The Sufficiency of Scripture

Written by Greg Haslam

This is a series of posts about the authority of Scripture. You can read all of the posts in the series by clicking here. In my last post, we discussed the work of the Spirit in the revelation of Scripture. But what do the Scriptures say about themselves? This post will explore an important passage of the New Testament and its influence on our perspectives of the sufficiency of Scripture.

II Timothy 3:10 – 4:2

It is fascinating to see clearly here the evidence for what we call the sufficiency of Scripture. Alongside all attempts of fallen and sinful man to deny or denigrate the inspiration, infallibility and authority of Scripture, sin finds its greatest anger poured out in reaction to this issue in particular.

Wayne Grudem defines the sufficiency of Scripture in this way, ‘The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words God intended for his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.’ (‘Systematic Theology ’ p.127) Only in Scripture are we authorized to find the words God has spoken to us, and those words are enough for us. All other beneficial words are but the explication and reflection of those words.

Sufficient for salvation

In 2 Tim. 3:15 Scripture is said to be able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, so that in Scripture alone is to be found the words we need to hear in order to be saved. And similarly, we need nothing more than Scripture to equip us for living the Christian life wisely and ethically pleasing to God, which is only another way of saying the living of all of our life. For here alone is the source of the tools to achieve the goal that the man or woman of God may be equipped for every good work. It is that important. Scripture is not inadequate but sufficient at every point. If there is any good work God has intended us to do, then God has made provision for our training to do it, here in his word. These ‘good works’ are not just religious activities performed in congregational life, they are everyday activities performed in all of life.

This is vitally important, because for several generations there has been, for the most part amongst evangelicals an abject failure to think broadly and holistically about life in a radically biblical way. We have accepted that what ‘is’ is equivalent to what ‘ought’ to be. We too readily accept the status quo, and marry the spirit of the age. Sometimes it shows up in a lively pietism that makes much of worship and charismatic life but seems either compromised with the world or ghettoised and cut off from that world. Other times it manifests in a ‘dead orthodoxy’ that is strong on doctrine but has little or no impact on life in the world, so that it considers itself irrelevant to its media, social activities or parliamentary legislation. Here Paul wants us to be both. Paul saw no such dualism between thought and action. Here he refers to their relationship.

Lives and words

 

Paul wants us to be aware of two aspects of his ministry:

1) ‘My teaching’ (v.10) – and so become Radical Thinkers, and

2) ‘My way of life’ (v.10) -and so become Radical Livers as well, because both are to be derived from Scripture in its wide scope of authority over the whole of life. God’s word affects the whole of life and society for the better. Historically this has always been the aim of our forefathers in the Reformed faith, from Calvin’s Geneva, to the Scotland of Knox; from the Puritan revolution under Cromwell in the 17th Century, to the founding principles of America in the 18th Century; from the work of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle in London to the mighty influence of Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper in Holland, at the end of the 19th Century. Kuyper is particularly interesting. Abraham Kuyper (19th C. theologian, university founder, college principal, founder of national newspaper and eventually Prime Minister of Holland’ “It is sad to see how even the theology of the Reformed churches has in so many a country come under the sway of wholly foreign systems. But at all events, theology is only one of the many sciences that demand biblical treatment. Philosophy, Psychology, Aesthetics, Law, the Social Sciences, Literature and even the medical and natural sciences, each and all of these…go back to principles, and of necessity the question must be put with more penetrating seriousness than hitherto, whether the …principles that reign in the present method of each of the sciences are in agreement with the principles of the Bible, or are at variance with there very essence.” (‘Lectures on Calvinism’ p. 194)

Of course to become invasive and intrusive in this way will not be easy (v. 11-13). It will invite criticism and physical persecution.

But Paul knows that such ‘salty’ and ‘light bearing’ witness, both arresting the progress of decay in the world and positively expelling and supplanting the darkness is exactly what the Scriptures themselves mandate us to do. Paul then makes three vital assertions concerning Scripture, which should for us become three vital assumptions. With the Apostle Paul himself, we believe and therefore assume in all of our thinking three vital convictions.

1. v.16a Confidence in the Bible’s Inspiration and Inerrancy – it’s ORIGIN

2. v.16b Confidence in the Bible’s Authority – It’s PURPOSE

3. v.17 Confidence in the Bible’s Sufficiency – It’s APPLICATION

In my next post, we will explore these three ideas.  Check back soon!

// Originally posted on Theology Matters //

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Confluence is a place where the reformed, the charismatic, and the mission-minded converge to equip and serve the church to transform communities. Our authors are mostly leaders in the Newfrontiers family of churches.

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