The backdrop of opinions on the Bible vary from contempt to celebration. Some are bothered by passages they don’t understand; others are troubled by the ones they do. Scripture is seen by some as a stumbling block in the path of progress, while others see its meaning widening and deepening over the years.
This is why many today will say, “What is right for you is right for you. But what is right for me is right for me.” According to this worldview, all universal moral absolutes lose all meaning. Everything becomes relative and up to the whims and fancies of the individual.
Yet, tragically, this worldview has also penetrated the local church. No longer is God’s Word — the Bible — considered the sufficient standard for all matters of faith and practice. Rather, our own existence and experience has become the standard. In many study groups, it seems that the most common question is, “What do you think about this verse?” The better biblical question, though, is: “What is the true meaning of this verse?”
Is the Bible our sufficient authority? Or, is our authority some arbitrary combination of the Bible and what we think and feel?
What is the Sufficiency of Scripture?
Believing in the sufficiency of Scripture means that what it says and what it doesn’t say matters. Both its commands and its silence speak. This is why 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) says:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness …
By the Scripture and Scripture alone is the only authority by which one can come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and continue in a life of obedience to the Lord’s will. A commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture is seen in what you find to be unimportant just as clearly as what you find important.
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Stop and think about this for a moment. There are many spiritual writings in this world, but only one reveals Jesus Christ. The primary point of the Bible is salvation — not where the world came from or how to live an ethical life. Those matters, while important, are tangential compared to matters of salvation and the God of it, which is the story of the Bible.
The Bible isn’t the product of human imagination. Timothy knew that Scripture alone is useful for the ministry to which he had been called. Scripture contains all that Timothy needed to preserve the church from false teaching. The Scriptures are all-sufficient and they won’t disappoint.
This doesn’t mean that the Scriptures alone contain all knowledge that exists. The Scriptures aren’t some secret agent decoder book where, if you have the right cipher, you can unlock all of the knowledge in the universe. Rather, the Scriptures alone are sufficient for salvation and knowing God personally (Rom. 10:13-17). Wherever the Bible does speak, whether it is in areas of history or science, for example, it speaks with infallible authority. It is sufficient.
So, why is this the most practical teaching for the Christian and church today?
The sufficiency of Scripture is the most practical doctrine because it informs not only the ends but also the means of all ends. It helps us answer the following questions:
1. What should we do?
The answer is in the Bible. God made us. Look to His Word if you want to know how to live. God’s Word has to do with life. God’s Word tells us everything we need to know about every aspect of life and how to live as a Christian, either implicitly or explicitly.
2. What should we believe?
The answer is in the Bible. God has revealed the truth about Himself to us. Churches seek to do what God has told us. Our actions are based on our beliefs. Our doctrine comes from God’s Word. This is why we’re to add nothing to Scripture, for there is no new revelation. In 1 Cor. 15:1-8, Paul gives a summary on what early Christians believed for this very reason.
3. How should we worship?
The answer is in the Bible. God tells us how we are to approach Him. We read the Bible, sing the Bible, preach the Bible, and pray the Bible. Why? Because it is sufficient!
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We come together regularly to worship God (Heb. 10:24-25). Local church worship isn’t about creativity and sensitivity. Human inventions are idolatrous (Ex. 32). We don’t care if something is traditional; we care if it’s biblical. Look at God’s Word. Sin makes us all unreliable guides.
We sing hymns because we are commanded to (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). We read God’s Word to each other. Confess our sins (1 John 1:9). Give financially. Preach (2 Timothy 4:2).
4. How should we live together?
The answer is in the Bible. Some today may not accept that the Bible tells us how to live as a church. Why? Many say there’s no consistent pattern in the Bible. Scripture teaches us many things implicitly. It is sufficient for knowing what God would have us to do.
Scripture also frees us from the tyranny of human opinion. God gives us a picture of the church in the Bible, and we should value it. Our concern should be that the church display the glory of God. We are to show what God is about.
The function of our sufficient Scripture is to teach us our inadequacies, to strip us of our confidence and false assumption. We are condemned — that it something we hide ourselves from. When Scripture reveals these things, it transcends all the instincts of our nature and the prerogatives of our culture — an almost impossible task.
Has it performed this function in your life? Do you trust in Christ alone? Scripture should probe our consciences and lift false security not found outside of the Bible’s sufficiency.