The Five Solas: Sola Scriptura

What are the Five Solas, and why would I spend time reading about them on your blog instead of playing Doodle Jump? Or Words with Friends? Or watching sneezing Pandas on YouTube?

The Five Solas (sola from the latin “alone”) are the bedrock of much of what you believe if you are an evangelical christian. (Great, a history lesson.. with latin no less.) OK, before you run off and start looking for “fail compilation” on YouTube, stick with me for a minute. You need to know these things for a few key reasons:

1. Only by knowing what you believe can you identify and defend against what you don’t.

2. Really smart people have defined these truths over the centuries. I get it, they dressed funny and they’re all dead now, but in spite of the fact that they didn’t have iPhones or access to google, they did the heavy biblical, linguistic, and theological lifting that most of us have no ability (or work ethic) to accomplish.

3. It gives us an early warning capability. There is truly nothing new under the sun; every “new wave” that hits the modern evangelical church is a simple twist on a centuries old heresy. If you don’t understand them, you’re easy prey to them. (Molinism anyone?)

4. We’re called to do so in scripture:

[15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

With that, the first Sola….. SOLA SCRIPTURA “Scripture Alone”

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) is the belief that the Bible is the only inspired word of God and the sole guide to our faith. This means that everything that God has ordained for us to know is made clear in scripture alone.

[16] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, [17] that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Let that scripture sink in. Understand that Sola Scriptura was written in response to the Roman Catholic church which believed that scripture alone was not the sole guide to faith, but also the extra-biblical (outside of the bible) traditions and rulings of the church. The scriptures make it clear that scripture is “God-breathed”. The greek here is fantastic… θεόπνευστος (theos/God pneuo/breathe). Literally, the scriptures were God-breathed. (Make you want to read your bible more?)

Not only is scripture God-breathed, but it is sufficient to equip the believer for every good work. It’s ALL you need! It’s the breath of God!

(This is NOT to mean “solo scriptura”. We believe the bible is sufficient in all areas of our faith, but there are other books which are helpful for subjects outside of our faith..like car repair, mathematics, world history, etc.)

Now, this was written to say that we have what we need in the Bible. Most of us agree 100% there. We don’t tolerate church leaders giving us “new” stuff outside of scripture. (Joseph Smith/Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses, etc.)… but do we truly believe Sola Scriptura in practice, or do we allow people to take information, which is not θεόπνευστος (theopneustos/God Breathed) and put it on par with scripture?

In practice, we often unwittingly deny the sufficiency of scripture. How are some ways the modern church brings in extra-biblical sources and puts them on the level of scripture?

1. Vision Casting: If you haven’t been exposed to the seeker-sensitive movement, this is THE focus. The pastor has a vision for what God wants for the church, puts it into a plan, “casts” the vision before the church and that vision (since it’s “directly from God”) is now on par with scripture. (If you ever hear “without vision the people perish” and the speaker is talking about church planning.. run.) In fact, this plan often takes the place of the biblical mandate in many churches, and puts them in direct contradiction/competition with God’s stated plan for the church. (Preaching the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins, and making disciples is often pushed aside for “Meeting the needs of the community”.)

2. Extra-biblical sources/Personal Experiences: Every few years, someone comes out with a “return from hell/heaven” type book and they sell like hotcakes. The problem? It’s not biblical. To say you believe that scripture is sufficient, and to then grab another source is absurd. If you won’t read your bible, but are willing to devour the testimony of a 4-year-old, you need to reconsider. We’ve reached such a state of post-modernity in our country that the one thing you cannot question is someone’s personal experience. So, we unwittingly take personal experience (feeling, “burdens on the heart”, visions, extra-biblical prophesies, “words from the Lord”) and make them equal to scripture. This is absolutely not sola scriptura.

3. Pragmatism: Pragmatism is, in a nutshell, a philosophy which assesses the truth of beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application. In other words, if it works, it’s true. (The problem here should be glaringly obvious! We base truth upon scripture, not upon what the world views as “success”.)

How does this play out?

The Church Growth Movement (aka Seeker-Sensitive)

We’re called to preach a crucified savior, and to call sinners to repentance and faith for the forgiveness of sins. The problem? Telling visitors that they stand as objects of wrath before a Holy God will not likely lead to the “success” of your church.  So what do we replace the offensive message of the gospel with?

The Church Growth Movement (aka Seeker-Sensitive)

Is growing the church bad? I mean, don’t we want more people? Church growth isn’t bad, it’s just not our mission! We are to focus on and preach the gospel, GOD grows His church! If our focus is growth and not gospel it leads to adoption of what works, not faithfulness to what we’re called to.

