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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures - Commentary

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Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scriptures

What does the Bible itself teach about the Word of God? Which books are contained in the Bible? Are the Apocryphal books God-inspired and authoritative? Who made the Bible authoritative? What is Sola Scriptura? What does it mean that Scripture is inerrant and infallible? Is Scripture sufficient? What does it mean that the Scripture is inspired? Are creeds and confessions above or subordinate to the Scriptures? In this chapter, we will explore the Bible’s view of the Word of God. The paragraphs in which I deal with parts of the Scripture's doctrine are not necessarily in logical order, therefore, here are the topics in a somewhat more logical order:

  1. Necessity of Scripture (paragraph 1)
  2. Scripture As Self-Revelation (paragraph 1)
  3. Canon of the Old Testament (paragraph 4)
  4. Canon of the New Testament (paragraph 3)
  5. Inspiration of Scripture (paragraph 2)
  6. Inerrancy and Infallibility of Scripture (paragraph 1)
  7. Authority of Scripture (paragraph 4)
  8. Sufficiency of Scripture (paragraph 6)
  9. Sola Scriptura (paragraph 110)
  10. Authentication of Scripture (paragraph 5)
  11. Perspicuity of Scripture  (paragraph 7)
  12. Interpretation of Scripture (paragraph 9)

This chapter is in many ways based upon the truths in 2 Timothy 3:16. All the particular subjects which are treated are part of a unified whole doctrine about God's Word.


§1 The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule

  1. The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience 1, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable 2; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. 3 Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church 4; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary 5, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. 6
    1. Isa. 8:20; Luke 16:29; Eph. 2:20; 2 Tim. 3:15-17[1]
    2. Ps. 19:1-3; Rom. 1:19-21, 32; 2:12a, 14-15
    3. Ps. 19:1-3 with vv. 7-11; Rom. 1:19-21; 2:12a, 14-15 with 1:16-17; and 3:21
    4. Heb. 1:1-2a
    5. Prov. 22:19-21; Luke 1:1-4; 2 Peter 1:12-15; 3:1; Deut. 17:18ff; 31:9ff, 19ff; 1 Cor. 15:1; 2 Thess. 2:1-2, 15; 3:17; Rom. 1:8-15; Gal. 4:20; 6:11; 1 Tim. 3:14ff; Rev. 1:9, 19; 2:1 etc.; Rom. 15:4; 2 Peter 1:19-21
    6. Heb. 1:1-2a; Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-8; Eph. 2:20

Holy Scripture, which is defined to be the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, is “sufficient, certain, and infallible”. This means that Scripture is enough; true and sure; and cannot err. What is the scope of this sufficiency, certainty, and infallibility? The Confession says that Scripture is the only infallible “rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience”. Holy Scripture is given as a measuring line and a standard. It is a standard of standards. There are other standards and rules besides the Bible, but the Bible alone is the “sufficient, certain, and infallible rule”. The Bible is the norm and ...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 22: Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day - Commentary

...ping the true God” which presupposes that there is an unacceptable way. We are not to worship God as we feel and as we think He would like us to worship Him. Rather this “acceptable way” is determined and “instituted by himself”. It is God who commands, directs and shows His people in His Word how He desires to be worshiped. How He desires to be worshiped is “limited by his own revealed will”, meaning, the Holy Scriptures. Only things which God (directly) has commanded and/or have a Scriptural warrant may take place in the corporate worship of God’s people. Simply said, the Regulative Principle of Worship is the application of Sola Scriptura to the corporate worship of the Church. This Regulative Principle is contrasted with the Normative Principle. In the time of the Reformation, those who held to the Regulative Principle were the Reformed and the Puritans, while those who held to the Normative Principle were the Lutherans and Anglicans, among others. But, what is the Normative Principle? The twentieth article titled “Of the Authority of the Church” from the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, reads:

The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.[3]

This is the position of virtually all non-Reformed churches these days. Whatever is not commanded is permitted, unless expressly forbidden. The church may decree “Rites or Ceremonies” but these must not be against “holy Writ”. The Regulative Principle, on the other hand, states that only those things described and commanded in Holy Writ as they concern the worship of God’s people, are to be part of the worship of the Church. Therefore, the Puritans saw a return to Rome in the teaching of the Church of England. They saw that the Normative Principle left the door to Rome open. While the Regulative Principle shut tightly the door to Rome and held fast to Scripture as the basis for the elements and way of worship.

The last observation concerns the fact that this Regulative Principle concerns the worship of the gathered church. The corporate/public worship of the church on the Lord’s Day (or any other day that the church gathers to worship) is to be regulated by the Scriptures alone in all its elements of worship. Not all life is to be regulated by this principle, but only the corporate worship of the church. Therefore, Dr. Waldron speaks of “the regulative principle of the church” and says that “God regulates His worship in a way which differs from the way in which He regulates the rest of life.”[4]After writing about the uniqueness of the church gathering of the New Covenant and its connection with the tabernacle and Temple in the Old Covenant, Dr. Waldron says:

God never told Moses precisely how to construct Moses’ tent. God never told Moses precisely how to regulate His family. Those tasks He left to the discretion of Moses because it was Moses’ tent and Moses’ family. But it is for that very reason that God exercises such pervasive control over the tabernacle and its worship. The tabernacle was God’s tent; it ministers to His fam...