The Ultimate Authority: Scripture or the Church?

How has God revealed Himself to us? In what ways do we receive revelation? Is there any new revelation? Is the written word sufficient? Is it beneficial to add something to what has been revealed in the written word?

One of the great doctrines emphasized during the Reformation was the sufficiency of scripture, also known as sola scriptura. This doctrine can be summed up as the following: Scripture alone is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice. All truth that is necessary for salvation is taught implicitly or explicitly in the written scripture. 

Sola scripture is not the rejection of the use of creeds or doctrine statements. It is not saying that we can know everything for life from the Bible either, such as the formula for gravitational force. Rather, sola scripture affirms that the Bible is the only God-breathed revelation.

So then, if we hold to sola scripture, then how do we know what books should be in the Bible? Do we need an infallible table of contents? No. Do we need a group of people to decide what is and is not in the Bible? No. The sixty-six books became part of the canon not by the declaration of man, but were a part of the canon by the very stroke of the pen, as the Holy Spirit guided the author (2 Peter 1:19-21). The fact that God has revealed to us the canon, and not man, is why we can confidently say that we can know what is scripture and what is not scripture. 

To this very point, and to prove this statement, we could ask the question: How did a Jewish man, 50 years before Christ came into this world, know that 1 Chronicles and Isaiah were scripture? They did not have a magisterium to tell them what was and was not scripture. So how did they end up with the books that were to be regarded as authoritative, which were the very books of the Bible that Jesus held them accountable to know and obey?

We can confidently say that an omnipotent sovereign God will reveal to His children what is scripture. And that the sixty-six books that we have today are the only God-breathed revelation that is authoritative, and therefore is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice.

This leads us to the main concern, which is determining what is the ultimate authority. Is the ultimate authority scripture? Or is the ultimate authority the church? Either Scripture interprets Scripture. Or the Church interprets Scripture. Either you live by sola scripture or sola ecclesia. It is either one or the other, and cannot be both. A final authority must appeal to itself in the end, otherwise it would not be a final authority.

Now, what does scripture say on this matter? Does scripture contain the words “sola scripture” or “scripture alone”? No, it does not contain those words, and to hold this doctrine to that standard would be ignorant on the fact that there are concepts taught in the Bible where those very words are not mentioned. 

Scripture does give us patterns that show what the early church believed about the written word:

“that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:4)

Luke was concerned that a record would be written to describe the things that were taught. We can confidently say that what is written matches what was spoken.

“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

John was concerned that a record would be written to know what to believe for eternal life. We can confidently say that what is written is enough to know the salvation that is offered through Jesus Christ alone.

“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 3:16-17)

Paul was concerned with what was being taught, and directing the church to the God-breathed source. We can confidently say that what is written is sufficient to make the man of God complete. And if the scripture can make the man of God complete, then there is no need for anything more.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation. On the day of October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, for the purpose on invoking a discussion on the topic of indulgences. He was in fact looking for a reformation, and that the church at the time would come back to scripture as the final rule of faith and practice. But as we know from the days to follow, that did not happen. 

In April of 1546, the Roman Catholic Church declared during the sixth session of the Council of Trent, in Canon 9: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”

This declaration still stands today, which has in fact anathematized the gospel. If salvation is contingent on the works of sinful man in any degree, rather than completely on the finished work of Jesus Christ, there is no hope, and there is in fact no good news. But thanks be to our God that salvation does not come from our own works, but rather by faith alone in Christ alone.

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

(Romans 3:28)


The High Calling of a Husband

Marriage has been on my mind. I recently attended a wedding for a coworker, and witnessed him and his now wife stand at the alter, exchange vows, and begin a new life together. The days leading up, I recall another coworker joking say that he still has a chance to turn around. Which, to his point, he in fact could still call the day off. But this man, who desired this woman to be his wife, was certainly not going to turn around. Marrying this woman was worth it to him, no matter the cost.

What is the cost of being a husband? No, I am not referring to the financial aspect, such as buying a ring. But a deeper, biblical understanding of the purpose of marriage and the God given role of the husband. It is something that I have put much thought into myself, and so I write these words as a single man prayerfully considering marriage.

