Sola Scriptura Briefly Explained
By Barry York - Posted at Gentle Reformation:
Reformed churches say they believe in sola Scriptura, or Scripture alone. This phrase means they teach that the Bible alone is sufficient as the ultimate authority for the Christian. How might this doctrine be briefly explained to another? Here is an attempt to do so.
We must be careful to distinguish what we mean when we make the statement that God's Word, the Bible, is our only authority. Many well-meaning Christians make statements such as "We have no creed but Christ" or "We do not follow confessions, only the Bible." These statements are usually intended to mean that we do not need - or even should disdain - church creeds because they are "the teachings of men." We agree that insofar as a doctrine is not faithful to the Scriptures, it should be avoided.
However, the Lord has blessed the church down through the ages with Spirit-filled teachers of His Word. Where they have given us teachings that are faithful to what God says in His Word, those doctrines should be received with gratefulness by the church. Many churches use a historic summary of these teachings, called a confession, such as the Westminster Confession of Faith or Belgic Confession as a foundational document to explain what they believe and to give guidance to their practices. These time-tested confessions accurately summarize what the Bible teaches on important subjects. We use these confessions because the church is to be the "pillar and support of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15). Such confessions should always be viewed by the church as subordinate to the Bible, meaning it only has authority in so much as it agrees with Scripture. Only the Scriptures can bind the individual's conscience (Matthew 4:4; 15:3-9).
Having the Bible alone as our authority then means we have the following three practices.