Sola scriptura On Scripture Alone
Do you own a bible? Do you read the bible you own?
Who or what is the final authority in your life? You know, The one thing that you won’t or can’t argue with? If you were a fan of “Rumpole of the Bailey”, a British Television series about a lawyer named Horace Rumpole than you’d know he privately referred to his wife Hilda as "She Who Must Be Obeyed."
My Grandfather Guptill used to say “Beware of the man who says he’s boss of his home, if he’ll lie about that he’ll lie about anything.”
But beyond your spouse or your parents who or what is the final authority in your life?
500 years ago, a priest by the name of Martin Luther decided that for him the final authority would be the word of God and not the pope or the church.
Martin Luther wrote “Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scriptures.”
You may have noticed that in my messages I use a lot of scriptures and that is because through the years I have come to understanding that nothing that I or anyone else has to say has the potential eternal consequences of God's word.
You don’t come to church on Sunday Morning to hear the collected wisdom of Denn Guptill you come to hear from the Bible, the word of God the Holy Scriptures, so I don’t want to take the time you have entrusted me with to let you know what I think.
For all practical purposes that was the beginning of what would ultimately be called the “Protestant Reformation” and the birth of the protestant church.
This is week two of our Old Foundation series. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and we are looking at the foundation that our church was ultimately built on.
These are called the 5 solas. Solas being the Latin Word for “Alone” or “Only”. And so, last week we began with Sola Fide, or By Faith Alone. And I spoke about how we need faith to begin our Christian Journey, to Live our Christian Journey and to finish our Christian Journey.
And that statement of faith came from Luther’s certainty of the truth of Romans 1:17 The Righteous shall live by faith.
Luther had come to the point that he declared that the final authority for what he believed and how he defined his faith wouldn’t be the church, or church tradition or the Pope it would be the scriptures. And that would become known as “Sola Scriptura” or “By Scripture Alone”.
Now that didn’t mean that Luther and the other reformers were saying that the Bible was the only authority in the church. Rather, they meant that the Bible was the only infallible authority in the church.
They didn’t necessarily feel that traditions were the problem but that unbiblical traditions were the problem. And so they would measure all authority and teaching by the scriptures. And some of those teachings that they found didn’t measure up were celibacy of the priests, authority of the pope, the sinlessness of Mary or the reality of purgatory.
In 1517 bibles had primarily been translated from the original Greek and Hebrew into Latin, the language of scholars. But Luther felt that everyone should have the opportunity to hear God speak on their own, and not simply through the church and her priests.
And so he translated the Greek and Hebrew text into German. We are told that he would often make trips into the market place to hear how common people were speaking and the words they were using. He wanted to place the word of God in the hands of everyday people.
We live in a world that wants to say there are no absolutes and that what you believe to be true is as valid as what I believe to be true. Sola Scriptura would say that all of our truths need to be laid against and measured against the truth of scripture.
Which takes us to the scripture that was read for us earlier. This summer if you were lucky enough you would have heard Pastor Stefan preach on this passage and here we are again.
And I would be naïve to think that everyone agrees with me on the validity or the value of this book. A number of years ago I was asked to take part in a debate on CBC radio concerning the Oxford translation of the Bible.
This particular translation worked very hard at trying to offend nobody. So they were very gender unspecific. Now I understand some of that, he and her become they, mankind becomes humanity or should that simply be hu-people-y. I can even concede a little bit on us becoming Son’s of God becoming Children of God, although socially and culturally speaking, 2000 years ago being someone’s son was a whole lot different than simply being someone’s child and was understood as such.
But the translation kept going, it removed any mention of the Jewish leaders asking for Christ to be crucified instead it was simply the religious leaders. Because it didn’t want to be anti-Semitic. But historically it wasn’t just any religious leaders who demanding the execution of Christ it was the Jewish religious leaders.
That’s not to put any blame of Jews who live today that is simply the historic reality. To deny that is akin to just referring to the authors of the holocaust as political leaders and not mentioning that they were German political leaders.
In the Oxford translation, the right hand of God was no longer the preferred place to be because that would imply that left was wrong or bad. The parable of the blind guides was left out because it was offensive to blind people, you get the gist. And I was asked to debate another pastor who thought the Oxford translation was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
And I challenged her saying that regardless of how you viewed the Bible it was wrong to take that much liberty with it. If it was the word of God how could you make such radical changes, if it was just a historical document how could you justify tampering with it or if it was only great literature we wouldn’t change the wording of Shakespeare’s plays simply to make them more appealing for today.
