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Sola Scriptura: Swazi Lecture

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On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther declared war. As he nailed his 95 theses upon the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany, he was essentially writing out the warrant for his own suffering from that day forward. The Catholic church of Luther’s Day, and in fact our own day, held to a triadic authority structure with each of the three parts holding, allegedly, the same authority: Bible, Tradition, and Pope. Now, of course, the Pope was considered the great interpreter of both the Bible and tradition, corrupting both by manipulating the interpretation to suit his own agenda. So, by the time of Luther, you could buy your way out of hell and purgatory (and your family and friends, by the way), and buy your way into God’s favor. In order to fund the building of St. Peter’s Basillica, Pope Leo X authorized the selling of plenary indulgences that would restore a person, dead or alive, to perfect innocence. One of his minions (Tetzel) is even said: “Not even the raping of the mother of God could outweigh the efficacy of these indulgences.”
And, Luther, along with others like him, could not reconcile what he was seeing with the Bible the very same Church had charged him with studying and teaching. And so, the question arose regarding authority. This is the question of the Reformation. Where does the authority over the Church rest? Is it the Pope and the Tradition and the Bible? Or, is it the Bible alone? Luther had made up his mind. Being demanded to recant by a special task force formed just for him, Luther responded: “I am not so audacious that for the sake of a single obscure and ambiguous decretal of a human pope I would recede from so many and such clear testimonies of divine Scripture.” Luther had begun his march toward excommunication and condemnation by the Catholic Church. In fact, some church officials were already calling for him to be burned at the stake as a heretic. Pope Leo X called Luther ‘a wild boar, ravaging God’s vineyard, a pestiferous virus, as well as a serpent creeping through the Lord’s field.’ Luther was given 60 days to recant or be excommunicated, and on the final day of the ultimatum, he took the papal bull out publicly and burned it openly. He was summoned to Worms for a diet tribunal. With all of his works and teachings spread before him, he was demanded to renounce them all. After three days of contemplation, Luther famously said: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they often err and contradict themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.”
This morning, we begin where Luther began and where the reformation began — with our Bibles. And, we turn to our Bibles so that the Spirit of God may use them to convince us of the Bible’s authority and sufficiency in our church and in our lives.
Transition: Give brief explanation of the term ‘sola’ and ‘5 solas’ as folks turn in their Bibles.

God’s Word


Authoritative Word from an Authoritative Source

“All Scripture is breathed out by God” The first question that I want to answer is why it is that Luther and the Reformers had such a high view of the authority of the Bible. And, I want you to make the connection here to our first core value as a church: start with the word. It’s time to let you in on a secret: We didn’t come up with that! We totally ripped off Augustine and Luther and the many other Reformers after them. And, here’s why: The Bible is an authoritative word because it comes from the authoritative Source. With the language that Paul is using here, is intended to bring us back to the very beginning of creation in Genesis one. In it says that the Spirit of God, or the ‘breath’ of God, hovered over the creation. And so, when God speaks out his word, the breath of God moves forward in great power and energy to bring about all that is from absolutely everything. The Creation, sometimes referred to as General revelation for how it reveals to us some of the character of God, is brought about through a God breathing out his word with decisive force and power. But, God did not stop there, and this is Paul’s point to Timothy here: Just as God breathed out the creation so that its enormity and majesty and grandeur would reveal him in a general way, so has God breathed out his very character and nature and self-disclosure in the words of Scripture so that we can know him, not only generally and vaguely, but personally and specifically and clearly. That is, every word of the Bible that is in your hands and mine, is filled with a God-breathedness that enables it to contain the character of God and the glory of God and the redemption offered by God so that we can know him! And, if the Source of all that has been made is the very same source of this book we now hold, then it is this book and this book alone in which we are able to find ultimate, final authority in our lives.
Historically, we call this the doctrine of inspiration. It's the doctrine of how God gave us a book through which He graciously reveals himself and the redemption that can be found in him. The Holy Spirit used ordinary men, including their personalities and their language and their circumstances, to author perfectly the Bible through a mysterious, providential process of superintending every word that was written, so much so that we can say that all Scripture has a dual authorship -- human and divine. It's human words funneled through human personality according to divine revelation and inspiration, as true as God is honest. Just as God condescended to take upon humanity in the person of Jesus, so did the Holy Spirit condescend in the usage of human language so that by his grace, we might see who He is and be redeemed to his glory. So, don't think of the Biblical authors like David and Paul and John as being secretaries writing down a message that is dictated to them word-for-word by God. Think of them as being an ordinary means of God's providence by which God perfectly reveals himself through flawless words. If providence is God working in the ordinary circumstances of life to mysteriously bring about his will in our lives. Then inspiration is God breathing out his word through ordinary men with unique abilities and personalities and perfectly superintending the whole process to ensure that He is revealed without error. Their personality and their words filled with the breath of his holy and perfect and gracious character.

