Now I will start to give a brief positive defense of the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura.

The Scripture implicitly and explicitly speaks of its unique authority and sufficiency.

2 Tim. 3:14–17
“You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”

Notice here that the Scriptures are sufficient to give Timothy “wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” So they are sufficient for salvation. Notice as well that the Scriptures are to be used for “training in righteousness” so that the person dedicated to God may be capable of “every [pan]good work” (emphasis added). If Paul truly believes that Scripture is sufficient for every good work, then this gives much credence to the basic foundational principles of the doctrine of sola Scriptura. This says that the Scriptures are sufficient for sanctification as well as salvation. The Scriptures are sufficient and,therefore, lacking in nothing.

Three things this passage teaches us:

  • Scriptures are sufficient for salvation.
  • Scriptures are sufficient for sanctification.
  • Scriptures are uniquely God-breathed (theopnoustos). Please note: Tradition is never given this designation or any similar designation.Ps. 119
    This Psalm is an acclamation of the Scriptures, made up of 176 verses (longest chapter in the Bible) mentioning the Word of God 178 times using 10 different synonyms. The Scriptures are presented as being totally sufficient for the follower of God in all matters pertaining to instruction, training, and correction. It is significant that though Scripture is mentioned 178 times, the concept of unwritten Tradition is never mentioned once. In fact, there is no acclamation of or meditation on unwritten Tradition in such a way anywhere in Scripture. This would be problematic if one were to believe that the concept of unwritten Tradition is on equal footing as Scripture, yet the Bible never mentions it. It would be the greatest case of neglect that one could find unless one could present the case that Psalm 119 is speaking of the Law which includes both the written and unwritten form. This is possible, though difficult to maintain for many obvious reasons related to the previous posts.

    Acts 17:10–11
    “The brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea at once, during the night. When they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue. These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.”

    This is a clear illustration of a commendation and example of the sola Scriptura method in practice. The Bereans were praised for testing the Apostles’ teaching against the witness of Scripture. Don’t miss this significance. It was not merely the theoretical magisterial authority in succession with the Apostles, it was a living authoritative Apostle they were testing—and Luke commends them! This is the very essence of sola Scriptura and perhaps the most significant example of the doctrine in practice.

    What is interesting is that Roman Catholics are forbidden from testing the bishops according to Scripture, but they are required to do just the opposite—test the Scriptures according to the bishops—since they are told that they don’t have the ability to responsibly interpret Scripture. It must be noted that the twentieth century saw some great and encouraging developments in the area of personal Bible study among Roman Catholics. However, they are still required to interpret Scripture in light of the Magisterium, not vice-versa as the Bereans were.

  • C Michael Patton
    C Michael Patton

    C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

      6 replies to "In Defense of Sola Scripture, Part 9: A Biblical Defense"

      • cheryl u

        I haven’t read the rest of the articles on this subject, but I think this one is great.

        There is a large segment of the church today that is getting much new revelation and that thinks it is vitally important to know these things and put them into practice in order to accomplish God’s will and receive God’s best for them. I have believed for several years now that the very verses in Timothy that CMP quotes above show that this belief in unnecessary and indeed unscriptural, and that it can have very dangerous consequences.

        That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe God speaks to people any more. I just don’t believe it is scriptural to believe that God gives all kinds of new and different instructions on how to live the Christian life than the ones He gave in the Bible.

      • Nelson Leith

        I don’t see the word “sufficient” or even the idea of sufficiency anywhere in that passage from Timothy, although I do see “useful” and “able to.”

        To say that something is “useful for teaching” doesn’t mean that it is sufficient for teaching. In fact, without the knowledge of how to read, which itself is not contained in Scripture, the entire Bible would be useless.

        And, the undeniably true assertion that Scripture is “able to give you wisdom” does not mean that a mistaken understanding of the very same Scripture would also lead to wisdom and salvation. Again, the straightforward phrasing of the letter (“able to”) does not indicate sufficiency.

        And, where does the word “uniquely” appear in reference to Scripture’s inspired nature? It’s not there. Ironically, meaning had to be added to the straightforward reading of Scripture in order to make the case that Scripture doesn’t need anything added to it.

        Finally, for the accurate meaning of the theological term “Word of God” see John 1:1. The Word of God is the Logos, made flesh in Christ, not the Bible which was written by inspired human beings.

        Human words are not the Word of God any more than a computer “mouse” is the same as a field “mouse” simply because we use the same vocalization for both. To confuse the words of inspired men with the Son of God, rendering a created thing the honor due the Only-Begotten, is a grave error.

      • NorthoftheBorder

        The quote from Acts 17:10–11 seems horribly misplaced in trying to confirm sola scriptura. These were unconverted Jews who the apostles were trying to convert, thus they used their reference point: the jewish scriptures (perhaps the Torah). In a similar manner Paul used the “unnamed god” to try and convert the greeks, again using a reference point they could relate to. It seems very shaky to be the best example of sola scriptura in action.

      • Fred

        I’m not sure how the quote from 2 Timothy relates to the New Testament. The New Testament wasn’t yet written when Timothy was an infant, so if this quote is supposed to support sola scriptura, wouldn’t that mean Paul was saying that the Old Testament is sufficient for salvation?

      • Pete again

        @Fred, you are correct.

        Sciptures that they have learned “from infancy” can only mean the Old Testament.

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