Is the Bible Enough for Us? – Sufficiency

By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit opened my heart to come to faith in Christ in my twenties. Having previously known nothing of God’s word, I wrestled for months with the nature and origin of the Bible. Finally, I could deny the glaring facts no longer. The Bible stood up to all scrutiny. It possesses an integrity and unmatched divine quality like no other piece of literature. All 66 books are the verbal plenary inspired word of God.

Immediately upon my regeneration, I had no problem understanding that the Bible alone is the word of God. However, I did not grasp the implications of that. Issues came at me one after the other. I immersed in my local Christian culture. Professing believers were kind, friendly, and zealous. We hung out often and talked about God while hiking and camping. But something didn’t add up. Much of the discussion and action seemed to contradict what I was discovering in the Bible. We would pray in ways not prescribed in Scripture. We would seek words from God, but without opening the Bible. Dreams and visions from God were animatedly discussed while the Bible remained closed. One pastor told me, “Eric, put the Bible down for a month and go seek God in different places.” It didn’t sound right to me, but I could not explain why. I didn’t know it at the time, but these issues largely pertained to the sufficiency of the Bible. I understood something of the Bible’s divine nature, but I did not understand its sufficiency. Over time, I’ve discovered that many have struggled similarly. Today’s post will briefly address the sufficiency of Scripture.

Recently we began a series addressing foundational questions about the Bible; the topic of bibliology. First, we studied revelation, which answers the question, “What is the Bible?” Then, we looked at inspiration, which answers, “Where did the Bible come from?” Then, we observed the logical consequence, namely, that the 66 books of the Bible are the inerrant and infallible words of God. Last week, we studied canonicity, answering who decided which books would be in the Bible, how, and when. Today’s post is the next logical step.

Likely most Christians would confess that the Bible is sufficient. But, what does that look like? How adequate is the Bible for issues pertaining to life and godliness? What are the practical ramifications of inerrancy? How sufficient is the Bible? Has God really given us enough in these multi-millennia old books to address our modern conundrums?

The Sufficiency of Scripture Defined

The sufficiency of Scripture means that the words of Scripture are, and have been throughout salvation history, ample revelation from God for people to know him savingly, answer life’s most important questions, and carry out his will in their lives. Scripture outfits humanity with everything they need to know and please God. Nothing is lacking from Scripture which man needs to know and do God’s will in life. Whether through explicit commands or implicit principles, the Bible contains everything we need for any component of human life. We do not need additional revelation from God.

In article 1.6, the Westminster Confession of Faith states the sufficiency of Scripture as:

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 inference 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 Limits of Scripture’s Sufficiency

The sufficiency of Scripture does not insist that the Bible contains knowledge about every field of knowledge. To understand topics such as Newtonian mechanics, backcountry skiing, or cardio-thoracic surgery, we look outside of Scripture. However, the sufficiency of Scripture does mean that Scripture amply outfits us to apply wisdom and ethics in fields such as Newtonian mechanics, backcountry skiing, and cardio-thoracic surgery, in a manner pleasing to God. Further, all knowledge claims are subject to Scripture. If assertions from a field of knowledge contradict an assertion of Scripture, we submit to the authority of God.

The sufficiency of Scripture means that we must not go beyond biblical teaching. For example, it is correct to say that parents are commanded to raise their children in the things of Christ (Eph. 6:4). However, it is a functional denial of Scripture’s sufficiency to say, “Parents are sinning if they do not homeschool their children.” To make a matter of a conscience or preference a “must” is to breach the sufficiency of Scripture by mandating something that the Bible does not.

The Bible on Its Own Sufficiency

Throughout redemptive history, God has testified to the sufficiency of his own word.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).

“[F]rom 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. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

“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” (2 Pet. 1:3).

These verses expressly declare the sufficiency of God’s word for salvation and life’s issues. We could go on to cite other passages, such as Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Psalm 19:7-11, Luke 16:31, John 17:17, Colossians 1:28-9, and Hebrews 4:12.

Additionally, the way in which individuals in Scripture use Scripture declares its own sufficiency. For example, in Matthew 22:31 Jesus demonstrated that Exodus 3:6 is sufficient to address the Sadducees’ issue with the resurrection. Peter demonstrates the sufficiency of Scripture  in Acts 2:25-28 to prove the foretelling of Jesus’ resurrection.

Sufficient for Salvation

Scripture is sufficient to the point that one cannot be saved without it. God’s word provides all that is necessary for conversion (Ps. 19:7, 2 Tim. 3:15). It is sufficient enough to bring about the birth of the new soul in salvation (Jas. 1:19, 1 Pet. 2:23). That cannot be said about any writing in existence.

Sufficient for Sanctification

Scripture’s sufficiency is not restricted to the miracle of conversion. It is sufficient for the change we need; change needed to please God in the issues of life, to turn from evils inside and out, and to break from the enslaving power of sin (Ps. 19:7, John 17:17, 2 Tim. 3:17, 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Any detrimental way of living, in thought or deed, can be sufficiently addressed and changed through Scripture.

