Sola Scriptura John MacArthur

By Ken Silva pastor-teacher on Jan 15, 2011 in AM

First, it is necessary to understand what sola Scriptura does and does not assert. The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture.

It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science.

This or that “scientific truth” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our own senses (2 Pet. 1:19). Therefore Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter to which it speaks. But there are many important questions on which Scripture is silent. Sola Scriptura makes no claim to the contrary.

Nor does sola Scriptura claim that everything Jesus or the apostles ever taught is preserved in Scripture. It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture.

Furthermore, we are forbidden to add to or take way from Scripture (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32, cf. Rev. 22:18-19). To do so is to lay on people’s shoulders a burden that God Himself does not intend for them to bear (cf. Matt. 23:4).

Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved, and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That—no more, no less—is what sola Scriptura means.

The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the sufficiency of Scripture like this:

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).

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Church include this statement on sola Scriptura:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation (article 6).

So sola Scriptura simply means that Scripture is sufficient. The fact that Jesus did and taught many things not recorded in Scripture (Jn. 20:30; 21:25) is wholly irrelevant to the principle of sola Scriptura. The fact that most of the apostles’ actual sermons in the early churches were not written down and preserved for us does not diminish the truth of biblical sufficiency one bit. What is certain is that all that is necessary is in Scripture—and we are forbidden “to exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6).

Scripture clearly claims for itself this sufficiency—and nowhere more clearly that 2 Timothy 3:15-17. A brief summary of that passage is perhaps appropriate here as well. In short, verse 15 affirms that Scripture is sufficient for salvation: “The sacred writings . . . are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Verse 16 affirms the absolute authority of Scripture, which is “God-breathed” (Gk. theopneustos) and profitable for our instruction. And verse 17 states that Scripture is able to equip the man of God “for every good work.”

So the assertion that the Bible itself does not teach sola Scriptura is simply wrong. (Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 2)

John MacArthur

13 thoughts on “Sola Scriptura John MacArthur

  1. Pingback: Methods, Methods and More Methods: Sacrificing Sola Scriptura on altar of Sola Cultura? « A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

  2. I would add that yes…Paul experience was unique to Paul. The signs and wonders were to validate their apostleship before the more sure prophecy of the written Word was complete. We now have a written and completed revelation from God and have no need to add to or take away from it…in fact, we had better NOT do that!

    • I am so grateful for your input Nancy, and hearshisvoice. I remember, about 15 years back, pretty new in the Lord and receiving a book by Blackaby. I remember getting to the chapter about “hearing God” and almost lost it. I thought I wasn’t saved because I had never heard His “voice”… I’ve learned alot about our Lord since then. He has allowed many things that aren’t biblical touch me and shape me, mold and grow me. This last episode with things like “falling in the spirit” and dream interpretations, Holy Spirit impartations, prophesying, spontaneous healings, “a Word from the Lord”, visions, and so much more, was an actual blessing; albeit frightening because I came to know many women who follow this Pastor in Nevada and they didn’t seem to think that what she and the other “anointed” women were doing was wrong. She taught us not to question folks like Benny Hinn or others because we had no place to judge them. The other thing that is frightening about this is that they claimed Jesus and His work on the cross, but this was not as paramount as the “experiences” one could have when you attended the gatherings. I just question everything now. Thanks for the help guys!

  3. Mic, I too have been involved in churches that promoted visions and transportations and that type of stuff. They desire these things b/c they are deceived and left in that deception (Rom 1:18) by God. they are disatisfied with the Written Word and demand experiences rather than the more sure word of prophecy (the Written Word) as Peter tells us. Their judgment is already happening viz a vis their false visions and prophecies and experiences. It is a frightful thing to fall into the hand of God.

    It is wonderful that you have left the false church and I would encourage you to look for a solidly biblical church (reformed, presbyterian, churches that are orthodox like the OPC or URC-NA or Reformed Baptist church that hold to the creeds and confessions). If you wish to have more help, feel free to email me at apologistnyc at yahoo dot com.


  4. In 2 Corinthians 12:4, Paul says “one”, ‘was snatched away to paradise where he heard things that can’t be expressed in words, things that humans cannot put into words. I don’t know whether this happened to him physically or spiritually. Only God knows.” GWT About 9 months ago, I removed myself from a church whose female pastor spoke of being brought up to heaven to see the distraught nature of man and how low and lost we were, and was told that her job was to reach these people. In another sermon she mentioned that the Lord told her that Japan’s devastating disaster last March was do to their sin and the area being the “seat of satan”, that their destruction was Satan’s doing. So I left the church after learning that they also backed Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson, and others like this. My question is, was this experience of Paul’s exclusive to Paul or does God do this for other believers today? Ruby Duby says that she receives revelation from God about our coming judgement in America… ?? I thought we were under God’s grace and mercy and that judgement wasn’t until His final return. Why are people claiming to be brought up to heaven and getting this revelation from Him? Thanks for any biblical direction you can give.