Wonder at Power, Wisdom, Glory, and Energy

APPLICATION: Oh, that we wouldn’t listen to this as though it were some cold lecture! This is the word of God that we’re talking about! These are God’s words that we come here every week to hear preached! Should we not stand in amazement that God has loved us so that He has divinely given us a book through which we can learn of his character, glimpse his glory, and learn of his Son’s defeat of death? Do you understand? Every syllable, every phrase, every thought found in these pages contains the very breath of God himself! He didn’t have to say anything to you, but He has given you this book! In it, there is no subject unaffected. There are truths that are so hard and fast that they will hold out under the most aggressive microscope. There is hope in here that, if you can’t truly take hold of it in your heart and mind, can hold you fast through your darkest moment and your darkest day. This book has the authority and power to change not just you, but every generation that comes after you. This is the power of God and the wisdom of God and the glory of God and the energy of God put on full display. Church, are you in awe of your Bible? Do you love you Bible? Do you delight in your Bible?

Because God’s word is inspired, it is inerrant.

“ALL scripture is breathed out” Now, everything else Paul wants us to get here, and everything else that the Reformers believed in flowed out of the reality of the Bible’s God-breathed inspiration. So, let’s look at the implications her of divine inspiration of the Bible. First of all, because God’s word is inspired, it is inerrant. It is infallible in faith and practice, and it is inerrant if facts and details. The inerrancy of God's word is derivative of his holy character. The Bible is holy and faultless, just as God himself. When Martin Luther was asked how he knew that Scripture was inerrant, he responded by saying: “Because we know that God does not lie. My neighbors and I — in short all men, may err and deceive, but God’s word cannot err.” Here’s the logic of Luther and of ICBC: The Bible is as flawless and righteous and perfect as God himself is. For if God cannot give us a book that is perfect; then, how is it that we can trust any particular part of it? I want you to circle the word ‘all’ in our text. That portion of the text can actually be translated as ‘every’ Scripture, as in ‘every, single portion’ or ‘every, single letter’ of Scripture is ‘breathed out by God.’ Beginning with the Enlightenment and carrying forward all the way to our day, there is a stream of thought that goes something like this: The Bible is good, and the Bible is inspirational, and the Bible is true about somethings, but it isn’t perfect in every way. Trying to be sharp, they might say, “The Bible is infallible about issues of faith and practice, but not inerrant about issues regarding history and science.” These people believe that the Bible needs to be redeemed and rescued from its bigoted, intolerant language, or that the Bible needs to be filtered through a rational mind so that one can understand what the Bible really meant by the parting of the Red Sea or Jonah being swallowed by a whale or Jesus walking on water But, how foolish it is to believe that God is mighty and loving enough to give us a book that tells how we can be saved but not mighty and loving enough to give us a book that is historically true! How can a book true about faith and the practice of that faith be oppressive to women or immorally violent or rationally misguided about the miracles? Brothers and sisters, if the Bible needs us to redeem it, then what power could it possibly have to redeem us?

To Disagree with Jesus is to Be UnChristian

Thomas Jefferson famously cut the sections out of the Bible that he found disagreeable or "un-enlightened." He would cut out the virgin birth and Jesus walking on water and Jesus multiplying the meal of the child to feed thousands. In other words, he renovated the Bible like an old house with good bones that needs a facelift to make sense in the rational age. But, I want to propose to you that, by definition, if you disagree with Jesus on any subject, then you are UnChristian and out of sync with the character of God.

Trust Your Bible as Much as Jesus Does

APPLICATION: There’s so much that I want to say on the subject of inerrancy, but I’m going to limit myself to a single thought that I think closes the case. You should trust your Bible as much as Jesus does. If we can agree on nothing else this morning, we must find common ground here: the entire Christian faith rises and falls on Jesus Christ being the Son of God, entirely man and entirely God, who died bearing the weight of our sin and was raised in resurrection glory. And, if this is our stance, how can we have any other stance toward the Bible than Christ himself? For if Jesus is so incompetent as to misunderstand the fundamental nature of the Bible and its content, then how can we believe him to be a sufficient Savior of our sin? How can we believe him to be God? So, look at the insert we’ve placed in your Bibles. I invite you look up every, single reference when you get home. Here’s what you’ll find. Jesus believed Genesis when it said that Adam and Eve were the first humans created by the hand of God, not some evolutionary mutation. He believed that Noah, and every creature God desired, boarded an ark that saved the remnant from God’s wrath and rain. He really believed that Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt and that God spoke face-to-face with Moses on Sinai. Jesus believed that Moses’ bronze snake could heal a man, and he believed that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and then spit out to preach in Nineveh. He believed every dot and tittle. He filled every page and every prophecy. He held fast to every promise and every hope. He obeyed every command and every law. Brothers and sisters, Jesus believed in his Bible, do you believe in him? For you cannot be saved by an errant Savior, and Jesus so closely tied himself to the word of God that if it is not inerrant than He is not inerrant! Trust your Bible as much as Jesus does, Church. Love it like Jesus and live it like Jesus and hold fast to it like Jesus so that you may walk in Jesus’ courage and Jesus’ joy and Jesus’ intimacy with God.

