Dean's List: Sola Scriptura--All About Jesus
By Aaron T. Fenker
I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
When it comes to the Solas, Sola Scriptura is a fundamental one. After all, it's in Scripture that God tells us that we are saved by grace alone and by faith alone. At the Diet of Worms, Luther said, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe."
Sola Scriptura ("Scripture alone") doesn't mean that Scripture is the only authority we submit to in matters of belief and practice, but it is the supreme authority. As Lutherans, we look to Scripture because we recognize that authority, not just because that's what Luther did. We look to Scripture, because it explains who Jesus is and what He has done, not because it tells us that our Lutheran beliefs are there and everyone else's are wrong.
This is exactly what St. Paul tells us, especially in 1 Corinthians 15. The Scriptures tell us about Jesus. They tell us that He died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again from the dead. This is why God inspired men to write the Holy Scriptures. He was telling us what Jesus came to do to save us. And this isn't just what's written in the New Testament either. It's even in the Old Testament!
The Old Testament is full of Jesus. Jesus says that the Scriptures of the Old Testament are "they which testify of Me" (John 5:39). They testify of His coming, His birth—the promise to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15). They testify of His death for the sins of the world (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22). They even testify of His resurrection on the third day. Remember Jonah in the belly of a fish for three days? That wasn't just some punishment because Jonah resisted Yahweh's call to preach repentance to the Ninevites. As Jesus explains in Matthew 12:40, it was actually a sign that pointed to His resurrection.
All of Scripture points to Jesus. This is what Paul delivers to the Corinthians. Paul's preaching points to Jesus because that's what the Scriptures do. Paul delivers Jesus' Supper and Jesus' Baptism because Jesus wants those things delivered to sinners, and we know that from the Scriptures.
The Scriptures tell you that Jesus died for you, that He rose from the dead for you. They tell you that you've been baptized into His death. When you hear the voice of your pastor forgiving your sins, the Scriptures tell you that you're really hearing the voice of Jesus forgiving your sins and opening the gates of heaven for you. The Scriptures tell you that Jesus gives you His Body and Blood to eat and drink in His Supper for the forgiveness of your sins. All these things Jesus does for you "according to the Scriptures," that is, as the Scriptures say He does. Scripture tells you all this, and so we rejoice to receive Scripture alone.
We certainly can rejoice in the Scriptures. They were inspired by God, after all. We can rejoice that "holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21), but it's more than just that the Scriptures are inspired, holy, and inerrant. We rejoice in them because they tell us about Jesus and His saving us. "Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1 Peter 1:11).
Jesus died for you. He's risen for you. You are in Him and He in you by your Baptism and His Supper. You've heard His Final Judgment, "I forgive you all your sins." We know all this by Scripture alone. And we trust it because "Christ rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Sola Scriptura? In the end, it's really all about Jesus.
This article was originally published in a bonus digital issue of Higher Things Magazine in summer 2017.
Rev. Aaron T. Fenker serves as pastor of Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Bremen, Kansas. He is also the dean of theology at Higher Things.
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