But to her the Bible was just a book, a good book but just a book never the less. And I couldn’t fathom how a pastor, a minister could view the word of God as just a book. What did she say when she stood up on Sunday Morning? What could she possibly offer her congregation if it wasn’t from the word of God?
And so in the scripture that was read this morning Paul is writing to a young pastor by the name of Timothy and what we have here is a personal letter; it wasn’t addressed to the congregation in the Ephesian church it was addressed to the pastor of the Ephesian church. We are reading someone else’s mail.
Paul is in prison in Rome facing execution and he’s writing to Timothy in the city of Ephesus, which is in what we now call Turkey.
These are very close to the last words that Timothy would ever have from his friend and mentor and Paul was writing to encourage Timothy and to remind him of his calling.
And part of what Paul reminds Timothy of is his heritage, how he was brought up in a Godly home with a foundation established on the scriptures. And that goes back to the promise we are given in Proverbs 22:6 Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it. In other words parents do your best when they are little and hope for the best when they grow up. And Timothy had that heritage, it would appear that his Mother Eunice and his Grandmother Lois were followers of Christ and that they had brought Timothy up in the faith.
Now understand that these ladies came to their faith through a Jewish background and so that is how Timothy would have been raised. The scriptures that he would have been taught would have been the Jewish scriptures, what we know as the Old Testament, because for Timothy the New Testament was still a work in progress.
Historians tell us that at a time when 90% of the world’s population was illiterate, that every Jewish boy over the age of five was learning to read. And while most of us do our best to struggle though with one language, Timothy was undoubtedly learning in both Hebrew the language of his people, and Greek which was the language of the marketplace.
On His first day of school Eunice would have included a honey cake in His lunch to remind Him of how sweet learning was and His teacher would have given him a taste of honey and told Him, “The study of God's word is sweeter.” But Timothy’s education in the scripture would have begun long before that, in his own home.
But what are some of the things about the scriptures that Timothy and we by default are reminded of here in regards to God’s word. 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
First of all we are told that The Scriptures are Inspired by God This is the crux of the entire sermon. If you can’t believe that this book was inspired by God then what good is it for you? It’s not just another self-help book, it’s not just another book on morality, it’s not just another “Good Book”. This is the word of God.
And it’s not enough to say “Well I believe that parts of the Bible are inspired.” What parts? The parts that you agree with? The parts that make you feel good but don’t make you feel guilty? Do you get your pick of the Ten Commandments, so you’ll pick do not murder and do not steal but skip lying and adultery. This book is either the word of God or it’s not and if it’s not then why waste your time with it?
We hear the word inspired tossed around a lot these days, artists are inspired, musicians are inspired, and interior decorators are inspired. But does that mean the same as the bible being inspired by God? No. In most cases when we speak about someone being inspired it means they are very creative, that they are able to draw some special inspiration from within themselves or from their Muse.
But the thought of the original language in saying the scriptures were inspired comes from the two Greek words which meant God and breathed, God breathed the scriptures into being. As a matter of fact if you were to read 2 Timothy 3:16 in the New International Version it begins by saying All Scripture is God breathed. You have 40 different human authors who put pen to paper, so to speak, who contributed to this book, and we believe that they were inspired by God in what they wrote.
23 years ago I was introduced to the son of one of our Wesleyan Pastors in Australia, and I was told he played the trumpet. (show video clip)
His name is James Morrison and he opened the Olympics in Sydney Australia. The music he plays is created with his breath. The trumpet is just tool, it’s what turns his breath into a recognizable sound.
When he plays the trombone, it is still the breath of James Morrison, but it sounds different.
In the same way the breath of God is played through various human writers in the Bible, same breath but we hear it in different ways.
So Moses writes different than David, who writes different than Amos who writes different than Jonah, who writes different than Matthew. But the initial inspiration or breath is from the same source.
