On a cool October day in 1517, a German theologian and priest named Martin Luther walked up to a university chapel door and there, nailed a document listing his 95 Theses, meant to spark a discussion of the ways Luther saw the church of his day drifting from the truth of the gospel of Jesus. This spark, along with kindling laid by others of his time, became the flame known as the Reformation, and resulted in a fresh appreciation of the central tenets of the historic faith laid out by Scripture. So over the next five weeks leading up to the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, we'll be walking through the central proclamations of the Reformation, known as the Five Solas. Together, the five solas crescendo in the following statement: Scripture alone is our highest authority, which teaches that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Our hope in this exhortation series is to draw out the truth in each of these five "alone" statements, and to discuss the ways they are still relevant in our own lives today.
This morning we'll focus on the principal statement of Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Alone. Now each of the five solas were meant to reform errors present in the church. At the time, the Catholic Church was teaching that the Word of God, the word of the pope, and historic tradition each carried equal weight. By contrast, the Reformers consistently proclaimed that as the Word of God, Scripture alone is our highest authority and the standard by which we must interpret all knowledge and truth. Now, Scripture does not claim to contain everything we want to know, but it contains everything we need to know for life. Who am I? Why am I here? What is wrong with the world, and with me? What can be done about it? Where are we going? At bottom, each of life's most critical questions are answered fully and sufficiently by the Bible. Again, not that truth cannot exist anywhere else - but Scripture alone is our litmus test.
Scripture itself says, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes..." Psalm 19:7-8. And in the NT, "...the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 Timothy 3:15-17.
And now for some application - because this idea is still incredibly relevant and important. Our hearts are prone to wander. Think about this - what Reformation do we need today? In what ways does our culture drift from the truth of the gospel? One obvious one to me is the hallowing of personal experience - and the elevation of 'my truth' to an equal (or higher) standing than God's truth revealed in his Word. "You do you. Whatever makes you happy." Our culture has glorified the individual, and disregarded any higher authority at all. And this leads to profound conflict and tension, often displayed for all to see in the halls of social media, as we jockey for position at the top of the hill of "truth."
But even in the church, in our own lives, we can often let our feelings subtlety rise to the level of Scripture as the voice we obey. We neglect to hear from God in his Word, and therefore we listen to ourselves. And some days, we might hear, "You're a failure. You're not good enough. You're not worth anything." In those moments, how often do we fight back with the higher authority of Scripture? "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet again praise Him, my salvation and my God!" Your feelings are not the highest authority - God is - so listen to Him!
And this reminds us of our need to confess our sins... Father, we live in an age that defies your gracious authority and disregards your Word. And even in our own hearts, we sense the pride that causes us to drift from what you've said and to clasp to empty feelings and experience over the solid rock of the gospel. We've failed to hold fast to the Word of Life. We've failed to prioritize what you say over our preferences or traditions. Father, we have sinned against you. And so we come to you now to confess our individual sins to you.
Lord, we thank you that you hear us. In our confession, we look to the One who is your Word made flesh - our King and Savior Jesus, who says that the whole of Scripture testifies about Him. Give us grace to press on to know your Son deeper through Your Spirit in Your Word, Amen.