The Role of the Holy Spirit & the Sufficiency of Scripture

The Holy Spirit guided the biblical writers to complete biblical revelation. We can trust that his act of inspiration was not cut short or left unfinished (John 16:12-13). As such, it follows that since Scripture is the God-breathed work of the Spirit, then Scripture is sufficient by nature (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Implications of the Sufficiency of Scripture

Several conclusions are obvious in light of Scripture’s sufficiency. First, the Bible is enough to comprehensively cover every sphere of life to which God speaks. Even as it pertains to everyday rhythms such as eating and drinking, Scripture outfits man for his chief duty; to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31, Col. 3:17). Scripture claims to be adequate enough to equip man for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If something could be qualified as a “good work,” then Scripture is sufficient to outfit us for it.

The sufficiency of Scripture has major implications for the soul work of counseling. Counseling is the work of observing issues of the soul, interpreting those issues, and shepherding individuals according to the need of the moment. God created the soul, thus Scripture speaks sufficiently thereto. More than necessary for counseling, the Bible is enough. Biblical counseling affirms that all issues of life—no matter how severe—will be sufficiently addressed through the knowledge and application of Scripture. Scripture itself testifies to this explicitly (Ps. 19:7-9, 2 Tim. 3:15-17, 2 Pet 1:3-4).

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Furthermore, the soul change which individuals experience in salvation and sanctification is a demonstration of the sufficiency of Scripture. For example, Scripture’s sufficiency is on display when an individual battling depression experiences hope through Psalm 42. When an individual turns from enslaving sexual behavior with the help of Romans 5 and 6, Scripture’s sufficiency is on display. When crippling worry is replaced with peaceful trust through a study of Philippians 4 and Romans 8, Scripture’s sufficiency is showcased.

God’s people seek out man-made substitutes for soul work in vain. Freud, Skinner, and the like—even if peppered with biblical content—are impotent to bring the salvation and sanctification man needs and which the Bible supplies. The word of God, properly handled and applied, will supply man with the power to change.

The sufficiency of Scripture means that the Bible is adequate to equip man for life’s relationships. The biblical teaching assumes that Scripture is sufficient for every relationship circumstance, whether dealing with hostile enemies, intimate family, or sinning siblings in Christ (Matt. 5:44-47, 18:15-20; Rom. 12:17-21; Eph. 5:22-6:4). The Bible is totally sufficient to prepare us for all relationships (Matt. 22:36-40).

Scripture’s sufficiency means that the doctrine of the church must be defined by the Bible. Our theological affirmations are to be in submission to God, which is to say they must be in submission to Scripture. Doctrines may or may not be expressly stated. They may be inferred. For example, we will not find the assertion, “God is a triune God,” in any verse. However, many verses demonstrate that truth, thus, the doctrine must be embraced.

If a doctrine is not either expressly set down in Scripture, or logically inferred from Scripture, it must be rejected. For example, Scripture nowhere teaches, “As no man goeth to the Father by but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother.” However, Pope Leo XIII stated these words in his Octobri Mense encyclical on September 22, 1891, making it Roman doctrine. Rome thereby demonstrates that she defines her doctrine in a manner contrary to the sufficiency of Scripture.

Scripture’s sufficiency means that the Bible enables people to make decisions pleasing to God with a clean conscience. When the word of God saturates our minds, we are enabled to live a fruitful and prosperous life as Scripture defines (Ps. 1:2-3).When the God of the word is our delight, we are positioned to make decisions which are both pleasing to God and joyful for us (Ps. 37:4). When we keep God’s commands, we experience a consequent freedom in life (Ps. 119:44-45). When we love Scripture, both a peace and stability will result in our lives (Ps. 119:165).

The sufficiency of Scripture means that the revealed will of God is to be discerned through Scripture. God has given us the Bible as the instrument for making decisions pleasing to him. We need not fear that God has short-changed us. He is so good that he has confined the area of knowing his will within the 66 books of Scripture. He has not left us to a capricious and arbitrary hunt. When it comes to discerning God’s will, the sufficiency of Scripture renders off-limits things like feelings, “a peace about it”, enticing circumstances, whims, dreams, visions, and miracles. With the help of prayer, counselors, wisdom, and the Holy Spirit, we discern issues of life and godliness from Scripture explicitly or implicitly.

Denials of Scripture’s Sufficiency

Any effort to seek the will or words of God outside of the 66 books of the Bible is a functional repudiation of the sufficiency of Scripture. The ramifications of forsaking the sufficiency of Scripture are serious. Seeking the will or words of God outside of Scripture is also to functionally deny biblical inerrancy. To search elsewhere for God’s word or will functionally declares that there exists some defect in Scripture such that I must look in another place. To seek the will of God outside of the Bible is also to functionally deny the inspiration of Scripture. If inspiration is true, then the 66 books alone are from God, which means there is nothing pertaining to God’s will that can be found elsewhere. To seek the will or words of God outside the Bible is also a denial of the authority of Scripture. If I believed Scripture to be authoritative, there would be nothing outside of the 66 books with divine authority to address God’s will. Finally, to seek the will of God outside of Scripture is to deny that the Bible is special revelation. If I believed that the 66 books are revelation, I would not seek something revealed from God elsewhere, because there is, in fact, no such thing.

Conclusion

Scripture’s sufficiency is the result of Scripture’s nature. God has given us his word through the act of verbal plenary inspiration. The result is the 66 books of God-breathed revelation. God completed the canon when he concluded inspiration. Therefore, the Bible we have is sufficient. God does not have amnesia, nor is he absent-minded. He is the good shepherd. With his word, we do not lack. By faith in Christ, we enter into his fold, and exist in green pastures of his word. Ours is the good shepherd who has held nothing back from his sheep (Rom. 8:32).



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