Sola Scriptura

Discussion Guide for 1 Thessalonians 2:13

Christianity has long grappled with four ways of knowing truth.

  • Scripture (divine revelation)
  • Tradition
  • Reason
  • Experience

A fair assessment would tell us that we all rely to some degree on all four of those categories of knowledge. The Christian, however, must give Scripture a place of supremacy above any other category of knowledge.

The doctrine of the primacy and authority of Scripture above other forms of knowledge is known as sola scriptura. This link is to a short video by Matthew Barrett of Midwestern Seminary explaining the doctrine of sola scriptura. 

SCAN and the Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminister Confession of Faith in 1647 was a document where theologians and pastors most clearly expressed why Scripture is the final authority for the church. It was written during a period of history that had had even more political, cultural, and religious upheaval than we see today. The Puritans recognized that the only way the church can be rooted in unchangeable truth is to be rooted in Scripture.

Bound up in the doctrine of sola scriptura are four characteristics of scripture that have been very important for the church to remember. You can use the acronym SCAN to remember them. For each characteristic, I have attached an explanation from an article in Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession as to why that characteristic is important. 

Sufficiency of Scripture

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

Clarity of Scripture

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

Authority of Scripture

IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received because it is the Word of God.

Necessity of Scripture

I. Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you rely to Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience to know what to believe?
  • Have you ever been failed by reason, tradition, or experience in making good decisions?
  • How would you explain each letter of SCAN to a friend or co-worker?
  • Which characteristic of Scripture (sufficiency, clarity, authority, or necessity) is most meaningful to your life today?
  • What is the biggest challenge keeping you from allowing Scripture to change your life?

Prayer Time

Take time to pray for each other in groups of three or four. Let each person share one way that this passage has challenged them in their faith. Pray specifically for each person to grow in the area of submitting to Scripture.

Jonathan Pugh
Latest posts by Jonathan Pugh (see all)