“Last evening I paused beside the blacksmith’s door,
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
‘‘How many anvils have you had,’
‘To wear and batter all these hammers so?’
said he, and then with twinkling eye,
‘The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.’
And so, I thought, the Anvil of God’s Word
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone.”
—Attributed to John Clifford
“The word of the Lord endureth for ever.” 1 Peter 1:25
“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” Psalm 138:2
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105
In Worms, Germany, late in the afternoon, 4:00 PM, April 17th, Martin Luther was giving his final answer to the Church of Rome regarding his writings, which he had been instructed to renounce. Said Luther, “Unless then I shall be convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I must be bound by those Scriptures, which have been brought forward by me; yes, my conscience has been taken captive by these words of God. I cannot revoke anything, nor do I wish to; since to go against one’s conscience is neither safe nor right: here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
In that moment, the doctrine that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority for all faith and practice was established as the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. We have in our possession the most unique book on planet earth.
Written over a period of one thousand five hundred years by about forty different authors on three continents in three languages the Bible is profitable, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
The Bible is a book with a purpose which is, “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:17)
When we pick up a copy of the Bible we notice immediate it is one book. Though it contains sixty six works it is still one book for there is an essential unity to the Bible. There are those who try to destroy the unity of the book by dividing God’s Word into multiple dispensations, or by pitting Moses against Christ, but the Bible remains one book for “the New Testament is in the Old contained, while the Old Testament is in the New explained.” “The New Testament is in the Old concealed while the Old Testament is in the New revealed.”
What is the message that is contained in the Bible? What is the glorious truth explained in the Bible but this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The Bible is all about Christ and so we find Him in every verse of Scripture, in every chapter, and in every book.
In Genesis He is the Seed of the woman (3:15).
In Exodus He is the Lamb of God for sinners slain (see chapter 12).
In Leviticus He is our High Priest (the whole book).
In Numbers He is the Star out of Jacob (24:17).
In Deuteronomy He is the Prophet like unto Moses (18:15).
In Joshua He is the Captain of the Lord’s armies (5:13-15).
In Judges He is the Angel of the LORD or the messenger of Jehovah (chapter 13).
In Ruth He is our Kinsman-Redeemer (Chapter 3).
In Samuel, Kings and Chronicles He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Samuel 8:1-9).
In Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther He is the sovereign Lord over all the kingdoms of the earth (entire books).
In Job He is our risen and returning Redeemer (Job 19:25).
In Psalms He is the Blessed Man (Psalm 1), the Son of Man (Psalm 2), the Crucified One (Psalm 22), the Coming One (Psalm 24), the Reigning One (Psalm 72).
In Proverbs He is our Wisdom (chapter 14).
In Ecclesiastes He is the forgotten Wise Man (9:14-15).
In Song of Solomon He is “My Beloved” (2:16).
In Isaiah He is our suffering Substitute (chapter 53).
In Jeremiah He is the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS (23:6).
In Lamentations He is the Man of sorrows who weeps for His people (l: 12-18).
In Ezekiel He is the glory of God (1:28).
In Daniel He is the Smiting Stone (2:34) and the Companion in the furnace of fire and the den of lions (3:24-25; 6:22).
In Hosea He is David’s Greater King (3:5).
In Joel He is the Hope of His people (3:16).
In Amos He is the Rescuer of Israel (3:12).
In Obadiah He is the Deliverer upon Mount Zion (verse 17).
In Jonah He is the buried and risen Saviour (compare Matthew 12:40).
In Micah He is the Everlasting God born in Bethlehem (5:2).
In Nahum He is our Stronghold in the day of wrath (1:7).
In Habakkuk He is the Anchor of our faith (2:4).
In Zephaniah He is in the midst for judgment and cleansing (3:5,15).
In Haggai He is Lord of presence and power (1:13).
In Zechariah He is the smitten Shepherd (13:7).
In Malachi He is the Sun of Righteousness (4:2).
Because Christ is the single great theme of the Bible and unifies all the Scriptures it would be proper to read the Bible as a whole. Find Christ in the Scriptures. Read the Bible through. It is one book.
Second, the Bible is authoritative for it sets forth the mind of God who is the Supreme Ruler of the universe. The Reformers said that all of our Christian practice should be rooted in Scripture by principle or precept, and I believe that with all my heart. The Reformers also said that our faith should be rooted only in Scripture.
Charles Spurgeon said, “I will follow the Scripture wherever it may lead me, and I will renounce the most cherished opinion, rather than shape or alter a single syllable of God’s Book. It is not mine to make God’s Word consistent, but to believe that it is so. When a text stands in the road I drive no further. The Romans had a god they called Terminus, the god of landmarks. Holy Scripture is my sacred landmark: woe is me if I remove it.”
Sola Scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing the Christian’s life and devotion.
Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God.
Sola Scriptura is not a denial of the need for Biblical interpretation, but it does insist that Scripture should interpet itself. Scripture should interpret Scripture. Embracing the principle of Sola Scriptura does not show disrepect to pastors and teachers who are said to be the gifts of God for the people of God in Ephesians 4:11, but it does not allow for the Apostolic Tradition to be considerd as a source of original authority alongside of the Bible, especially when tradition does not have biblical support or where it contradictes Scripture.
What Sola Scriptura does do is to affirm the Bible is the only infallible (it cannot fail) and inerrant
(without error) authority for the Christian faith. The Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness.
An unknown writer said, “This Book sets forth the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s character. Here, paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. Follow its precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected life in Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity.”
I commend to you the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura.