God Actually Spoke To Me

Article by Tim Challies – original source here.

I want to hear God’s voice. I want him to speak to me in a personal way. I want to know that it’s really and truly him. Is that too much to ask?

It’s not too much to ask. In fact, it is God’s joy to communicate to each one of his children in the most personal and intimate way. Our Father speaks to us. He speaks clearly and he speaks personally. He really does.

John Piper wrote about this once, describing a vivid encounter with God during his early-morning quiet time:

Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning … God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today.

As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down.

He goes on to share some of what God said to him in that time together—God spoke of his deeds, of his power, of his authority and sovereignty. And then, “Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites — this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me.”

Now, what did this do in Piper? How did the shock of receiving this word from the Lord affect him? This is where he springs the big surprise.

It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind — and your mind. We hear his very words. …

And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5–7. That is where I heard them. O, how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.

It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible.

Piper heard God’s voice and experienced genuine relationship with him through the Bible. Was it an impersonal experience? Did it leave him longing for something else somewhere else? No, not at all. It increased his intimacy and communion with God. It increased his confidence in the power and beauty of the Bible. It satisfied his desire to commune with God, yet made him long to experience even more of God in the pages of his Word. Continue reading

The Scriptures by Thomas Watson

(Original source here)

Q-II: WHAT RULE HAS GOD GIVEN TO DIRECT US HOW WE MAY GLORIFY AND ENJOY HIM?

A: The Word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

2 Tim 3: I6. ‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,’ &c. By Scripture is understood the sacred Book of God. It is given by divine inspiration; that is, the Scripture is not the contrivance of man’s brain, but is divine in its origin. The image of Diana was had in veneration by the Ephesians, because they supposed it fell from Jupiter. Acts 19: 35. The holy Scripture is to be highly reverenced and esteemed, because we are sure it came from heaven. 2 Pet 1: 2I. The two Testaments are the two lips by which God has spoken to us.

How does it appear that the Scriptures have a Jus Divinum, a divine authority stamped upon them?

Because the Old and New Testament are the foundation of all religion. If their divinity cannot be proved, the foundation on which we build our faith is gone. I shall therefore endeavour to prove this great truth, that the Scriptures are the very word of God. I wonder whence the Scriptures should come, if not from God. Bad men could not be the authors of it. Would their minds be employed in inditing such holy lines? Would they declare so fiercely against sin? Good men could not be the authors of it. Could they write in such a strain? or could it stand with their grace to counterfeit God’s name, and put, Thus saith the Lord, to a book of their own devising? Nor could any angel in heaven be the author of it, because the angels pry and search into the abyss of gospel mysteries, I Pet 1: I2, which implies their nescience of some parts of Scripture; and sure they cannot be the authors of that book which they themselves do not fully understand. Besides, what angel in heaven durst be so arrogant as to personate God and, say, ‘I create,’ Isa 65: I7, and, ‘I the Lord have said it,? Numb 14: 35. So that it is evident, the pedigree of Scripture is sacred, and it could come from none but God himself.

Not to speak of the harmonious consent of all the parts of Scripture, there are seven cogent arguments which may evince it to be the Word of God.

[I] Its antiquity. It is of ancient standing. The grey hairs of Scripture make it venerable. No human histories extant reach further than Noah’s flood: but the holy Scripture relates matters of fact that have been from the beginning of the world; it writes of things before time. That is a sure rule of Tertullian, ‘That which is of the greatest antiquity, id verum quod primum, is to be received as most sacred and authentic.’

