THE HOLY SCRIPTURE
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1 The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule for saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.1
Scripture is our all-sufficient standard for what we need to know to be saved and to grow in faith and obedience. This means that we can find in Scripture all we need to know not only to become a Christian, but also to make the daily decisions and choices necessary to live as Christians. If it is all-sufficient then nothing needs to be added to Scripture for us to find the direction needed to live every day full obedience in full obedience to God’s will for our life. Unlike all man’s ideas about what they think God wants for us and expects from us, Scripture alone provides knowledge that is certain and infallible.
Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence give such clear testimony to the goodness, wisdom and power of God that they leave people without excuse,2 yet they are not sufficient to give the knowledge of God and his will that is necessary for salvation.3
The order, complexity and beauty of nature reveal to the man who examines it something of the reality and nature of God. His providence, wisdom, power and goodness can be deduced from the light of nature. When men fail to acknowledge the God who is Creator for what he has done, that will be sufficient evidence to condemn them on judgment day. The light of nature supplies enough to condemn man, but does not supply the knowledge of God necessary to lead him to salvation. This knowledge comes only through the revelation God has made of himself to the church which has been preserved in Scripture.
Therefore it pleased the Lord to reveal himself at various times and in different ways, and to declare his will to his church.4 To ensure the preservation and propagation of the truth, and to establish and support the church against human corruption, the malice of Satan, and the world, he committed his complete revelation to writing.
Because the knowledge of God gained through natural revelation is never enough to bring a man to salvation special revelation is necessary. God did not have to save anyone and therefore did not have to reveal himself, but has mercifully done so. He was involved not only in revealing himself, but also in preserving that revelation from corruption. He did this primarily through having his revelation written down so that we now have an objective standard that all men can appeal to for confirmation of what God says.
The Holy Scriptures are therefore absolutely indispensable,5 for God’s former ways of revealing his will to his people have now ceased.6
6 Heb 1:1-2 , Ac 1:21-22 , Eph 2:19-20
If God must speak directly to man in order for him to be saved, and Scripture is necessary for salvation, then by implication we might conclude that God no longer speaks by means of special revelation any more. If he still spoke as before, he could simply tell men how to be saved without Scripture, thus Scripture might be helpful, but not necessary. That implication is made explicit in this paragraph. The dreams, visions, audible voices, theophanies, and presence of God in the flesh among us that once served as means of God’s special revelation have long since come to an end. God makes his will known for our lives and specific circumstances through illumination that can bring specific Scripture passages to bear on our particular needs. His indwelling Spirit may bring to mind what we need to know for making decisions by helping us recall a specific verse. But the day of special revelation has come to an end. God has not revealed any means to salvation or growth in holiness apart from the preaching of the Word.
2 The Holy Scriptures, or the Word of God written, consist of all the books of the Old and New Testament. These are:
The Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelation
All of these are given by the inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.7
All the books which make up the Old and New Testaments are inspired by God. These provide us our final standard for what to believe and how to live. Since they are all inspired, they are all worthy of our study and use for spiritual growth. Confessions and creeds can provide useful summaries of the central teachings of Scripture, but they are not inspired and are thus subject to change.
3 The books commonly called the Apocrypha were not given by divine inspiration, and are not part of the canon or rule of Scripture. Therefore they have no authority in the church of God, nor are they to be accepted or made use of in any way different from other human writings.8
The fourteen books placed in Catholic Bibles between the Old and New Testaments are not inspired and therefore are not a part of our canon of Scriptures. According to the best evidence we have, the Jews during the NT era (e.g. Josephus) and the early church (e.g. Jerome) both rejected these books on a par with the canonical Scriptures. Few if any of the NT authors make use of any of the Apocryphal books, while use of the OT books abounds throughout.
