Two Things "Sola Scriptura" Does Not Mean


I recently had the honor of preaching on a subject that is dear to my heartreading Scripture. My sermon was part of the larger series entitled "A Love Supreme: Anchor Doctrines of the Reformation." My "anchor doctrine" was what many know as Sola Scripturawhich literally means Christians live by Scripture alone.

What does it mean to live “by Scripture alone?” It means we view Scripture—the Old Testament which Jesus says He did not come to abolish but to fulfill and the story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as preserved and taught by His apostles through the New Testament—as our authoritative rule for life and faith. In other words, we embrace and yield to the authority of Scripture above all other authoritative voices.

Time did not allow me to cover all that I wanted to. The reality of preaching is that much of what the preacher could say, and may even desperately want to say, ends up on the editing room floor due to time constraints. So I thought I would offer here two points I edited out, but think are valuable to understanding the doctrine of living by Scripture alone. These are two points about what Sola Scriptura does not mean.

First, Sola Scriptura does not mean that the Bible says everything about everything. Of course it doesn't. It doesn’t include schematics for how to build foundations for sky-scrapers. It doesn’t explain how to filter potable water for an entire city. It doesn't classify all the species of creatures living on the ocean floor. Is this a weakness with the Bible? Not at all. Why? Because Scripture has a focus, an aim. The Bible not general, but specific. It is, specifically, God's revelation of Himself to we who are made in His image, and it tells us how to live in relationship with Him. This is the story of why Christ lived, suffered, died, and rose again. 

So, much in this life is there for us to discover. God puts us into a working worldbroken, but working. And gives us minds to apply to the world we observe. Through this process, we come up with things like light bulbs, penicillin, and airplanes. Scripture does not tell us how to do those things, but it certainly does tell us why we can—we are made in the image of the Creator, making us, by definition, creative beings.

Second, Sola Scriptura does not mean all I need in life is me and my Bible, and I’m free to interpret it however I see fit. Some call this view Solo Scriptura, which says “It’s just me and my Bible.” Scripture itself doesn’t support this view. Every page of your Bible was written for a community of faith and every page of your Bible calls you to belong to a community of faith that is always working together to better live out what is written in those pages.

Christians do not belong solely to themselves. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians about sexual morality, said, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (2 Corinthians 6:19-20). One way we glorify God with our bodies is by being physically present and connected with other believers, growing in our knowledge and obedience of Scripture together.

Scripture is evidence of God's kindness to us. He has not chosen to be silent. Instead, he has revealed himself through his word, and has called us to follow him alongside others who share the same calling. Thanks be to God for the great gift of his word.