Audio Worship 6/9/2024, "Scripture Alone" , Psalm 119.105-112

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1641

June 9, 2024

Psalm 119:105-112             Click here for audio worship.

Dr. Ed Pettus


Scripture Alone


Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. 107I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word! 108Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules. 109I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. 110The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. 111Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. 112I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.


  • The Five Solas


We just finished a review on five of the major themes of the Reformed faith that are summarized in the acrostic TULIP. These speak to our sinfulness, that our salvation is not dependent on what we do but on what God has done, that Christ’s death is effective for the elect, that God’s grace compels us to faith, and that God preserves us to the end. But, hallelujah, we are not finished! I’ve got five more teachings from the Reformation that have also define who we are as a people of faith. These five teachings also emerged from the sixteenth century Reformation and have been summarized into what are called solas, that is, five “alone” principles: In Latin - Sola scriptura, scripture alone. This doctrine emphasizes that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are our sole authority for faith and life. Faith alone (Sola Fide) teaches that we come to Jesus Christ only by faith. Grace alone (Sola gratia), our salvation only comes by the grace of God, the unmerited favor of God. Solus Christus – through Christ alone, that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and us. Soli Deo Gloria - Glory to God alone, all glory, honor and praise is due to God alone. Some call these five summaries a shorthand version of Reformed theology, as Ryan McGraw writes, “While this description of the Reformed faith came later, it still captures well the core of the gospel in all its graciousness and Christ-centeredness, just as it is revealed in the Scriptures. These five solas show the glory of God’s gracious way of salvation in a way that sets the tone for true theology, resounding in how we think and live in this world.” (from Ligonier ministry).


Today we begin our journey with Scripture alone.



  • A Brief History


These teachings come from the period of the Reformation. This is where the Protestant church emerged after a long protest against the one Roman Catholic Church. Prior to the Reformation, the only church in town was the Catholic Church. But the problem was that the one church was becoming more and more corrupted. In the sixteenth century certain leaders in the church began calling for reform. There was not necessarily one unified movement, but several movements throughout Europe, as Brett Baker writes: “The cry for reform for some was at times not uniform; some felt the most important thing to reform was the incumbents holding office in the church; others felt that the officer’s agenda should shift from secular matters to spiritual; others felt that it was the vitality that needed polishing to attract those who had left; and still other felt the heart of reform began with theology. Given our [lofty] consideration of the Reformation, we will say that there were four primary movements during the Reformation. Most historians would say that the starting gun of the Reformation was Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenburg, Germany. The second large body of commotion started in Switzerland by John Calvin in Geneva. The later large movement in Reformation centered not on an individual, but rather a group called the Anabaptists. Lastly, a fourth major movement in the Reformation was the counter attack (called the counter Reformation) mounted by the Catholic church in response to the success of the Reformers. These events encompass a period of roughly two and a half centuries during the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. The term Protestant frequently is used to refer to anyone who favored the Reformation. [Although the earliest] proponents of the Reformation were referred to as Evangelicals.” (


  • Scripture Alone


That is a bit of the history, now let us look at Sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is not to say that truth cannot be found anywhere other than Scripture, nor that the Scriptures are equally clear to all people, nor that teachings on the Scriptures from the Church are not also helpful. What Scripture Alone does mean is that Scripture, the Bible, God’s Holy Word is our final authority and rule for faith and life, for belief and practice. We are saying that the Scriptures are our final authority and that they are infallible (that is, it is completely reliable, God is the author). All other authorities, as valid as they may be, are subordinate to the Scriptures. We read in 2 Timothy:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV).


The reformers believed that the Scriptures were sufficient for all we need to live in righteousness, faith, and salvation. Nothing lacking. The content is there and with it all authority.


Why does this matter? The authority of Scripture has come into question in the larger, broader church. This is not everyone’s view, certainly, but if not in question, there are surely diverse views of the authority of Scripture. All the debates in our former denomination, and most recently in the United Methodist denomination, all boil down to Scripture and its authority and interpretation. One of the sad results of our current crisis is the realization of how little we know our Scripture. We have known for many years that the church has been woefully illiterate in the Scriptures, but in some ways that truth is becoming more evident. We might expect that a faith community that holds up a Sacred Text as its authority would better know that text. For some, the battle that was once thought of as a battle against cultural influences has become the same battle within the church.

