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It became one of the main points of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century when Martin Luther and other reformers insisted that the Bible—not the church and its traditions—is the only authority for what Christians should believe and practice.
1. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible alone is the supreme authority for what Christians should believe and practice. The Bible declares itself to be the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). It is God’s voice speaking to us, and therefore is more authoritative than any human teaching or tradition. However, some Christians teach that although the Bible is the primary authority for believers, the teachings and rituals of the church are equally important and binding on Christians. This the Reformers denied. Christians, they insisted, are bound only by the Bible. And the Bible itself warns against placing human traditions above the Word of God Himself (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7).
Sola Scriptura does not mean that all religious practices that are not specifically taught in the Bible are wrong—only those that are not in harmony with the Bible’s teaching. That is why the Reformers abandoned certain rituals and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church because the Reformers said the teachings were not biblical.
2. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible contains everything a person needs to know and do in order to be saved. Protestants believe that all truth necessary for salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. The Bible affirms this (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Peter 1:2, 3). Some Christians teach that a person cannot be saved apart from the church, its priests, and its sacred rituals.
Sola Scriptura does not mean that the Bible contains all that Jesus ever did or said (John 20:30, 31; 21:25). However, the Bible does give us everything we need to know in order to be saved. It reveals God’s will and points us to Jesus, who saves us from our sins (John 5:39; 20:31).
3. Sola Scriptura means that the Bible is clear enough that anyone can read it for himself or herself and discover the basic path to salvation. One of the main issues of the Reformation was whether ordinary Christians could know—simply from the Bible alone—what God required of them and how to be saved. The Reformers said, “If the Bible is God’s Word speaking to us as we read it, then He must have intended for us to be able to understand it for ourselves.” Some Christians taught that in addition to the Bible, true believers needed the church’s guidance and rituals in order to follow God and be saved.
Sola Scriptura does not mean that pastors, teachers, or Bible commentaries will no longer be helpful in understanding the Bible. The Bible contains things that are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:14-16). It has depths of meaning beyond what any of us see. But it’s basic message of salvation is simple enough and clear enough for anyone to understand and follow.
Sola Scriptura—is not just some obscure theological dispute from centuries ago. It is the principle that the Bible and Bible alone should be the guide for your daily life. This concept is as important today as it has ever been.
Sola Scriptura means basing your spiritual life on the Bible alone and rejecting any teaching or tradition that is not in full agreement with the Bible. Scripture says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV). It also says that if you come to the Bible sincerely wanting to know God’s will for your life, He will make it clear to you. Jesus said, “If anyone wills to do His [God’s] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God” (John 7:17).
Sola Scriptura—the Bible and the Bible only—is important for your spiritual life because the only way to know for sure what God expects of you is to stay true to what you know He has revealed in His Word.