Introduction: Have you thought about how you understand the Bible? I
doubt that anyone would naturally use only the Bible to understand
the Bible. My understanding of what the Bible teaches about God
increased when I became a parent. Nature teaches me about God. In
these lessons I often mention that I consulted a commentary to better
understand a text. The whole idea of having a teacher means that the
knowledge or perspective held by someone else is an aid to learning.
What then, does “Sola Scriptura,” the “Bible only,” mean? Let’s dive
into our study of the Bible and learn more!
- Beyond What is Written
- Read 1 Corinthians 4:1. On what subject is Paul giving
advice? (On how we should regard Bible teachers.)
- What does it mean that Paul (and others) have been
“entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed?”
(They have some inside knowledge about God.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 4:2. What is required of those
entrusted with the mysteries of God? (They must be
- Who makes the judgment on their faithfulness?
- Read 1 Corinthians 4:3-5. Who does Paul say should make
that judgment? (He says that we all will judge, but that
God’s judgment is the ultimate one.)
- Will teachers have hidden motives? (One of my most
trusted advisors complained a couple of quarters ago
that my political views were coloring my teaching.
All sorts of things influence my teaching – past
understanding of the Bible, my experiences, the
teachings of others, my economic and political views.
No doubt this is universally true for teachers. Paul
suggests that we be alert.)
- Look again at 1 Corinthians 4:4. Like Paul, when I’m
teaching I like to believe that “my conscience is
clear.” My goal is to have you better understand
God’s word. What does Paul mean when he writes, “that
does not make me innocent?” (An honest teacher should
realize that our background and biases shape our
- Look again at 1 Corinthians 4:5. Paul suggests that
we all judge, but then he says, “judge nothing before
the appointed time.”
- What is the “appointed time?” (The Second
Coming of Jesus.)
- How does that make any sense? Why would we not
pass judgment on the accuracy, motives, and
fidelity of the teacher? (I think Paul’s point
is that only God can truly know the teacher’s
motives. In 2 Peter 2:1 we are warned about
false teachers. Common sense tells us to avoid
- Read 1 Corinthians 4:6. With this background, what do you
think Paul is telling us when he writes “Do not go beyond
what is written?” (He is telling us to discount the innate
bias of teachers and consider the text of the Bible. It is
the central truth that is important, not the “spin” of
- Paul is quoting something. Two weeks ago we
considered the source of what Jesus quoted when He
was faced with temptations and questions. Does this
reflect something in the Old Testament? (No
commentator I consulted had an obvious source for
this quote. One commentator suggested Paul’s comments
are a continuation of his prior statements in 1
Corinthians 1:19, 1 Corinthians 3:20 and 1
- Read 1 Corinthians 4:7. Are there any original thoughts?
What does Paul suggest when it comes to teachers? (He says
that all teachers learn from others. They should not claim
to have “new” teaching and thus be superior to others.)
- Is this really true? Don’t you have original
thoughts? (I have all sorts of original thoughts.
But, to conclude that I’m the first one to think of
an idea is foolish. How can anyone know what all
others have thought throughout history?)
- I’m still troubled by the “judge nothing”
instruction. Do you have a better understanding of
this now that we have considered the other verses?
(If our focus is the Bible, it makes sense to be less
critical of the teacher.)
- If you could summarize these verses, how would you do
it? (Don’t put too much stock in teachers. They have
biases and they are not the original source of ideas.
Instead, we should put our trust in the Bible which
presents the thoughts of God.)
- Hold Firmly
- Read Titus 1:7-8. Paul is writing about the office of
“elder” in the church. What characteristics must an elder
- Read Titus 1:9. Is Paul promoting traditional teachings?
How do we reconcile this with discounting the importance
of teachers and relying on the Bible alone?
- Notice the phrase “trustworthy message.” How does
that temper the idea of holding firmly to past
- Read Titus 1:10. Put yourself in Paul’s place. Is
circumcision the traditional message, given by God and
historically practiced by His people? Who is the rebel
when it comes to circumcision? (If I were pro-circumcision, and I heard Paul say this to Titus, I would
be shocked. Paul was trying to change the status quo.)
- What does this teach us about “rebellious people” who
are “full of meaningless talk and deception?” Does
it mean that Paul lacks self-awareness? Or, does it
mean that holding on to the “trustworthy message”
might not be the same as holding onto the historic
- Read Titus 1:11. Here we seem to have Paul not only
judging other teachers, but instructing the believers to
“silence” them. How would you reconcile these
- What is one reliable way to judge motives? (If the
teacher dishonestly gains from the teaching.)
- Read Titus 1:12-14. Here is your new word for the week:
“gormandizers” – “slow bellies.” These are the terms
Albert Barnes uses to describe “lazy gluttons.” Now how do
you understand Paul’s instructions not to judge teachers?
(Looking for a way to regard all of Paul’s statements as
true, he must have meant that we need to await the Second
Coming for the true judgment on teachers.)
- Would today’s standards of political correctness
survive Paul’s approach here?
- The Beginning
- Read Matthew 19:3. What is the nature of the Pharisees’
- Read Matthew 19:4-5. To what authoritative source does
Jesus turn to answer this test? (The Genesis account.)
- What does this teach us about Jesus’ view of the
evolutionary theory of origins? (He affirms that it
is not true. Men and women did not evolve. They were
created as adults.)
- What does this teach us about Jesus’ view of
marriage? (It is between a man and a women because
they are designed to reproduce.)
- Read Matthew 19:6. Jesus uses the creation account to
settle doctrinal disputes. Should that be sufficient for
us today to settle doctrinal disputes?
- Read Matthew 19:7. Now we come to the clash. Moses has a
different traditional teaching. Who is the rebel here? Who
is trying to change the status quo?
- When considering these questions, go back to my
original question in this section: What is the nature
of the Pharisees’ test? If Moses’ command is clear,
how is this a test? (There must have been some
dispute over this. Otherwise, it would not be a
- Read Matthew 19:8-9. Is Jesus saying that adultery was
“permitted” by Moses because the people had hard hearts?
- Moses is not some sort of demonic figure. Rather he
was God’s special leader. What does this teach us
about tradition arising from fine leaders? What does
this say about the grace of God?
- What do we learn about the interpretation of
Scripture from what Jesus says here? (For the correct
answer we need to go back to the Bible and place it
above the teachings/traditions of even great
followers of God. Sola Scriptura!)
- Friend, will you make the Bible the ultimate source of
your understanding of God? I think it is just fine to
consult tradition, scholars of the past, and today’s
teachers. In the end, though, they are all to be tested by
the Bible. Will you adopt that approach today?
- Next week: Why Is Interpretation Needed?