Sunday—Our Reformation

Series: Our Reformation

Sermon: Our Reformation

Speaker and Writer: Japhet De Oliveira

Refresh: Open with prayer. Ask God for understanding through the Holy Spirit.

Read: 2 Timothy 3:1-4:8 (ESV). As you read the English Standard Version, note 1–3 insights or questions.

Reflect: As I read this text for the first time in quite a while and reflected on the theme for this week—our reformation—my mind wandered back to my childhood. My father had shown me one of his favorite texts in the Bible, and it appeared several times in my birthday cards and on various notes for other occasions. That verse is Joshua 1:9:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

You might be familiar with this passage yourself. Joshua was a young man, about to take over the helm of leadership of the Israelites from the legendary sage Moses. He felt nervous and inexperienced—to use a Star Wars analogy, it was as if he were a padawan (young student or apprentice) and not yet ready to lead like a Jedi master. The promise from God in the opening of the book of Joshua is really quite beautiful and inspiring. 

I have wondered if the apostle Paul, when he wrote his farewell words to the young Timothy, was thinking about Joshua, chapter 1. Perhaps he was thinking, Young man, you are going to have face hard times. Complex issues. Moral dilemmas. Ethical pressures. Stay true to the word of God and speak with love and all will be well. God was with me so He will be with you. Perhaps this and many other passages provided hope for Martin Luther 500 years ago when he decided to share his radical views with the Church he loved and cherished. These words would have provided reassurance that just as God was with Joshua, so he would also be with him. God would not let him down so long as he stood firm and remained faithful to Scripture. 

The question we have to wrestle with in our lives is how to stay faithful to the word of God. Fortunately, the Reformers had three principles they used to process the Bible that we can apply today. We often hear of the first—sola scriptura—meaning “scripture only,” but there was also prima scriptura (“scripture first”) and tota scriptura (“scripture in total”). Nicholas P. Miller, in The Reformation and the Remnant, defines each one of these concisely: 

Sola Scriptura—The Bible is the sole basis for church doctrine and ritual and the only infallible authority for the Christian. All church doctrine and ritual must be rooted in Scripture.

Prima Scriptura—The Bible is the primary authority among the various sources of truth: Scripture, reason, experience, and history. The “norms” of Scripture are “formed” and applied with these other sources, which are subject to correction by Scripture.

Tota ScripturaThe Bible is a unified whole and all relevant material throughout the Bible should be brought to bear on one’s study of any topic or subject. The Bible should serve as its own interpreter since its authorship has been unified through the Holy Spirit. (p. 26)

Recalibrate: How do you know if you are faithful to the Bible?

Respond: Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you to truth. 

Research:  Read Joshua, chapter 1

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