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Sola Scriptura in the Life of the Church

sola-scriptura

Our intern Rolland shares how he has witnessed and applied the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura during the church internship. He also reflects on how the internship is a great opportunity for sanctification for those who are interested in digging deeper into God's Word.

This past weekend we celebrated the 504th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. For those who may not have had the opportunity to look into the history of the Reformation, I would highly encourage you to take a little bit of time to learn about our Christian heritage. The biblical gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone was rediscovered and the Word of God was finally made available for the common people to have in their own possession and in their own language. As Baptists, we are able to locate our spiritual roots in the Protestant Reformation and have historically affirmed the five solas of the Reformation: sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).

What does all this have to do with what I have learned so far as a church intern here at GBC? No exaggeration intended, but it has everything to do with our responsibilities as interns and fellow church members.

The formal principle of the Reformation (the source of authority which acts as the basis for our beliefs) was sola Scriptura—Scripture alone is our infallible rule of faith. We have a tendency to find assurance in our own works and accomplishments, subconsciously believing at times that we are capable of being good enough ourselves if we put in more effort. We also have a tendency to hold onto traditions that have been passed to us without careful examination of Scripture. As a result, we sometimes cling to these traditions and even impose them upon Scripture and try to squeeze our own beliefs into the Word of God because we are unwilling to let them go.

The church internship is a good way to examine ourselves and to test our own beliefs and practices to see if they are indeed based upon the infallible Word of God. When reading our assigned books and writing personal reflections on them, we ought to first consider whether the author(s) of a book is writing in accordance with Scripture and not just based upon his own opinion. Then, we have to consider how the content of the book (if consistent with Scripture) challenges us in our faith and in our approach to ministry. We are called to consistently put into practice the principle of sola Scriptura such that we verify the content of the book against the standard of Scripture, and then we conform our own beliefs to the standard of Scripture if they were not previously aligned.

During the internship, we have weekly meetings where we take the time to go through each intern’s personal reflections on the assigned book for that week. One of the benefit of these meetings is that we are able to ask questions about and discuss some of the theological or practical conclusions that may be confusing or disagreeable. This is a real life scenario where the principle of sola Scriptura is put into practice. We may have had differing interpretations or differing practical implications of the text, but it is through respectful dialogue and debate that we are able to discern which interpretation and implications are most consistent with the Word of God. I truly believe this is one of the lost arts among Christians today—the ability to engage with differing viewpoints in a respectful and loving manner and to go back to the Word of God to demonstrate which position is most consistent with the text. Furthermore, we require the grace of God to humble us to conform our beliefs to His Word, as we know how hard it can be to admit that we were wrong.

My experience as an intern in GBC so far has provided me with ample opportunities to witness and to model this principle of sola Scriptura in the life of the church. I am grateful that GBC is a church that desires and strives to be biblical in all areas of church life. I can truly see how the elders, deacons, staff, ministry leaders and volunteers, as well as fellow members of the church have a high view of Scripture, especially in regards to theological doctrine.

However, we must remember that doctrine is merely one side of the coin. In last week’s intern devotional, we went through Titus 2:11-15 which reminded us that the grace of God not only saves us, but also trains us to renounce ungodliness and to live godly lives. Godly living by the grace of God goes hand in hand with sound doctrine. Some might think that the internship is just a book club for theology nerds, but I would disagree and suggest that the internship is a great place to be challenged, to seriously consider not only whether my beliefs are based on Scripture, but also whether my manner of living is consistent with what I profess to believe.

In language that contains Old Testament overtones in regards to God’s special possession for His good pleasure, the apostle Paul writes to Titus:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Tit 2:11-14)

What does the precious Word of God teach us and how do I live that out in my life? If you are able to, the internship would be a great place to take the time to dig deeper into God’s Word. However, spending time with fellow church members and intentionally diving into God’s Word together should also be a vital part of our life together as a local church. I pray that GBC continues to be a people that teaches and models these things to one another to the glory of God.

Soli Deo gloria!