Does 1 Timothy 3:15 refute Sola Scriptura, Scripture Alone?

by Matt Slick

1 Timothy 3:15 does not refute Sola Scriptura.  In fact, it supports it.  Sola Scriptura is the position that the Old and New Testaments are the final authority in all the topics they address and that councils and tradition (even the so-called Sacred Tradition of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches) are subordinate to Scripture.  Let's take a look at the verse.

1 Timothy 3:15, "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."

Paul says he is writing so that we might know how to conduct ourselves in the church.  Catholics and Orthodox will say that the church (their church) is the pillar and support of the truth.  However, there is a very important truth right there in the text. Notice that Paul is appealing to his own writing as the authority.  He is writing to them (Scripture), so that they would know how to behave in the household of God.  In other words, his writing (which is Scripture) is the thing that is preeminent and to which the church is to subject itself.  He says, " . . . I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God . . . "

If a Roman Catholic or Orthodox Church member wants to appeal to this verse to refute Sola Scriptura, then he is shooting himself in the foot because Paul himself says that his writing, which is Scripture, is what the church is to submit to.  Furthermore, he is behaving as a Protestant who holds to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura by appealing to the authority of Scripture. 

In addition, he is using the authority of Scripture, in a sense, to refute the idea that Scripture has authority over the church. But, we see from Paul's statement in the verse that his letter is there to tell the church how to behave.  In other words, the church is to submit to Scripture--not Scripture to the church.  It is not the tradition that informs the word of God but the word of God that informs tradition in the church.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.