In this issue of Theology for Life Magazine, we are going to take a look at the doctrine of Scripture, as affirmed by the Protestant Reformers, which is encapsulated in the Latin phrase Sola Scriptura. According to the Reformation—and the principle of Sola Scriptura—Scripture is the only infallible rule of faith for the Church. Because the Word of God is the only theopneustos—God-breathed—special revelation that we possess today (2nd Timothy 3:16), then no rule of faith can supersede Scripture. There is no higher court to which we can appeal for faith and practice, for there is nowhere else besides Scripture where we can surely find God’s voice today. The fact that God’s Word is inspired does not mean that He dictated it or that He overrode the personalities, gifts, and stylistic choices of the human authors, through whom the written Word of God has come to us. It does mean that He worked in and through these authors such that their words are His words.
Sola Scriptura also leads us to the doctrine of biblical sufficiency. To say that Scripture is sufficient is to say that the Bible contains all that we need for determining what we must believe and how we are to live before God. Scripture must be interpreted if we are to understand what we are to believe and how we are to act. The sufficiency of Scripture also indicates that we need no other source of special revelation for faith and life in addition to the Bible.
Passages such as 2nd Timothy 3:17 affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. Having affirmed that God’s Word is profitable for “teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2nd Timothy 3:16), Paul explains that Scripture is enough to make us “complete, equipped for every good work.”
Scripture in its totality is all that is needed so that we will be completely prepared to serve the Lord. A good work is anything pleasing to God, so this Magazine issue covers everything from determining sound doctrine, to knowing the deeds the Lord requires of us as proof of our faith in Him. Being equipped for every good work requires understanding the doctrinal foundations of God-pleasing actions, and the actions themselves. This is seen in how the New Testament Epistles typically move from presenting doctrine that must be believed, to practical application and moral instruction. John Calvin explains that to be complete means to be “one in whom there is nothing defective”. To avoid being defective concerning faith and life, we must study Scripture and put its teachings into practice.
Some sectors of Christianity today believe that the Bible is inspired, inerrant, clear, and authoritative, but they also want you to think that there is a need for further revelation with “words from God, dreams, etc.” Well, what it is? Are the Scriptures alone inspired, inerrant, and authoritative? If so, then the Scripture alone is sufficient for life and godliness. That means we don’t need further revelation outside of the Scriptures. The sufficiency of Scripture buttresses and fortifies the doctrine of Scripture from triviality and takes it into the everyday experience of the Christian.
Many Christians rightly believe that the inspiration, inerrancy, clarity, and authority of the Word matters, and they are right. But let me ask you, “Do you believe that biblical teaching on gender roles, sexuality, church practice, governance, and more matter?” Now here we venture into the arena of the sufficiency of Scripture. It’s not enough to say we have the right convictions about Scripture itself and then don’t put into practice what Scripture teaches. James tells us to no longer be hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word (James 1:22-25). Paul tells us that we are not to be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). To do that, we need to see the connection between the inspiration, inerrancy, clarity, and authority of the Word of God.
The sufficiency of Scripture helps us to see that Christian freedom isn’t free; it’s costly. The death of Jesus wasn’t merely for freedom’s sake; it was for sinners to come and know the freedom Christ alone provides, in His finished and sufficient work through His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus didn’t die to secure a “freedom”, so we could exercise that freedom in any way that we want. Instead, the freedom we have is a stewardship from God that we will give an account for on the last day as Christians. There is no absolute freedom in the Christian life. Everything comes at a cost. The death of Jesus forever secures and seals the children of God, but the Holy Spirit also convicts, teaches, guides, and corrects them through His Word.
You and I, as Christians, may be tempted to look for God’s will in places other than the Word of God. As we ponder the will of God for our lives, Christians must be careful to follow the guidance of Scripture. The Scriptures alone are sufficient to give the people of God the principles they need to know how to please God wherever we are, and however we are called to serve the Lord Jesus.
In this issue of Theology for Life we are going to talk about the sufficiency of Scripture, why it matters, what the Church has taught, and help readers understand the importance of this concept for the Christian life and ministry. There is a lot of confusion today about what the sufficiency of Scripture is. There is even less written today (sadly) about why it matters. This is why we are taking up this issue, at this time, to help you understand that the Bible is not only inspired, inerrant, clear, and authoritative; it is also is sufficient to address all you need for your life and ministry. You can trust the Word of God, for it contains the words of eternal life uttered by none other than our precious dear Lord Jesus. By grace, you can become not only a hearer of the Word, but a doer of the Word—one who seeks to apply the sufficient teaching of Scripture to your own life and ministry.
In Christ Alone,
Executive Editor, Theology for Life Magazine