This is pragmatism. This is pragmatic to the core. It’s market driven. Find out what people want to hear and give it to them. Maybe season it with a “verse” here or there, but nothing offensive like sin, wrath, atonement.  How about better marriages? Better kids?  Happy communities?  And to grow you can’t ask people to repent of sins against a holy God… that won’t do at all. How about “make a decision” to become a “Christ follower”?  “Step into the great plan God has for you?”  That’ll sell.

The problem? In a pragmatic search for “success”, we’ve replaced the god-breathed scriptures with… what?

The Bible speaks very clearly to this in 2 Timothy 4:

[4:1] I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: [2] preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [3] For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, [4] and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

(2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV)

Ouch.

Ask yourself the next time you’re listening to a sermon; Are you hearing Scripture? Are you hearing the very breath of God, sufficient for every good work? Is the speaker fulfilling his obligation to preach the word of God? Is the focus on reading, understanding, and applying scripture in context, or are you having you ears scratched?

Here are a couple of ways to tell if you’re hearing the word:

1. Are you learning sections of scripture, in their original context or are you getting a single sentence, without context, sandwiched between cute stories or jokes?

2. Can you take your notes from the sermon (or series) and find it clearly laid out in the text of scripture, or does the message need single verses, plucked from context, to assemble a thought not found clearly taught in the bible? (Red flag:  “This word/verse speaks to…..”  you’re about to hear something from OUTSIDE the text added to it, and I can almost guarantee it will be “do this”/law).

How to test it?  Take the verse that is used, take notes on what is said.. now go BACK to the verse, read the chapter in CONTEXT and see if what was preached is found IN THE TEXT. Is it what the author wrote or would the sermon you were given be completely foreign to the author. Would you ever, from an actual reading of the TEXT, get out of it what was just preached to you?

3. Is the focus more on your felt needs (more money, better job, your goals, happiness) or on Christ? Is the problem you face being defined as a “best life now” or as a sinner under judgement and in need of a risen savior?

4. Is the hero in the story Jesus and his victory of sin, death, and the grave or is it you over the “giants” in your life?

5. Is there a presentation of sin, repentance, and forgiveness or is it a checklist for self-improvement?

Jesus said the scriptures were about HIM. We are called to teach about Him for the remission of sins. If you aren’t hearing scripture, and you aren’t hearing about Christ and his atoning work to call sinners to repentance, what are you trading it for?

Stuff The Bible Doesn’t Say Part 4: “Binding the Devil/The Spirit of….”

If you’re on twitter, you’ve seen them.  Any play on “Stuff my Dad says”, “Stuff Nobody Says”, or even “Stuff Runners Say”.  How about “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say?”   Let’s be honest here, most Christians don’t spend time in the word. I’m not talking about listening to someone else tell them what it means, I mean actually reading, learning, and studying the word.  This isn’t meant as a guilt trip, but it is what it is.  Most polls show that less than 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible.  If you ever wondered how so much goofiness gets passed off in the name of Christianity, that would be a good place to start.  Where do the other 90% get their info from if not from the inspired/inerrant word of God?  Well, they either hear it from someone else, they make it up as they go along, or they defer to what they feel (The good old “quiver in the liver”.)   Over the next several posts, I’ll look at some of the most popular verses that simply do not say what people try to make them say.  In other words, “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say.”

“Sometimes the immature 
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because 
God failed to keep His promises, but because well-meaning Christians made promises “for” God that 
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul

I’ll warn you ahead of time, this one might get a bit bumpy.  I’ve seen so much abuse of these verses that it makes my blood boil, so I might get a bit worked up here.  With that, today’s installment:
 

[18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

18Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὅσα ἐὰν δήσητεἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται δεδεμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ὅσα ἐὰν λύσητε ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἔσται λελυμένα ἐν οὐρανῷ.

(Matthew 18:18 ESV)



Here’s how I typically run into this one;   Someone confides to a brother or sister in Christ about something they are going through (illness, heartache, misbehaving child) and the response is “I bind the enemy right now, in Jesus name!” or “I bind that spirit of alcoholism/cancer/disobedience/sadness/etc. in Jesus name!)

What a great thought! We can bind bad stuff? I mean, just completely limit it’s impact on those around us?  That’s quite a promise!

The text does say that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, right?  Who is we? Does Whatever mean anything?

