The doctrine of Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) has been proclaimed by most of Protestant Christianity. Although stated in a variety of confessions and statements, the belief is generally regarded as attributing to the canon of the Old and New Testament: 1) God’s complete revelation to mankind, 2) the foundation of all doctrinal truth, being without error or contradiction, and 3) the supreme and final authority for Christians in matters related to their faith and life. However, there is one major problem with the teaching: It isn’t Scriptural! In fact, the very Scriptures that it seeks to characterize in such a way refute the premise of the doctrine.
First, to characterize Scripture as God’s complete revelation to mankind clearly contradicts prophetic Scriptures that point to greater understanding of God’s Will in the future. Isaiah wrote that the earth would one day be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, “as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9) Christ promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would reveal things to them in the future that they weren’t ready to hear from his own lips. (John 16:12-14) Paul wrote to the saints at Corinth that he and his fellow Christians experienced an incomplete, darkened and imperfect view of God’s Will in the present, but that someday they would understand it clearly. (I Corinthians 13:9-12)
In addition to these, there are numerous Scriptures that point to nature as a source for discerning God’s Will and learning about His character. David wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3) Likewise, we read that “the heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory.” (Psalm 97:6) Solomon instructed God’s people to study the ant to learn about the proper way to live. (Proverbs 6:6) Christ told his followers to consider the lilies and learn from them about what God expected of them. (Matthew 6:28-30 and Luke 12:27-28) Paul wrote to the saints at Rome that creation reveals God’s invisible qualities, eternal power and authority. (Romans 1:20) Hence, it is ludicrous for us to propose that only the Scriptures are capable of revealing God to us.
It is also misleading to characterize Scripture as the foundation of all doctrinal truth and being free of any error or contradiction. When Paul wrote to Timothy that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…” (II Timothy 3:16), the only Scriptures that he could have been referencing were those contained in the Old Testament – most of the New Testament hadn’t been written yet!
Christ told the Jewish leaders of his day that even though they had access to those Scriptures, that God’s word was not a part of them! He went on to explain to them that they wrongly believed that the Scriptures were the source of eternal life. He reminded them that those same Scriptures pointed to him as the real source of eternal life. (John 5:37-40) Indeed, Christ told his disciples that he was the way to the Father, truth and eternal life. (John 14:6)
Like most of the Christian leaders of today, many of the Jewish leaders of Christ’s day thought that their Scriptures (the Old Testament) contained the complete revelation of God’s Will and Glory, but Christ and his followers made very plain to them that this simply was not true. Jesus told them that they had absolutely no knowledge of the Father before his arrival on this earth! He went on to warn them about their rejection of him and his message and to tell them that the very man whose writings that they depended so heavily upon (Moses) pointed out their error. (John 5:43-47) John said, “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) In the book of Hebrews, we read that this applied to the entire Old Testament: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
In short, they regarded the Old Testament as God’s Word – They simply could not see that they had the genuine article right in front of their faces! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.” (John 1:1 and 14, emphasis mine) John went on to say that no man had ever seen Almighty God, and that Jesus Christ was revealing Him to the world for the first time! (John 1:18)
Their Scriptures (Old Testament) pointed to God in an obscure way, but Christ was “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” (Hebrews 1:3) Paul wrote that in Christ “dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9) Christ told Thomas: “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:7) Then we are told that Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. (John 14:8) Christ replied: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9)
The Jewish leaders and Christ’s own disciples seemed incapable of understanding that they had the ultimate revelation of God standing right in front of them! Christ, as the actual Word of God, was superior to anything that they had (or we have) in writing!
Now we come to Scripture as our final and supreme authority in matters of faith and life. Brethren, if we really believe in the Bible, then we must conclude that such a statement is blasphemy! The Bible makes very clear that Almighty God is the Final and Supreme Authority in matters of faith and life, and Him ALONE!
Paul wrote to the saints at Rome that ALL authority derives from God. (Romans 13:1) He went on to tell the Corinthians that God has given all authority to Christ, but that the Father still maintained ultimate authority. (I Corinthians 15:27-28) Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus that Christ was far above any other authority on this earth. (Ephesians 1:21-22)
Christ reminded his disciples that the Father has the ultimate authority in determining the fulfillment of prophecies and the schedule for the completion of His plans. (Matthew 24:36) Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told them: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7) When they were commanded not to preach the truth about Christ, Peter and the other apostles declared that God’s authority was superior to any human authority. (Acts 5:29) Scripture is clear: The Ultimate, Final and Supreme Authority in matters of faith and life is Almighty God – not a book about Him.
“Didn’t Christ himself appeal to Scripture as the final authority in these matters when he confronted Satan?” some have asked. (Matthew 24:1-11) Most of the people who reference the temptation of Christ in defending the doctrine of Sola Scriptura fail to mention that Satan also quoted Scripture in this confrontation. (Matthew 4:6) They also conveniently fail to mention that all of the Scriptures quoted by both parties allude to Almighty God as having ultimate authority and power. In fact, Christ’s final refutation of Satan is that “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, AND HIM ONLY SHALT THOU SERVE.” (Matthew 4:10, emphasis mine) Brethren, we owe our respect, deference, obedience and worship to God ALONE – not to a book about Him and His Will!
Scripture is clear on this matter: “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4) We don’t want to be among those who worship and serve the created thing (Scripture) “more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. A-men.” (Romans 1:25) For Christians, the true teaching should be Soli Deo Gloria, Glory to God ALONE!