Volume. XXXII, No. 32
Sunday, 04 February 2018

From the Pastor's Heart: Sola Scriptura

Today, I am delivering a message on sola Scriptura during the morning worship service. One of the crucial passages to understand the purpose of the Scripture is John 5:39, saying, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” This verse unequivocally says that Christ is central to the interpretation of the Bible. All true interpretations of the Bible must lead us to Jesus.


The following story illustrates a problem of false authority that grasps the life and customs of Christians. “Sausages tested the authority of Scripture in Zurich. It was Lent, 1522. Traditionally only vegetables and fish were eaten during Lent. But this year twelve friends gathered for a sausage-themed party. The city council took action as they had always done and fined the host, Froschauer, albeit a nominal amount. Seven days later Zwingli produced a pamphlet (on Froschauer’s printing press) in which he argued that the Bible does not say anything about eating sausages in Lent. Of course the issue was not really about sausages. It was about the authority of Scripture and the validity of reform. A debate known as “the First Zurich Disputation” was called the following year on a variety of reforming theses” (Michael Reeves and Tim Chester, Why the Reformation Still Matters, Kindle Locations 590-595).


Zwingli had an interesting starting point to talk about the authority of the Bible. He began with God’s creation of man. Man was made in the image of God and purposed for fellowship with God. Thus, Zwingli said, “there is nothing which can give greater joy or assurance or comfort to the soul than the Word of its creator and maker.” This is why the clarity and infallibility of the Word are such important topics. Zwingli first asserts the certainty or power of God’s Word: “The Word of God is so sure and strong that, if God wills, all things are done the moment that he speaks his Word. For it is so living and powerful that . . . things both rational and irrational are fashioned and despatched and constrained in conformity with its purpose” (Huldrych Zwingli, “Of the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God,” in Zwingli and Bullinger, ed. G.  W. Bromiley, Library of Christian Classics 24, Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1953, 68).


So strong was his confidence in God’s Word that he even said, “The whole course of nature must be altered rather than that the Word of God should not remain and be fulfilled” (Ibid., 70). He then gives example after example of the power of the words of Jesus and the apostles “to show that the Word of God is so alive and strong and powerful that all things have necessarily to obey it” (Ibid., 71). The whole teaching of the Gospel is a sure demonstration that what God has promised will certainly be performed. For the Gospel is now an accomplished fact: “the One who was promised to the patriarchs, and to the whole race, has now been given to us, and in him we have the assurance of all our hope” (Ibid., 72). If we articulate his view of the Scriptures with our expressions, we would say that “the word we read or hear is the same word we see working with such power in the stories of the Bible and in its central story, the gospel.”


At this point, we cannot but raise an important issue that divides Christians: “how should we understand the Bible?” We do not want to bring liberals’ views of the Bible in the current discussion, because they do not share the same doctrine of the Bible with us concerning its inerrancy and infallibility, so we will narrow our discussion to camps claiming to believe the Bible as God’s Word. Among such groups, the issue of the Scriptures is about its clarity. Who is able to interpret the Bible? What has the authority of the Bible? How can we understand the Bible with clarity? Cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Seventh Day Adventists, argue that they believe in the Bible. Mormons also use the Bible in addition to their own sacred books. The Church of Rome claims that the Bible needs to be interpreted by the Church (Rome).


One of the reasons behind Rome or other cults insisting that only they have authority to interpret the Bible is that it is a difficult book to understand. Therefore, they need special insiders like priests or specially trained or inspired people to give us correct views of the words in the Bible. Their excuse is that God sometimes speaks in parables and riddles. If God wanted everything clear, then why did He use them in the Bible? Zwingli replied to them that proverbs and parables were not attempts to hide the truth. Rather God is teaching us in “a gentle and attractive way.” “The truth which is discovered is received the more firmly, and valued the more highly, and the divine lesson is busy and active all the longer in the understanding, and its roots sink deeper into the heart” (Ibid., 73). So God uses parables and proverbs to enlighten those “having a mind to learn from the Word of God.” They mask the truth only from the person “who comes to the Scriptures with his own opinion and interpretation and wrests the Scriptures into conformity with it” (ibid., 74). “When the Word of God shines on the human understanding, it enlightens it in such a way that it understands and confesses the Word and knows the certainty of it” (Ibid., 75). He cited Psalm 119:130, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”  Zwingli paid attention to the word, “simple.” It means “naïve,” or “foolish.” He was keen to show that it is not necessary for us to submit ourselves to councils or bishops in order to understand the Bible. God enlightens His people, not just to power-hungry people, but to His humble children. The Spirit of God leads them to all truths.


Zwingli used the following passages to explain how God teaches His people: John 6:45; 1 Corinthians 2:12–13; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16; 1 John 2:27. We probably do not have any disagreement with Zwingli so far. However, then, how can we know our understanding is from God? As for such question, Zwingli answered: “It is not for us to sit in judgment on Scripture and divine truth, but to let God do his work in and through it, for it is something which we can learn only of God” (Ibid., 92). It sounds right, but then how do we know that our understanding is from God? There are many churches and professing Christians. They do not speak with one voice. The seeking soul cries out: “Alas! whom shall I follow?” We desire to know God’s truth, but do not know which teaching is the right one? When Christians disagree, what shall we do? Surely then someone must decide between competing interpretations? Zwingli’s main complaint again was that this tried “to subject the doctrine of God to the judgment of men.” At this point, Zwingli offered two fundamental principles of Bible interpretation: (1) God’s “words have always a true and natural sense; may God grant it, no matter how we may wrest them this way or that” (Ibid., 86). (2) God’s word must be understood only within the context. The problems arise because “rascals… pick out verses from it without regard to their context, and wrest them according to [their] own desire” (Ibid., 87). What he said in the following is truly modern and very much relevant even to us today: “Alas! here we come upon the canker at the heart of all human systems. And it is this: we want to find support in Scripture for our own view, and so we take that view to Scripture, and if we find a text which, however artificially, we can relate to it, we do so, and in that way we wrest Scripture in order to make it say what we want it to say” (Ibid., 88).


Our next question is, “what if I do not find myself enlightened when I read the Bible? We know that we must understand God’s Word as the Bible says. However, we are not enlightened to understand it. What shall we do? We’ll consider it next time.



Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



  • Welcome back from Cambodia Missions.
  • Special thanks to all who prayed and provided for the Cambodia Missions teams.
  • Those would like to have Baptism, Re-Affirmation of Faith or Membership Transfer, please submit your testimonies to Elders by today.
  • Wednesday Bible Study will study Romans 8. Please read Romans 7 for better understanding and research Romans 8 (theme, date of writing, background) & prepare an outline before the study.
  • All worshippers are encouraged to join a Neighbourhood Bible Study group. Please see any Session member for more details.
  • All Fellowship groups, please inform Lively Hope committee of your schedule (including location) for the year.
  • New Basic Bible Knowledge Class will start soon. Anyone wishing to know about the Christian Faith, or seeking Baptism, Re-Affirmation of Faith or membership Transfer is encouraged to attend. If interested, please see the Elders.
  • Kitchen Duty helpers - This week: Team B. Next week: Team C.


  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren (FMC) & Dr Stephen Scott-Pearson (UK)
  • Journey mercies: all who are travelling.

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • New worshippers & church activities in the past week.
  • Fruitful Cambodia & Laos missions.
  • Australian PR granted
  • Journey mercies: all who have travelled.



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