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Lesson 5: By Scripture Alone - Sola Scriptura *

Introduction: Have you thought about how you understand the Bible? I doubt that anyone would naturally use only the Bible to understand the Bible. My understanding of what the Bible teaches about God increased when I became a parent. Nature teaches me about God. In these lessons I often mention that I consulted a commentary to better understand a text. The whole idea of having a teacher means that the knowledge or perspective held by someone else is an aid to learning. What then, does "Sola Scriptura," the "Bible only," mean? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Beyond What is Written


    1. Read 1 Corinthians 4:1. On what subject is Paul giving advice? (On how we should regard Bible teachers.)


      1. What does it mean that Paul (and others) have been "entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed?" (They have some inside knowledge about God.)


    2. Read 1 Corinthians 4:2. What is required of those entrusted with the mysteries of God? (They must be faithful.)


      1. Who makes the judgment on their faithfulness?


    3. Read 1 Corinthians 4:3-5. Who does Paul say should make that judgment? (He says that we all will judge, but that God's judgment is the ultimate one.)


      1. Will teachers have hidden motives? (One of my most trusted advisors complained a couple of quarters ago that my political views were coloring my teaching. All sorts of things influence my teaching - past understanding of the Bible, my experiences, the teachings of others, my economic and political views. No doubt this is universally true for teachers. Paul suggests that we be alert.)


      2. Look again at 1 Corinthians 4:4. Like Paul, when I'm teaching I like to believe that "my conscience is clear." My goal is to have you better understand God's word. What does Paul mean when he writes, "that does not make me innocent?" (An honest teacher should realize that our background and biases shape our teaching.)


      3. Look again at 1 Corinthians 4:5. Paul suggests that we all judge, but then he says, "judge nothing before the appointed time."


        1. What is the "appointed time?" (The Second Coming of Jesus.)


        2. How does that make any sense? Why would we not pass judgment on the accuracy, motives, and fidelity of the teacher? (I think Paul's point is that only God can truly know the teacher's motives. In 2 Peter 2:1 we are warned about false teachers. Common sense tells us to avoid them.)


    4. Read 1 Corinthians 4:6. With this background, what do you think Paul is telling us when he writes "Do not go beyond what is written?" (He is telling us to discount the innate bias of teachers and consider the text of the Bible. It is the central truth that is important, not the "spin" of individual teachers.)


      1. Paul is quoting something. Two weeks ago we considered the source of what Jesus quoted when He was faced with temptations and questions. Does this reflect something in the Old Testament? (No commentator I consulted had an obvious source for this quote. One commentator suggested Paul's comments are a continuation of his prior statements in 1 Corinthians 1:19, 1 Corinthians 3:20 and 1 Corinthians 1:31.)


    5. Read 1 Corinthians 4:7. Are there any original thoughts? What does Paul suggest when it comes to teachers? (He says that all teachers learn from others. They should not claim to have "new" teaching and thus be superior to others.)


      1. Is this really true? Don't you have original thoughts? (I have all sorts of original thoughts. But, to conclude that I'm the first one to think of an idea is foolish. How can anyone know what all others have thought throughout history?)


      2. I'm still troubled by the "judge nothing" instruction. Do you have a better understanding of this now that we have considered the other verses? (If our focus is the Bible, it makes sense to be less critical of the teacher.)


      3. If you could summarize these verses, how would you do it? (Don't put too much stock in teachers. They have biases and they are not the original source of ideas. Instead, we should put our trust in the Bible which presents the thoughts of God.)


  2. Hold Firmly


    1. Read Titus 1:7-8. Paul is writing about the office of "elder" in the church. What characteristics must an elder possess?


    2. Read Titus 1:9. Is Paul promoting traditional teachings? How do we reconcile this with discounting the importance of teachers and relying on the Bible alone?


      1. Notice the phrase "trustworthy message." How does that temper the idea of holding firmly to past teachings?


    3. Read Titus 1:10. Put yourself in Paul's place. Is circumcision the traditional message, given by God and historically practiced by His people? Who is the rebel when it comes to circumcision? (If I were pro-circumcision, and I heard Paul say this to Titus, I would be shocked. Paul was trying to change the status quo.)


      1. What does this teach us about "rebellious people" who are "full of meaningless talk and deception?" Does it mean that Paul lacks self-awareness? Or, does it mean that holding on to the "trustworthy message" might not be the same as holding onto the historic message?


    4. Read Titus 1:11. Here we seem to have Paul not only judging other teachers, but instructing the believers to "silence" them. How would you reconcile these instructions?


      1. What is one reliable way to judge motives? (If the teacher dishonestly gains from the teaching.)


    5. Read Titus 1:12-14. Here is your new word for the week: "gormandizers" - "slow bellies." These are the terms Albert Barnes uses to describe "lazy gluttons." Now how do you understand Paul's instructions not to judge teachers? (Looking for a way to regard all of Paul's statements as true, he must have meant that we need to await the Second Coming for the true judgment on teachers.)


      1. Would today's standards of political correctness survive Paul's approach here?


  3. The Beginning


    1. Read Matthew 19:3. What is the nature of the Pharisees' test?


    2. Read Matthew 19:4-5. To what authoritative source does Jesus turn to answer this test? (The Genesis account.)


      1. What does this teach us about Jesus' view of the evolutionary theory of origins? (He affirms that it is not true. Men and women did not evolve. They were created as adults.)


      2. What does this teach us about Jesus' view of marriage? (It is between a man and a women because they are designed to reproduce.)


    3. Read Matthew 19:6. Jesus uses the creation account to settle doctrinal disputes. Should that be sufficient for us today to settle doctrinal disputes?


    4. Read Matthew 19:7. Now we come to the clash. Moses has a different traditional teaching. Who is the rebel here? Who is trying to change the status quo?


      1. When considering these questions, go back to my original question in this section: What is the nature of the Pharisees' test? If Moses' command is clear, how is this a test? (There must have been some dispute over this. Otherwise, it would not be a test.)


    5. Read Matthew 19:8-9. Is Jesus saying that adultery was "permitted" by Moses because the people had hard hearts?


      1. Moses is not some sort of demonic figure. Rather he was God's special leader. What does this teach us about tradition arising from fine leaders? What does this say about the grace of God?


      2. What do we learn about the interpretation of Scripture from what Jesus says here? (For the correct answer we need to go back to the Bible and place it above the teachings/traditions of even great followers of God. Sola Scriptura!)


    6. Friend, will you make the Bible the ultimate source of your understanding of God? I think it is just fine to consult tradition, scholars of the past, and today's teachers. In the end, though, they are all to be tested by the Bible. Will you adopt that approach today?


  4. Next week: Why Is Interpretation Needed?
* Copr. 2020, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2020 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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