In my last blog we looked at the authority of scripture and how God’s word directs us in regard to how we should lead our lives. Even though the bible is a large book it obviously doesn’t cover in detail every situation or challenge that life throws our way. This then begs the question “is the bible sufficient for us?”. Is the bible in itself enough, or are there other books, experiences or revelations that are necessary for us to understand what God’s will is for our lives?
If we are to consider this question logically and consistently we would have to answer “yes”. If God is consistent in His desire to communicate with us, to reveal what he is like and to ensure that the words of scripture are protected even through fierce opposition, then we have to believe that the bible contains everything He wants to say to us; that it is sufficient to lead us successfully through life and to experience His wonderful salvation.
We would also have to conclude that the Israelites at the time of Moses and just after, had all that they needed with the Pentateuch (first five books of the bible), but that we at our time in history need the full canon of scripture, as has been revealed by God through his plan for salvation. I will quote Wayne Grudem again from his excellent Systematic Theology:
“The sufficiency of scripture means that scripture contained all the words God has intended His people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.” (Wayne Grudem).
It is clear from the bible that no subsequent revelation should be added to it and that nothing should be taken away from it either:
“Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6).
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” (Revelation 22:18-19).
There are many ways that God can guide us outside of scripture, for example through prophecy, through our church leaders and by the counsel of godly people, but whatever is said should always be tested against scripture and must never contradict it.
Other thoughts to consider when looking at the sufficiency of scripture are:
· Nothing is sin that is not forbidden by scripture either explicitly or by implication.
· Nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in scripture either explicitly or by implication.
· In our doctrinal and ethical teaching we should emphasise what the bible emphasises and be content with what God has told us in scripture.
· God does not require us to believe anything about Himself or His plan of salvation that is not included in scripture.
The bible itself promises many good things for those who read it and obey it. I would recommend reading and meditating on the following passages:
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)
“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2)
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” ( 1 Thessalonians 2:13)
As we read and meditate on the bible, God works in us. As we read it and as the Holy Spirit breathes upon it we are changed; our love for God grows, our desire to follow and become more like Jesus increases and our motives change. It truly is a life transforming book!