First, what are the biblical qualifications for marriage? As a Christian, what are you to look for? There are exactly two criteria:

  1. They must be of the opposite sex (Genesis 2:24)
  2. They are to be believers (2 Corinthians 6:14)

So for me, I am to look for a Christian woman. That seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, we like to make things complicated, and do this thing we call dating. And in this dating thing, we like to sit down for hours and try to make getting to know each other as awkward as possible. Does he like me? Does she think I’m funny? Well, even before considering dating, I think it’s important to look inwards and see if you are in fact ready for marriage. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend dating until you are ready to be married, since that is the biblical end goal.

So, knowing what to look for in pursuit of a wife, what then should a man understand before considering becoming a husband? What is required on his behalf? There is much to be said about marriage in the Bible, and some of the most notable sections can be found found in 1 Corinthians 7, Colossians 3, and Ephesians 5. But, there is one verse that stands out from the rest.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25)

This is the standard: to love your wife as Christ loved the church. 

Do you know and understand what Jesus Christ did for the church? Do you feel the weight of that verse? Are you contemplating if you should pursue marriage because of this standard? Well, you should be thinking, and if not, then read it again and again until you do.

Marriage is not a decision to be taken lightly, and the same with being a husband. Paul continues on in verse 32, saying “this mystery is profound”, speaking on how the two become one flesh in marriage. There is much more to the marriage day than simply saying “I do”. You are united in a covenant before a Holy God. In addition, if the wife is called to submit to the husband, then how much more should the husband model Christ for that submission? I am convinced that the culture today, including Christians, do not consider in full the weight of this calling.

The love of Jesus Christ for the church is the standard for husbands. So then, how did Jesus love the people who would be called the church?

Jesus humbled himself for the church

Jesus Christ emptied himself, becoming the form of a servant, not counting equality with God something to be grasped (Philippians 2:5-7)

Jesus, who is the son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, never created and existing eternally, came down into creation. Becoming God-man is not as if Jesus lacked something. Instead, taking on flesh was a form of humility. He emptied himself by leaving heaven, where He dwelled in perfect unity with the Father. He set aside His eternal rights for the good of the church, and for the glory of God.

Are you ready to set aside your own wants and desires? Are you prepared to put someone else before yourself? Is your life agenda more important than your potential wife’s? Do you see your potential wife as someone you are to serve as Christ served the church? Having this mind among you as a future husband will be for the good of your marriage, your wife, and for the glory of God.

He sought the church. 

And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. (Mark 3:13)

Jesus called out the disciples by name. He pursued each one individually, He desired the church, and therefore called them to Himself. In the same way, each believer is called by the grace of God into His family. Every person that is written on the book of life was put there because God desired them to be with Him for all eternity. And it is God who does the pursuing first.

Men, find for yourself a wife. This means you must pursue her. She isn’t going to show up on your doorstep and say, “here I am!” Although there are situations today in which the woman pursues the man, the man is the one who should lead and make the move to marriage. As the true proverb says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:22)

He died for the church.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

What was the reason for God to enter into this world? Was it to set a good example? No. There was a specific purpose that was set out from eternity past. What was that mission? To purchase for Himself a people, the church, who will be with Him and enjoy Him forever. This cost God his one and only Son, whom he did not spare, but gave him up for us all.

Jesus Christ died for the church, on the cross, purchasing them with His own blood. This was the cost required to satisfy the just wrath and punishment due for our sin. This is how much He loved the church. And as Ephesians 5:25 says, the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Men, are you ready to set your life aside for the benefit of your wife?

He is faithful to the church.

For he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

God never promises something and then changes His mind. Everything that He has said in his written word is true. When He says that he “will never leave you nor forsake you”, He means just that. This is to be a picture of the marriage covenant, where the husband and wife make a commitment that only death can separate.

When two come together for marriage, there is a very common vow which is proclaimed. “Until death do us part.” Can you say this and mean it? What about if something unexpected comes up in marriage? What about adultery, or if an unbelieving spouse leaves? Does this change God’s view on divorce? Would divorce be better than hope for reconciliation?

