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!

  1. Beyond What is Written

    1. Read 1 Corinthians 4:1. On what subject is Paul giving
      advice? (On how we should regard Bible teachers.)

      1. What does it mean that Paul (and others) have been
        “entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed?”
        (They have some inside knowledge about God.)

    2. Read 1 Corinthians 4:2. What is required of those
      entrusted with the mysteries of God? (They must be

      1. Who makes the judgment on their faithfulness?

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. 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

      3. Look again at 1 Corinthians 4:5. Paul suggests that
        we all judge, but then he says, “judge nothing before
        the appointed time.”

        1. What is the “appointed time?” (The Second
          Coming of Jesus.)

        2. 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

    4. 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
      individual teachers.)

      1. 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
        Corinthians 1:31.)

    5. 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.)

      1. 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?)

      2. 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.)

      3. 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.)

  2. Hold Firmly

    1. Read Titus 1:7-8. Paul is writing about the office of
      “elder” in the church. What characteristics must an elder

    2. 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?

      1. Notice the phrase “trustworthy message.” How does
        that temper the idea of holding firmly to past

    3. 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.)

      1. 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

    4. 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

      1. What is one reliable way to judge motives? (If the
        teacher dishonestly gains from the teaching.)

    5. 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.)

      1. Would today’s standards of political correctness
        survive Paul’s approach here?

  3. The Beginning

    1. Read Matthew 19:3. What is the nature of the Pharisees’

    2. Read Matthew 19:4-5. To what authoritative source does
      Jesus turn to answer this test? (The Genesis account.)

      1. 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.)

      2. What does this teach us about Jesus’ view of
        marriage? (It is between a man and a women because
        they are designed to reproduce.)

    3. Read Matthew 19:6. Jesus uses the creation account to
      settle doctrinal disputes. Should that be sufficient for
      us today to settle doctrinal disputes?

    4. 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?

      1. 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

    5. Read Matthew 19:8-9. Is Jesus saying that adultery was
      “permitted” by Moses because the people had hard hearts?

      1. 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?

      2. 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!)

    6. 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?

  4. Next week: Why Is Interpretation Needed?