Sola Scriptura? Five “Texts” that Compete With Scripture

bereanThe Reformers cried, “Sola Scriptura!” Latin for Scripture Alone! By it, they planted the Bible at the top of the heap when it comes to ways Christians obtain truth. The Scripture texts get the final say. When Paul and Silas came to a pretty hill-town called Berea, here’s what happened:

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. (Acts 17:10-12, NKJV).

These guys were better than those guys. Nice. Why? Because they “searched the Scriptures” daily to evaluate the truth-claims in their lives.

Oh, that God would increase the tribe of Bereans in the church today! A chorus of other “texts” clamors for our allegiance, and it is so easy to be sucked in.

1. THE TEXT OF EMOTIONS

Trust your heart. Follow your heart. What are your emotions telling you? While I’m the last guy to throw cold water on the flames of emotion, can we agree they are a fickle and fallible guide to life? If you based your life on how you feel, you’d never go to work on Monday, no marriage would last more than a week, and kids would be given to Gypsies twelve days in.

If emotions were our supreme guide, we’d be easy prey for manipulative preachers, panhandlers, and politicians.

Emotions can lie to you. Today’s strong feeling is easily tomorrow’s regret — but I’ll bet you already know that. Yes, there is truth in the text of emotion, but it cannot be final truth. When emotions speak, it’s time to “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so.”

2. THE TEXT OF EXPERIENCE

The door opened at just the right time, the money came through miraculously, and your dream-date showed up on the doorstep when you least expected. Signs from God? Definitely maybe.

But even the magicians of Egypt had signs for Moses. So what. When that TV show invites you to a lifelong quest of the perfect wave on the same day you ordered your new surf board, do you get to turn to your spouse and announce, “Honey, we’re cashing in the nest egg cuz God just said I’m gonna be a surfer!”?

Maybe. But only after you, with your spouse, have “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so.”

3. THE TEXT OF IMPRESSIONS, DREAMS, VISIONS, AND THE VOICE OF ANGELS AND GOD

God told me, she said. And she followed that voice to a crying woman who desperately needed prayer. That’s cool, I think. But what about this…

God told me, she said. And she followed that voice to marry an abuser who wrecked her life and damaged their children.

For every “God told me” story that ends up great, I can tell you a dozen that stink. That ended up in money lost, hope evaporated, and hearts broken.

Besides, once you lob “God told me” into a discussion, isn’t that cheating? Who can argue? Paul counseled, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8, NKJV). Before you follow that voice you thought you heard, you’d better “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so.”

4. THE TEXT OF PREACHERS AND POPES

“God told me to tell you to plant a seed of faith in my ministry, so get out that credit card and plant a big one.” Ugh. God never called his people to be mindless followers of preachers and popes. When the APOSTLE Paul taught the Bereans, they didn’t just swallow his teachings. “Unroll the scrolls!” they cried. “Because this man’s teaching is subject to Scripture, and not the other way around.” Sola Scriptura!

When William Tyndale went to trial for translating the Scriptures into English, he declared, “If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than the pope!”

Because no matter what the preacher or pope says, it is the duty and privilege of all God’s saints to “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so.”

5. THE TEXT OF SELF-WILL

Here we come to the most odious, insidious, and perfidious CHALLENGER to the authority of Scripture alone. I want to do what I want to do, and — in the words of the citizens who murdered the king’s son — “We will not have this man to rule over us!”

Christ voice is Scripture’s voice.

Yet we would rather read the text of our own plans, our own agendas, our own supposed right of self-rule any day. This is what I want! This is my choice! I will pick and choose from every other text to assemble a truth-system of my own making, my own philosophy, my own version of what feels right to me.

And so you have become your own God. Good luck with that.

BOTTOM LINE: All texts might speak truth, but all texts are inferior texts to the Sacred Text of Scripture. 

Oh Lord, I pray, make me like those Bereans — make me one who searches the Scriptures daily, one who loves your Word because I love you and the sound of your true, inerrant voice, one who hides God’s Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Forgive me, Lord, for neglecting the best words ever written. Forgive me for elevating other texts above the One Sacred Text. May the Holy Scriptures be the background music of all my thought life. And may the Bible become, for me and for all God’s people, “the one ring to rule them all.” Amen.

Will you Amen pray that prayer? How have some been led astray by other texts? Have you been part of a community that searches the Scriptures to evaluate truth claims? What is that like?

As always, sharing is appreciated.

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13 thoughts on “Sola Scriptura? Five “Texts” that Compete With Scripture

  1. Bill, this is the BEST post I’ve seen in a long while regarding Sola Scriptura. Very, very well stated, my Friend. Those other texts can play havoc in so many ways. Thanks so much for this excellent reminder.

  2. Thanks for the post, Bill. I especially like your Tolkien reference…

    Regarding #3, are you familiar with the books by Sarah Young, especially “Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace In His Presence”? They are getting as popular as the “Prayer of Jabez” books. My understanding is that Young makes the claim that these devotions are actually messages that she received from the Lord. (See also: http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/jesus-calling) Wondering what you think.

    • Well, I’ve heard of the book but haven’t read it so I can’t speak directly to it. Challies is a reputable reviewer, and generally I’d take his side. As to the principle, any author that puts him/herself on par with Scripture, or who raises doubts about the supremacy of Scripture for truth claims, is worrisome at best and heretical at worst, IMHO.

  3. Bill, I had to pass this post on. Too many of us look through the wrong hermeneutic for living. And, I don’t hear you saying those other texts aren’t necessarily helpful in their rightful place on the shelf. Thanks for this reminder!

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