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An Articulation of Sola Scriptura Pt. 2

I continue from where I previously left off:

We next address four main objections often leveled against the sole, sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures.

It is claimed that if 2 Timothy 3:14-17 proves the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, then it proves too much. It proves that the NT is not needed since the Scripture that Timothy was familiar with was the OT, seeing that there was no NT canon at the time this letter was composed.

This argument misses the point. Paul is not talking about the canon of Scripture, but about the origin and purpose of Scripture. Since the Holy Scriptures originate from God they are able to accomplish God’s purpose of equipping the saints. In principle, this would apply to EVERY book that God inspires or breathes out, not just to the OT canon. In fact, Paul himself provides evidence for this interpretation in his first epistle to Timothy:

“For THE SCRIPTURE says, ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’” 1 Timothy 5:18

Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 AND LUKE 10:7:

“Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.” Luke 10:7

Here, Paul calls Luke’s Gospel Scripture and places it on the same level of Moses’ writings! Additional evidence that Paul is citing Luke’s Gospel can be seen from a comparison of the Greek:

Luke 10:7 –         axios gar ho ergates tou misthou autou.

1 Timothy 5:18 – axios ho ergates tou misthou autou.

Paul also claims that his own writings are inspired:

“If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am WRITING to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.” 1 Corinthians 14:37-38

“Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus… Therefore, he who rejects THIS instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2, 8

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by LETTER from us.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 NASB


“If anyone does not obey our instruction IN THIS LETTER, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14

When we keep in mind that these letters all preceded the writing of 1 and 2 Timothy, we can safely infer that these epistles would have also been included among the Scriptures that Paul said were breathed out by God; an inference which the apostle Peter himself makes:

“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:15-16

Noted Evangelical Scholar Douglas J. Moo comments:

The implicit point Peter is making emerges from his claim that the false teachers distort Paul’s letters ‘as they do the other Scriptures.’ The word ‘other’ (loipos) shows that Peter considers the letters of Paul to belong to the category of ‘Scripture.’ Some scholars think that this means no more than that Peter considered Paul’s writings to be authoritative. But the word ‘Scriptures’ (graphai) ALWAYS REFERS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT TO THOSE WRITINGS CONSIDERED NOT ONLY AUTHORITATIVE BUT CANONICAL– in a word, it refers to the Old Testament… Peter therefore implies that the letters of Paul have a status EQUIVALENT to that of the canon of the Old Testament itself. (Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: 2 Peter, Jude [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI 1996], p. 212; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Therefore, it becomes rather evident that 2 Timothy 3:16 is not limiting inspiration to the OT canon but also includes ALL the writings that God would breathe out, such as the 27 books of the NT.

More importantly, even if we assume that Paul was referring only to the Hebrew Bible this would still prove our point. After all, if the OT writings were sufficient to make a person wise unto salvation and equip him for every good work that God has ordained, then this makes the Holy Bible all the more sufficient now that we have the 27 books of the NT. In other words, the addition of the NT writings makes the Holy Bible SUPER-sufficient, in fact OVERLY sufficient, in making God’s people wise for salvation and furnished for every righteous work necessary to please God.

The second argument leveled against the sufficiency of Scriptures is the assertion that the Bible itself refers to other things that are necessary for Christian maturity such as perseverance, purity etc. Cf. James 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:21

Some go so far as to claim that Ephesians 4:11-15 states that the apostles, prophets, teachers and evangelists which Christ gave the Church is what brings about the complete maturity and unity of Christ’s body, not the Scriptures.

Apart from the fact that none of these passages use the Greek words artios or exartizo, this actually proves our point. How would a person know that perseverance, purity and all the different offices that Christ instituted for the Church are essential for Christian maturity if the Scriptures hadn’t stated this? In other words, since it is in the God-breathed Scriptures that we find these qualities listed as necessary for successful Christian living, this then proves that the Bible contains everything needed for the Christian life! There is nothing else that needs to be added to it.

The third argument used to undermine Sola Scriptura is that the Bible supposedly does not teach this doctrine. It is stated that the Bible exhorts believers to follow traditions which have been passed on either orally or through letter:

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our SPOKEN WORD or by our letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 ESV

A couple of responses are in order. First, the context shows that the traditions that Paul had in mind weren’t teachings such as the Immaculate Conception, Purgatory, the Bodily Assumption of Mary etc., but to the Gospel:

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 ESV

Elsewhere, Paul refers to the tradition of passing on the Gospel which was in accord with the Holy Scriptures:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

And since the Gospel has been inscripturated within the inspired pages of the New Testament, nothing else is needed, a fact confirmed by 2 Timothy 3:16-17. As we saw previously, that inspired text emphatically states that the God-breathed Scriptures contain everything a person needs to know for salvation and for living the Christian life. This means that the Holy Bible sufficiently embodies whatever the Apostles taught orally, otherwise we are faced with an internal contradiction And this is a view that no Christian who believes in the divine origin of the sacred writings can possibly entertain.

Second, Paul speaks of the traditions which have been passed on. This means that any tradition claiming to be Apostolic in nature must be shown to have come from the Apostles and their immediate companions. The only way to do this is to consult the God-breathed Scriptures since these are the only records we have that can be shown to have come from the Apostles and their followers.

The final objection has to do with the canon of Scripture. For Sola Scriptura to be true one has to know what the Scripture is, i.e., for this principle to be functional a person has to know the exact number of books, and the exact form of those books, that God has inspired. Yet this knowledge is not found in the Scriptures themselves, since the Holy Bible nowhere provides an inspired list of all those books that God has produced for the Church to judge and live by. This information is derived from tradition, and is therefore extra-biblical information which is necessary for Christians to have; otherwise they cannot know what the divine Scriptures are. This extra-biblical tradition violates Sola Scriptura since it is information which is necessary for Christians to have that are not found in the God-breathed writings.

The problem with this claim is that it actually proves that Paul was mistaken in what he wrote to Timothy in a passage which we already examined, but which we repeat here for the benefit of the readers:

“and that from infancy you have known [the] sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom FOR SALVATION through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped FOR EVERY GOOD WORK.” 2 Timothy 3:15-16 New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE)

The Apostle is explicitly clear. The Scriptures are given for the express purpose of making the man of God wise unto salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus, as well as equipping him for EVERY (not some, not most) good work necessary for him to engage in as a minister to the glory of God.

Therefore, if knowledge of the canon is necessary for the man of God to know then it would have to be contained in the Scriptures. Since it is not then this leaves us with one of two possibilities:

Paul was wrong for stating that the Scriptures furnish the man of God with the necessary wisdom for salvation and for every good work that he must necessarily engage in. As such, the Church was wrong for then including this letter into the canon of God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Scriptures.  And since Roman Catholics want us to believe that it was their specific Church that gave us the Holy Bible, then they must accept the fact that the Roman Catholic Church was wrong for doing so, which in turn proves that it cannot be the Church which the Lord Jesus established. This further disproves the doctrine of papal infallibility as well as the supposed infallibility of councils such as the Council of Trent.

Paul was right in what he claimed about the nature and function of the Scriptures, and therefore knowledge of the canon of the inspired writings is something that doesn’t have to be contained within the sacred writings themselves. God made sure to guide his people in such a manner as to discover his list of inspired books in order to insure that the Church had all of those very divine Scriptures necessary to equip the man of God for every good work that God requires.

With that said we are ready to continue to the final segment of our defense and articulation of Sola ScripturaAn Articulation of Sola Scriptura – Appendices.

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