• Download

Biblically Minded: Sola Scriptura

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

Please turn to 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Today we’re continuing our series on Stonebrook’s “Pillars”, our core values, or the things we believe summarize a Christian’s life. 

And this morning from this text I want to show you that the Bible is the only source of authority for understanding the spiritual life, and it alone is what is needed to be completely equipped to do God’s will.

Let’s read together:

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:14–17 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul, who heard Jesus speak to him from out of the sky, and who had many miraculous, revelation experiences tells Timothy that scripture is the training he needed to be equipped for every good work.

What revelation and teaching is necessary to be complete in the faith?  The scripture, and the scripture alone, contains it.  Paul didn’t train his top disciple in how to listen for spiritual revelation, he taught him to cling to, become skilled at handling, and to preach the scriptures.

I want to make a brief comment here that scripture as Timothy would have understood it here, would have primarily consisted of the Old Testament canon. But there is evidence from the Bible and early church history that the writings of the Apostles at the time would also have been included as “scripture”, and we find that within a few decades after the apostles went to be with the Lord, the church was collecting their writings and making decisions about which writings were scripture and which were not. 

The details of this discussion are out of scope for this morning, but I’d love to talk with you about that at some point if you have any questions. For our purposes today, it will work to say that scripture here can correctly refer to the 66 books we have collected today in our Bibles.

And I want to discuss two aspects of these scriptures this morning: their efficiency, and their sufficiency. 

Paul tells Timothy that the scriptures are profitable or beneficial for training in righteousness, which is why I say they are “efficient”, and he says that with them the man/woman of God may be complete, which is why I say they are “sufficient”.

The efficiency of scripture

The Old Testament Prophets

In the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, we find God dictating history and the His law to Moses. Moses wrote these things in a book (the Pentateuch), and taught these things to the people. At the end of the Pentateuch, Moses says this:

45 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

Deuteronomy 32:45–47 (ESV)

Moses, who was the high prophet of God’s people, who spoke to God face to face, unlike anyone in history since Adam, or until Jesus, pointed to the Scripture, the written words of God, and said “These are your very life.”

The Apostles 

The Apostles pointed to this same scripture, over and above their revelations and experiences.

Just like Paul, the Apostle Peter, who heard God speak from the heavens says about that experience:

18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, 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,

2 Peter 1:18-19 ESV

He urges us, in light of what he experienced, to pay attention to the prophetic word, the scriptures. The experience of hearing a voice from heaven only services to cause Peter’s confidence in and reliance on the scriptures to increase.

Jesus Himself

In the middle of intense spiritual war, when being directly attacked by Satan, Jesus, who is God, relied on the Scriptures for His defense.  When Satan twisted Scripture, (proving that you can hear “voices” that “line up with scripture”),  Jesus, three times responds with “It is written!” And quoting the text. 

“When the Evil One or his representatives misuse the Bible, or imply that it is unclear, Jesus teaches us that we must look more deeply into the written Word, not away from it.” 

– W. Robert Godfrey

God’s prophets, apostles, teachers, and Jesus Himself taught us to be tuned in to the Scriptures as the only sure source of truth for life and godliness. 

The Ancient Church

Augustine, the greatest teacher of the ancient church, taught the church to look to the scriptures for all the teaching about living the faith.

Among those things which are said openly in Scripture are to be found all those teachings which involve faith, the mores (customs) of living, and the hope and charity (love) which we have discussed.”

Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Doctrine

His statement is typical of the mainstream teaching of the Christian church of the first several centuries. they looked to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, along with the Hebrew Bible, as their sufficient source of truth for faith and practice.  They needed no other source, no other revelation.

So the prophets, the apostles, Jesus himself, and the early church fathers, and then others all down through church history to our present day agree with Paul when he tells Timothy that the scriptures are profitable, beneficial, efficient in their work of training us in the spiritual life.

They are also the only source of authoritative revelation we need to make us complete in this work. They are sufficient. 

The sufficiency of scripture

James Montgomery Boice, a great pastor, teacher, and commentator in the last generation, said that the real battle in our times would not be the authority of Scripture; most of us hold that the Bible is the authority, but its the battle will be over Paul’s second point: its sufficiency. Are we going to believe that the Bible is all we need to know God’s will, or will we continually look for another source of revelation?

Down through the centuries, major problems have arisen in the church because of a an allowance for something else to take or share the highest court of authority with scripture.

  • All the early church heretics devised their own writings, and tossed out at least parts of the widely accepted canon of scripture, leading their followers to destruction
  • Islam was started because an at least nominally Christian man believed he was receiving new revelation from an angel, and did not reject this other message, as scripture tells him to.
  • Mormonism started in this exact same way
  • Roman Catholicism, just a short time after Augustine asserted that the scriptures contained everything needed for life and godliness, started lifting the teachings of the Pope, and the doctrinal magisterium, or official theologians, up to the same level as the scriptures.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses have the Watchtower Society, their own sort of “magisterium” who have change historically held translations of the Bible in order to insert heretical doctrine.
  • And just a century ago, the third wave charismatic movement began influencing the church to listen for special, personalized messages from God.

