It Is Written, A Defense of Sola Scriptura

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, 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, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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 1:12-21 ESV

In this passage, Peter is asserting that in order to get the straight facts about Christ and the faith, we are to look to the ones who were “eye-witnesses of his majesty” (v.16). Then we see Peter speaking of “the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place”. Clearly that says we are to look to Scripture, in this case, the Old Testament, in order to see truth in the midst of lies. The lamp shining in a dark place is indicative of seeing truth in the midst of lies, we are to cling to that which is light, in this case, the prophecies of Christ e.g. the Old Testament. As Peter says this, he of course speaks from the same authority that he gives to that of the Old Testament. For who is he to give such instructions about clinging to the Old Testament if he is not also being carried along by the Holy Spirit? Much less, he walked with Christ Himself, and he is attesting to his own authority. Furthermore, we find more from Peter in chapter 3, which speaks of Paul’s words as Scripture also:

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

2 Peter 3:14-18 ESV

We see in this passage that Paul’s writings are also to be considered as Scripture. So, we have Peter saying that the Church should take heed the ones who walked with Christ himself (Peter, John, James, Matthew, Mark, Jude). We do not know who the author of Hebrews is, or if he was an eye-witness or not, but we do know of his association with Timothy. This adds to build a strong foundation for why Hebrews is canonical. Hebrews is doctrinally sound according to the rest of Scripture, and it’s author was associated with Timothy, a disciple of Paul:

You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.

Hebrews 13:23 ESV

Then we have Paul, Luke who were definitely not eyewitnesses. Paul’s epistles are obviously to be treated as Scripture, as shown above. Then we have Paul’s own affirmation that he should be read as Scripture:

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

1 Corinthians 2:11-13 ESV

Paul says that his words did not come from human wisdom, but by the Spirit. Now that has been established, let’s see what Paul says about Scripture itself:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

In essence, these two verses show that all that a man of God needs in order to be competent and equipped for every good work is Scripture. Yet Rome teaches that people need more than Scripture in order to be competent and equipped for every good work. This is demonstrated in their reliance on “tradition” as equal to that of Scripture. These traditions are said to be what the Apostles themselves passed on, but if this is true, then why did Paul seem to not address it in 2 Timothy 3?

Paul does mention the word “tradition” three times in the New Testament regarding church traditions:

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

1 Corinthians 11:2 ESV

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

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 ESV

So, what are the traditions spoken of? Let’s start with 1 Corinthians 11:2. Here Paul says that the Corinthians have kept the traditions that he delivered to them. Specifically what he delivered to them is spoken of in v.23-25 of the same chapter:

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV

That mention of tradition obviously isn’t that of the extra-biblical ones that Rome speaks of.

Lets examine 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Paul passed on doctrinal traditions and practical ones by his own word and by epistles. (Romans 6:17; 1 Corinthians 11:2,23; 2 Timothy 1:13). Paul equates the traditions that he passed on with Scripture, does that seem to in any way imply that there are traditions that we must know that are not in Scripture itself? Why would Paul omit things of such importance?

Finally, we see 2 Thessalonians 3:6, this is easily demonstrated that the tradition that Paul passed onto them was that they should not be idle in their work. There is certainly no mention of the extra-biblical traditions that Rome espouses.

Now, do we see Papal infallibility in these? What about purgatory? What about the assumption of Mary, or her Immaculate Conception? What about Mary’s sinlessness? None of these you will find in Scripture, and the verses that speak of church tradition do not warrant the belief that they were referring to the traditions of Rome. Again, if these were essentials for our Christian life, why would they not be in Scripture? In light of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Scripture is all that we need when it comes to instruction on Godliness and right doctrine. That includes the Church as an institution and it’s functionings, as that is a matter of good instruction.

Let us not forget how Christ responded to the Pharisees, and even Satan himself, with Scripture.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God

and him only shall you serve.’”

Matthew 4:5-10 ESV

“It is written…” – Jesus

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One response to “It Is Written, A Defense of Sola Scriptura

  1. Craig

    Interestingly, I got into a sola Scriptura debate with two Catholics on another blog. One of them actually quoted 2 Tim 3:16-17 as a preemptive strike to say it was not a valid argument since these verses refer to OT only. I disagreed and quoted the 2 Peter 3:16-17 passage (since I figured Peter’s words would surely be ackowledged as Catholics consider him the first pope) as proof that Peter regarded Paul’s words as Scripture. In addition, 2 Thess 2:15, of course, refers to the then current oral tradition of the not yet written/canonized New Testament. On top of that I quoted 2 Peter 1:20-21, Proverbs 30:5-6, Deuteronomy 4:2 in conjunction with Matthew 5:17 and Revelation 22:18-19. They still would not concede that sola Scriptura is valid.

    The reason this came up in the first place was that another commentator who identified herself as an Evangelical Christian asked a question about leaders in their church espousing what appeared to be a New Age teacher. One of the Catholics asked why she should have to submit to such teaching assuming sola Scriptura was her rule of faith. I pointed out that using the Bible only Scripture does instruct to obey both church and secular authority citing the 2 Timothy letters as proof of obeying church leadership. Their claim was that in submitting to any authority outside of the authority of the Bible was refuting sola Scriptura. Ugh…

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