4 Holy Scripture demands belief, yet its authority does not depend on the testimony of any person or church9, but entirely on God its author, who is truth itself. Therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.10
10 2 Ti 3:15 , Ro 9:16-17 , Ga 3:7-8 , Ro 15:4 , Lk 16:17 , Jn 10:34-36 , Mt 5:17-18
To say that the Bible is self-authenticating means that we are convinced of its authority by reading it, and not by an appeal to an outside authority. We are not convinced of the Bible’s authority because archeology or science or contemporary history supports its claims or because a council of the church declared its books canonical. Our ultimate conviction of its authority rests on the fact that the Spirit speaks in and through its words to bring us an assurance that the words of Scripture are indeed the Word of God, and this lies at the very heart of what it means to say the Bible has authority. We say Scripture has authority because we believe that when we have heard its words we have heard God speak. If we read about a battle in which Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still and it did (Josh 10:12-13), then we have heard the story as the God of truth has told it. If we read that Nebuchadnezzar stood on the roof of his palace and declared the greatness of Babylon was his doing and was a tribute to his glory (Dan 4:29-30), then that is what the Lord who was there and heard his words has told us happened. If we read that Jesus is the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6) and that there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12), then we know that this is what the One who cannot lie says about the possibility of salvation outside of Christ.
In addition to the work of the Spirit that convicts us of Scripture’s authority, we can also look to its claims for itself as an element of its self-authenticating nature. Over 400 times in the Old Testament from Exodus to Malachi we read the phrase, “thus saith the Lord” and there are numerous passages that tell us God spoke through the prophets. While some may say this indicates the inspiration of only those passages, the number and scope point to a characteristic that is true of the whole of the Old Testament. We note also that for the New Testament writers what the Scriptures say is what God says (Rom 9:17, Gal 3:8) and what God says is what the Scriptures say (Mt 19:4-5). In addition, there is the explicit teaching of the New Testament that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16; cf 2 Pt 1:21), “all Scripture” referring here to the whole of the Old Testament.
The argument for the inspiration and authority of the New Testament follows several lines. First, the book were written by apostles and their associates and thus were written by men who were given the promise that the Spirit of truth would guide them into all truth (Jn 16:13-14). Second, the New Testament stands in organic unity with the Old Testament. It is not an unrelated work, but the record of the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we see the record of the life of Jesus and the apostolic interpretation of that life which was the final and full revelation of God. Finally, it is noteworthy that Peter refers to Paul’s letters as Scripture, evidence that the New Testament authors thought of what they were writing as authoritative (2 Pet 3:15-17).
5 We may be influenced and persuaded by the testimony of the church of God to hold a high and reverent regard for the Holy Scriptures.11 Moreover the heavenliness of its contents, the efficacy of its doctrine, the majesty of its style, the agreement among all its parts, the expanse of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full revelation it gives of the only way for human salvation, together with many other incomparable characteristics and its complete perfection—all these arguments provide abundant evidence that it is indeed the Word of God.12
There are many evidences of the truth of the Scriptures that can be useful in eliminating frivolous objections to its authority. The testimony of the church for two thousand years to its inspiration and authority is a powerful witness. Its teaching that proves itself in our daily life, its internal consistency, its persistent focus on God rather than man, its fulfilled prophecies and many other qualities point us it being an authoritative Word from God.
Yet, not withstanding this, our full persuasion and assurance of its infallible truth and divine authority comes from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.13
Useful as they might be to clear a path for faith of doubt born of ignorance, these arguments can never serve as the final basis for our assurance that Scripture is authoritative. The work of the Spirit in speaking to us in and through the words of the Bible is alone the means by which we will be convinced the words of Scripture are the very words of God which can be trusted with our eternal destiny. In trying to convince people of Scripture’s authority this means we cannot appeal to archaeology, science or historical records to “prove” the Bible is true because doing so would be to establish these as the final authority by which we judged truth. If archaeology proved that the walls of Jericho really did fall, then contrary evidence to the existence of the Hittite people would prove the Bible was wrong. We do not believe what the Bible says is true because it can be confirmed by other authorities, we believe it is true and authoritative because we believe it to be the very Word of God.
6 The whole revelation of God concerning all things essential for his own glory, human salvation, faith and life, is either explicitly set down or implicitly contained in the Holy Scriptures.
In this paragraph we come to deal with the sufficiency of Scripture. We should begin by noting what is not taught here. This doctrine does not mean that the Bible is sufficient in all matters for teaching truth. It is not sufficient for teaching us Algebra or English. The Bible is not even sufficient for teaching us about everything it deals with. It tells us about the ancient Jewish people, but it does not tell us everything we can know about them for some things have been uncovered through historical records that Scripture does not speak of. It tells us about the life of Jesus, but it does not tell us everything for there are eighteen years of his life about which we know almost nothing.
