Thursday, April 5, 2012

Systematic Theology--Chapter 8

The Four Characteristics of Scripture: (4) Sufficiency
Is the Bible enough for knowing what God wants us to think or do?

A. Definition of the Sufficiency of Scripture

  • The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he 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.
  • Significant scriptural support and explanation of this doctrine is found in Paul's words to Timothy, "from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ." (2 Timothy 3:15)
  • This is an indication that the words of God which we have in Scripture are all the words of God we need in order to be saved.
  • This is confirmed by other passages that talk about the words of Scripture as the means God uses to bring us to salvation.
    • James 1:18: Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
    • 1 Peter 1:23: . . . since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God
  • Other passages indicate that the Bible is also sufficient to equip us for living the Christian life.
    • 2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
    • Psalm 119:1: Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.
B. We Can Find All That God Has Said on Particular Topics, and We Can Find Answers to Our Questions

  • Of course, we realize that we will never perfectly obey all of Scripture in this life.
  • However, the biblical teaching about the sufficiency of Scripture gives us confidence that we will be able to find all that God requires us to think or do in response to moral and doctrinal questions.
  • We differ from Roman Catholic theologians, who would say that we have not found all that God says to us about any particular subject until we have also listened to the official teaching of the church throughout its history. We would respond that although the history of the church may help us to understand what God says to us in the Bible, never in church history has God added to the teachings or commands of Scripture.
  • Scripture is sufficient to equip us for "every good work," and to walk in its ways is to be "blameless" in God's sight.
  • We also differ from nonevangelical theologians who are not convinced that the Bible is God's Word in any unique or absolutely authoritative sense, and who would therefore search not only the Bible but also many other early Christian writings in an attempt to find not so much what God said to mankind but rather what many early Christians experienced in their relationship with God. To this we would reply that our search for answers to theological and ethical questions is not a search to find what various believers have thought in the history of the church, but is a quest to find and understand what God himself says to us in his own words, which are found in Scripture and only Scripture. (p. 129)
C. The Amount of Scripture Given Was Sufficient at Each Stage of Redemptive History

  • The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture does not imply that God cannot add any more words to those he has already spoken to his people. It rather implies that man cannot add on his own initiative any words to those that God has already spoken.
  • This point is important, for it helps us to understand how God could tell his people that his words to them were sufficient at many different points in the history of redemption, and how he could nevertheless add to those words later.
  • At the time of the death of Moses, the first five books of our Old Testament were sufficient for God's people at that time.
  • Later God directed authors to add more so that Scripture would be sufficient for believers in subsequent times.
  • This means that we can cite Scripture texts from throughout the canon to show that the principle of the sufficiency of God's revelation to his people at each particular time has remained the same.
    • Deuteronomy 4:2: You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.
    • Deuteronomy 12:32: Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.
    • Proverbs 30:5-6: Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.
    • Revelation 22:18-19: I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
D. Practical Applications of the Sufficiency of Scripture

  1. The sufficiency of Scripture should encourage us as we try to discover what God would have us to think (about a particular doctrinal issue) or to do (in a particular situation).
  2. The sufficiency of Scripture reminds us that we are to add nothing to Scripture, and that we are to consider no other writings of equal value to Scripture.
  3. The sufficiency of Scripture also tells us that God does not require us to believe anything about himself or his redemptive work that is not found in Scripture.
  4. The sufficiency of Scripture shows us that no modern revelations from God are to be placed on a level equal to Scripture in authority.
  5. With regard to living the Christian life, the sufficiency of Scripture reminds us that nothing is sin that is not forbidden by Scripture either explicitly or by implication.
  6. The sufficiency of Scripture also tells us that nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in Scripture either explicitly or by implication.
  7. The sufficiency of Scripture reminds us that in our doctrinal and ethical teaching we should emphasize what Scripture emphasizes and be content with what God has told us in Scripture.

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