As always, let’s look at context:

In Matthew 18, Jesus is speaking with his disciples about the new kingdom. In this chapter are 5 sections of scripture, each of which deal with sin and how it is viewed/dealt with.  Let’s look at each to show the clear pattern here:

First, this passage:

[18:1] At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” [2] And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them [3] and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
[5] “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, [6] but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Sin? Causing “one of these little ones” to sin.

Treatment:  It would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and drowned in the depth of the sea.

Second text:

[7] “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! [8] And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. [9] And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
Sin? Sensual (Hand/Foot/Eye)

Treatment: Better to lose a limb than be thrown into hell.

Third Text:

[10] “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. [12] What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? [13] And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. [14] So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

(Matthew 18:10-14 ESV)

Sin: Going astray

Response: He will seek out the one that went astray.

Note: The fifth text follows this same line (Sin: Unforgiveness. Treatment: Not being forgiven).  However, our focus will on this fourth text:

(Matthew 18:1-6 ESV)

[15] “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [18] Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [19] Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. [20] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

(Matthew 18:15-20 ESV)

The sin here is unspecified, but it is against the apostles to whom Christ is speaking.

Treatment? They are to go to him alone and discuss the error. If the man listens, they have “gained a brother”, but if he does NOT listen, go back with witnesses. If he STILL refuses to listen, tell it to the church.  if he won’t even listen to the church, consider him as a Gentile or tax collector and deal with him accordingly.  And here we find our text.

So let me ask you. Do you see anything in that text that speaks to binding and loosing of the devil, demons, sickness or spirits? Is it what the chapter is talking about at any point?  Had you not ever heard of the practice of “binding spirits” would you have ever seen that in the plain reading of this text?

What is this verse speaking to?  Church discipline.  How Jesus was instructing his disciples to deal with people who sinned agains them and who would not turn from their sin.  You will often see people quote Matthew 16:19:

[19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matthew 16:19 ESV)

This makes it easy to make that verse say nearly anything you like, because the context is not very detailed.  However, we see that this subject is laid out in much greater detail in Chapter 18, and again in John 20:23 ”

[23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
(John 20:23 ESV)

At this point you might be thinking. Fine, that’s your opinion, but it’s not what I believe.  This is more than one interpretation over another; church history and greek grammar both make the “binding the devil” position untenable.

1. The greek verbs used here; δεω (to bind) and λυω (to loose) are used in a rabbinical context. As Jesus is laying out the authority of the disciples to Peter, Jesus uses rabbinical language of the day which Peter would have understood easily.  The 2 major schools of rabbinical thought were the school fo Hillel and the school of Shimmai. It was said “The school of Shimmai binds, the school of Hillel looses.”   In this context, Jesus is telling Peter that he will have authority to legislate in these affairs (as the example of the unrepentant church member shows in our text.)

2. The greek verbs of δεω (to bind) and λυω (to loose) are future perfect passives. A more accurate translation of the greek here (although not very easy to read in english) would be “What you bind on earth must be already bound in heaven and what you loose on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven.”    (This isn’t simply my opinion, it’s the only way the greek works here.  The top greek scholars all agree; William D. Mounce, A.T. Robertson, William Hendriksen, et al.)

3. So, what we have here is not an action on the part of the apostles which then bound heaven to accept it. (Can you imagine the consequences of such a thing?) What we have in this text is a prior decree from heaven which the apostles had heavenly authority to dispense.

Why does the mishandling of this text as “binding spirits in Jesus name” make me so angry?

1. It’s blasphemy. The text does NOT state this. Twisting God’s word makes me angry. It places man in authority over God, binding a sovereign God to the will of man. That’s a huge problem.

2. It is the very thing spoken of in the quote I always use:

“Sometimes the immature 
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because 
God failed to keep His promises, but because well-meaning Christians made promises “for” God that 
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul

You want to see Christians suffer bitter disappointment? Tell them you’ve “bound the spirit of cancer” and then watch their loved one die.  I know there is nothing academic or scholarly in what I’m about to say, but I want you to hear me clearly; This is crap, and if you’re telling people this nonsense, you need to stop it. Immediately.

Seriously, if you believe, after viewing this verse in context, that you have the ability to bind spirits, and agree with 2 or more people and anything you claim in Jesus name will happen, you need to get off of your computer and get to work.  If you’re short on ideas about where to get started with your “binding”, here’s a good start:

This is Madelyn.  She lives in this remarkable place with a couple hundred of her friends:

I’ve recently spent time with some amazing folks from St. Jude.  They would gladly close their doors tomorrow if you could, you know, go ahead and bind that “spirit of cancer”.  Here’s the address:

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN  38105-3678

I’ll buy your plane ticket.  If you prefer not to fly, I’ll personally drive you there.  We can leave tonight.

