Volume. XXXII, No. 33
Sunday, 11 February 2018

From the Pastor’s Heart: Sola Scriptura 2

My previous article ends with a question: “what if I do not find myself enlightened when I read the Bible?”  I’ll continue with answers provided by Zwingli. 


First, Zwingli calls us to humble ourselves lest we be among those who, “though hearing, they do not hear.”  Then he invites us to pray for the enlightenment of God’s Spirit as we read God’s Word.  We cannot have any disagreement with him at this point.  In fact, Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers in Ephesians 1:17-18, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:1 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”  We also need to be reminded that the two disciples, walking down to Emmaus met the resurrected Lord and heard Him speaking to them, did neither recognize Him nor understand Him, until they were enlightened by the Spirit.  Only spiritual people can discern spiritual things by the help of the Spirit of God.  Confess your sins and repent! 


Second, then, should we approach the Scriptures?  (1) The first thing I need to remind all of us is that there are people who do not and cannot hear and understand, even if they have ears to hear.  It is a biblical mandate that “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”  We must be aware of the warning in Isaiah 6:9, “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.”  While Jesus spoke in parables, He said in Matthew 13:9, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”  It supposes that there are people who hear but not really hear with understanding.  There are many reasons why, including pride or an unrepentant spirit.  Matthew 13:9 is especially related to the type of soil of our hearts.  If the word of God sows in the wayside, upon stony places, or among thorns, it will die out.  Unless the seed of God’s Word falls into good and fertile soil, it will not bear fruits.  Problem is not with the seed but the soil.  Therefore, there must be countless numbers of people even in Christian churches including ours, who hear but do not hear and do not understand. 


(2) Before we say anything or listen to the teaching of man, we must first consult the mind of the Spirit of God: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak . . .” (Psalm 85:8a).  We should reverently ask God for His grace to give us understanding, so that we will not lay hold of our own opinion but of His. Psalm 119:18 famously says, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.”  James says that we ought to ask the Lord for wisdom in 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”  The Lord will teach us a right understanding, because all wisdom is of God.  Zwingli’s conclusion is very educational: The Word of God is certain and can never fail. It is clear, and will never leave us in darkness.  It teaches its own truth.  It arises and irradiates the soul of man with full salvation and grace.  It gives the soul sure comfort in God.  It humbles it, so that it loses and indeed condemns itself and lays hold of God” (93).  Romans 1:1-25 tells us that natural revelation in nature demonstrates that there is God.  However, the depravity of man leads him to believe in God through natural revelation.  Thus, Scripture is needed.  However, the sinfulness of man keeps him from believing in God’s truth, which requires him to have the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.  He must be born again.  It explains why the intelligent unbelievers reject the truths of God.  They need the inner testimony of the Spirit. 


(3) We must delight in hearing the Word of God through faithful preaching.  Interestingly, Calvin describes the communication of Christ through His Word as mystical and incomprehensible (John Calvin, “Summary of Doctrine concerning the Ministry of the Word and the Sacraments,” in Calvin: Theological Treatises, ed. J.   K.   S. Reid, Library of Christian Classics 22, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954, 171– 77).  He said, “The external minister administers the vocal word. . . . But the internal minister, who is the Holy Spirit, freely works internally, while by his secret virtue he effects in the hearts of whomsoever he will their union with Christ through one faith.  This union is a thing internal, heavenly and indestructible” (Ibid., 173, art. 5).  Calvin’s words are even forceful when he speaks of the importance of preaching and preachers.  He said, “Those who neglect this means [of preaching] and yet hope to become perfect in Christ are mad.  Such are the fanatics, who invent secret revelations of the Spirit for themselves, and the proud, who think that for them the private reading of the Scriptures is enough, and that they have no need of the common ministry of the Church” (Commentary, on Ephesians 4:12). 


In general, the Reformers had a very high view of preaching.  However, at the same time, it should not be confused with a high view of preachers.  Listen to what Luther had to say: “When you hear a sermon by St. Paul or by me, you hear God the Father Himself.  And yet you do not become my pupil but the Father’s, for it is not I who is speaking; it is the Father.  Nor am I your schoolmaster; but we both, you and I, have one Schoolmaster and Teacher, the Father, who instructs us.  We both, pastor and listener, are only pupils; there is only this difference, that God is speaking to you through me.  That is the glorious power of the divine Word, through which God Himself deals with us and speaks to us, and in which we hear God Himself” (“Sermons on the Gospel of St.   John,” in Luther’s Works, 23: 97– 98).  We ought to be reminded that God was able to use even a donkey to convey His message to Balaam.  His message must not be neglected because the speaker was only a donkey. 


(4) We should make a caution here.  We, I assume, believe that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  The critics of the Bible have criticized us as committing a sin of bibliatry.  In other words, we believe in the book, as if it is a book of super magics.  I think that such a charge is not fair.  However, it is also true that some may believe that the Bible itself has some sort of super power.  They are not different from people who believe that the sacraments themselves have mystical powers in themselves.  As the latter believe in ex opere operato (from the work worked), so the former believe that the Bible, the Word of God, works ex opere operato.  The believers of the sacraments believe that the sacraments work by themselves, irrespective of the faith of those participating.  Therefore, they could believe that the sacrament of baptism can justify the baptized, without which they cannot be saved.  The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper has the similar connotation in their beliefs.  The Reformers did not share the same sentiment with the believers of ex opere operato.  The sacraments may be promises or pledges to encourage our faith, apart from which they do not have significance to us.  Calvin beautifully explained it: “We must hold that this efficacy is not contained in the words themselves, but proceeds from the secret instinct of the Spirit. . . . We hold, therefore, that when God speaks, he adds the efficacy of his Spirit, since his word without it would be fruitless” (Commentary, on Ezek. 2: 2. See also Commentary, on Acts 14: 27).  In other words, the Scriptures have value for us - when we respond with faith, they mediate the presence and comfort of Christ.  So God sends the Spirit to awaken and strengthen faith when the Scriptures are preached. (Michael Reeves and Tim Chester, Kindle loc 888).  When people do not respond with faith, the Word is still effective, but its effect is to harden people for judgment. 



Your Pastor


More Lively Hope



  • Welcome to our pulpit, Ps David Weng.
  • YAF is organising an O-Week stall on Mon, 19 Feb & Tues, 20 Feb at Flinders University. If able, please come & show your support by helping at the stall or providing food & drinks.
  • Easter Family Camp forms available at foyer. All worshippers are encouraged to attend. Early bird discount ends Sun, 11 Mar. All forms must be in by Sun, 18 Mar. 
  • Visitation to Austcare, Unley on 25 Feb @ 2:35 pm. 
  • Adult Sunday School starts next Lord’s Day. Please make an effort to attend.
  • All Fellowship groups, please inform Lively Hope Committee of your schedule (including location) for the year.
  • Kitchen Duty helpers - This week: Team C. Next week: Team A.


  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren (FMC) and others who are unwell.
  • Cambodia Missions.
  • Journey mercies: all who are travelling.

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Journey mercies: Elder David & others who have travelled.




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