Influenced by this third wave, in our day, much of the popular literature, music, and preachers on television emphasize a personal, immediate, special revelation. A “word from God” especially for us and directly to us, through voices, dreams, impressions, or spontaneous thoughts that occur to us. 

My main point here is this:  personal divine, special revelation is not to be expected.  And if it contradicts the scriptures, it is to be rejected.  

Still, small voice

We Christians have this thing about listening for the “still, small voice” of God.  But this is nowhere to be found in the scriptures. The concept comes from a misunderstanding and gross misapplication of what is going on in1 Kings 19:11–13.

“Gentle whisper” is famously translated in the KJV as the ever-popular “still small voice”, but is best translated by the NASB “the sound of a gentle blowing”.  And it is critical to note that the Lord is not in the wind, the earthquake, the fire, or in that whisper.  God was speaking to Elijah before all that, and didn’t speak again until after all that.  Go read it.

When God wants his people to hear, He makes his voice unmistakable.

20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 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.

2 Peter 1:20-21

The apostles and prophets did not get “impressions” of what “they thought God might be telling them”.   God unmistakably, clearly, and in no uncertain terms “carried them along” to say exactly what God intended them to say.

For the apostle John, Jesus, blazing in glory, showed up and spoke directly to him on the island of Patmos.  The apostle Paul was stopped in his tracks on the road to Damascus and struck blind by Jesus. Peter, as we’ve been discussing, witnessed Jesus transfigured into His glorified state on the top of the mountain.  The apostles heard directly from God, and witnessed miraculous events. God’s revelation to them was no mere internal impression. It was catastrophically obvious.

And we have the same sort of absolutely clear resounding revelation in this book!

The scripture does not teach us to listen for voices. It does not exhort us to grow in our perception of “the voice of God” in our head.  The Holy Spirit of God, through the Word of God commands us to look deeply into, to become skilled at handling, to cling tightly to, to forge our life with, and to proclaim the message contained in the scriptures: the written record of God’s revelation about Himself to His people.

Some balance and my personal practice

Because I have been accused of imbalance in my teaching in this area, I wanted to give you some insight into what my life looks like when it comes to understanding and seeking God‘s will.

And it starts with this question: how am I supposed to know what he wants me to do in a specific situation? 

Whenever I talk about this for some reason the way I communicate people react as if I have a very mechanical, formulaic, data-driven, non-relationship with God. Let me assure you that is not the case.

In fact, I believe just the opposite.

12 For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:12–13 (ESV)

The thing I am encouraging you with today is a dynamic and active relationship. 

Here’s how it looks for me. 

I often pray something like “Lord what is it that you want for me today?” 

And then I wait for a response. 

When I come up against a hard situation that I have no idea what to do with I often pray something like  “Lord what should I do here?”

And then I wait for a response. 

Often in the morning I’ll pray, asking something like “Lord, what’s the most important thing for me to be doing today?”

And then I listen for a response. 

But what is it that I’m listening for? 

I never hear an audible voice. 

Sometimes it feels that I get mixed messages. 

On occasion I get a very strong sense of an answer.

Sometimes I get unclear signals. 

In fact most of the time the response I “hear” is silence. 

Yet I believe the Holy Spirit leads my life. Every moment of it.  He’s with me. He’s giving me instruction on what to do. 

How is he doing this? 

The scripture tells us, that he lives inside of me, that he is filling me, it promises that he is leading me when I’m listening, he is granting me wisdom when I ask, he is granting me insight into the scriptures, their meaning and application.

The Holy Spirit leads me. But how does he do it? What am I listening for? What is my expectation?

God promises to answer a prayer for wisdom. He promises that he will be with us always. He promises that he will lead us, because we are his children!

How do I know that he promises me these things?  Did he tell me these things directly in my head? Yes he did. 

He did it when I was reading the Bible. 

The Bible tells me all of these things. 

I would not know these things apart from the Bible. 

I could not know these things apart from the Bible. 

If I had these ideas as my own opinion, I should not trust them, because who am I? 

What do my thoughts and my impressions and my opinions have to do with anything? 

Nothing!

Only God‘s words matter and how can I know what they are? 

Because he had them written down for me.

Praise the Lord!

When I am seeking God specific direction on a specific situation that can be very very difficult, often times I will pray and listen to see “what he has to say to me”… 

…but what is it I’m listening for? 

The Scriptures.

Often times I will hear a response to that sort of prayer and it seems sort of out of left field,

what do I do with the response that I get? 