Our confession spells out in what matters the Scriptures are sufficient, and it comes down to this: God has revealed in Scripture everything that is necessary for the redemption of his people. This does not mean the Bible is simply sufficient to show us how to escape hell because redemption involves more than freedom from the penalty of sin. The salvation that comes through Christ includes not only justification, but also sanctification and glorification. Scripture teaches us all that is necessary for trusting Christ for eternal life and for living a life that is holy and pleasing to God. Scripture does not give us instructions for how to fill out our income tax forms, but it does provide guidelines for things that we can and cannot do so as to please God in filling them out. Scriptures do not tell us the name of the church we are to attend, but it does give very clear standards by which we can judge whether a church is a true church of God. Scriptures are not a biology textbook, but do give us criteria by which we can judge certain theories that underlie what is being taught in the biology class.
Whatever is necessary for the spiritual life of the believer is either explicitly set down or implicitly contained in the Holy Scripture. This phrase is equivalent to its parallel in the Westminster Confession which speaks of teaching which “by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” There is nothing explicit in Scripture that teaches the doctrine of the Trinity or what time to meet for worship service. We can, nevertheless, deduce from all the Scriptures that relate to the nature of God that there is more than one Person who is called God. We can also derive from principles about the necessity of worship and the freedom that comes from worshiping God in spirit and truth an appropriate time for worship.
Nothing is ever to be added, whether by a new revelation of the Spirit, or by human traditions.14
We do not claim merely that Scripture is sufficient for redemption, but that Scripture alone is sufficient for this. As one question in the catechism (WCF) puts it, “The holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.” When Paul told the Ephesians elders that he had declared to them the whole counsel of God, he spoke for all the apostles and for the writings they left us. Whatever is necessary for the spiritual life of the believer “is either explicitly set down or implicitly contained in the Holy Scripture.” Sola Scriptura was one of the great cries of the Reformation.
This stand was taken in opposition to the Roman Catholic church that gives church tradition an authority equal to that of Scripture. In effect the concept of “living tradition” means that there are no limits on what new teachings may be proclaimed by the church. Doctrines like the immaculate conception and the assumption of Mary need not be tested by Scripture but may be founded solely on the authority of the Church herself. To this the Reformers responded that Scripture alone was the final test of the truth of doctrines. Tradition could be used to support and illustrate truth (and the Reformers did make great use of tradition in this fashion), but tradition could never be used as the final criterion for determining whether a teaching was from God.
The Reformers also insisted on the sole authority of Scripture in matters of faith against the teachings of some Anabaptists who held their mystical visions and revelations had as much authority as the Scriptures. There is at least the implication here that the day of revelation, whether through dreams, visions or any other means, has passed. By its very nature revelation describes a word from God that has divine authority and cannot be ignored except at risk to spiritual health and life. Some today redefine prophecy and revelation to mean something less than this, but there is a general consensus that whatever “word from God” we may receive today it does not have the authority of Scripture. Even some who accept the reality of present day revelation still say that “God has not spoken to mankind any more words which he requires us to believe or obey other than those which we have now in the Bible” (Grudem, 129).
The application of this doctrine touches almost every area of the believer’s life for Scripture is sufficient to equip the man of God for every good work. It is not just sufficient to teach us about the Trinity, it is sufficient to teach us all we need to know about how to live godly lives in the midst of an wicked world. It does not teach us how to make money in the stock market, but it does prescribe limits on where and how much we can invest. It does not teach us how to do surgery on the brain, but it does teach us how to do surgery on the soul, and in fact Scripture alone is sufficient for dealing with issues related to the spirit of man. The implications of this doctrine are vast and need to be searched out.
Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the inward enlightenment of the Spirit of God is necessary for the saving understanding of the things revealed in the Word. 15
To say that Scripture alone is sufficient to teach and guide us in the path of righteousness is not to say that understanding is automatic for those who read the Bible. There is a necessity for the individual to apply himself with diligence to the study of the Word. More importantly, a proper understanding of Scripture requires the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. Scripture is sufficient and clear, but not to the natural man to whom its truths are incomprehensible foolishness. The unregenerate man may understand many things about the history and teaching of the Bible, but apart from the Spirit the central theme of salvation by grace through the blood of Christ makes no sense. Often when people speak of God ‘revealing’ some truth to them they are not speaking of revelation in the theological sense of the word, but of illumination by which the Spirit makes plain some teaching of Scriptural revelation that was not previously understood. God did not give them a revelation, but only enlightened them to the truth of revelation already given in Scripture.
