- Religion and Philosophy
Only the Scripture
The following paper on Sola Scriptura was presented at a Berean Biblical Council, held in Portland, Maine during the summer of 1997.
Ladies and gentlemen brothers and sisters in Christ. It is indeed a great honor to write on such an important subject as “Sola Scripture.”
Intention: Permit me to present my intentions at the very beginning of this paper. My intentions are as follows:
1. To define what we mean by “Sola Scriptura.”
2. To show that the holy Scripture is the sole depository of truth. I intend to show this by the testimony of the holy Scripture itself, thereby, showing that if Scripture is to be believed at all it is to be accepted as the sole depository of truth.
3. To show that the claims of councils, creeds, and synods (unless supported by the holy Scripture) are to be discounted; thereby, showing the unreliability of councils, creed, et cetera.
4. To show the reliability of holy Scripture.
The Definition of “Sola Scriptura.”
It must be stated clearly what we mean by the term “Sola Scriptura” lest there be a misunderstanding from the very first. By this term we do not imply that the true Church could not sit in council on matters which would require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit within the body of Christ. For, indeed, the holy Scripture gives us precedent for such councils, as is demonstrated by Acts chapter 15. Nor should it be understood that we are anti-creedal, for when we say “No Creed but Christ,” or 'No Creed but the Bible" we concede that such statements are themselves creeds. Likewise, in our declaration of “Sola Scriptura” we have, in effect, a creed. It follows then that what is meant by our statement, “Sola Scriptura,” is that the Scriptures must remain the “sole” standard of truth; i. e. the councils may form, and make determinations—only within the context of Scripture; creeds may be written—but only within the confines of holy Scripture.
Holy Scripture is the Sole Depository of Truth, and The Sacredness of Holy Scripture
Permit me to speak to you of the sacredness of Scripture. Time and again the Holy Spirit informs us that the holy Scripture is complete and exclusive; therefore, in need of no Counsel, or Creed, to expand or edit Its precepts.
Deuteronomy 4:2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, ...”
Revelation 22:18, 19 “For I testify to every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add to these words, God add to him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Deuteronomy 12:32 “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
Proverbs 30:6 “Add not to his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
The Holy Scripture Is The Only Standard Of Faith
One of the Bible’s absolutes is that there is but one Faith (Ephesians 4:5). There’s not one Faith of the Bible and another Faith of the church fathers. When the two conflict, we can do nothing but adhere to the testimony of the Scripture. The holy Scripture speaks for Itself and proclaims Itself to be the only standard of faith.
Isaiah 8:20“To the law and to the testimony: if they seek not according to this word, it is because they have no light in them.”
John 12:48 “He that… receiveth not my words, hath one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”
Galatians 1:8 “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
The Reality of Holy Scripture.
It will be argued that it was the Church which gave us the Scripture. It also will be argued that the church is the “pillar and ground of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). To these two suggestions permit me to make comment.
First, it is true that the church contains the Living Word of God (as it is embodied in the anointing of the Holy Spirit, present with and in the Church), but one must consider how that fact came to be true. Peter tells us that we (the Church) are “born not corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth forever.” This being true, it would appear that the Word of God existed BEFORE the church IF, indeed, one is born into the church by the Word of God.
Second, as to the church being the pillar and ground of the truth, it must be pointed out that a pillar is the support. Now, inasmuch as the truth is the Word of God (John 17:17) it is evident that the church is the support for the Word of God: not that the Church Is the Word of God. Also we note that “ground” denotes a nurturer. Just as seed is dropped into the ground and through the warmth and moisture contained therein the seed is caused to grow: even so, the Word of God deposited in the Church is caused to produce fruit.
Moreover, it is clear from the testimony of the Scripture, itself, that the holy Scripture was reality from the very beginning of the church. For those who would say that the New Testament did not exist until certain books were canonized, the following is pointed out:
The New Testament existed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the New Testament enfolded; the New Testament is the Old Testament unfolded. John 5:46, “Moses wrote of me,” Jesus said; Hebrews 9:8, “... the Holy Ghost this signifying; 10:1, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come;” Galatians 3:24, “ ... for the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ;” Romans 16:25–26, “ ... according to the revelation of the Mystery, … now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets…;”
It was not the canonizing that made the writings of the New Testament church holy; They were God breathed and holy from the first: 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God.” Peter referred to the writings of Paul as Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). The New Testament preachers were not just winging it, creating and formalizing as they went. They preached the Scriptures.
Acts 2:14 Peter preaches the prophets Joel and David;
Acts chapter 3 Peter preaches Moses and the prophets;
Acts chapter 7, Stephen preached Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, and Jesus;
Acts 8:30, Philip preached Isaiah;
Acts chapter 13, Paul preaches Genesis through Judges;
Acts 15:16, James teaches the prophet Amos;
Acts chapter 17, Paul reasoned with the Jews from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
Acts 18:24 – 28 Apollos preached Christ from Old Testament Scriptures.
