March 27, 2024

The French and a Doctrine of Scripture

Stephen Nichols
The French and a Doctrine of Scripture

The fifth article of the 1559 French Confession of Faith contains rich descriptions of the doctrine of Scripture. Today, Stephen Nichols draws out five points from this article that help us understand this key doctrine.


Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes In Church History. It was a few episodes back that we camped out in the year 1559. You might recall that in that year, a number of confessions were written in a number of languages across the European lands. It was a great moment, a succinct moment in the history of the Reformation. Well, I want to go back to that year 1559. I want to go back to one of those confessions, the French Confession of Faith. I was looking at article five again, and I saw in there, it’s one paragraph, it’s a densely packed paragraph, but I saw in there a wonderful doctrine of Scripture, and as I looked at it, five points emerged. And you know how at 5 Minutes in Church History, we love that number five.

Well, let’s look at it. First, the French Confession of Faith, article five, declares, “We believe that the word contained in these books”—that is, the sixty-six canonical books of the Bible—“has proceeded from God.” Well, we start there with our doctrine of Scripture. Scripture is revelation. That means it’s not a bottom-up book. It’s a top-down book. It has been revealed to us from God. This leads to the second point, “Because it is from God,” The Confession continues, “Scripture receives its authority from Him alone and not from men.” This second point is so crucial, this doctrine of the authority of Scripture. As the Reformation develops this doctrine, and even in the post-Reformation era, we will see a very simple formula emerge, and that is inspiration leads to inerrancy. Because the Bible is revelation, it is inspired, it is breathed out from God, and because it is from God who is truth and speaks truthfully, it is, in fact, inerrant. It is true in all that it says, and it is without error.

We also see here an apologetic implication. The Bible is not the only text to claim divine origin. Other texts do. And so, what do we do with these contradictory and conflicting truth claims? While Scripture, unlike these other texts, wants to be submitted to scrutiny, it speaks of places in time and in history and of historical figures. And so, we can look to archeology and history to see corroboration of these events that are recorded for us and the Bible so that we can know it is indeed a divine revelation and true and reliable. The third point from the French Confession is this, “That in this Bible, in this Word of God, it is the rule of all truth containing all that is necessary for the service of God and for our salvation.” As Peter’s going to say, in the Bible we have all that we need for life and godliness.

Scripture is sufficient. Of course, it is sufficient. It’s from God, and it’s for us. So, it’s going to be sufficient for all that we need for life and godliness. And we can know, as the Confession says, “That it is the rule of all truth.” We have a sure Word. We have a true north. We have a compass. Imagine living in this world without a true and reliable guide. It’s pretty bleak, isn’t it? But Scripture gives us that compass that we know is true, and we can depend on it, and it gives us all we need for life and godliness. Fourth, that Confession goes on to say that “No other authority, whether of antiquity, or custom, or numbers, or human wisdom, or judgments, or proclamations, or edicts, or decrees, or counsels, or visions, or miracles, none of these other authorities should be opposed to these Holy Scriptures.” So again, Scripture alone. This is the keyword, alone, Sola. Scripture alone is our authority, and these other things that have come along, especially in the Reformation context, that the Church was depending on are not our authority.

And then, finally, positively, the Confession ends with this, “But on the contrary, all things,” that’s a pretty inclusive expression, isn’t it? “All things should be examined, regulated, and reformed according to them.” Well, there it is. That was the battle cry of the Reformation. That formal principle of Sola Scripture, and it alone guides the Church in her doctrine and in her practice and in her worship. And so, we as Christians are reformed as well by God’s Word alone. That’s the French Confession of Faith, article five. And I’m Steve Nichols, and thanks for joining us for 5 Minutes in Church History.