The Five Solas: Sola Scriptura


Sola Scriptura is a Latin phrase meaning “by scripture alone”. This phrase is one of the Five Solas that shaped the Reformer’s rallying cry during the Reformation. If you aren’t familiar with the Reformation itself, in a nutshell, it was the 16th-century movement for the reform of abuses in the Roman Catholic Church ending in the establishment of the Reformed and Protestant Churches.

Sola Scriptura holds to the fact that Scripture is the complete authority of our lives. For many years, the Roman Catholic Church, in an almost abusive manner, tried to reinforce the idea that tradition was superior in authority to the Bible. Some traditions contradict Scripture itself, including prayer to saints and/or Mary, Papal authority, and even indulgences.

We could easily debate tradition verses authority, but for the purpose of this reading, I want to focus on the importance of Sola Scriptura for us today. We live in a world where Christianity itself seems to be leaning more and more liberal, and the Scriptures itself seems to hold less weight, respect, and authority. We hear things today such as, “The scriptures are outdated”, and thosewho loosely hold to Scripture are picking and choosing what works best for them without considering context, forgetting the Scriptures are not about us, but rather, they are about God. Application is a bonus we get from learning the story of who God is, His attributes, and His character. The Bible is God’s story about the redemption of His people for His glory. It is easy to get caught up in questioning the authority of the Bible, so how do we understand and hold fast to the phrase Sola Scriptura in our own lives?

Remember Where Scripture Came from and What its Purpose Is

The Word of God through Paul is extremely clear that Scripture is from God, not man, and Paul also emphasis the purpose for the Word. Paul writes to his brother in Christ, Timothy, that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 CSB).

All Scripture is inspired by God. The English Standard Version uses the term “God Breathed” in describing the origination of the words. The actual Greek term is "theópneustos", stemming from the combination of "theós", meaning "God", and pnéō, meaning "breathe out". God loves us enough to breathe out these words, not to bind us in chains, but for several purposes.

The First Purpose: Teaching

Scripture teaches us several things including the character and nature of God; Scripture also teaches us right from wrong, demonstrating how to pursue righteousness, and showing us how to become more Christ-like. This is a primary reason we need to stay in the Word, so that we may be taught, we may grow, and we may become closer to our Creator.  

The Second and Third Purposes: Rebuke and Correction

Many of us live by what I like to call “Tupac Theology”. We use the phrase “only God can judge me”, which to me, is pretty terrifying honestly. But when we try to twist the Scriptures to fit our lifestyles, instead of allowing ourselves to be taught, we throw out verses without context, leaving our consciences calloused and allowing ourselves to live with no conviction.  

One of the most popular verses used out of context in this manner is Matthew 7:5. This verse is quoted many times as, "Don’t judge me, take a look at yourself and worry about you.” If we read the verse correctly, however, it reads, “Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5 CSB).

If we examine this more clearly, we do see to take the beam out of our eye, but if we continue on the verse, we see then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. By letting Scripture be our authority, we continue to shape our own spiritual lives, and we find rebuke in our sin, but it also helps to keep our brothers and sisters in Christ accountable.  

The Final Purpose: Training in Righteousness

Paul likes to use sports analogies. He understands training. Training is can be painful, but it is beneficial for growth. Olympic athletes do not gain medals by simply showing up for the race—athletes gain medals after years of training.  Training includes lifestyle changes, discipline, and even submission to the authority of a coach. Scripture is our coach. Scripture trains us to be righteous for a purpose. Paul describes this to the Corinthians that his training has a purpose. He says, “So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26 CSB). When we allow Scripture to be our authority, it can be painful; we read things that contradict our flesh and that our sinful nature doesn’t like, but the authority of Scripture has a purpose and a prize: the saving work of Christ.

Sola Scriptura is just one of the Five Solas of the Reformation, but it is one that 500 years later is just as true and just as applicable as it was 500 years ago when the Reformation occurred. When we remember the purpose of Scripture, the Author of Scripture, and that it isn’t about us, we begin to allow the training to shape us, to mold us, and to bring us closer to Christ. Spend time in Scripture and allow it to be your authority. Remember its purpose, and remember the prize.