura! But how does this apply to the church and individuals? It means that local churches must be aligned with all of Scripture as much as possible. This doesn't mean we must rid ourselves of tradition, but it does mean all our tradition must be aligned with Scripture. Moreover, Sola Scriptura reminds us that everything that we believe about God, how we worship on the Lord's Day, what we do in ministry, how we live in our community, and how we lead the church must be aligned with the Bible. God wants everything to be aligned with His authoritative Word.
Dear reader, I pray that God will use this article to encourage and equip you for Christ. And may all glory be to Christ alone!
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