Because God’s word is inspired, it is authoritative.

“profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The next implication that I want you to see is: Because God’s word is inspired and inerrant, it is authoritative. This is Luther’s point to the pope. Popes disagree. Church councils sometimes get it wrong. But, the word God holds true. And, because Popes can be corrupt and traditions can be corrupted, Scripture and Scripture alone can be seen as the central authority of the Church. God has given us his word so that its authority might be a demonstration of his sovereign power and his sovereign goodness in the life of the Church.

A Borrowed Authority

You see, any authority that the Church has or that a pastor has or a Christian has must be seen as derivative from the word of God. In other words, I stand here and preach to you and call you to repentance and faithfulness with borrowed authority! That’s why I’m committed to starting my sermons with the Bible and what the Bible has to say, rather than the issue of the day or my own personal hobby horses. The authority that Iron City Baptist Church has in your life, and she does have authority in your life if you are a member, is an authority that is derived from the Bible. Our authority begins with the Bible and lasts only insofar as we are in alignment with and obedience to the Bible. Paul says that the Bible is profitable for teaching, that is, authoritative in the doctrine of our faith and things that we are to know and love and believe about God. It is useful for reproof, meaning that it is the authority of the Bible that calls us to repentance and away from our sin. It is useful for correction, meaning that it is the word of God that calls us to faithfulness and obedience in Christ. It is useful for training in righteousness, meaning that it is the word of God that tells us how we can become like Christ and how we can bring pleasure to the heart of God himself. It is the word of God the leads the Church and the Christian with authority and grace!

Does your Bible Rule You?

APPLICATION: The error of the Church in Luther's day was that the Church believed she had co-authority with Scripture. The error of the Church in our day is that the Church sees herself as the judge over Scripture. The Protestant Church was founded as a protest against the authority of the pope. But today, in many protestant churches, there is not one pope but thousands. We live in an age in which everyone believes they are the pope! At churches and in homes across the world and in our community, people see themselves and their 'personal beliefs' and opinions as being more authoritative in their lives than the word of God itself. It they are uncomfortable with what it says, they toss it out. Your theology/gospel is only as true as it is biblical. Do you start with your theology, or do you start with your Bible? Do you come to your Bible hoping to prove your theology, or do you come to your Bible seeking to inform and transform your theology? Here’s what I’m trying to ask: Do you rule over your Bible, or does your Bible rule over you?

Because God’s word is inspired, it is sufficient.

“that the man of God may be complete” The last implication that I want us to see is: Because God’s word is inspired and inerrant and authoritative, it is sufficient. So, the inerrancy of God’s word is derivative of God’s character, and the authority of God’s word is a demonstration of his sovereign power and sovereign goodness, and now, we see that the sufficiency of God’s word is a display of his power! In verse 17, it speaking the effect that Scripture has on the life of a believer. It’s saying that Scripture so transforms a man that he can be perfectly equipped to be the kind of man that God would have to be and accomplish all of the tasks that God has laid out for him to accomplish.
That is, Scripture in the hands of the Holy Spirit is sufficient to transform you into exactly who God would have you to be. Scripture in the hands of the Holy Spirit is like dynamite in the hands of miner. He knows exactly where to go and exactly how to apply it so that the diamonds beneath the surface are able to shine through in all of their brilliance.

Guilt-ridden Monk —> Lion of Reformation

In Luther, it transformed a guilt-ridden and confused monk into the lion that God would use to restore the faithfulness of his church. In me, it transformed a legalistic, self-consumed cultural Christian into a pastor at my home church. It takes drunks and drug addicts, and uses them as elders in the church. It takes adulterers and playboys, and uses them to mentor young boys to manhood. It takes insecure girls and uses them as a model of virtue and grace. Oh, brothers and sisters, the Scriptures are sufficient to work in you, at the hands of the Holy Spirit, to make you mighty in the hands of God himself!

Scripture is the Devil’s Kryptonite

APPLICATION: When you read of Scripture’s effect, is there any doubt why it’s so important to the devil to keep us on Facebook and in front of the TV? Is there any doubt why he doesn’t want us to wake up and study? Is there any doubt why he tries to deceive us into believing it is irrelevant? Scripture is the devil’s kryptonite! It reveals perfectly God’s character, sovereignty, and power. Oh, Church, Oh Christian, delight in it! Delight in it that you may stand strong in this wilderness! Delight in it that it may go well with you! Delight in it that our Church might outlast us! Delight in it, Church!
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