On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door of the castle-church in Wittenberg, Germany. The 95 theses confronted problems that Luther saw with the Catholic Church, particular with the sale of indulgences (which basically said that people could pay money to the church in order to avoid the temporary punishment of certain sins). This event helped start the Protestant Reformation, which saw Martin Luther and several others stand against the Catholic Church and its authority. One of the rallying cries of the reformers was sola scriptura, “Scripture alone.” For centuries the Catholic church had added traditions and papal decrees to their teaching, effectively making the teaching of the church carry more weight and authority than the Bible itself. But Luther and the other reformers desired to return to the authority of the Bible. They said that Scripture (the Bible) alone was the authority for the life and practice of the believer.
This principle itself is one that is drawn from the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:15-17 says, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” All of the Bible (which is what Paul referred to by “Scripture”) is inspired by God, and it is profitable to teach and correct us. Verse 15 specifies that it can teach us how to receive salvation through faith in Christ. Verse 17 specifies that it can make us “perfect,” a word for complete. It can complete us and thoroughly equip us for what God wants us to do (“all good works,” cf. Ephesians 2:10). In other words, the Bible alone is sufficient to teach us how to receive eternal salvation and live with God forever (“wise unto salvation through faith”), and after we are saved, the Bible alone is sufficient to teach us how God wants us to live as a Christian (based on our faith in Christ).
2 Peter 1:3 says, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” Through the knowledge of God that we have (which comes through the Bible), God has given us all things that we need for life and godliness. Through the Bible alone, we have all things that we need to receive eternal life and then to live a godly life after that point of salvation. Whether intentional or unintentional, church leaders can fail and make mistakes. We can make mistakes. Our feelings can mislead us. The final authority for our lives is not a particular church or church hierarchy. The final authority for our lives is not our own personal wisdom. The final authority for our lives is not our feelings or our experiences. The final authority for our lives is God, and He has revealed that authority through His Word, the Bible.
This reality should guide and direct us as we seek God’s truth. When we seek truth, we must turn to the final source of truth that God has given to us: the Bible. We must measure all things by this standard. We must measure what we hear from others by the standard of God’s Word. We must measure our own thoughts, feelings, and experiences by the standard of God’s Word. People are fickle, constantly changing and even shifting to opposite views from what they once held. But God’s Word is unchanging. So we must measure things by God’s Word, but that also gives us the responsibility to be in God’s Word, the Bible, to see what it says. Of all things that we can devote our time to, the diligent study and application of the Bible will yield the most fruit, both now and in eternity. Sola Scriptura.