Theme: Implications for Sola Scriptura
This week’s lessons show the price that must be paid to follow Christ, as well as the blessings that come when we do.
Scripture: Luke 14:25-35
Jesus also said many specific things about the cost of salvation. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or supposing a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:28–33).
According to this statement: 1) there is a cost to discipleship; 2) a failure to see this causes some to start out on the Christian life but later fall away and perish; and 3) the cost must be paid if a person is to be Christ’s disciple and be saved.
What a furor this raises in some evangelical circles! It is because mention of “cost” sounds like works-salvation, which is, of course, soundly condemned in Scripture, and evangelicals do not want the gospel to be destroyed in this manner. One writer says, “Any teaching that demands a change of conduct toward either God or man for salvation is to add works or human effort to faith, and this contradicts all Scripture and is an accursed message.”2 Such people rightly want to rule out any gospel which is not sola Scriptura (according to Scripture alone), sola fide (by faith in Jesus Christ alone), and sola gratia (by the grace of God alone). But let us look at each of these distinctives.
1. Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura means “by Scripture alone.” It affirms that the written word of God (the Bible) is the only fully authoritative rule for Christian faith and practice. Particularly, it must be supreme over any church teachings or traditions. This is a valuable doctrine, of course. Protestants especially rightly value it. But it is evident that if Scripture, being the Word of God, is supreme, then it is supreme not only over other people and other traditions but over me and my traditions too. And this means that I must give up anything in my thought or practice that is contrary to Scripture, if I would follow Christ. This is what the apostle Paul did. He said of his spiritual warfare, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. . .We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). We must pay the cost of the destruction of our own religious opinions to be a Christian.
Sola Scriptura also embraces the doctrine of repentance, for repentance means turning from sin (including sinful thoughts) to follow Jesus. It means renouncing and repudiating what we have thought but now discover to be contrary to God’s revelation.
There is a great error in the modern church at this point. When the gospel is preached it is customary to speak about forgiveness, saying that we must confess our sin and turn to God where alone we can find forgiveness for that sin. That is true enough, of course. First John 1:9 teaches it. But what is equally true and yet not frequently said is that the gospel also requires repentance, which is not mere confession of sin but is a turning from it as well. The Greek word for repentance actually means a “change of mind.” Repentance was the burden of John the Baptist’s preaching: “He preach[ed] a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). When Jesus began his public ministry his message was: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Later, the disciples “went out and preached that people should repent” (Mark 6:12). Peter declared, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19). On Mars Hill the apostle Paul declared, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
On what basis did the early preachers of the gospel, including the Lord Jesus Christ, call for repentance and demand a change of mind? Solely on the revelation given by God in Scripture. What Scripture condemns must be repudiated. What Scripture commends must be affirmed. No one can have sola Scriptura without paying a cost in the moral realm.
How does Dr. Boice define sola Scriptura? How does the correct understanding of sola Scriptura support the belief that genuine salvation involves the cost of discipleship?
Define repentance. How would you answer someone who asserted that repentance was not a necessary component of salvation?
Key Point: What Scripture condemns must be repudiated. What Scripture commends must be affirmed. No one can have sola Scriptura without paying a cost in the moral realm.
2From a book entitled Handbook of Personal Evangelism by A. Ray Stanford, Richard A. Seymour, and Carol Ann Streib. The quotation is in Ernest C. Reisinger, Today’s Evangelism: Its Message and Methods (Phillipsburg, NJ: Craig Press, 1982), p. 31.