There are also some aspects of the worship of God and of church government common to human activities and organizations which may be determined by the light of nature and Christian common-sense, but in accordance with the general rules of the Word which must always be observed.16
To believe in the sufficiency of Scripture does not require that we neglect the use of common sense. The Word of God does not tell us what time of day we should meet for worship nor the number of deacons a church ought to have nor the design of the building that should be used for gathering. Common sense though must always be subject to the Word of God, and this is especially true in relation to how we conduct ourselves in worship. We may use common sense to order the circumstances of worship, but we do nothing in worship solely because it makes sense. We gather with other believers for worship because that is commanded by God, but the order in which prayer and praise and preaching is offered is left to the individual church to determine on the basis of what makes sense to them.
7 Not all things in Scripture are equally plain in themselves, nor equally clear to everyone.17
The clarity of Scripture is a natural corollary to its sufficiency. If God has decreed that Scripture alone is sufficient to convey to us the things necessary for salvation and holiness, then it would be strange for him to communicate these things in such a way that they could not be understood. He committed his laws to the Israelites and they were to teach them to their children (Dt 6:6). The religious education of children was not left to the priests or Levites but to the parents, and this presumes a certain level of understanding common to them all. The law of the Lord was not intended just for the scholar or priest, but was given to make the simple wise (Ps 19:7).
The clarity of Scripture should not be misunderstood to teach that anyone can pick it up and understand it completely without effort. We note first that some parts of Scripture are not as easy to understand as others (2 Pt 3:15, 16). A diligent use of the means is required to understand some of what the Bible teaches. Proper exegesis, reading what godly men have written, attention to the overall teaching of Scripture in addition to prayer and meditation are all necessary to understand some Biblical doctrine. Second we note that some men understand Scripture better than others. The very fact that God has appointed some to be teachers in the church is evidence of this, for if everyone had an equal ability to read and understand there would be no need for teachers. The clarity of Scripture therefore in no way negates the necessity of the church’s teaching ministry. This is an important word in an individualistic era such as ours where people are offended by the very idea that their grasp of the truth is every bit as valid as anyone else’s.
Yet those things that are essential to be known, believed and obeyed for salvation are so clearly set forth and explained in one place of Scripture or another, that not only the educated but also the uneducated may attain a satisfactory understanding of them by using ordinary means.18
Without denying the validity or necessity of the church’s teaching ministry, we reject the notion that the most important things taught in Scripture require an interpreter. There are profound matters written in Scripture that require a gifted man to understand, but in one place or another the essentials are given in such a way that any man can, if he chooses, grasp them. When we say the essentials of salvation we are not to think of the “irreducible core” of Christian belief so often sought by those who do not want to be bothered with a lot of doctrine. When we remember that salvation in Scripture refers not only to justification, but also to sanctification, our continuing growth in holiness, we see that these essentials cover a lot of ground. What we need to find forgiveness of sins in Christ and to know God’s will so that we may walk daily in the path of righteousness is clear enough in Scripture that anyone who makes use of ordinary means (reading the Bible, praying, meditating on the Word, obeying what we understand) can understand what is taught.
In contrast to the Catholic church and many authoritarian sects who tell the common church member that they must have the church’s interpretation to understand anything Scripture teaches, we believe the Scriptures are sufficiently clear that anyone who applies themselves can grasp what he needs to without an intermediary. Clarity goes hand in hand with the sufficiency of Scripture. How could we say the Scriptures are sufficient to lead men to salvation and to glorify God if it were impossible for the vast majority of men to understand what they taught? According to the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church it is safer for a man to listen to the teaching of the church for these essentials than it is for him to read the Scripture on his own. The contrast in Catholic and Reformation teaching on this issue led to one very practical difference. Before the Reformation there were very few Bibles for the average man to read, and even if he could read, they were written in a language few could understand (Latin). With the Reformer’s emphasis on every man’s ability to understand Scripture there came a burst of translation activity that had as its goal making the Bible available to any man in his native tongue.
