By Colton Corter
The Protestant Reformation was, at its root, a debate about the nature of Scripture. The “material” cause of the Reformation was certainly over the matter of justification. Luther, Calvin and the like were all jealous for the biblical gospel. Their gospel was and is the right gospel. However, they knew that they did not discover this gospel nor did they create it. Paul affirmed that his gospel was right and also that any other gospel, whether by another person, himself or even an angel, is a false gospel. Not only are all other gospels wrong but, according to Paul, anyone who preaches the wrong gospel should be accursed. Why was Paul so confident in the gospel he preached? Simply put, he knew it was from God and not man. It was good for Paul to confer with the other Apostles about the gospel but the other Apostles did not inform his understanding of the gospel. Instead they agreed with him and they gloried that they all knew and loved the same message of Christ and Him crucified.
Since then, that gospel comes to us. The gospel does not come in a still small voice or in dreams and visions. God wrote a book. The Bible is the Word of God. It is not popular to say this today but it is correct to say that when the Bible speaks, God speaks. There are human authors of all the Scriptures but the Scriptures themselves show that the main author of the text was God, the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). This Spirit has inspired the Bible in a way that glorifies Christ by lifting Him up in the gospel to the glory of the Father (John 16:14). This gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). The Christian and indeed the Christian church is only as faithful as it sticks to the biblical gospel found in the sufficient, clear, authoritative and necessary Word of God.
That is what the doctrine of “sola scriptura” deals with. The Bible is the only infallible rule for faith and practice, as the Westminster Standards state. Just as in the beginning it was the Word of God that called forth light, so now the Word creates the church. The Roman Catholic church says that tradition and the Word creates the church as co-equal authorities. Actually, it may be that they said that tradition infallibly informed the Word so that the two become equals with regards to life and practice.
Today, this view of the sufficiency of Scripture is continued though under a different name. A more subjective view of authority has come on the scene. The community decides what is good and becomes a kind of equal with Scripture. We have to “belong to believe” instead of “believing to belong.” In short, we have decided that the church creates the Bible. We try to build communities on tradition or personal preference instead of the Word of God. We say we have no creed but Christ when in all actuality we just have our own creed. What results is an attempt to reverse-engineer the church. But brothers we will make shipwreck of our churches when we put the community first before the gospel of Christ. It is the foundation of the Bible that true unity and congregational life begin. This protects the gospel and protects the soul.
We must see that the Church as a “creature of the Word.” We, as a body of the redeemed, have been called out of sin and into a life of glorifying God by enjoying Him forever. The same gospel that saved us stays as our common bond. Scripture alone is authoritative because Jesus alone is authoritative.
Colton Corter is a student at SBTS and member at Third Avenue Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter @coltonMcorter.