Cal Thomas wrote an article nearly twenty years ago about the church being influenced by worldly concerns rather than biblical concerns. The main point of the article was that the Church, rather than being attentive to the godly things, has become content with worldliness. Thomas quoted Alan Wolfe who writes, “Far from living in a world elsewhere, the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else.” He goes on to say that American culture has triumphed! Some will look at that statement and say, “So? What’s wrong with American culture?” Well, nothing is wrong with American culture if we close our eyes and plug our ears and smile. Certainly there are many things great about the United States, and we will be celebrate those things from time to time, but the greatness of our country does not hide the problems we have. The greatness of this country does not overshadow the downward spiral of moral standards.

One critique is that the Church has become less and less shaped by its own Scripture and more and more shaped by the surrounding culture. If the Church has become content with worldliness, it may be because we have lost something of our story. Some would say that we have lost a sense of the transcendent - that is, we have lost a sense of other worldliness, a sense of mystery and power beyond ourselves. We have no confidence in our biblical story, no trust in the kingdom of God, and no real sense of yielding our lives to the authority of God’s Word. The Bible becomes for us an antiquated, out of date document without power. So the Bible is used and understood as a document just like any other. As one author states, "people have little sense that Scripture is bigger than ourselves." We have lost our own story, falling for the culture’s line that we do not have anything of value to say or contribute.

Cal Thomas concluded his article with these words, “If Christians really want to see culture transformed…they need to begin with their own transformation.” He is not very far from the apostle Paul in Romans 12.2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. The church, each one of us, is called to transformation. That transformation is helped by our learning and knowing and living the inspired or “God-breathed” Word.


What is Scripture? What is this authority we study and proclaim and have canonized into the Holy Bible? It is more than just a book or a collection of books. It is the inspired Word of God. It is “thus says the Lord.” It is God’s unique revelation to His people. It is one of the places where we encounter God! Every time we open the Bible something special is going on. Not magical, not fantasy land, but a way we are in touch with the Holy One. That is not to say that every time we open the Bible we will be inspired or blessed with some miracle, but the Bible is not to be ignored as a simple document to be studied like a textbook. The Scripture is like an open window to truth and goodness, it enables us to live in relationship with God and with one another; it brings us closer to our true selves.

A wonderful metaphor for Scripture is a work of art. Scripture is much like music or poetry or a painting. When we listen to a great piece of music, it is not always the same with each hearing. Really good music brings different sensations to us each time we hear it. In classical music we even have favorite hearing by different conductors as they interpret Bach or Mozart with their own style and hearing. Or when we go to an art museum and look at a great piece of art we wonder what the lines mean in the painting but then someone says, "come look from over hear, they look totally different from this angle."

Scripture is a work of art. Each time we go to it we see something different, something new. It has density that is reflective of the density of life. In that sense, it is just like a great work of art. We sometimes hear the phrase, "a picture is worth a thousand words," but with the Scriptures – “a word is worth a thousand pictures!” But it even goes further than that for this text is a living document. Hebrews 4.12, For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. There is something going on in the Word of God that does not go on in any other literature or music or art.


God’s Word has compelling power, not just in its inexhaustible nature, but because we believe that God has spoken, and speaks today, through these Words. We trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the Words we use as our rule of faith and life. And yet we tend to treat the Bible as if it were not an encounter with God. When the English Standard Version of the Bible speaks of the Word as breathed out by God, it is the same theme as when God created Adam out of the dust and God breathed into his nostrils and gave him life. The Bible would be just another historical document, but it is more than that because God breathes life into and through it. Now I cannot explain how that happens and I do not pretend to understand it any more than I can explain how a work of art can move one person to tears and another to applaud, but through the Holy Spirit I trust the Bible to be Truth, and in so doing, we can trust the Scripture to be a compelling power for life because it is God-breathed, breathed out by God, inspired, touched, living and active! It is a Word with depth for life, with density for transformation and to ignore it is to rob ourselves of that depth and power for life.


Our reading from Psalm 119 is a small portion of that long chapter. 176 verses reflecting the power of God’s Word for life and comfort and wisdom. A lamp to our feet, a light to our path. Life according to God’s word! Do not stray from God’s precepts. God’s testimonies are our heritage forever, for they are the joy of our hearts. We incline our hearts to perform God’s statutes forever, to the end.


All I really want to say this morning is we have a resource unlike any other that helps us to live as God intended. We have a God-breathed Word that can set things right for us, that can teach us all things, and that can correct us when needed and train us in righteousness. Maybe the best way to transform our culture and the wider Church is to first be transformed ourselves, and a good place to start (or restart) is with our Holy Sacred Book. Amen.