The Seat of Authority.
When considering the source of authority in the Kingdom one is faced with two major arguments: a. Sola Scriptura, or b. The wisdom of the Church as it is preached in the councils and creeds, et cetera. The following arguments are presented to show that the source of authority for the church is the Word of God.
Peter is given the keys to bind and loose: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) Contrary to popular belief Peter was NOT given a blank check to bind and loose as he chose. The text of the verbs “dedemenon” (bind) and “lelumenon” (loose) are PERFECT. The perfect tense in the Greek language indicates a completed action which has consequences in the present. Therefore, Jesus is telling Peter, Whatsoever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Clearly, it is not Heaven that will follow Peter’s lead, but Peter who must follow Heaven’s lead: in that he could only bind and loose what Heaven had ALREADY bound and loosed. (Hebrews 4:3).
The authority that bound and loosed “in heaven” prior to the keys being given to Peter was accomplished by the Word of God. We are told in John chapter 1 that all things were made by the word of God. The Psalmist agrees, in that he says “by the Word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” We know the authority that is in the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:2 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;), yet we are informed that the Word of God has been exalted above His name (Psalms138:2).
Even Peter, himself, speaks of “A MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY” (2 Peter 1:19) which is the light that shines in a dark place. Paul declares the Gospel of Christ to be “The Power of God unto Salvation” (Romans 1:16). Furthermore, Peter identifies this gospel to be the “The Word of the Lord that endureth for ever,” (1 Peter 1:25).
The Faith of Scripture Is Complete
We cannot speak of holy Scripture without coming face-to-face with its claim of exclusiveness. To say that the Bible is the Word of God without the aid of counsel or creed is to only agree with Its opinion of Itself.
In Luke 24:45 we are told that Jesus breathed upon His disciples and said, Receive the holy Spirit. Further, in (John 20:22) we are informed that He opened their understanding that they might understand the scripture. As a result of this, the ministers of that first generation, which gave us the New Testament scripture, were able to make very bold and exact declarations. Declarations like:
“It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto the…” ( Luke, Luke 1:3).
“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached it to you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Paul, Galatians 1:8–9).
“Receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls… But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty and continue therein, he… shall be blessed in his deed.” (James, James 1:21, 25).
“Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.”(Jude v3).
Thus, the Scripture gives testimony that Its writers’ and Its texts contains the complete and exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ. Luke had perfect understanding and wrote the same; Paul declared his gospel to be complete and exclusive, and pronounced a curse upon anyone, man or angel, who would veer from its course; James proclaimed the Word of God as “Perfect.” (Perfect: to be entirely without fault or defect, satisfy all requirements, pure, total, absolute, unequivocal, mature); Jude admonishes the Christian to contend for the faith (system of religious beliefs) that was “once and for all time delivered to the saints:” for that is surely the tense of the verb (pradotheisē—delivered), i.e. aorist.Therefore, any system of belief that goes beyond, or stops short of, that which is found in the pages of the holy Scripture must be rejected as a work of man—as he has been inspired by our arch adversary, the Devil.
Concerning Holy Tradition
Truly, we are instructed by Paul to: “... stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or by epistle;” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
It is just here, however, that our problem arises. Those things which the councils and creeds profess to have been spoken orally by the apostles are, far too often, out of step with what the apostles actually wrote. It is blasphemy to suggest that the apostles would teach with the living voice things contrary to their epistles. Paul taught the same things to all the churches (1 Corinthians 4:17; Galatians 1:8). Furthermore, he declares that all true disciples walked in the same spirit and steps (2 Corinthians 12:18).
Surely, tradition can be holy, but only inasmuch as it confines itself to the parameters of the holy Scripture. When it is said by the “fathers” (so-called) that the apostles taught “thus and so” but the “thus and so” cannot be supported by the Scripture, then, it would be advisable to heed the council of the prophet: “Walk not in the statues of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourself with their idols: I am the LORD your God; walk in my statues, and keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 20:18 – 19). Also, we should notice that: Jesus cried against the elders of Israel (Mark 7:6–8).
The Unreliability of Councils and Creeds: If we, as Christians, are asked to place our trust in the Councils and Creeds, as though they were God’s rule of faith, then there must be absolute credibility surrounding them. In all honesty this is a problem, in view of the following:
1. The Creed of Nicaea Versus the Nicene Creed: In A. D. 325 there was a true ecumenical council conducted in Nicaea, Asia Minor, with 318 bishops present, both Western and Eastern. The Creed of this Council was revised in the year 381 at Constantinople. This Council of A. D. 381, with 150 Bishops, none of which were from the West, produced a Creed that was quite different from the one formulated in Nicaea, just 56 years earlier. Although the Constantinopolitan Creed was (for all intents and purposes) a different document from the Creed of Nicaea, it was injected into the life stream of the Church as The Nicene Creed. This Creed of 150 Eastern bishops (falsely called The Nicene Creed) was, first of all, not ecumenical, because it excluded the Western bishops; and second, it was not Nicene, because it introduced dogma alien to that of Nicaea: eternally begotten Son; places Mary as an equal partner in the incarnation; places Jesus in an actual right hand position to God the Father; places the Holy Spirit in an equal position of worship with the Father and the Son. The Council of A. D. 381 misrepresents itself on at least two accounts: First, it claims to be ecumenical, and is not; Second, it claims to be The Nicene Creed, and is not.
