Joel Beeke’s explanation of the authority of God’s Word is clear and solid: I really appreciated his article. Because of our disappointment with certain pastors, as well as the many false teachers who’ve arisen among us, some readers may object to Beeke’s emphasis on the importance of the Biblical role of pastor-teacher in the Church, but I believe it is what the Lord ordained for us. Godly pastors are His gift. Thank you, Lord!
The Sufficiency of the Bible Contra Rome
The principle of sola Scriptura explains why the Reformers accepted some parts of Roman Catholic teaching but not others. They believed that Christ, as the only Head, rules His church by His Word and Spirit. The authority of Scripture is thus absolute, the authority of Christ Himself, not an authority derived from or accorded to it by the church. Calvin said that Scripture is as authoritative as if we heard God’s “living words” from heaven with our own ears (Institutes, 1.7.1) and so Christians should be governed by its promises (Institutes, 3.2.6–7) and the church should be wholly subject to its authority (Institutes, 4.8). . .
The Bible’s sufficiency should also not be understood to exclude the use of the church’s helps, such as her many teachers past and present, and the writings produced by them. These are not to be rejected, but welcomed as a means that the Holy Spirit has provided in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11–13). However, they are subordinated to the Bible in such a way that they have authority to direct our faith and obedience only insofar as they faithfully reproduce and apply the teachings of Scripture. The principle of Scripture alone, rightly understood, does not mean the church of any given time or place operates by the Bible alone without reference to the traditions of the church through the ages. Rather, the sola of sola Scriptura means that the Bible alone is the fountain and touchstone for all authoritative teaching and tradition. This point especially needs to be emphasized in an ahistoric contemporary culture that emphasizes radical individualism and personal liberty. As Peter warns, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20). . .
Photo: “Junge lammer des hausschafes” (Young lamb of the domestic sheep) by bohringer friedrich, 2006, Wikimedia.