For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “Sola Scriptura”, it literally means “Scripture Alone”. This concept of “Scripture alone” was made popular during the Reformation in the 16th Century, and it simply meant that Scripture alone contained the truth needed for salvation and spiritual life.
Sola Scriptura became a necessary clarification during the Reformation, as the Catholic Church had ascribed equal or more weight to the traditions of the Church, the words of the pope, and councils as they had ascribed to Scripture.
During that time, there was a belief that somehow the Church, even though its traditions and methods were in addition to Scripture, and sometimes contrary to Scripture, carried the same weight and infallibility as Scripture. In other words, you were bound not only to Scripture, but you were bound to what the Church said and taught—even if it was contrary or in addition to the word of God as revealed by Scripture.
Now, this concept of Sola Scriptura is not to say that God cannot or will not use other means of speaking to people. For example, nature declares God’s truth (see Romans 1:19-20). What the Reformers were trying to communicate, however, was that no matter what someone may have dreamed, or envisioned, or declared, it was always to be considered as second to Scripture and always measured against the standard of Scripture. It was never to be considered “in addition” to Scripture, or a modification of Scripture.
B.B Warfield put it so simply, “When the Scripture speaks, God speaks.” Scripture is the sure voice of God contained within its pages. However, during the time of the Reformation, the underlying belief of the Catholic Church was that when the Church spoke, it was God speaking; when the pope spoke, it was God speaking; and when the councils spoke, it was God speaking. Although God may choose to use different methods and people to speak to the hearts of his people, it is always to be measured against Scripture, as it is the authoritative and supreme voice of God today.
So, if Scripture really is the supreme voice of God to us as created beings, we are then bound to that Scripture to believe what it says to be true and to live by it. We are not bound to any other voice, no matter how persuasive. All other voices must drive us to Scripture, which is the most clear and sure way that we can know Christ and the good news of the gospel.
If someone claims to have heard from a prophet, or an angel, or an apostle of some sort, the truth of the message must always be measured by the truth of Scripture. The message must never be contrary or go beyond what God has revealed to us in his infallible, authoritative Word to us.
With this concept of “Scripture alone”, we must be careful not to fall into another pitfall. We must see that the Scripture is not an end in and of itself. We do not worship the scripture, but rather we worship the God of the Scripture.
Yes, Scripture is Gods word to us, and it is the only thing that reveals the truth of the gospel in a clear, sure, infallible way, but in and of itself, Scripture is not the end goal. The end goal is to know Jesus, and to know Him fully. That is why Scripture is so important! It guards us from a false view of who God is.
The reason we love the Scriptures is so that we can know the God of the Scriptures. If we look outside of Scripture to find out who God is, we are not going to see the clearest picture of Jesus Christ and the good news of the Gospel.
We ought to love Scripture not because of the pages themselves, but rather because the pages are truthful, authoritative, and they point us to the greatest truth of all time: that Jesus Christ was the son of God, and that He came to earth to save a people for himself! This is why we love Scripture.
Scripture alone is what helps us to see this truth most clearly. Scripture alone is what can make us see God more clearly. Preachers, teachers, authors, churches, and communities of believers are all designed by God, not to add to the pages of Scripture, but to help us see Scripture more clearly, and so that we can see within the pages of Scripture, Jesus Christ and just a glimpse of His glory. Sola Scriptura is what drives us to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.