Sola Scriptura

As Protestants, we stand on the doctrines that come from the Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries. There was no more important doctrine
for the Reformed than Scripture Alone (in Latin, sola scriptura).

Not only was it important 500 years ago, but it is just as important today, after all,
we have the same God, the same Bible, and we believe in the same doctrines
that pour forth out of the Holy Scriptures. Thus, our topic of the month is the
doctrine of Scripture Alone.

So, what does this doctrine mean? It means that Scripture alone is inspired, true,
clear, necessary, and sufficient for all things in faith, life, salvation, worship, and
church government.
Is this doctrine Biblical? We believe that it is clearly taught in the Bible, thus, we
now consider some examples from both the Old and New Testaments of the
doctrine of Scripture Alone.

From Scripture

The Inspiration of Scripture – The Bible itself testifies to the inspiration of
Scripture, meaning it is inspired by God himself:

2 Tim. 3:16–17 –
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that
the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

2 Pet. 1:21 –
“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but
men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
2 Sam. 23:2 – “The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my

The Truthfulness of Scripture – Because it is inspired by God, it is therefore true:

Ps. 119:160 –
“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous
rules endures forever.”

Isa. 40:8 (1 Pet. 1:24–25) –
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of
our God will stand forever.”

John 17:17 –
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

The Clarity of Scripture – Since Scripture is inspired by God and it is true, it is
also clear enough for us to understand everything we need to understand for
faith, life, salvation, worship, and church government:

Deut. 6:6–7 –
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your
heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them
when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie
down, and when you rise.”

Ps. 19:7 –
“The Law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of
the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.”

Ps. 119:130 –
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding
to the simple.”

The Necessity of Scripture – Since it is the Scriptures wherein the Gospel is revealed to
sinners the Scriptures are necessary for salvation:

Matt. 4:4 –
“[Jesus] answered, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

1 Timothy 4:13, 15 –
“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of
Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…Persist in this, for by so doing you will
save both yourself and your hearers.”

2 Tim. 3:15 –
“From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred
writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus

Sufficiency of Scripture – Scripture is inspired by God; thus, it is true, clear, and
necessary for salvation. It is also sufficient for all things:

Deut. 29:29 –
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that
are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the
words of this law.”

John 20:30–31 –
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the
disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may
believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may
have life in his name.”

Rev. 22:19 –
“If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,
God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are
described in this book.”

From Reformed Theology

In addition to Scripture Alone being clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures, our
Reformed confessions and catechisms also teach this important doctrine.
Here are some examples from the Westminster Standards, which are our
theological documents that we subscribe to as Presbyterians:

Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)
“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s
salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and
necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any
time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”
(1.6 – Of the Holy Scripture)

“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and
commandments of men, which are, in anything, contrary to his Word; or beside it, if
matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such
commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience…”
(20.2 – Of Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience)

“The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited
by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according the imaginations and
devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any
other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.”
(21.1 – Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day)

Westminster Larger Catechism
Q. 2. How doth it appear that there is a God?
A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a
God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for
their salvation.

Q. 3. What is the Word of God?
A. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only
rule of faith and obedience.

Q. 4. How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the Word of God?
A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the Word of God, by their majesty and
purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all
glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and
build up believers unto salvation: but the Spirit of God bearing witness by and with the
Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very
Word of God.

Q. 5. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what
duty God requires of man.

Q. 6. What do the Scriptures make known of God?
A. The Scriptures make known what God is, the persons in the Godhead, his decrees,
and the execution of his decrees.
In addition to our own standards, the “Three Forms of Unity” which contain the
confession, catechism, and canons of the United Reformed Churches in North
America, teach in a similar manner concerning Scripture Alone:

Belgic Confession (1561)
“We believe that the Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever
man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…Neither may we
consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value
with those divine Scriptures...”
(Article 7 – “The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures to Be the Only Rule of Faith”)

Heidelberg Catechism (1563) 
“What does God require in his second commandment?
That we may in no way make any image of God, nor worship him in any other way than
He has commanded in His Word…for we must not be wiser than God, who will not have His people taught by lifeless images, but by living preaching of His Word.” (Questions
96, 98)

Canons of Dordt (1618–19)  
“The Synod urges all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to deal with this teaching in a godly and reverent manner…with a view to the glory of God’s name, holiness of life, and the comfort of anxious souls; to think and also speak with Scripture according to the analogy of faith; and finally, to refrain from all those ways of speaking which go beyond the bounds set for us by the genuine sense of the Holy Scriptures.” (Conclusion: Rejection of Errors)

Thus, it is clear that Reformed theology teaches the crucial doctrine of Scripture

Explore Historical Figures

This month, we focus on several of the Reformers who clearly taught the doctrine of
Scripture Alone:

John Wycliffe (d. 1384) 
The English reformer before the Reformation actually began.
Wycliffe is remembered for translating the first copy of the Bible into the language of the
people. He fought against the Roman Church in England and their non-biblical
innovations in worship, theology, and the papacy. Was persecuted by the Roman
Church and was condemned as a heretic after his death for translating the Bible into

Jan Huss (d. 1415)
The Bohemian reformer before the Reformation. Hus was heavily
influenced by Wycliffe’s ideas and of course, the Bible. He wrote a treatise against the
unbiblical ecclesiological doctrine of the papacy and was persecuted for it. He was
eventually condemned as a heretic and was martyred by being burned at the stake for
his biblical beliefs by the Roman Church.

Martin Luther (d. 1546) 
The German monk-turned-reformer who started the
Reformation after nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Church at Wittenberg in 1517.
Luther was excommunicated and persecuted for his teachings against the papacy and
for teaching the supremacy of the Word of God in salvation. He translated the Bible into
German as well as many psalms which he set to music and we have preserved for us in
our Trinity Hymnal. Unlike Hus, he was not martyred, as he spent the rest of his life
protected from Rome by German princes.
“While I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer…the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy
that never a Prince or Emperor inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing. The Word
did it all.”

John Calvin (d. 1564)  
The French reformer who opposed the Roman Church’s view of
salvation, predestination, worship, and the papacy. After fleeing persecution by Rome,
he lived his entire life as a refugee in Basil, Germany and then Geneva, Switzerland. To
this day, he is remembered as the most influential reformer besides Martin Luther.
“I approve only of those human institutions [in worship] which are founded on the
authority of God and derived from Scripture.” 

John Knox (d. 1572)
The leader of the first Scottish Reformation, Knox was heavily
influenced by John Calvin during his time as a religious refugee in Geneva, Switzerland.
Knox was a powerful preacher and he taught against the Roman view of salvation,
worship, and ecclesiology because it was not biblical.
We believe and confess the Scriptures of God sufficient…so do we affirm and avow
the authority of the same to be of God and neither to depend on men nor angels. We
affirm therefore, that such as allege the Scriptures to have no authority but that which it
receives from the kirk, to be blasphemous against God and injurious to the true kirk.” 

To summarize, everything we do and teach in the church concerning faith, life,
salvation, worship, and church government ought to be according to Scripture Alone.
This is the Reformed doctrine of Scripture. Why were these men persecuted,
imprisoned, martyred, refugeed, and hated by the Roman Church? Because they stood
on the doctrine of Scripture Alone. May God grant us the strength to do the same!