“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sola Scriptura Part 2 - Conclusion

While Luther and most of the other Reformers did not advocate throwing the baby out with the bathwater as regards the tradition and teaching of the Church, there was a movement within the Reformation that actually swung completely the other way, and was in complete error!

This was the radical Anabaptist group – they believed that they did not need the teaching office of the church, or even the Bible; since the Holy Spirit spoke to them -- or at least to their leaders -- directly. Instead of one Pope, Anabaptism produced numerous "infallible" messengers who heard the voice of God. Their modern day ancestors are found in the fringes of the charismatic movement and beyond – people who believe that they can have an extra-biblical revelation, and even when it does not square with the bible, or worse, even directly contradicts it, they are validated in holding to that claim because it was ‘revealed’ to them by the spirit. Of course, no one is quite sure which spirit it is, because the Holy Spirit of God would never contradict His Word.

Over and against the errors of both Rome and the Anabaptists, the Reformation insisted that the Bible was the sole final authority in determining doctrine and life. In interpreting it, the whole church must be included, including the laity, and they must be guided by the teachers in the church. Those teachers, though not infallible, should have considerable interpretive authority. The creeds were binding and the newly reformed Protestant communions quickly drafted confessions of faith that received the assent of the whole church, not merely the teachers.

You see, the concept that the church has no authority vested in leadership is not Biblical – yet there are groups who do not believe that there should be teachers or preachers in the church, that each and every person considers and studies the Bible on their own and comes up with their own unique interpretation. This is why you have such an illiterate and self-focused church today, there is no methodical and learned study of God’s Word from the pulpit and in the weekly lessons, there are lots of feel-good therapeutic messages which use bits and pieces of God’s Word to prove their validity, but the individual believer is left to figure it out on their own – and in our egalitarian society, whatever they come up with is held to be true FOR THEM! Truly Luther was right – each and every man is going to hell in his own way.

Yet, this is not what we see in the Biblical record – The first thing Paul did was to appointed elders to the church – and they were not just any man off the street – 1st Timothy 3:1 – 7 -- The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

We see in 1st Timothy 1:3, 4 that Paul charges Timothy to “remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” Going on in 1st Timothy 4:6 – 16 to say: "If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

While the modern church says that doctrine divides and we should be more interested in social activity or some such nonsense, Paul was obsessed with correct doctrine, and men charged to preach and teach it!

Peter illustrates the import of the Scriptures in 2nd Peter 1:16 – 21 -- "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Peter states that he and the other disciples bear the testimony of being eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, specifically during the Transfiguration, but he then goes on to say that there is even a more sure testimony – that of the Scriptures!

While certain men may be gifted and guided to be teachers and preachers in the church – they will never trump Scripture. As long as they are faithful witnesses to the Word of God, they are valid teachers; when they stray, like Hymaneus and Alexander, they make a shipwreck of their faith!

So let me leave you with a couple of thoughts –

First, the Bible never makes the claim that we are to toss out everything save for the Word of God – but that everything is to be validated by, and verified by the Scriptures. We are to have churches, with leaders who are given the honor due their position, and these men should be held up to a different, higher standard in their knowledge and conduct. These men should give themselves to the study, preaching and teaching of God’s Word, being first and foremost shaped by it themselves.

Secondly, like the Bereans, the laity, the congregation are to also be students of the Word of God. It is said that in the day of Jonathan Edwards, during the formative days of this country, every plow in his district had a Greek New Testament balanced on it – so eager were the people to know the Word of God. Would that we were that hungry for God’s Word!

And finally, that we are to study what the great men of God have learned throughout the ages as they gave their lives to the study of, and meditation upon God’s Word. These men must never be elevated above the Scriptures; Calvin, Luther, Augustine, all had their flaws, but there are many jewels of insight they gave to the church – we must not throw away these treasures.

Let us treasure and love the Word of God!

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