[2] We may know the Scripture to be the Word of God by its miraculous preservation in all ages. The holy Scriptures are the richest jewel that Christ has left us; and the church of God has so kept these public records of heaven, that they have not been lost. The Word of God has never wanted enemies to oppose, and, if possible, to extirpate it. They have given out a law concerning Scripture, as Pharaoh did the midwives, concerning the Hebrew women’s children, to strangle it in the birth; but God has preserved this blessed Book inviolable to this day. The devil and his agents have been blowing at Scripture light, but could never blow it out; a clear sign that it was lighted from heaven. Nor has the church of God, in all revolutions and changes, kept the Scripture that it should not be lost only, but that it should not be depraved. The letter of Scripture has been preserved, without any corruption, in the original tongue. The Scriptures were not corrupted before Christ’s time, for then Christ would not have sent the Jews to them. He said, ‘Search the Scriptures.’ He knew these sacred springs were not muddied with human fancies. Continue reading

The Doctrine of Scripture Series

Pastor Kevin DeYoung, University Reformed Church, East Lansing, Michigan

Jesus’ View of Scripture:

Jesus held Scripture in the highest possible esteem. He knew his Bible intimately and loved it deeply. He often spoke with language of Scripture. He easily alluded to Scripture. And in his moments of greatest trial and weakness—like being tempted by the devil or being killed on a cross—he quoted Scripture.
His mission was to fulfill Scripture, and his teaching always upheld Scripture.
He never disrespected, never disregarded, never disagreed with a single text of Scripture.
He affirmed every bit of law, prophecy, narrative, and poetry. He shuddered to think of anyone anywhere violating, ignoring, or rejecting Scripture.
Jesus believed in the inspiration of Scripture, down to the sentences, to the phrases, to the words, to the smallest letter, to the tiniest mark.
He accepted the chronology, the miracles, and the authorial ascriptions as giving the straightforward facts of history.
He believed in keeping the spirit of the law without ever minimizing the letter of the law. He affirmed the human authorship of Scripture while at the same time bearing witness to the ultimate divine authorship of the Scriptures.
He treated the Bible as a necessary word, a sufficient word, a clear word, and the final word.
It was never acceptable in his mind to contradict Scripture or stand above Scripture.
He believed the Bible was all true, all edifying, all important, and all about him. He believed absolutely that the Bible was from God and was absolutely free from error. What Scripture says God says, and what God said was recorded infallibly in Scripture.
Jesus submitted his will to the Scriptures, committed his brain to study the Scriptures, and humbled his heart to obey the Scriptures.
In summary, it is impossible to revere the Scriptures more deeply or affirm them more completely than Jesus did. The Lord Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, believed his Bible was the word of God down to the tiniest speck and that nothing in all those specks and in all those books in his Bible could ever be broken.

(1) How to Think and Feel About the Word of God – Psalm 119:1-119:176

How to Think and Feel About the Word of God from URC Web on Vimeo.

(2) Something More Sure – 2 Peter 1:16-1:21

Something More Sure from URC Web on Vimeo.

Continue reading

All Scripture – Sufficient for Every Good Work

bible06“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

ALL SCRIPTURE

“If part of the Bible is true and part is not, who is to tell us what the true parts are? There are only two answers to that question. Either we must make the decision ourselves, in which case the truth becomes subjective. The thing that is true becomes merely what appeals to me. Or else, it is the scholar who tells us what we can believe and what we cannot believe… God has not left us either to our own whims or to the whims of scholars. He has given us a reliable book that we can read and understand ourselves.”

EVERY GOOD WORK

“I want to say here, that important as I believe the matter of inerrancy is—and I do believe it, I believe churches will flounder and die if this is forgotten. Important as this is, I do not think it is the most critical issue about the Bible facing the American church today. The issue I would pinpoint today is the sufficiency of God’s Word.

I would ask the questions: Do we really believe that God has given us what we need in this book? Or do we think we have to supplement the Bible with other man-made things?

Do we need sociological techniques to do evangelism? Do we need psychology and psychiatry for Christian growth? Do we need extra-biblical signs or miracles for guidance? Is the Bible’s teaching adequate for achieving social progress and reform?

The reason I believe this is important is that it is possible to believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and yet neglect it and effectually repudiate it just because we think that it is not great enough for today’s tasks and that other things need to be brought in to supplement the revelation. I think this is exactly what many evangelicals and evangelical churches are doing.”

