Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone) was a major issue in the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers rejected the authority of both the Roman Catholic Pope and church tradition and held that the Bible alone was the sole authority on matters of Christian faith and practice. Anything that was contrary to the teaching of the Bible must be rejected. Therefore, they rejected the worship of Mary, prayers to the saints, and indulgences. The perpetual virginity of Mary and the concept of purgatory are also Roman Catholic beliefs that are not supported by scripture. Because the Reformers believed in the supremacy of the Bible they worked hard to get it into the hands of ordinary Christians. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German it was mass produced on the newly invented printing press. Other translations into the common language of the people soon followed. This process is still going on as the Bible is being translated into many languages and the current translations are continually being updated.
The Bible is the product of divine inspiration. 2 Peter 1:19-21 says, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 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.” (ESV) That is why it must be the sole authority for what we believe. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, 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.” (ESV)
Sola Scriptura not only means that practices and teachings that are contrary to the Bible must be rejected; it also means that practices and teachings not found in the Bible are not authoritative. In the past, churches have condemned things like smoking, going to movie theatres and pool halls, playing cards and other practices that are not specifically condemned in the Bible. Deuteronomy 12:32 says, “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Christians are often guilty of adding to what God says in his Word. (ESV)
Sola Scriptura also means that each Christian is equipped to understand the Bible. The Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible will guide him or her into its proper interpretation. Scriptural interpretation is not the sole prerogative of the church. Individuals may err in interpreting the Bible because we are all finite and flawed human beings and we are not always responsive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, that also applies to church officials.
Church councils, creeds, traditions, and practices are important, but they must always be subject to scripture as the supreme authority. Only the Bible is ultimately authoritative as to what we should believe and practice.
The Bible is the product of thousands of years of writing. Many human authors were involved, but only one divine author, the Holy Spirit. The present canon of scripture took some time to be established. The process of determining which books were inspired and authoritative took some time. The fact that Christians were being persecuted and books were being burned aided the process. If you are going to risk your life to protect a particular writing, then you would make sure that it is worth protecting. The apocryphal books are accepted by some Christians as having some authority, but they do contain errors and are not divinely inspired. Some books that were rejected as spurious are now being “discovered” and hailed as “lost gospels.” They were never actually lost. They were discarded as false.
Question: How do the Bible impact your life? Do you live your life by it?