I go to the Scriptures and see if this lines up or not.

I take it to my friends and say, “Hey, I think God might be saying this. What do you think of that?”

That’s what we are to do.  

We are not say “God told me” unless we are holding our Bibles open in front of us and reading!

But we can say, “I wonder if God might be saying such and such…” due to a thought or an impression that occurs to us. 

And then what do we do with that? 

We test it!

We submit it to the counsel of our friends and our elders. 

We listen closely to and consider their input and critique and pushback and counsel to help round out and balance our thinking.  We check ourselves in humility as they bring up other thoughts and other realities and balancing things that we might not have thought of on our own. 

We might argue our case back, but our goal is to seek truth, not to win the argument.

And this is how the Spirit leads us clearly.

We see this clearly in Acts 15, and see it in other places as well. We see it all over the proverbs. 

We can know that the Spirit leads us in specific ways in specific situations. But he does it through his word in the Scriptures and he helps us by his Spirit and through counsel of our fellow believers in the church and outside our local context through books, articles, conferences, and the like.

I think a major issue here is that as humans, we tend to like to be told WHAT to think, rather than HOW to think. We prefer specific and individualized commands to principles and truths that lead us to wisdom and love for right decision making. Because then we can’t pass the buck and say “well I was just following orders!”  But the scriptures teach us HOW to think. How to see the world. 

Look to Jesus

Our ultimate example and guide here is, of course, Jesus. Jesus is God. He is perfectly obedient to God the father. He has perfect connection with the Holy Spirit. But in his earthly ministry when he was here in flesh and showing us how we are to live and act, e needed to be led by the Holy Spirit through the words of the Scriptures, just like we do today. What do we see him doing.? He is very very well acquainted with the Scriptures.

And he teaches us something absolutely crucial. In John 5 he Speaks with the Pharisees. He says “you pore over the scriptures because you think that in them is eternal life.” Sound familiar? It sounds just like what I was explaining above. Searching the Scriptures to find out what God’s will for our life is and what he wants from us and what he promises to us. 

But Jesus says that the Pharisees get off track here, and if we are not careful we can as well. Jesus says “the scriptures testify about me!” And the pharisees refused to see and believe this.

So if we’re searching the Scriptures to find out how to live a successful, happy, healthy, comfortable, carefree life on this planet, or even if we are searching the Scriptures for how to achieve spiritual transcendence or even how to have eternal life, and we miss that they all point to Jesus, we are lost. 

The Scriptures point us to Jesus. He’s the one that shows us what it looks like to live perfectly in God’s will. He shows us what obedience to God looks like. He’s the one that shows us what a righteous life looks like. He’s the one that shows us the way to eternal life.  But more than that, by the way he showed us these things, he proved that he was the promised savior. 

The way to eternal life is through him. Through faith in his life, death, resurrection, and return. When we see the connection between all of the scriptures, and Jesus, we see something about God and who he is, and who we are, and ultimately who Jesus is and what he did, and in believing those things we find eternal life.

The Scriptures don’t merely help us know about God and what he wants and who he is, they help us know Godas we see him live his life as we see him interacting and reacting.  Through his Holy Spirit, he interacts with us as we read the Scriptures.  As we understand them as we obey them then we know God and that is what eternal life is.

APPLICATION

And this is why it is so important to know the scriptures, to be biblically minded, because this is how we know our God. They are the only clear revelation of God‘s will for our life. 

We must hold firmly to them, and saturate ourselves in them thoroughly. 

We occupy our minds with them.  

We read them daily so we know the contents of this book cover to cover, 

so we know what this book says, 

so we know what to do with the things that it says,

so we do the things we know that it says to do 

We must occupy ourselves with reading and accurate understanding and accurate application 

And everything I just said is that reason why. 

We cannot know God‘s will for our life apart from them. 

When we ask, “God what do you want from me?”, the answer is to be found in the Scriptures. 

When we ask, “God what do you want to say to me right now?”, the answer is always going to be rooted in the Scriptures. 

If you do not know the Scriptures you cannot know what God wants to say to you in a given moment and you cannot know what his will for you is in your life.

If you want to live your life for God, if you want to follow Christ, if you want to please God, 

you must know the scriptures, 

You must be familiar with them, 

you must know how to read them, 

you must know how to understand them, 

you must know how to interpret the hard passages,

you must know how to take familiar and popular passages and put them in their context

This is why, at Stonebrook, we preach the Bible, not life skills.

This is why we urge you repeatedly to read your bible every day. 

This is why we have “quiet times” – not to check the box, but to check in with our God.
To remind ourselves, daily, who he is, and who we are.

Moses said, It is no empty word for you, but your very life…”

Jesus, quoting Moses, said, “It is written, Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Saturate your mind in this book. Let it point you to Jesus.