– Dr. James Montgomery Boice

Does Inerrancy Matter?

enlightenedDoes Inerrancy Matter? The Legacy of James Montgomery Boice

by Dr. Derek Thomas (original source here)

“[I]f part of the Bible is true and part is not, who is to tell us what the true parts are? There are only two answers to that question. Either we must make the decision ourselves, in which case the truth becomes subjective. The thing that is true becomes merely what appeals to me. Or else, it is the scholar who tells us what we can believe and what we cannot believe… God has not left us either to our own whims or to the whims of scholars. He has given us a reliable book that we can read and understand ourselves.”

These words, arguing the logic of an inerrant Scripture, were part of a sermon preached on May 23, 1993 by James Montgomery Boice (see, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace [Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009], 69). The sermon was preached on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his pastorate at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Boice began by drawing attention to the fact that the doctrine of Scripture had been the most important thing that Tenth Presbyterian Church had stood for in its (then) one hundred sixty-four year existence.

At the close of 1977, ten years into his pastorate at Tenth, Dr. Boice helped in the foundation of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, and subsequently chaired it. A few years later, Boice published, Standing on the Rock: Upholding Biblical Authority in a Secular Age (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1984) in which he answered the question, why does inerrancy matter? He noted that most of his contemporaries seemed more preoccupied with having a “personal relationship” with Jesus than addressing the doctrine of Scripture. But who is this Jesus with whom we are to have a personal relationship if not the Jesus accurately (inerrantly) portrayed in Scripture? We live a relativistic age, Boice argued, where there is no such thing as truth, only “what’s true for me.” “When people operate on that basis, they usually think they have found freedom because, in not being tied to absolutes, they have freedom to do anything they wish. They are not tied to God or to a God-given morality. They do not have to acknowledge any authority. But the consequence of this kind of freedom is that they are cast adrift on the sea of meaningless existence.” (Standing on the Rock [1994 edition], 17).

Absolute truth

Inerrancy is important, Boice argued, in a postmodern culture, to provide the individual with a basis for absolute authority in doctrine and morals. Without absolutism, we are adrift in a sea of relativism and subjectivism. Without a trustworthy Scripture, there is only a mere potentiality of meaning actualized differently in differing circumstances. We are trapped in the present, our own historical circumstances, and cannot understand the past or have any certainty of the future. Truth lies in community and the voice of the Spirit – all subjective entities – wisps that appear for a moment promising much and delivering little.

Ultimately, as Boice argued all too well, if there is no ultimate meaning, nothing I say makes any sense, including the words “there are no absolutes”! What Boice saw was that without inerrancy, the relevance of Christianity diminishes. Why should anyone commit their lives to the institution of the church if there is no certainty that what she stands for is true. Relativism as to truth leads to relativism as to behavior and commitment. The moral drift of the last thirty years with its accompanying.

Authoritative Preaching

What is preaching? It is either Truth delivered through personality (as Philips Brooks suggested), or it is the opinion of men (and women). The steps from the original autographs to text, translation and meaning is a complex one, involving a commitment to providence as well as a rigorous hermeneutic (and hence, the Council of Biblical Inerrancy also issued a statement, “Formal Rules of Biblical Interpretation”). “It is only when ministers of the gospel hold to this high view of Scripture that they can preach with authority and effectively call sinful men and women to full faith in Christ.” (Standing on the Rock, 24). Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: The Sufficiency of Scripture in Expository Preaching

Lawson (2)Dr. Steve Lawson (original source here)

As the church of Jesus Christ enters the twenty-first century, she once again finds herself standing at a dangerous crossroad. Two roads stand before her, both of which are marked “truth.” One is paved with the lethal lies of Satan, the other with the life-giving truths of Scripture.

Confronted with these two choices, many sectors of the present day church have abandoned their once tightly-held commitment to the authority of Scripture, and the consequences have been nothing less than devastating. Choosing to follow liberal theology with its higher criticism, many have arrived at destinations previously thought to be unthinkable: inclusive universalism, radical feminism, same-sex marriages, annihilationism, and open, even worse, theism. Sad to say, this broad path has proven to be a deadly detour to the destruction of many.

