I have had many conversations with protestants who claim to use the “Bible Alone” as their authority for what God expects of them as a christian. But does any christian really just use the “Bible Alone”?
I know “Bible Alone” christians who are so anti-authority that say that they don’t even need a church at all, that they can just worship God at home. Really? But, you see that is the problem. Because even those who claim to use the “Bible Alone” will often have guide books, scripture study books, and other books written to “help” understand how to apply scripture to their lives. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t know of any christian who just uses the Bible and the Bible alone to teach them to be a christian. Every christian has a pope…Charles Spurgeon, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Billy Graham, and many thousands of others.
The “Bible Alone” or Sola Scriptura problem is the very reason why there is so much confusion and division in the the Christian faith. Who has the right and correct interpretation of scripture? How do you know? Because your pastor told you so? Who is his authority??? The Bible?? Then why doesn’t your pastor and every pastor in town agree? If we are to believe that anyone can pick up a Bible and the Holy Spirit will guide us in truth and understanding, shouldn’t we conclude that if that were so, then all christians should have the same interpretation? But they don’t. Why? Because my brothers and sisters, that’s not how it works.
Arggggghh…stop the madness! LOL
You see, that was my dilemma 13 years ago when the Lord touched my soul and led me to Him. I started reading scripture for the first time in my life. I asked God to lead me to truth, His Truth. I wanted ALL of His truth. As I looked around wondering which church I should go to and investigated all the different denominations. I became very confused. If God led all christians to His Truth, why was there so much disagreement it what we were to believe? Do we inherit original sin or not? Are we predestined or do we have free will? Did Jesus establish a church or were we just to decide for ourselves what suited us the best? Because he knows everyone needs something different to make them feel good? Yikes!
The Early Church Fathers show that the Early Church believed in a Church with Authority
It became very apparent to me that as I read scripture and prayed for my heart to be open to His truth that I was lead to read the Early Church Fathers. As I did, they had the answer. Jesus left us a guiding Church to keep us on the right track. He left us a physical authority to relay His authority to us. The first Christians didn’t even have a new testament yet. Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus (both disciples of John the beloved disciple) and many of the earliest Christians understood that without a teaching, authoritative Church, we would be lost. We would come to be divided and misunderstandings would come about, as they have, over and over again, since the reformation.
Read for yourself here are just some of the writings of the Early Church Fathers that point to the fact that they believed that Peter and his successors were put in a place of authority to guide the Church, the Catholic Church.
Ignatius of Antioch
Remember, Ignatius was a student of John. The very John who was at the foot of the cross. If anyone has an insight to what the first christians outside of the apostles believed, it would be him. Here is the earliest mention of the Catholic Church. The Greek root of the term catholic means “according to the whole” or “universal.” Ignatius uses the term to refer to the visible and authoritative Church:
“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch 8 [A.D. 100])
Ignatius urges the faithful to submit to the authority of their bishop because it is the will of God:
“But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that you would all run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the manifested will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds of the earth, are so by the will of Jesus Christ… Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.” (Letter to the Ephesians, Ch 3,5 [A.D. 100])
Ignatius recognizes the authority, or “presidency,” in particular of the Church at Rome:
“Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the greatness of the Most High Father and in Jesus Christ, his only son; to the Church beloved and enlightened after the love of Jesus Christ, our God, by the will of him that has willed everything which is; to the Church wich also holds the presidency in the place of the country of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and because you hold the presidency of love, named after Christ and named after the Father; here therefore do I salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.” (Letter to the Romans, Intro [A.D. 100])
Ignatius indicates that the Church at Rome possessed the authority to teach others:
“You have envied no one; but others you have taught. I desire only that what you have enjoined in your instruction may remain in force.” (Letter to the Romans, Ch 3 [A.D. 100])
Finally, Ignatius confirms—as do other Church Fathers—that this authoritative Church at Rome was founded by Peter and Paul:
“Not as Peter and Paul did, do I command you. They were apostles and I am a convict. They were free, and I even to the present time am a slave.” (Letter to the Romans, Ch 4 [A.D. 100])
Here are a few others as well…
Clement of Alexandria
“[T]he blessed Peter, the chosen, the preeminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matt. 17:27], quickly g.asped and understood their meaning. And what does he say? ‘Behold, we have left all and have followed you’ [Matt. 19:27; Mark 10:28]” (Who Is the Rich Man That Is Saved? 21:3–5 [A.D. 200]).
