Another week, another sola. This week Sola Scriptura, “by Scripture alone.” “‹We receive and embrace with our whole heart› the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountain of Israel. They are the only true standard or norm by which all teachers and doctrines are to be judged.” (Sold Declaration, Rule and Norm, 3) But Sola Scriptura isn’t just facts and figures—Bible trivia type stuff. Facts may come along for the ride—Ehud was left handed, Esau was a hairy man, Ezekiel and Ezra were priests. (How many people and places start with E?)
As important as some of that information is, Sola Scriptura isn’t about that. The devil and his angels know those facts and figures, too, better than you or I can ever know them. The devil could go toe to toe with Jesus in quoting Bible passages. He knew God’s Word to Adam and Eve and twisted it. In fact, he’s at work in all false teachers, twisting the Scriptures away from their true purpose. Their true purpose is to deliver Christ to you.
Actually, that’s the point of God’s Word no matter how it’s given. Written down in the Scriptures. Preached from a pulpit. Taught in a Bible Class. Read in a devotion. Attached to water, spoken by a sinful pastor, or united with bread and wine. The whole way God’s Word is doing that main thing: delivering Christ the Savior to sinners who need His saving them.
So, Sola Scriputura. It’s not a matter of getting things right, though letting God’s Word speak for itself will get you there. It’s not a matter of you mining the Scriptures for data, facts, figures, dates, whatever, and once you’ve learned that little factoid, well, then you’re good. (“Edom was east-south-east of Israel”—What’s with the Es?) I mean, you could turn the Bible into just a book of facts. You could even turn it into a science book! Many Christians do those sorts of things. But that would miss the point.
The point of the Scriptures, God’s Word written down for you, is the same as all the other ways God delivers His Word to you. They deliver Christ to you. And this delivery of Christ is what we’re hearing about today in Isaiah’s prophecy and Jesus’ Parable in Luke 8. Because this delivery of Christ in the Scriptures and through the Word does something. Does something to you. God’s at work on you through His Word because
THE LORD’S WORD GIVES YOU LIFE.
((I. That’s just what His Word does.))
The Lord’s word really does give you life. Men were led by the Spirit to write it down. (2 Pet 3) The Spirit breathed out the words through those men. (1 Tim 3) So, the Spirit fills those words, and so those words have power. The author of Hebrews tells us, and this could’ve been an alternate Epistle reading today—He says, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, even piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word of God, even His Scripture, gives life because it’s a living Word, full of the Spirit who is “the Lord and Giver of life.”
This is actually why we worship the way we do as liturgical Christians. We follow the same pattern of words, not only because repetition is the mother of all learning, but because the Spirit is at work in these words. Why? Because our worship is dripping with Scripture. Not just the three readings or the psalm or the introit. You can look throughout the services or hymns in our hymnal and see how Scripture fills the pages, but not just the pages! Because when we use these words and services those Spirit-filled, living Words fill us! They enter our minds, our hearts, and they fill not only hearts and minds but also our songs and prayers with what your heavenly Father has done for you in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Spirit is active within you through those words.
And the Scriptures really do deliver Jesus. The whole Bible’s about Jesus! Genesis to Revelation is all about God’s salvation for you in His Son Jesus Christ. He will suffer Himself to be rejected, though, and He will suffer violence to be done to His Word, too. He will allow men to find what they want in the Bible, “that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” But Christ tells us that the whole Old Testament, “The Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets,” “testify about Me” (Jn 5), telling us “that the Christ must suffer, die, and rise on the third day.” (Lk 24) Paul Himself says that “Christ was crucified for our sins and raised the third day,” both “according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15)
((II. What does this mean for us?))
THE LORD’S WORD GIVES YOU LIFE, and what does that mean practically for us? Well, it means that His Word does what it says for you! Every way He delivers His Word to you is the Lord working on you to save you, to enliven you. He baptized you with Water and the Word. His Word of forgiveness enters your ears, heart, and soul with His absolution and preaching. His Word attached to bread and wine delivers to you His body and blood. That’s also why you read your Bible or have devotions, because He’s working on you through His Word.
His Word, “the Seed,” always sprouts and grows. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
We need Him to do this, because we’re just like Paul. Maybe we’ve got lots of reasons to boast about our lives, but, at the end of the day, none of that matters. It doesn’t! We like to think it does, but whatever we think gives us meaning doesn’t. It’s why we just crave more. God’s Word tells us that we’re weak and helpless. We’re poor. We’re destitute before God. Only His Word reveals this to us.
“Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” the LORD says through Jeremiah. He will change us. Turn path to field. Break up the rocks. Burn up the thorns. Only His Word will do that in your life, and then His Word will sprout and bring forth a hundredfold! “Who receive it with an honest a good heart,” that is, with faith.
“My power is finished in weakness,” He promises. That’s Christ crucified and raised—“It is finished” for you! He also forgives sinners, making them righteous. He raises the dead, too, making them live again. All His Word! “I baptize you.” “I forgive you all your sins.” “This is My body given for you. This is My blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Eat and drink.” “The Sower goes out to sow!” “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Sola Scriptura, “by Scripture alone.” “The sole rule and norm for faith and life.” Not just because it gives facts and figures and rules, but more importantly because it delivers Christ crucified and raised to you, delivers the Spirit, too! That’s what God’s Word always does for you. At the Font, in the Absolution, at the Altar, from the Lectern and Pulpit, but also in your own Bibles, your devotions, and even in the Liturgy and Hymns we sing together! He will change you through His Word. Not just kill you, but give you life because
THE LORD’S WORD GIVES YOU LIFE.
That’s the reason God has all sorts of ways to deliver His Word to you. But that’s point of the Scriptures, God’s Word written down, too. “We read and study not to collect information, but because the Lord through His Word gives us life and the Spirit. We don’t reduce Scripture to an object of intellectual investigation or study, for at that point it stops being God’s Word (a Gift) and you start seeing it as something human (work).” (Elder Aimilianos, On Abba Isaiah) It is the Lord’s Word for you (His Gift and Promise for each of you), and THE LORD’S WORD GIVES YOU LIFE.