Yet, in the midst of this rampant apostasy, a most amazing phenomenon has occurred, a modern Reformation of sorts. A renewed commitment to biblical inerrancy has emerged in isolated pockets of the church, a conservative resurgence that has signaled a return to a fundamental belief in the inspired, infallible Word of God. In these days, many have chosen to return to old paths, a road paved with biblical authority, and for this much thanks should be offered to God.

But having safely negotiated this crossroad, a second intersection now looms on the evangelical horizon, one equally threatening. Writing shortly before his recent death, James Montgomery Boice, pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, observed that while many churches now assert biblical authority, they equivocate on biblical sufficiency. Boice writes, “Our problem is in deciding whether the Bible is sufficient for the church’s life and work. We confess its authority, but we discount its ability to do what is necessary to draw unbelievers to Christ, enable us to grow in godliness, provide direction for our lives, and transform and revitalize society.”1

With penetrating insight, Boice then added, “In the sixteenth century, the battle was against those who wanted to add church traditions to Scripture, but in our day the battle is against those who have to use worldly means to do God’s work.”2 The sufficiency of Scripture, Boice argues, is the urgent issue of the day which must be addressed. He is correct.

The sufficiency of Scripture can best be defined as the Bible’s supernatural ability, when rightly proclaimed and properly followed, to produce any and all spiritual results intended by God. Referred to as sola Scriptura by the Reformers, this core truth does not claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture, nor does it imply that everything Jesus or the apostles taught is preserved in Scripture (Jn. 20:30; 21:25). Rather, the sufficiency of Scripture affirms that everything necessary for the salvation of sinners, the sanctification of believers, and the spiritual direction of ministry is provided by God’s Word. Psalm 19:7 affirms this central truth when it declares “the law of the Lord is perfect” (emphasis added), meaning it is whole, complete, lacking nothing, a comprehensive treatment of truth.3 The Scripture, Paul writes, makes the man of God “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). This said, the Bible claims a divine potency, for itself, a supernatural ability, if you will, to more than adequately carry out God’s work in the world.

This commitment has long been the time-tested position of most evangelical churches over the last 350 years. Written in 1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith affirmed “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”.4 Thus, the sufficiency of Scripture has long been a defining mark of evangelical faith and a chief cornerstone of biblical orthodoxy. Sola Scriptura was the battle cry of the Reformers and has shaped the church for the centuries that have followed.

But in this present hour, there has been a strange departure from this once firm position on the sufficiency of Scripture. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the shrinking power of the evangelical pulpit. Trendy worship styles, worldly entertainment, crass pragmatism, pop psychology, and the like are all competing against the centrality of biblical exposition. Throughout the evangelical world, preaching is becoming watered down with heavy doses of cultural wisdom, therapeutic advice, psycho babble, mystical intuitions, positive thinking, and political agendas, all mixed together with a barrage of personal anecdotes.

This present famine of biblical preaching is light years removed from the theologically steeped expositions of previous generations and can only be explained by a vanishing confidence in the power of Scripture itself. The crisis now confronting Bible-believing, churches, organizations and institutions, whether they realize it or not, is this matter of the ability of Scripture to accomplish God’s intended work. Continue reading

Is “Scripture Alone” Real To You And Your Church?

scripute-aloneBy J.A. Medders, Pastor of Redeemer Church, Tomball, TX

The Solas have to be more to us than historical landmarks, relics from the Reformation. Scripture Alone has an undeniable effect on our lives and the culture, eco-system, and vibe of our churches.

To really live Sola Scriptura is to believe and grasp the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible is sufficient, powerful, for all of your life in Christ. You don’t need John Piper’s podcast. You don’t lack anything if you can’t buy the Christian “Book of the Year.” These are all helpful and wonderful things, but if you have God’s word, you have the food you need. And this word leads us toward living with God, how to live for God, how to walk in the power of Christ.

In a way, Scripture Alone sets us free.