So it’s inspired, but why? Do we have the Bible, the inspired word of God just to have a good book to read? And it is great reading, there is mystery and intrigue and romance and betrayal, poetry and songs, inspiration, philosophy and theology all wrapped up in this book we call the Bible. No it’s not just a good read there needs to be a purpose to our reading.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
The Scriptures Teach us What is True There has to come a time when we ask: What is truth? Is it something that is defined by politicians? God help us if it is. Or do we leave it up to nine appointed judges in Ottawa to decide what truth is and by default what morality is? Can truth change?
Ten years ago, I was in a public meeting over the same sex marriage issue, by the way I am opposed to same sex marriage as is the Wesleyan Church, in case you needed clarification on that. I was in the meeting and asked Geoff Regan what protection was in place for me as a clergy if I was asked to perform a same sex marriage. To which Mr. Regan insured me that I was protected by the Supreme Court Ruling. And so I asked if the Supreme Court ever changed its mind. And he said it did. Not much protection, but the point being is that truth is not supposed to change.
Jesus promised in John 8:32 Jesus said “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But how can the truth set you free if the truth is ever changing and what is true today isn’t true tomorrow? Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” And we are told in Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The truth is the same yesterday, today and forever and this is where you find it.
So what else is the bible good for? 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. The Scriptures Make Us Realize What Is Wrong in Our Lives. It’s not enough that we get our creed from the bible we also need to go to it for our conduct. It’s is the source of both our belief and our behaviour. It should make a difference in how we live. And if it doesn’t then there something wrong. Christians are referred to as being born again, having a new beginning and being new creations. That would signify new behaviour, how we act, how we live, what we do.
Throughout the Bible our behaviour is not taught to be a way to our salvation, as a matter of fact in Ephesians 2:8-9 God saved you by his special favour when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. So our salvation is not dependent on our behaviour, but our behaviour is dependent on our salvation. Does that make sense? No, ok. You don’t become a Christian because of what you do, but when you become a Christian that determines what you do, there are specific things Christians do and specific things Christians don’t do. And they are found in the book. We are not left without guidance.
True story, this is too good to make up and while I’ve told it before it’s too good not to repeat. I was talking to a friend of mine one day and he was telling me about how he became a Christian. No church background, a friend of his introduced him to Jesus, he had just started attending church. His friend gave him a bible and he starts to read it. At the time, he was living with his girlfriend and one night they are lying in bed, he’s reading his bible and comes to a word he doesn’t understand. So he turns to his girlfriend and says “What’s fornication?” Now if’n you’re wondering the same thing, fornication is sexual activity outside of marriage, sex is God’s wedding gift.
So he asks his girlfriend “what is fornication?” and she replies “That’s what we do.”
The scriptures tell us what is wrong. But more then that let’s keep reading 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
The Scriptures Straighten Us Out, So the next morning Bill moves out, if they were fornicating and fornicating was wrong then he knew that he should stop fornicating. Pretty simple right? So what’s the problem? And maybe that’s the reason we don’t read the bible, because we don’t want to find out what we are doing wrong and what we should do about that behaviour.
When people talk about being accepting of people they talk about Christ’s love and forgiveness. They remind us of the woman caught in adultery, how Jesus told those who wanted to judge her to cast the first stone if they were without sin. And then people tell us how we should be like that accepting and forgiving of people regardless of what they do or how they behave. What they forget is what Jesus told the woman when everyone had left. Do you remember? Sure he told her in John 8:11 “Go and sin no more.” In other words stop doing what is wrong. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! Not only is there a new life but the old life is gone.
And finally 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. The Scriptures Teach Us to Do What Is Right. Sometimes people say that the Bible is full of Don’ts but there are actually more dos in the bible then there are don’t so if you spend all your time doing the dos you won’t have time to do the don’ts. If you want some place to start try Galatians 5:22-23 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. So I’ll tell you what, work on those nine and when you get them down pat let me know and I’ll find you some more.
Here’s the secret if you want to know what’s in this book then you have to read it. It can’t just sit there. If you don’t have a bible I would recommend the New Living Translation or the New International Version. And if you don’t have one and would like a copy just let me know, we have some really nice NIVs available.
So let’s go back to the questions I asked at the beginning: Do you own a bible? Do you read it?
Charles Spurgeon was the pastor for 38 years of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London England. During the time he was there the church grew to over 5,000 in attendance and he became known around the world for his preaching and this was before the interwebby thing. And Spurgeon once said “There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write damnation with your fingers.” I hope that’s not true of you, let’s pray.