  5. “Discernment is not simply
    a matter of telling the difference
    between what is right and wrong,
    rather it is the difference between
    right and almost right.”
    C.H. Spurgeon

    Sola Scriptura is an extremely important principle for me considering the extremely bad teaching I have come out of. I certainly believe God can ‘speak’ to us through His Holy Spirit, He guides and directs us, teaches us, and convicts us of sin. Absolutely everything He ‘speaks’ to us is in Scripture, through Scripture, and in total agreement with Scripture, never outside of Scripture or in addition to Scripture, and it certainly never contradicts Scripture. The Holy Spirit certainly does not change His mind in order to adapt to the current culture!

    One of the things I have personally had to deal with is the wrong teaching I have received about ‘knowing’ that it is God speaking according to the ‘feeling’ I get, and the teaching that I can be sure whatever thought pops into my head is God if I have ‘peace’ about it, as if just because I claim to be a born again, ‘spirit filled’ Christian I can just assume whatever pops into my head has to be God ( in some circles they call this prophecy and actually speak out whatever pops into their head and call it a prophetic word, at this point in my life I call this blaspheming the Holy Spirit). I have never found a single scripture that gives us any indication that we are to judge or discern what is, or is not the will of God, the voice of God, or anything else according to a feeling of ‘peace’, a chill, trembling etc. We are definately instructed to test all things, but the only way we are given by which to test and know whether something is of God is through the Word of God! Period!

    I have also not seen in Scripture anything about being careful not to miss the new, higher, deeper, more spiritual thing God is going to do. Or that we should be careful not to miss out on the great ‘revivals’ that are coming in the end. What we are warned about time and time again though, is about the great ‘falling away’, the great apostasy that is to come, along with false teachers, false teachings, wolves in sheeps clothing that will rise up among us, and that satan himself would be transformed into an angel of light etc.
    And by the way, the Word of God also does not say that our words have the same creative power as God when He spoke all creation into being. Seriously?

    “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
    (Jud 1:3-4)

    I am determined above all to contend earnestly for the faith…

  6. Fantastic! I can agree with this, but please explain to me how God, who has spoken throughout the ages and cultures, revealing himself in layers until the final revelation through Jesus, is now silent in prayer. Not that I hear audibly from God, but I do believe we experience an interaction with the spirit. I am not speaking of prayer languages or other charismatic elements, but of genuine interaction with the Lord in prayer. This occurs outside of scripture, is a personal and relational element of faith, and is taught by Jesus as recorded by Matthew.

    My issue is not whether or not the Bible is complete (it is) nor is it whether or not false teachers exist (they do) but rather you are attacking other follows, your brothers and sisters in Christ and pointing out a speck in their faith. I’m just wondering if you aren’t dealing with a log of your own.

    Can you show me where God says he won’t actively engage in personal prayer? Can you show me examples of where God does actively engage in personal prayer? Both need to be done in order to solidify the point of the previous post I commented on. Sola scriptura. Absolutely. Yet, God’s character remains consistent and He continues to be engaged with humanity and all of creation through the movement of His spirit.

    • Hebrews 1:1-2 states, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

      As Paul wrote to Timothy (II Tim 3:16f):
      All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
      doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
      that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good

      That means ALL I NEED to be THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED is SCRIPTURE. There is not other revelation, “still small voice”, or “whisper” that God is going to give to me outside of Scripture. The Holy Spirit operates to illuminate Scripture, guide me by the Biblical wisdom that comes from renewing my mind on the Word, that’s it. No extra revelation. No new words added to Scripture to guide my life.

      God’s character doesn’t change, yes, but God absolutely says in Hebrews 1:1-2 that revelation used to be given by various ways and at various times to our fathers by the prophets BUT now He has spoken in His Son. The revelation is COMPLETE? What more do we need? The Word is complete, sufficient, and final. No adding to it.

      The teachings of contemplative prayer and other “listening” type prayers that promote the notion that we are to “silence” “empty” or “still” our mind in order to
      hear God speak have more to do with new age mysticism than Biblical prayer. The Lord does not instruct this when giving his dissertation on how to pray in the Lord’s prayer.

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