Scripture Alone Frees Us From The Tyranny of Human Opinion

In the Reformation, the people were weighed down and held captive to the words of men, Popes, Priests, and the Catholic Church ruled over the people.

When Luther was put on trial by the Church, and told to take back everything he said. He refused. He said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

Knowing the Bible sets you free from the tyrannical scepter of human opinion. “The Truth shall set you free.” This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to the biblical counsel and wisdom and Christian friends. Of course, we should; the Bible instructs us too.

Sola Scriptura means the Bible is the ultimately authoritative word in our lives because it is the word of God. No priest, Pope, professor, pastor, or person in our church can pull rank of the revealed word of God.

When a church is living Sola Scriptura, we hear more, “The Bible says…”, and less, “I think…”.

Pastors and Sola Scriptura

As a pastor, I am not anyone’s ultimate authority. Pastors are one authority. We don’t believe in Solo Scriptura, meaning that we only listen to Scripture and nothing else. That goes against the very testimony of Scripture. Pastors are only one authority in the Christians life, even other Christians are another authority in our lives, but it is the Bible, that has the ultimate and final say. If I step outside the Bible, I’ve lost my authority. In speaking with another Christian, if you contradict the Bible, go against what God has said, you are outside of your jurisdiction. Continue reading

Quotes on Scripture

preaching-e1464051966448“Let the man who would hear God speak read Holy Scripture.” – Martin Luther

“If private revelations agree with Scripture, and if they disagree they are false.” – John Owen

“The Bible is the sceptre by which the heavenly King rules his church.” – John Calvin

“It has always been the great minds exercising their powers apart from the Word of God who have produced the great heresies. Some think they can discover God by listening to a so-called ‘inner voice.’ But the voice is often nothing more than an expression of their own inner desires. Quite a few think that spiritual truths can be verified by supernatural events or miracles. But the Bible everywhere teaches that even miracles will not lead men and women to understand and receive God’s truth unless they themselves are illuminated by the Bible (see Luke 16:31).” – James Montgomery Boice

“God speaks through the Scriptures. He speaks with the Word, through the Word, and never against the Word.” – R. C. Sproul

“All Scripture must be received as if God, appearing in person, visibly and full of majesty, were himself speaking.” – John Calvin

“In too many churches, Bible exposition has been replaced with entertainment, theology with theatrics, and the drama of redemption with just drama.” – Steve Lawson

The Value of Scripture

sproul78The following is an excerpt taken from 5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul

The value of Scripture in the life of the believer lies in its source and its function. In his exhortation to Timothy, Paul commended Scripture to Timothy by saying, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

When I was a little boy, there was a fellow in our community who was a couple of years older than me, and he was something of a bully. He made fun of me and called me names, which hurt my feelings. Sometimes I came home crying to my mother and told her what the other boy had said to upset me. My mother had a favorite response to this. As she wiped away my tears, she said, “When people talk like that about you, son, consider the source.”

That little bit of sage advice from my mother was a principle that I learned to a much more intense degree in the academic world. One of the rules of scholarship is to track down in your research the sources for the information you have to make sure that those sources are reliable. Scholars have to “be careful not to take anything at face value, because credibility is directly tied to source. They must analyze, examine, and use the critical apparatus at their disposal to track down the real sources.

Paul assured Timothy here that the source of Scripture is God. That Scripture is “given by inspiration” refers not to the way God oversaw the writing of the Bible but to the source of the content of the Bible. The word that is translated “given by inspiration” is the Greek term theopneust—literally, “God-breathed.” When Paul wrote that Scripture is God-breathed, the idea was not one of inspiration but of expiration; that is, the Bible was breathed out by God. The whole point here is that the Bible comes from God. It is His Word and carries with it His authority. Paul wanted Timothy to understand the source of the Bible, not the way it was inspired.

After stating that the Bible is God-breathed, Paul spelled out its purpose and value. Scripture, he said, is profitable for several things, including doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

The value of the Bible lies, first of all, in the fact that it teaches sound doctrine. Though we live in a time when sound teaching is denigrated, the Bible places a high value on it. Much of the New Testament is concerned with doctrine. The teaching ministry is given to the church for building up its people. Paul said, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–12).

