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Is the “Bible alone” enough                                                                  or should we follow the Church as well? by Leonard Alt


Is the “Bible alone enough or should we follow the Church as well?  I was meeting with an elder and one other member of the Milwaukee Church of Christ!  The elder was attempting to show me that we should follow the “Bible alone” Protestant concept, apart from the Bible and the teaching tradition of the Church, which is the Catholic concept. He started by reading part of 2 Timothy. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tm 3:16).  And then he said to me “so the Bible is it!” I agreed with him the Bible is it.


He then said “now that this has been established, let’s go on”. At this point, I said to him “before we go on, I believe that we should follow the Church as well”. He was a bit irritated with me and pointing to his Bible he said, “we both agreed this is IT, this is IT”!  Why follow the Church when we both agreed that the bible is it? 

I took him to 1 Timothy and quoted verse 15, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). If indeed, the Church is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth then we must follow the Church as well. If we believe the Bible is IT then we must believe what is in IT including the parts of the Bible that affirm the Church. To put the Bible in opposition to the Church does harm to the Bible because it denies those verses in the Bible that acknowledge the Church. This is the problem with the “Bible alone” concept. The “Bible alone” is a self-refuting concept because it is not in the Bible and even at odds with those parts of the Bible that include the Church.   

The elder, in my opinion was a man of the best intentions; however, he didn’t seem to have an awareness of verses in the Bible that affirm the Church. Why didn't he emphasize verses having to do with the Church? Here is his dilemma. How can he claim to follow the “Bible alone” apart from the Church and then acknowledge Bible verses having to do with the Church? 

The elder had started out by quoting 2 Timothy 3:16, which definitely affirms Scripture. All Scripture is inspired by God. If all Scripture is inspired, then we must follow the Scripture verses that have to do with the Church because these verses are inspired as well.
People who deny or ignore these verses having to do with the Church may call themselves “Bible alone”, however, they are partial Bible because they are ignoring Bible verses having to do with the Church. Man-made tradition says we only need to emphasize the Bible as the only source of truth, not the Church. Here are some other Bible verses emphasizing the authority Church.  

Upon this rock I will build my Church (Mt. 16:18)

The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church (16:18)

Go baptize and teach all nations (Mt. 28:18-20)

Go to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel (Mt. 16:15-16)

Holy Spirit with you always, teach/remind you of everything (Jn. 14:16, 26)

Whoever hears you hears me whoever rejects you, rejects me (Lk. 10:16)

Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth (Jn. 16:13)

Tell it to the Church; If he refuses even to listen to the Church (Mt. 18:17)

I have had a number of people speak to me as though the Bible is at odds with the Church. You can have the Bible or you can have the Church, but you can’t have both. I then point out that the Bible says not to refuse to listen to the Church (Mt. 18:17). They will then say that the Church is invisible. Over the years, I must have heard that the Church is invisible hundreds of times.

I posed this question on social media. “Since the Bible says listen to the Church, how do you listen to an invisible church?” I was not surprised by the answer I got. I was surprised by the answer I didn’t get. I got no answer at all. Apparently, they never thought of this before. How do you listen to an invisible Church? No one could give me an answer. This is also a violation of their “Bible alone” concept because the Bible doesn’t tell us the Church is invisible. The Church has always said that the Church is both visible and invisible. Souls for example are invisible; people are visible.

Jesus does not say that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Bible. Jesus does say, The gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church (16:18). However, the Bible is protected as well because it is part of this same Church. To separate the Bible and the Church may be very Protestant, it just isn’t very Biblical and it is at odds with Jesus’ very own words.

At the same time, not all Protestants follow this concept. There are some very wonderfully brilliant non-Catholics out there, who have abandoned the “Bible alone” concept because they realize that it does harm to the parts of the Bible that emphasize the authority of the Church. Some of these have gone one step further and became Catholic.