2. Nicene Anathema Versus Constantinople Anathema: At the end of the the Creed of Nicaea (in the year A. D. 325) 318 bishops placed the following anathema, to protect the teaching that Jesus was the same hypostasis (substance, essence, being) as the Father:
“Whoso assert that he, the Son of God, is a different hypostasis or ousia, … Or, changeable or mutable, the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.”
History states that many of the bishops present at Nicaea in A. D. 325 were not happy with the wording concerning the oneness of Christ with the Father. However, the Modalist element was strong enough to retain the concept of one hypostasis for the next 228 years, then enter the Second Council of Constantinople, the year was A. D. 553:
“If anyone does not confess that the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three ... hypostases, or persons, let him be anathema.”
In the light of the fact that the Council of Nicaea in 325 anathematizes those bishops of the Second Council of Constantinople (A. D. 553), and the bishops of the Second Council of Constantinople anathematizes those of the Council of Nicaea (A. D. 325), one cannot, in confidence, blindly accept the councils as being from God. (In 228 years this “Catholic” church totally reversed its position on the person of Christ; and anathemas were being flung across the centuries.)
3. Council of Ephesus (A. D. 431) and Theotokos: This Council declared Mary to be Theotokos (Mother of God). But the cloud appears over this council when we learn of the political friction between the bishops of Alexandria and Constantinople (Cyril and Nestorius, respectively), and that the council convened and made its decisions before the bishops from Antioch (who were orthodox, but also were sympathetic to Nestorius [who,himself was from Antioch, and was the source of contention over the term, "Theotokos"]) had even arrived at the Council to explain their position. If the idea of councils and creeds is the collective wisdom of the church, it surely was ignored at this point.
4. Nicaea Versus Constantinople Concerning Images: The Seventh Ecumenical Council was held in Nicaea 787. This Council of Nicaea, in A. D. 787, nullified the Council of A. D. 754, that was convened in Constantinople. The Synod of Constantinople (A. D. 754) had condemned image veneration and stated that the only representations of the person of Christ permitted were the bread and wine of the Lord’s supper. Thirty-three years later the Council of Nicaea (A. D. 787) overturned and made null and void the Synod of Constantinople (A. D. 754).
The list could go on, but permit me to mention but one other matter:
5. The Apostles Creed (Falsely Called): This Creed was reported to have been formed by the apostles ten days after the ascension of Christ. However, it is clear that the apostles knew nothing of such a creed. As a point in truth, the present creed which bears that title dates no earlier than the late 600s or early 700s, and is most likely based on the baptismal creed of Hippolytus. ( Hippolytus was the first antipope. He was pastor of a schism church in Rome that was in opposition to the mother church, where the theology was quite different from his. Although Hippolytus was a semi-Trinitarian, the true Bishop of Rome was a Monarchian—as were his predecessors.)
It causes no small concern that a creed formed outside of Scripture would be given the name “Apostles Creed.” The common people were made to receive it as the rule of faith. They accepted it as from God, because they were told that the apostles themselves formed it. Therefore it’s teachings have been, for centuries, predicated upon lies. It must be remembered that a stream can be no purer than the fountain which produces it.
The Reliability of Holy Scripture.
The Holy Word of God speaks in Its own defense, and avows that It is:
Divinely Inspired: “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 2:16).
Absolutely Trustworthy: “Heaven and earth shall passed away; but my words shall not pass away;” (Luke 21:33).
Sacred: “Add thou not going to his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:6).
The Standard of Faith: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed;” (Galatians 1:8).
The Agent of the New Birth: “Being born again, not a corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever;” (1 Peter 1:23).
Eternally Unchangeable: "Forever, Oh Lord, thy Word is settled in Heaven. "(Psalms 119:89).
“THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOREVER”
(ISAIAH 40:8) (Hebrew: Yaqum—Rises To Stand)
Century follows century;
Empires rise and fall;
Despised and torn to pieces;
Storms of hate swirl around it;
Atheists rail against it;
Thunderbolts of wrath smite it;
Arrows of hate are discharged against it;
The tooth of time gnaws but does not scar it;
An anvil that has broken a million hammers ...
Yaqum - The Bible Rises to Stand!
☩ Jerry Hayes