The Bible is also profitable for reproof and correction, which we as Christians continually need. It is fashionable in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him. Continue reading

Understanding Sola Scriptura

michael j krugerArticle by Michael Kruger (original source we are bombarded with declarations that something is true and that something else is false. We are told what to believe and what not to believe. We are asked to behave one way but not another way. In her monthly column “What I Know for Sure,” Oprah Winfrey tells us how to handle our lives and our relationships. The New York Times editorial page regularly tells us what approach we should take to the big moral, legal, or public-policy issues of our day. Richard Dawkins, the British atheist and evolutionist, tells us how to think of our historical origins and our place in this universe.

How do we sift through all these claims? How do people know what to think about relationships, morality, God, the origins of the universe, and many other important questions? To answer such questions, people need some sort of norm, standard, or criteria to which they can appeal. In other words, we need an ultimate authority. Of course, everyone has some sort of ultimate norm to which they appeal, whether or not they are aware of what their norm happens to be. Some people appeal to reason and logic to adjudicate competing truth claims. Others appeal to sense experience. Still others refer to themselves and their own subjective sense of things. Although there is some truth in each of these approaches, Christians have historically rejected all of them as the ultimate standard for knowledge. Instead, God’s people have universally affirmed that there is only one thing that can legitimately function as the supreme standard: God’s Word. There can be no higher authority than God Himself.

Of course, we are not the first generation of people to face the challenge of competing truth claims. In fact, Adam and Eve faced such a dilemma at the very beginning. God had clearly said to them “You shall surely die” if they were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). On the other hand, the Serpent said the opposite to them: “You will not surely die” (3:4). How should Adam and Eve have adjudicated these competing claims? By empiricism? By rationalism? By what seemed right to them? No, there was only one standard to which they should have appealed to make this decision: the word that God had spoken to them. Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Instead of looking to God’s revelation, Eve decided to investigate things further herself: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes … she took of its fruit and ate” (3:6). Make no mistake, the fall was not just a matter of Adam and Eve eating the fruit. At its core, the fall was about God’s people rejecting God’s Word as the ultimate standard for all of life.

But if God’s Word is the ultimate standard for all of life, the next question is critical: Where do we go to get God’s Word? Where can it be found? This issue, of course, brings us to one of the core debates of the Protestant Reformation. While the Roman Catholic Church authorities agreed that God’s Word was the ultimate standard for all of life and doctrine, they believed this Word could be found in places outside of the Scriptures. Rome claimed a trifold authority structure, which included Scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium. The key component in this trifold authority was the Magisterium itself, which is the authoritative teaching office of the Roman Catholic Church, manifested primarily in the pope. Because the pope was considered the successor of the Apostle Peter, his official pronouncements (ex cathedra) were regarded as the very words of God Himself.

It was at this point that the Reformers stood their ground. While acknowledging that God had delivered His Word to His people in a variety of ways before Christ (Heb. 1:1), they argued that we should no longer expect ongoing revelation now that God has spoken finally in His Son (v. 2). Scripture is clear that the Apostolic office was designed to perform a onetime, redemptive-historical task: to lay the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). The foundation-laying activity of the Apostles primarily consisted of giving the church a deposit of authoritative teaching testifying to and applying the great redemptive work of Christ. Thus, the New Testament writings, which are the permanent embodiment of this Apostolic teaching, should be seen as the final installment of God’s revelation to His people. These writings, together with the Old Testament, are the only ones that are rightly considered the Word of God.

This conviction of sola Scriptura— the Scriptures alone are the Word of God and, therefore, the only infallible rule for life and doctrine—provided the fuel needed to ignite the Reformation. Indeed, it was regarded as the “formal cause” of the Reformation (whereas sola fide, or “faith alone,” was regarded as the “material cause”). The sentiments of this doctrine are embodied in Martin Luther’s famous speech at the Diet of Worms (1521) after he was asked to recant his teachings: Continue reading