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Applying the Doctrine of the Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

Posted On June 5, 2016

Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to write on “Issues in the Church” that either aren’t talked about, ignored entirely, or that we want to contribute to the discussion on. Our goal with this series is to help our readers think through these issues from a biblical worldview with lots of practical gospel-application.

  • Read the rest of the series here.
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As a pastor, I am concerned that the local church views the doctrine of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture as nothing more than a statement of faith on their church’s website. At our local church the Lord has burdened my heart to teach our people the importance of applying this imperative doctrine to their lives.

The Importance of the Scripture to the Christian Life

This is not unique to the local church I have the pleasure of serving. The Apostle Paul reminds his protégé, young Timothy in First 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 complete, equipped for every good work.” The Bible, although penned by men, is the very word of God. The phrase, “God breathed” is significant and denotes the true authorship behind the words of Scripture. God himself inspired them. Theologian B.B. Warfield defended this when he stated, “This church-doctrine of inspiration was the Bible doctrine before it was the church-doctrine, “and it is “the church doctrine only because it is the Bible doctrine.”[1]

It is a historically orthodox Christian position to understand and teach the Bible as inspired and authoritative over all of the creation. Since God has spoken, His word has authority for everything pertaining to “life and godliness” (2nd Peter 1:3). Inerrancy means “freedom from error or untruths”[2] and infallibility means “incapable of erring.”[3]  The Scriptures will always pass even the most intense scrutiny since it is infallible.

A failure to reconcile truth in Scripture is a deficiency on the method of interpreters, not the Bible itself. Scripture is “inspired, inerrant, clear, necessary, comprehensive, and sufficient.”[4] Since the Bible is inspired, inerrant and authoritative, it is also sufficient. Consider Psalm 119:9-12 which states, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD: teach me your statues!” The Psalmist here models a high view of Scripture that leads to purity, seeking God, fleeing sin, and worshiping God appropriately. The only way to know our unchanging God is to know His unchanging Word that has guided Christians throughout church history.

The sufficiency of Scripture means that there is no need for any more special revelation. God has spoken and revealed everything needed to know and glorify Him forever. All knowledge outside of the Scripture is subordinate to the Scriptures and if found in conflict, is to be discarded. Theologian John Frame says it in this way:

“Since God created and governs all things, he is the original interpreter of creation, the one who understands the world and all its depths- not only its material nature, but also its ultimate meaning and purpose.  God, therefore, has the ultimate viewpoint on the world- the broadest, deepest understanding of it.  His word about himself or about the world, therefore, is more credible than any other word or any other means of knowing.  It obligates belief, trust, and obedience.”[5]

The Sufficiency of Scripture and Caring for One Another

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture is of the utmost importance as we seek to care for one another. At times, there is a disconnect between the church’s doctrine regarding the sufficiency of Scripture and our practice of that doctrine. Many Pastors and Christians spend considerable time talking about the Bible without ever opening the Bible. Instead of demonstrating that all the small stories point to one larger story (the story of redemption), pastors and Christians often use the Bible as an encyclopedia of small stories and random life application. This leads Christians to view the Scriptures as a bunch of disconnected “mini stories”. As a result, Christians may become tempted to believe that something other than the Scriptures are needed during extreme circumstances in one’s life. You and I as Christians must repent of this and see Scripture as completely sufficient for all things (Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3) and encourage others to this end as well.

I challenge you in light of what you’ve learned in this article to seek to apply the doctrine of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture to your own life.

[1] Fred G. Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 124.

[2] The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 695.

[3] Ibid.

[4] John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), 599.

[5] John Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002), 81.

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