8 The Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek (that is to say, in their original languages before translation) were inspired by God at first hand and ever since, by His particular care and providence, they have been kept pure.
Scripture as recorded by those men who first received it was inspired by God. While we can read most of our modern translations of Scripture with complete confidence that they accurately reflect these inspired records, we acknowledge that inspiration applies to the original autographs and not to our translations. Because God worked not only to inspire Scripture, but also to keep in pure, we can rest assured that the Hebrew and Greek texts that underlie our modern versions are trustworthy. One of the common tactics of those who wish to deny cardinal doctrines of the faith or to introduce their own novelties is to propagate the idea that somehow the church through the centuries has altered or deleted certain key portions of Scripture. We may ask what good it would have done for God to have inspired the originals but left their transmission to the whims of man. The One who has planned from eternity to reveal his will to men is not so careless.
In discussions of the authority of Scripture three words are commonly used that need definition. First, inspiration is that work of the Spirit in influencing men so that when they wrote their words were the very words of God. This means that when we read Scripture we read exactly what God wished to say through those men who wrote. If the words of Scripture are the words of God and God cannot lie (Heb 6:18), then we are assured that whatever we read there is true. This brings us to the second term we use in speaking of the authority of Scripture, infallibility. For something to be true means more than that it is simply devoid of factual error. A man can mislead people without saying anything that is factually in error. When we say Scripture is infallible we mean that it does not, whether intentionally or unintentionally, mislead men as to who God is or what he expects of us. This means Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable guide in all that it teaches. In recent years there have been some who argue that Scripture is infallible in all it teaches about matters of faith and practice. They say the purpose of the Bible is to teach us what to believe about God and how we are to live in the light of who he is. The catch comes when they talk about matters outside this realm, as for example, in details of science or history. In matters such as these it is argued that Scripture may err. Men such as these feel comfortable with the term infallible because they believe the Bible never fails to properly inform us what to believe about God and how we ought to live. Because of this watered down use of infallibility conservative scholars have begun using the term inerrant to describe their position with regards to Scriptural reliability and trustworthiness. Those who believe in inerrancy teach that the Scripture is free rom all error, falsehood, and mistake whether it speaks of spiritual or moral or historical or scientific matters. Those who hold this position acknowledge the use of ordinary and figurative, thus sometimes imprecise, language in Scripture, but insist that what is conveyed by such language is absolutely true and trustworthy.
The importance of this doctrine can be seen in the course followed by so many who reject it. They begin by rejecting inerrancy in scientific matters, because modern science demonstrates men cannot be swallowed by whales and people cannot rise from the dead. The historical data of Scripture is called into question because archaeologists have proven writing was not as developed in Moses’ time as the Pentateuch indicates and that no king in Egypt ever had two million Jews leave at once. Questions then arise about which portions of Scripture were actually written by those who claimed to author them and then about whether they can be held as truthful by different cultures. To determine which parts are true and which are not a standard must be established by which to judge them. The standard is almost inevitably human reason. If it passes the test of our scientific method and our judgment as to what is plausible or possible, then it may deemed to be truth. And, of course, what passes the muster of our standards today will not necessarily do so tomorrow. We are left with the fact that if the Scripture cannot be trusted everywhere, then it can be trusted nowhere. If God cannot see to it that the biblical authors get scientific and historical data correct, how can we ever trust that they will get the more important spiritual matters right? In the end though, let us remember that we believe in the inerrancy of Scriptures because that is what they claim for themselves, and not primarily because reasons dictates we must. Otherwise, we are falling into the same trap as those who hold to ‘partial’ inerrancy.
They are therefore authentic and, for the church, constitute the final court of appeal in all religious controversies.19
To settle disputes about matters of doctrine we often turn to what godly men before us have written, and rightfully so. When we do this we recognize their knowledge and godliness give their words an authority that our own might not have. We also recognize their authority is not absolute. We do not believe something just because Augustine or Calvin or Wesley wrote it. With Scripture things are different. We are to believe what Scripture says, even if no one else agrees with it. We may quote Luther or Warfield to prove a point, but if someone can show where they contradict Scripture, we are to reject the teachings of these good men.