“For though you think that heaven is still shut up, remember that the Lord left the keys of it to Peter here, and through him to the Church, which keys everyone will carry with him if he has been questioned and made a confession [of faith]” (Antidote Against the Scorpion 10 [A.D. 211]).
“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).
The Letter of Clement to James
“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter, the first fruits of our Lord, the first of the apostles; to whom first the Father revealed the Son; whom the Christ, with good reason, blessed; the called, and elect” (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]).
“[I]f we were to attend carefully to the Gospels, we should also find, in relation to those things which seem to be common to Peter . . . a great difference and a preeminence in the things [Jesus] said to Peter, compared with the second class [of apostles]. For it is no small difference that Peter received the keys not of one heaven but of more, and in order that whatsoever things he binds on earth may be bound not in one heaven but in them all, as compared with the many who bind on earth and loose on earth, so that these things are bound and loosed not in [all] the heavens, as in the case of Peter, but in one only; for they do not reach so high a stage with power as Peter to bind and loose in all the heavens” (Commentary on Matthew 13:31 [A.D. 248]).
Cyprian of Carthage
“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ . . . On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).
There are many, many more, but I have kept to just the first couple of hundred years.
Some will say, “well those men were not divinely inspired, they were just men, they could have been wrong.” Maybe, but that same person telling me that believes that Martin Luther, John Calvin or the many other protestant fathers got it right, 1500 or more years later? Really? I am more inclined to believe those who were closest to the time of Jesus than those who came hundreds to years later. I mean come on, really? Luther knows more than Ignatius of Antioch? Sorry, I’m not buying it.
Even the Bible itself does not support the idea of Bible Alone
This is what John Martignoni says on his website BibleChristianSociety.com about what scripture says that refutes the notion of the bible alone.
All of the Word of God was at one time passed on orally, what the Catholic Church calls, Sacred Tradition. Eventually, some of Sacred Tradition was written down. This became Sacred Scripture, which is written tradition. However, Scripture itself tells us that not all of the things that Jesus said and did were written down. And listen to what Paul says about “tradition”:
2 Thes 2:15, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”
Traditions! Traditions taught by word of mouth, in other words, oral tradition, and traditions taught by letter. Traditions which they are being told to “stand firm and hold to”. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
1 Cor 11:2, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.”
The Corinthians are being commended by Paul because they maintain the traditions that he passed on to them. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
2 Tim 2:2: “and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
What we have here in 2 Timothy is an instance, in Scripture, of Paul commanding the passing on of oral tradition.
1 Thes 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers.”
So, they received as the Word of God that which they heard, not simply that which they read in Scripture.
In other words, the Bible clearly supports the Catholic Church’s teaching that the Word of God is contained in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
The “Bible Alone”… is not found in the Bible alone!
Jesus commanded His Apostles to teach all things whatsoever He had commanded; (Matthew 28-20); His Church must necessarily teach everything; (John 14-26); however, even the Protestant translation of Bible itself teaches that the Bible does not contain all of Our Lord’s words and teachings:
John 20-30: And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. John 21-25: And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.
How would it have been possible for second century Christians to practice Our Lord’s religion, if private interpretation of an unavailable and only partial account of Christ’s teaching were indispensable?
Nope, everyone has a pope, a papa, someone to help them understand what Jesus wants us to know. Some of these “popes” however, do not have the authority to teach and are teaching wrong doctrine. Only one Church has the authority that was handed down from Jesus himself.
Matthew 16:13-19 – 13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Catholic Answers: Not by Scripture Alone – By: Jim Blackburn
Catholic Answers: According to Scripture – By: Tim Staples
Catholic Answers: Scripture and Tradition