11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.Notice that Paul says that leaders of the church play the role of "equipping of the saints" to eventual maturity. So... the Protestant interpretation of 2 Tim. 3:16-17 is at odds with Eph. 4, because here we see that the church also plays a role in bringing the church and the individual Christian to spiritual maturity. Is this a Refutation of sola scriptura?
No, hardly. Notice the leaders who are in charge of equipping the saints: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. What is the primary tool used by these offices in their respective ministries? That's right, you guessed it, the Word of God. Notice that in Acts 2:42 the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching. What were they teaching? The Word of God. During the writing of the New Testament, this Word of God certainly existed in both oral and written form, but it was still... the Word of God.
Every Sunday I sit in church and hear my Pastor preach the Word of God. It exhorts and prepares me for works of service, and it also unifies me with the rest of the church as we work together towards Christian maturity. We learn about the Son of God, as revealed in the scriptures, and we're instructed in the Word of God so as to not be carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.
The doctrine of sola scriptura never denies the teaching office of the church. It denies that this office is an infallible office, and it denies the existence of God's special revelation of extra-biblical information apart from the Scriptures. What's assumed in the argument that pits 2 Tim 3 against Eph. 4 is that the Church stands along side of the Scriptures as an infallible authority, thus the Scriptures are not the sole infallible authority. For the argument to have any merit, the belief that the Roman church is also the infallible voice of God must be read into the text. This is why sola scriptura is sola. Scripture stands alone as the infallible Word of God. David King has rightly pointed out,
Sola Scriptura functions as the authoritative norm for the people of God, and therefore stands as the only existing source of the deposit of faith that special revelation has disclosed. This is one reason why Paul wrote as he did in his closing remarks in Romans. He spoke of 'the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith' (Rom 16:25-26). According to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, Scripture has manifested this mystery, and this mystery is authoritatively interpreted by the epistles of the New Testament.David King, Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume I: A Biblical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, pp. 44-45
Scripture is therefore authoritatively specified (via apostolic sanction) as the God-ordained means for the manifestation of this mystery, the purpose being 'for obedience to the faith.' If unwritten tradition was to be regarded as a reliable means and/or source for the preservation of binding revelation beyond the time of the apostles, and intended to function perpetually as an authoritative norm alongside Scripture, why did Paul fail to mention such a concept when speaking of 'the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began?' Moreover, why would he omit extrabiblical tradition as a norm when addressing Timothy on the sufficiency of Scripture in his second epistle? In his masterful treatise, The Reason of Faith, Puritan divine, John Owen, draws this conclusion:
God hath gathered up into the Scripture all divine revelations given out by himself from the beginning of the world, and all that ever shall be to the end thereof, which are of general use unto the church, that it may be thoroughly instructed in the whole mind and will of God, and directed in all that worship of him and obedience unto him which is necessary [italics added] to give us acceptance with him here, and to bring us unto the eternal enjoyment of him hereafter...When God first committed the law to writing, with all those things which accompanied it, he obliged the church unto the use of it alone, without additions of any kind. Now, this he would not have done had he not expressed therein, - that is, in the books of Moses, - all that was any way needful unto the faith and obedience of the church: for he did not only command them to attend with all diligence unto his word as it was then written, for their instruction and direction in faith and obedience, annexing all sorts of promises unto their so doing, Deut. vi. 6, 7, but also expressly forbids them, as was said, to add any thing thereunto or to conjoin any thing therewith, Deut. iv. 2, xii. 32; which he would not have done had he omitted other divine revelations before given that were any way necessary unto the use of the church. [Notice now carefully what Owen proceeds to say] As he added many new ones, so he gathered in all the old from the unfaithful repository of tradition [italics here added], and fixed them in a writing given by divine inspiration.
In the end, the matter of authoritative revelation boils down to a question of preservation. Regardless of the assertions of Roman apologists, when the dust settles, there is one question they cannot answer. Can you name one oral, extrabiblical tradition, demonstratively traceable to the apostolic age, which is necessary for the faith and practice of the Church of Jesus Christ? No verifiable example has been or can be offered. We affirm with the Apostle Paul, 'that according to the Way which they call a sect (or heresy
), so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets' (Acts 24:14).