God’s word is clear that when a man and woman come together in marriage, the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). In addition, the bible says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Yet, there are instances where the New Testament says that divorce is allowed if an unbeliever leaves a believer (1 Corinthians 7:15), or if there is sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32).

My point here is not to address those questions (and would suggest you talk with your pastor for biblical guidance), but to to say this: Jesus will never leave the church, and will be faithful to the end. That is the model for marriage, and that is what a believing husband is called to do in accordance with the word of God.

If this post has made you feel inadequate for marriage, then my job has been completed. The truth is that there is no man that can live up to these standards perfectly. Only Christ can perfectly love His bride, the church. You on the other hand will fail many times. But, your desire should be to pursue your wife in such a way that would point the world to what marriage represents. And that is Christs love for the church.

If you are single, or married, I exhort you to look to Christ alone for your supreme satisfaction, to Christ alone for your strength, and to Christ alone as your motivation in all that you do. Marriage is not the ultimate good that we were made for. God is that supreme treasure we were made for, to delight in, and to enjoy for all eternity.

But, if you receive the high calling of being a husband, I pray that you love the woman God has entrusted to you with in such a way that points to the love of Christ for His bride, the church.

Think on These Things 

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“Do not be conformed” and “be transformed” stand in opposition of each other. Either your mind is being conformed, or it is being transformed. Either your mind is becoming like the world, or becoming like Christ. 

Are your thoughts on things that are temporal or eternal? Do you love the things that this world loves, or the things that Christ loves?

We are given the imperative to renew our minds. So then, how do you renew your mind? 

God in His grace has give us His written word to hear, to read, to meditate on, and to pray over. It is in these ways that the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and changes us. (John 17:17)

Knowing the scriptures are sufficient in themselves to make the man of God complete, let us pursue knowing His word by spending time in His word. 

More specifically, we are to fill our mind with whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of excellence, and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8) 

These things are made known to us through the entirety of scripture. So as Paul exhorts the church in Philippi, so we too are to think about these things. 

Children of God

“To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is a greater… We do not fully feel the wonder of the passage from death to life which takes place in the new birth till we see it as a transition, not simply out of condemnation into acceptance, but out of bondage and destitution into the “safety, certainty, and enjoyment” of the family of God.”

J.I. Packer, Knowing God

 Maybe I have been caught up in my study of theology and apologetics, but when I read this section from Knowing God, I was immediately convicted. I personally have found that it is easy to be immersed in doctrine, which is undoubtedly essential, but neglect what they point towards. That we are justified by faith alone, counted righteous by God, forgiven of all our sin, and have assurance of salvation are all great things, no Christian would deny that. But they are not the greatest. 

What is ultimate? We are adopted into the family of God, who is our Heavenly Father. 

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18)

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

Has my mind truly grasped this reality? Have I cherished the fact that I am no longer condemned and am judicially declared “not guilty” more than the fact that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me deeply?

As I have meditated on these verses of scripture, and marveled at the fact that this is who I am, I’m absolutely overwhelmed in awe of Gods love for me. 

Who am I, but a sinner, that He would desire to adopt me into His family? That He would give His one and only Son for me? 

How incredible and immeasurable are the riches of His love which He displayed in Jesus Christ, by purchasing for Himself a people through that bloody cross, in order that they could enjoy Him forever!

I am a child of God because He has declared me so; and so I am. 

Glorifying God by Submitting to One Another

“submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

There is nothing more unnatural or appalling to the mind of Man than to submit to another person. This is not compatible with the image of power and self-autonomy. By nature we want to be in control of our lives, and be self-sufficient in all of our ways. To take the yoke of another would mean to lose control, and would acknowledge that we are in need and are lacking in some way. This in fact is the greatest barrier which keeps many from Jesus Christ; submitting to His authority.

