What Is Sola Scriptura?

I was doing some re-reading on sola Scriptura because it’s such an important doctrine, and one that I’ve always especially liked, even if I didn’t know what it was called. I remember being a rather young Christian and occasionally (meaning not nearly often enough) going to a Christian bookstore when I felt like getting a new book. When I paged through a book, if it didn’t have Scripture references sprinkled throughout it, I would immediately put it back on the shelf.

John MacArthur on the first of the five ‘solas’ of the Reformation:

The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth,” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks.

What Does Sola Scriptura Mean? by John MacArthur | Ligonier Ministries Blog

I believe that everything that fits under what sola Scriptura encompasses should be held up by Scripture (Acts 17:11, 2 Corinthians 10:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:20-22). We shouldn’t add or take away from Scripture, which is easier than we may think. If we say that the Holy Spirit told us something that can’t be confirmed in Scripture, we may be adding to it, even in a minor way.

Satan would love for us to come up with ideas that don’t conform to Scripture, often using others to influence us to believe teachings that aren’t biblical. Many times people aren’t malicious, just uninformed. Look at how many sayings there area that aren’t in line with what the Bible says. We need to check these things out for ourselves. It’s also easy for us to be disobedient in our own thinking and let ourselves get off of the right path. Sometimes this is due to laziness, where we just don’t feel like looking things up. We need to make every thought, idea put forth, argument, theory etc. captive to Christ, who is the Word of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). I like what John Gill says about that:

And bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; or “carrying captive the whole understanding”; that is, so illustrating it with divine light, that it clearly sees Christ to be the alone, able, willing, full, and suitable Saviour, and so becomes obedient to him, both as a Saviour and a King; such an enlightened soul looks to him alone for life and salvation, ventures on him, and relies upon him, and is desirous and willing to be saved by him in his own way; he receives and embraces all his truths and doctrines with faith and love, and obeys them from the heart, and cheerfully and willingly submits to all his commands and ordinances; for though he is taken by the grace of God, and all his strong holds, reasonings, and high thoughts are demolished by the power of God in the Gospel, and he himself is carried captive, yet not against, but with his will, to be a voluntary subject of Christ, and cheerfully to submit to the sceptre of his kingdom.

In addition, the Bible isn’t an ‘owner’s manual for living life’. (Although, just like how owner’s manuals get put to the side, many Christians don’t read the Bible either, and then wander around aimlessly, making up rules as they go along.) It’s a living Word given to us by God about himself (Jeremiah 23:29, 2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12). We can’t always encounter a situation and ‘look it up in the manual’, although there are plenty of helpful rules that may directly apply to many situations. But we need to know it well enough so that we can acquire Biblical wisdom in order to live lives that are pleasing to God (Colossians 1:9-10).

I think the Five Solas are a great way to explain Reformed theology to someone new to it. TULIP is focused more on soteriology and can scare some people away if they are given that first thing.

This is why the internet needs self-appointed theology police, like me, to correct all the wrongs that are out there. (joke)

Wrong on the Internet

Wrong on the Internet

You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you.
Colossians 3:13 NLT

Images via Photobucket

2 Responses to “What Is Sola Scriptura?”


  1. 1 Thomas Provost

    Excellent article Jeff. I love John MacArthur’s statement on the meaning of “sola scripture.” I may use that article on our churches blog.

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks. I look forward to reading it. (joke–or I’ll read it again)
    Jeff

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