Or maybe your spirit binding has a more international flair. How about this one?

I have no idea how to neatly wrap this one up. I’m angry. I’ve seen the damage that happens when Christians, even with the best of intentions, start claiming that things are “bound” only to watch people die.  It’s nonsense. It’s not in the text.  Why didn’t it stay “bound”? In the end, it’s faith in your faith rather than faith in a sovereign God who works ALL things to the council of His glory.

If you’re in the middle of a dark time right now, please take a moment to read my post on “Why Bad things happen to Good People”

This is a huge verse to a lot of people, and I’m sure I stepped on more than a few toes. Before you react, before you write the comment or send the e-mail, take a breath and open your Bible.  Read it. Carefully. Prayerfully. In context.

Marc

Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say Part 3: “Don’t Judge”

If you’re on twitter, you’ve seen them.  Any play on “Stuff my Dad says”, “Stuff Nobody Says”, or even “Stuff Runners Say”.  How about “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say?”   Let’s be honest here, most Christians don’t spend time in the word. I’m not talking about listening to someone else tell them what it means, I mean actually reading, learning, and studying the word.  This isn’t meant as a guilt trip, but it is what it is.  Most polls show that less than 10% of professing Christians have read the entire Bible.  If you ever wondered how so much goofiness gets passed off in the name of Christianity, that would be a good place to start.  Where do the other 90% get their info from if not from the inspired/inerrant word of God?  Well, they either hear it from someone else, they make it up as they go along, or they defer to what they feel (The good old “quiver in the liver”.)   Over the next several posts, I’ll look at some of the most popular verses that simply do not say what people try to make them say.  In other words, “Stuff the Bible Doesn’t Say.”

“Sometimes the immature 
Christian suffers bitter disappointment not because 
God failed to keep His promises, but because well-meaning Christians made promises “for” God that 
God Himself never authorized.” – R.C. Sproul

With recent events and with the ever-increasing press of postmodernism, where the greatest sin is disagreement or a standard of absolute truth, I felt it important to do my little part in debunking the “Don’t Judge” mantra used even within the church.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” – Matthew 7:1

How it’s misused:

1. As a shield for sin.  “Who are you to judge me? Only God can judge me!”  This holds conviction at arm’s length and allows us to continue, uncorrected, in whatever sin we like.

2. As an implicit statement that no *external* standard can be held up as a measure against my behavior.  “You’re judging me! You’re so judgmental!” (Calling someone judgmental would be a judgement as well, but that’s another post altogether!)

But what does the verse say IN CONTEXT? (You knew I was going there)

Matthew 7 is part of the “Sermon on the Mount”.  Jesus had been laying out what this new Kingdom was all about and how those whom He was delivering the kingdom to were to live in light of the tremendous pronouncements made on them, declaring their justification (Matthew 5:2-15).  Jesus then lays out specifically what it means to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Here he drops the hammer on hypocrisy, within earshot of the Pharisees:

[7:1] “Judge not, that you be not judged. [2] For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. [3] Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? [4] Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? [5] You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

(Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

Is Jesus saying we should not judge sin?  Absolutely not! We are called throughout scripture to judge words/doctrines/deeds/spirits, etc. In fact, the very next verse in this passage of scripture (verse 6) is:

[6] “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(Matthew 7:6 ESV)

Determining who the pigs are would require judgement!

[19] My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, [20] let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(James 5:19-20 ESV)

[6:1] Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. [2] Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

(Galatians 6:1-2 ESV)

Judgement is helpful when a believer seeks to correct, in love, a fellow believer to save them from the destructive power of sin.

No, the judgement here we are to avoid is what the text specifically speaks of; hypocrisy.

 

Jesus has not forbidden all moral judgement or accountability.  Rather he forbids prideful or hypocritical judgement without reflecting on one’s own sin.  A look at the cross of Christ will remind us of our own sinful nature and cause us to live out of grace to deal graciously with those who are in sin.

I’ll close with one of the most beautiful passages of scripture and my prayer.  This passage remains a tremendous promise to believers.  This is the message of hope to those who believe, and for those that do not, we must share with them that Christ died for the very sins which we are addressing.

[5:1] Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. [2] Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [3] Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, [4] and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, [5] 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.
[6] For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
[12] Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—[13] for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. [14] Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
[15] But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. [16] And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [17] For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
[18] Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [19] For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. [20] Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Romans 5 ESV)

“If the activists of the world would be offended, let them be offended by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not my hypocrisy. May Jesus, the blessed  Cornerstone, be the only stumbling block, and not my flawed delivery.” – Marc5Solas