One of the great recoveries of the Protestant Reformation was the doctrine of Sola Scriptura – which means “Scripture alone.” While the reformers recognized many true authorities in a believer’s life (e.g. parents, rulers, pastors, councils, and various traditions), those authorities are only to be obeyed in so far as they require obedience to God, in so far as they are consistent with what He has spoken in Scripture. While Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians claim that Scripture must be interpreted by the Church and her traditions and deny Sola Scriptura, Protestants have insisted that the Bible is God’s Word and therefore is the ultimate authority over the Church and her traditions.
This principle is found in Scripture itself when Paul got wind that the Church in Thessalonica had heard reports about additional teachings claiming to be from Paul and the other apostles (2 Thess. 2:2, 2:15). So Paul made it clear to the Thessalonians that the gold standard for his words were his written letters: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person…” (2 Thess. 3:14), and then just a few verse later, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine, it is the way I write” (2 Thess. 3:17). Likewise, Paul notes his signature at the end of Colossians, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians, (e.g. “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand…”). And in many of his other letters, he identifies his authorized letter-carrier, which stands in as his signature verifying that these words are his authorized words.
Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, and this meant that he (along with the other apostles) were uniquely authorized to bear witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and to build the Church on their testimony and teaching. The New Testament is the apostolic foundation of the Church, the authorized testimony of the apostles. And as such, it is the Word of God, the standard before which all human beings stand. This is profoundly good news because this means that God’s Word is fixed. God’s Word is clear. All that must be known for salvation and life and faith is set forth in the Scriptures. And in a day full of confusion about authority, we stand before Scripture as the only ultimate and infallible standard of truth. This is good news.