Sola Scriptura is one of the fundamental tenets of the 16th Century Reformation. It is a Latin phrase: sola meaning “alone”, “only” or “ground” and Scriptura meaning “writings” referring to the Holy Scriptures. Sola Scriptura therefore refers to the teaching that Scripture is the Christian’s sole and supreme authority in faith and practice.

The doctrine of Sola Scriptura came under attack during the dark ages. First, the Council of Valencia in 1229 forbade the laity to read the Bible and placed it on the Index of Forbidden Books. Only the priest was allowed to read and interpret the Bible. Second, in 1545, the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) was made of equal authority with the Bible. No one was allowed to preach God’s Word. Neither was God’s Word to be translated into the vernacular. Those who tried to do so such as the Waldenses, the Lollards and John Wycliffe (1320-84) were heavily persecuted. Bibles were confiscated and destroyed. The RCC hated Wycliffe so much that on the 40th anniversary of his death, they proceeded to dig up his bones and burn them, casting the ashes into the River Swift. Alas, this only galvanised people to desire to know the Truth. God’s Word cannot be stopped.

The Lord would later raise another man about a hundred years later to carry on the spirit of Wycliffe’s work. His name was William Tyndale (1494-1536). He boldly declared, “I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough, shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.” While Wycliffe translated the Bible from the Latin, Tyndale translated the Bible from the divinely inspired and preserved Hebrew and Greek words. He was finally betrayed by a friend and arrested in Antwerp. When he was burned at the stake, he cried, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” The king of England would later commission the translation of the Authorised Version. The first edition was completed in 1611. We thank God for men such as Wycliffe and Tyndale who earnestly contended that all may read the Scriptures so that the principle of Sola Scriptura can be upheld.

Martin Luther was also a firm believer of Sola Scriptura. When the RCC threatened Martin Luther with excommunication and death if he did not recant his teachings and writings, he replied, “Unless I am convinced by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments that I am in error—for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves—I cannot withdraw, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. So help me God.”

The principle of Sola Scriptura requires two fundamental doctrines to be upheld. The first is the doctrine of Verbal Plenary Inspiration (VPI). The term “verbal” refers to the words of Scripture. On the other hand, the word “plenary” means “all”, “every” or “whole”. Thus, VPI is the doctrine that every word of Scripture is given by divine inspiration of God (i.e. God-breathed, from the Greek term theopneustos). This is the teaching found in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.

The doctrine of VPI came under severe attack in the 19th – 20th century. Those who attack this doctrine include:
• The Modernists and Liberals who deny the fundamentals of the Christian faith such as the virgin birth of Christ, the miracles of the Bible, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ and lastly the divine inspiration of the Bible and its subsequent inerrancy and infallibility.
• The proponents of Neo-orthodoxy who hold that the Bible only becomes the Word of God when it touched and ministered to the reader.
• The Neo-evangelicals who teach that the Bible is only partially inspired. The message of the Bible may be inspired but there can be mistakes in areas such as science, history, geography, numbers and names. The Bible is not the Word of God but merely contains the words of God.

Once again, the Lord raised men to defend the doctrine of VPI. We are once again thankful to men who held on to the Reformation spirit of Sola Scriptura.

The second doctrine that is fundamental to Sola Scriptura is the doctrine of Verbal Plenary Preservation (VPP). VPP is the corollary of VPI. It states that every word of Scripture to the jot and tittle has been preserved by God and kept pure through all ages through His special providence.

Alas, this doctrine came under attack in the 21st century by the Neo[1]Fundamentalists. They claim that some words were lost through the process of time. These lost words pertain to matters of history, science, geography, numbers and names. The Bible is only inerrant and infallible in the past but not today. Such a teaching is but a backdoor attack on the inspiration of the Scriptures and flies against the principle of Sola Scriptura.

What does the Scripture teach? “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt. 5:18) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) Every word of God shall be preserved to the jot and tittle.

We thank the Lord that he has raised up men to defend the doctrine of VPP. The battle for this doctrine carries on today.

Lastly, if we hold on to Sola Scriptura, we must also be adherents of VPO – Verbal Plenary Obedience. We must receive God’s Word in its entirety and obey all of it. “Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” (Deut. 8:3) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15) True adherents of Sola Scriptura will live by every word of God.

What then will be the next attack on the church? Time will tell. However, if God’s people will hold on tightly to Sola Scriptura, they will be kept safe from the incessant attacks of the Wicked One. Thus, Paul tells Timothy, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14-15) And so it is for every one of us today.