All God’s people have a right to, and in interest in, the Scripture, and they are commanded in the fear of God to read and search it.20 But as the Hebrew and Greek are not known to all such readers, Scripture is to be translated into every human language, so that as men thus acquire knowledge of God they may worship Him in an acceptable manner, and ‘through patience and comfort of the Scriptures may have hope’.21
The Bible is not like a medical text or a philosophical treatise, a book intended only for the professionals who can understand its technical jargon. The Bible is not only a book that the average believer can understand (because of its clarity), but it is one they are commanded to search for themselves. Since it is the responsibility of each man to know what God expects of him, and since Scripture is the final and supreme authority for this knowledge, translation work is an extremely important aspect of Christian ministry. History shows that when the Bible is taken out of the hands of the common believer it is not long before it is forgotten also by those who are entrusted with the responsibility of teaching it. It was the ignorance of the clergy that lit a fire in Tyndale’s heart for the work of translation and led him to exclaim, “If God spares my life, before many years pass I will make it possible for a boy behind the plow to know more Scripture than you do.” We should never give up to the experts the work of interpreting and applying Scripture. We may listen to them, especially to those who are godly and are committed to a high view of Scripture, but have a responsibility of searching the Scriptures for ourselves to see if what they say is true.
9 It is an infallible rule that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, that is to say, one part by another. Hence any dispute as to the true, full and evident meaning of a particular passage must be determined in the light of clearer, comparable passages.22
The first rule for understanding Scripture is that those hard to understand passages should be clarified in the light of the ones that are easier to understand. This again is related to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Those who do not believe the Word itself is sufficient or sufficiently clear on matters of salvation and godly living will say it is necessary to come to them for under`standing. The Roman Catholic church claims to be “the perfectly trustworthy guide and teacher” for understanding Scripture thus denying that Scripture itself is its own best guide and teacher. To deny any place at all for creeds and confessions is wrong, for that attitude says, “Scripture is so unclear that no one for two thousand years was able to understand it like I can.” Nevertheless, the best guide for understanding the baptism for the dead, Christ’s descent into hell, the nature of the kingdom of God and others such hard doctrines is Scripture itself. First the immediate context of the surrounding verses, then the themes of the book, then doctrines derived from a systematic approach to the whole of Scripture ought to guide our thinking when looking at hard passages.
10 All religious controversies are to be settled by Scripture, and by Scripture alone. All decrees of Councils, opinions of ancient writers, and doctrines of men collectively or individually, are similarly to be accepted or rejected according to the verdict of the Scripture given to us by the Holy Spirit. In that verdict faith finds its final rest.23
The sufficiency and authority of Scripture are restated one last time with an emphasis on its application in settling religious controversies. The rule by which we measure all pronouncements on religious matters is Scripture alone. The decrees of councils are valuable in helping us to understand the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. The statements of the Council of Chalcedon on the two natures of Christ remain even after over 1500 years one of the best summaries on this doctrine that exist. Nevertheless, we do not believe that in Christ we find two natures without division and without confusion because that is what the creed teaches, but rather we believe it because that is what Scripture teaches. We read with profit the writings of Augustine, Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin and other churchmen, but our conscience is not bound by what they say. If we find in their writings self-contradictory statements we do not feel compelled to explain how the contradictions are only apparent, as we would with Scripture, because they are only the writings of fallible men. The concurrence of councils, creeds and churchmen is difficult to ignore, but against the plain explanation of the Word all these must give way. The teachings of an individual, no matter how many degrees he has, how many years he has been studying the Bible, how many prophecies from God he has received, is to be accepted only to the extent that it reflects what God has revealed in Scripture.
When Pharaoh heard “thus saith the Lord” from Moses, there was no higher authority to which he could appeal for a verdict on what had been uttered. When Israel heard “thus saith the Lord” from Isaiah, that was God’s word they heard and to disobey was to disobey God. When men heard Jesus speak they had a word that could not be contradicted, doubted or disobeyed without harm to their own spiritual well-being. There is no such voice in the world today that settles without debate or further confirmation matters related to the will of God. Whether we are dealing with what ought to be believed about the age of the earth, the mode of baptism or which church we are to join, there is no authority apart from Scripture itself that we bound to accept without question. Whatever you need to know about sound doctrine or godly living is to be found in the pages of Scripture through the enlightenment which comes through the Spirit. Here and here alone will faith find its perfect rest.