Sola Scriptura - The Formal Cause of the Reformation

Today continues our study reflecting on the Protestant Reformation, and specifically the Five Solas that mark out the traits of the movement. The principle we come to now this week is sola scriptura (scripture alone), which serves as the formal principle of the Reformation. Sola Scriptura was the formal principle of the Reformation because it was cause and source of all the truths that were recovered (the other four solas and the doctrines of grace would be included in this).

Now, when we say, “scripture alone” we don’t mean the scripture and not the Holy Spirit, or the Scripture and not the church, and so on and so on. Rather, scripture alone means that scripture is the sole authority in the life of the believer, contradicting the Roman Catholic teaching, which elevated the tradition of the church as being on equal footing as the scripture itself.

In many ways the Reformation reflected the same reality that took place in a place called Thessalonica roughly 1,500 years earlier:

1 Thessalonians 2:13—For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

It was access to the Word of God, in an understandable language that unleashed the power of God in the church. As the Refermers sought to exegete passages of scripture in their original context (historico-grammatico hermeneutics) they recovered many precious truths concerning our great salvation, which had been lost for some tme in the Catholic Church.

In this message, the principle of sola scriptura is illustrated by stuying the life and work of William Tyndale as he sought to translate the scripture from the original languages into plain language. Tyndale’s life was a testimony to the truth penned by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:9.

2 Timothy 2:9—for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.