For the Christian though, our submission does not end with Christ. It overflows with joy to each other. This submission is most visible as we serve the body, which is the church. Denying ourselves and self-sacrificial living are marks of the Christian life. This can be seen when Paul wrote to the church in Philippi:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5)

This mindset will come from a changed heart. A heart of stone that was replaced with a heart of flesh. A heart that has been transformed from loving self to loving Christ. 

What is the greatest motivator and strongest influence of such a life? It is our reverence for Christ. We submit to one another because of who Jesus is, and what He has done. He displayed the ultimate form of submission on the cross, to appease the will of the Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done”. It is the love of Christ that compels us, because we know that apart from His divine power, we can do nothing.

We are partakers of the same Spirit, being transformed into the same image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another. As we submit to one another, we are displaying to each other and to the world the glory and surpassing worth of our risen Lord.

And here is the point: The people that are outside of the church are not going to see something different if we are living like the people outside of the church. I am convinced that apart from the hearing of the gospel, that our submission to others is what the world needs to see the most. It is the evidence of a changed life, pointing to the One who changed us.

We must meditate over what this means for our lives. Is submission a characteristic of our life? If not, then how can we become more Christ-like in submitting to one another?

Be encouraged, there is good news. There is only one who lived a life in perfect obedience, and that is Christ. This new way of living is only possible by the power of His Spirit working within us. I encourage to you make this your prayer, that your reverence for Christ would result in joyfully submitting to others, displaying this transformed life to the world, so that others would see His goodness, and that God would be most glorified. 

The Good News For Those That Are Not Good. 

“But by the grace of God I am what I am” (‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:10‬)

If Paul, who persecuted the church, who delighted and assisted in the murder of Christians, was one day brought from death to life in Christ, who can be beyond the saving grace of God?

The word of God says,

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:13-14‬)

And again,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”‭‭ (1 John‬ ‭1:9‬)

So I must ask, what lie are you believing that says you cannot be fully forgiven of your sin, and for the entire punishment that is due? What lie are you believing that makes you think you can add anything to the finished work of Jesus Christ by your own ability of being good? And what lie are you believing that says that you are not a sinner, and are even good?

No, apart from Jesus Christ we are dead. We have no life. We have no hope. And apart from God, we can do nothing. Do you believe this? Do you see your need for a savior?

A savior that only partially saves is no savior at all. If Jesus did not pay in full the wrath and punishment on the Cross, then that means there is something left for you. That is not good news for those that are “dead in their trespasses”. 

What is the good news you need to hear?

The truth is that when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave, the work of salvation was finished. This included the full satisfaction of the legal demand for your sin in exchange for the full righteousness of Jesus Christ counted on your behalf. 

If you have repented of your sin and turned to Jesus alone, then all of the fullness of the glorious promise of salvation is yours, and will never be lost.

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”‭‭ (John‬ ‭6:37‬)

Endure Suffering with Joy

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings…” (Colossians 1:24)

Rejoicing and suffering. Two words that seem to be contradictory, and especially when mentioned simultaneously. But the Christian life is not without both. In fact, a life without joy and a life without suffering is no Christian life at all.

To the stumbling saints, the redeemed children of God, the ones who are feeling less and less at home. You are not alone. We are sojourners together. I’m with you. The church is with you. For there are many a times when I say with the Psalmist, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”

So, how can you be filled with joy in your suffering? It doesn’t come from circumstances.

It comes from the historical fact that Jesus has risen from the grave, and because of His victory, we have hope. Not a hope as the world defines it, but a hope that is sure and certain.

Our hope is in the great exchange, Jesus satisfying the full wrath and punishment for our sin, and the righteousness of Christ counted on our behalf. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Our hope is in the promise of God that when He says we will never be cast out, He means it. And in the promise that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ. (John 6:37, Romans 8:39)

So in a world that says you cannot be certain about anything, in a world that denies the truth about God, in a world that glorifies sin and condemns righteousness, and in a world that doesn’t have an answer for suffering, we can have hope.

We will endure because our God will hold us fast. And as we endure with joy in our suffering, the world will see a hope that is not normal, and can only be explained by the good news they are in desperate need of hearing and believing.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬)