The Sufficiency of Scripture
The Bible is primarily God's gracious revelation of Himself to men. Man's knowledge about God, though derived from many sources, is incomplete apart from the special revelation of the Scriptures. Yet the Bible is also God's instruction regarding life. Significant portions of the Scripture, such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, James, and parts of the epistles are devoted to issues of wisdom.
Thankfully, much of the Christian world prides itself for the conviction that the Bible is the final authority for faith and practice. The classic Westminster Confession declares this concept thusly:
"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men." (The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter I, paragraph VI, n.d.)
The Statement of Faith of First Baptist Church rightly states that:
“The Holy Scripture is the all-sufficient, certain, and infallible rule or standard of the faith, knowledge, and obedience necessary for salvation and for living. God over time and in a variety of ways has revealed Himself and His will to His people ." (A Statement of Faith, chapter 1, paragraph 1)
A View of the Scriptures
Therefore, it is true that he Scriptures can sustain individuals during all times of life because they contain all one needs to know in order to know God and to live in a godly fashion.The Apostle spoke of God's gracious provision to believers:
NAS 2Pe 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
Frequently, however, this same Christian world in reality affirms the sufficiency of Scripture for doctrine, but for all practical purposes denies it for life. There is often a great wall of separation between doctrine and practice. Few are asking "so what?" as a consequence of a theological affirmation. A strong voice must declare that the Bible is all the Christian absolutely must have in order to know and please God. Clever ideas are not needed to supplement God's wisdom and must never be allowed to replace it. If God's people had access only to the Bible, they could live successfully by seeking to obey and follow biblical principles, commands, and examples. The Bible is all the Christian absolutely must have in order to know and please God. When God's people reasonably understand and wisely apply the Bible, God can use it to provide the power and grace needed to sustain a godly life. Perhaps the author of Hebrew was compelled by this concept:
NAS Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
However, just knowing the Bible is not enough. The average pagan can know the Bible as a literary masterpiece. In fact many non-Christians have considerable knowledge of the Scripture. The gospel story of the wise man and the foolish man vividly teaches that the Bible must be both known and obeyed.
"Therefore every one who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall; for it had been founded upon the rock. And every one who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall." (Matthew 7:24-27 NAS)
Clearly then, the Bible is not for the bookshelf alone. God does not give His truth in a vacuum!
A Matter of Grace
This call for a renewed commitment to the sufficiency of the Scriptures for life is not a call to self-mastery or self-reformation. Nor is it a call to conformity to a set of certain biblical principles which contain the deep secrets to spiritual maturity. This is precisely what is not needed. Only the work of God in hearts can result in His people becoming those who know and honor Him. God's way is to perform a work of grace in a person's heart thereby enabling him to structure his life according to the Bible.
The Value of the Scriptures
The Bible is not silent regarding its own worth. The value of the Scriptures is addressed in both Testaments.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean,
The judgments of the LORD are true;
they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold,
yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey
and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation
of my heart Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
The Word of God is the means of grace for restoring and refreshing our very beings. Philosophy, education, entertainment, therapy, and sundry other resources are apparently not worthy of mention. The Word brings stability and maturity. It brings us joy from knowing we are moving toward our goal successfully. Through the Word we can have a clear mind and understanding. The Word can remind us of our sin and yet encourage us with the joy of forgiveness. Because the Word is readily available for us it should be the object of our affection.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
NAS 2Ti 3:14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
Young Timothy had learned to read from the Scriptures at the feet of his grandmother, Lois, his mother, Eunice, and maybe even Paul. He is admonished by Paul never to outgrow the Scripture because of its pervasive value for all matters heavenly and earthly.
The Scriptures contain truth designed by God to produce the new birth (v. 15). The purpose of Timothy's training in The Scriptures was to lead him to salvation. It could do so because, as the Holy Spirit applies its truth to men's darkened hearts, it becomes the "power of God for salvation" (Romans 1:16 NIV).
The Scriptures are the Father's loving word to men (v. 16). It is as if God is actually speaking verbally to men. In the same way God "spoke" and a well-ordered completely functioning universe came into existence (Psalm 33:6), so His creative breath brings into existence the Scriptures. Because the Scripture is "God-breathed," it is profitable to men. To shun the practical advantage of the Scriptures is foolhardy. Yet some believers go everywhere else for help first and only reluctantly come to the Scriptures as a last resort!
The Scriptures can teach us what we need to know about God and His grace and requirements (v. 16). They move us toward doctrine and toward God Himself. This teaching encompasses the truth we need to know, what we ought to be, what we ought to do, and how God transforms us. If we possess the Scriptures we cannot plead ignorance.
The Scriptures can convict us of our failure to meet God's requirements (v. 16). God's Word has the uncanny ability to expose (evlegmo,j) men's faults. The Lord Himself was a master at using the Scriptures this way. The disciples said of their encounter with the risen Lord, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32 NIV).
The Scriptures can direct us to steps of correction toward God's grace and requirements (v. 16). Not only is the Scripture able to knock the legs out from under us, it also can set us up straight again (evpano,rqwsij). Forgiveness, restoration, and revitalization are all special benefits of an encounter with the Scriptures for the fallen sinner.
The Scriptures can train us into a habit of life which meets God's requirements (v. 16). The Scriptures possess a training ability similar to a father's training of his children (paidei,a). Continual exposure to the Scripture enhances the probability of people living the kind of life which pleases God.
The Scriptures can outfit us for godliness (v. 17). Unlike purchasing a product and subsequently discovering the fine print "batteries not included," the Bible is a complete package. As we come to know God and as He performs a miracle of grace in our heart, the Bible is all we need in order to be fully equipped and outfitted (evxarti,zw) for the good works God has intended for us.
A Basic Mindset
Because of the unique value of the Scriptures, the wise believer will immerse himself in its study. He will be overcome with a simple desire to know what God has said as he advances along the daily thoroughfare of knowing and enjoying Him.
It is likely that if we truly appropriate this concept of the sufficiency of Scripture we will consequently adopt a new approach to life. At least this ought to be the case. We will move from a feeling or pragmatically driven orientation to life to a command or authority driven orientation to life. The primary consideration becomes, "What does God say?" in lieu of our own personal feelings or opinions.
In short, the most prized response to the circumstances of our life will be obedience. No if, and, or but. No rationalization, justification, or blame shifting. Just simple childlike obedience which leads to the highest joy - the enjoyment of God Himself.
A Word of Caution
It must be understood that this strong assertion regarding the sufficiency of the Scriptures is not a warrant to disregard other resources God may have graciously provided His people. On the contrary, there is value in literature (see Paul's request for his parchments in 2 Timothy 4:13) or godly counsel (see Proverbs 15:22). People ought to seize wise assistance made available to them by God.
The issue is one of relative importance. All supplemental resources must be filtered through the grid of Scripture, not vice versa. The opinion of psychology, anthropology, sociology, or human experience must not be placed on par with the Scripture. In fact if extra biblical resources contradict the voice of Scripture, they must be rejected.
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2014. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.