It is a blessing that we have in our hands and at our fingertips, the complete and powerful word of the One who created us, saved us, and sustains our lives.
If there’s anything I hope to accomplish in this blog post, it is that you would be able to say this along with the great reformer Martin Luther:
I am content with this gift of the Scriptures, which teaches and supplies all that is necessary, both for this life and that which is to come.Martin Luther
When pastors and theologians describe the Bible, they usually use four different adjectives. I’m going to write in-depth about one of them – the sufficiency of Scripture. But it is important to mention the other three in order to understand sufficiency.
The four adjectives are infallible, inerrant, sufficient, and perspicuous. These four adjectives answer different questions, but let me give you some quick and easy definitions for these adjectives.
The infallibility of Scripture means that it can not err. Because the Author of Scripture is God and he is perfect, it is impossible for the Bible to make errors.
The inerrancy of Scripture means that it does not err. Because it is infallible, we know that there is no error in the Scripture, there is no falsehood, there is nothing it intends to do or produce that it fails to do or produce.
The sufficiency of Scripture is the doctrine that there is no truth or instruction that people need in order to live godly and complete lives that the Bible does not give them in full. There is nothing else we need. This is what we are going to look at.
That the Bible is perspicuous means that it is clear. God did not intend to be confusing or for his word to be difficult to understand. He wrote the Bible plainly and clearly.
So, as I said, each of these answers a different question. Infallible answers the question “How?” Inerrant and perspicuous answer the question “What?” Sufficient answers the question “Why?” That’s the question we are looking at.
By the way, I believe many of us have a tendency with this topic to think that the details and the arguments and the depth are for the pastors and theologians but not really for us, the people living our lives in what we might see as the real world.
But I want to encourage you, this topic has major implications in nearly every area of your life. The details are not for the theologians, they are for the whole church.
This blog post is expositional. I want to point you to God’s word, and there is one passage that will guide us through the topic of the sufficiency of Scripture. It is 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Paul is writing to a young man named Timothy who was raised knowing the Scriptures.
You know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.2 Timothy 3:15-17
This podcast provides an audio version of this blog post if you are looking for an audio resource. I highly recommend it.
Here’s the first question this text answers: Why do we believe in the Sufficiency of the Bible?
Why We Believe in The Sufficiency of Scripture
Here’s what it says: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable.” There are two insights to flesh out there.
The first insight is that all Scripture is inspired by God. The word “inspired” doesn’t mean in this passage what it means in our everyday language. We often say that we are inspired to mean that we are motivated. To say, “You inspire me to be healthier” means that you have made me want to be healthier. But that’s not what the word here means.
This word literally means “God-breathed,” or to say it simply, it came from God’s mouth. When the Bible says that it is inspired, what it really means is that God spoke these words. They are from his mouth. They are his words.
There is an aspect of this you can’t miss: God breathed these words. Remember that God is our Father. He loves us as sons and daughters (1 John 3:1). He guides us as children (Hebrews 12:6). God is the one who cares for us (Hebrews 13:6). He shepherds us as sheep (Psalm 23).
Why do I write all of this? Because the nature of God our Father is one of the most important ways we can know that the Bible is sufficient. It is our Father’s only inspired Word to us. And we know that he cares for us and loves us. We trust he gives us all we need.
God has not, in the depth and breadth of his fatherly love, chosen areas of life where he will not guide us. He has not given us this book yet said, in those difficult areas, figure it out on your own.
And we know that God has not failed in providing all we need because, as I wrote earlier, the Bible is infallible. God didn’t make a mistake or leave something out. There is no 21st-century situation that has come up that God mistakenly neglected to include.
The Bible is infallible. And it was given to us by our Father.
The second insight is that all Scripture is profitable.
‘Profitable’ means more than just that the Scriptures are able to be used for teaching, rebuking, etc. Profitable means that they are everything we need for teaching, rebuking, etc. To accomplish these things, you need nothing else.
The Scriptures claim to be sufficient.
So, to sum it up into a simple answer: Why do we believe the Bible is sufficient? Because our loving Father gave it to us and because it claims to be sufficient.
Scope of The Sufficiency of Scripture
Perhaps the most controversial aspects of sufficiency is not whether or not the Bible is sufficient, it is the scope of the sufficiency of Scripture. The question is: What is the Bible sufficient for?
The passage we’re looking at, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, gives us a great list as an answer to this question, so let’s just go through them together. There are seven aspects listed.
First, wisdom for salvation. We are guilty before God, we entered the world as sinful people and continue to live in sin. Thus, we are deserving of the just punishment for our sins against God. We deserve God’s wrath. But in his love and kindness, as he has planned since before time, he sent Christ Jesus, the Son of God, to die as our substitute and as payment for our sins, to be buried, and to be raised on the third day. We need the gospel, and we need salvation.
There is no greater need that any man has on earth than his need to be saved. And no man on earth needs to look any further that the Scriptures. In them, we find all of the wisdom for salvation. The Scripture tells us all we need to know to be saved.
Second, teaching. What do we need to know about God? What must we be taught? It is found fully in the Bible. What do we need to know about ourselves? It is found fully in the Bible. The teaching of God’s people does not need to be left to the latest vogues and new discoveries. The Bible is everything we need to teach God’s people.
Third, rebuking. To rebuke is to tell you something you are doing wrong. The Apostle James explained this aspect of the Scriptures.
If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was.James 1:23-24
He explained that the Bible is like a mirror, and the most true mirror you have ever looked into. When you look into the mirror of Scripture, you see yourself. You see your flaws, your gifts, and everything you need to know about who you are. The Bible is everything we need to see who we are and where we need to change.
Fourth, correcting. Correcting goes along with rebuking. When we are rebuked, we see where we need to change. When we are corrected, we are told what we need to change to.
Some theologians have called this the “put off/put on” principle. The Bible tells you what to put off, for example “put off lying” Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:25. But the Bible also tells us what to put on, “put on speaking the truth,” Paul tells us in the same verse.
It’s also important to mention that in rebuking and correcting, the Bible does not just tell you what to do but it works in you to change you if you belong to Christ. The Bible is sanctifying, which means that it makes you holy.
The Bible actually changes you. It puts you back on the right path.
I once heard a pastor ask, “For the married couple going through difficult issues, what is one difference between the book of Leviticus and a self-help book on marriage? One difference is that the book of Leviticus makes you more like Christ as you read! It changes you!”
Fifth, training in righteousness. Righteousness goes along with rebuking and correcting. It is the result of the two. But this phrase is looking at a different aspect of rebuking and correcting.
Previously, we looked at how the Scriptures rebuke and correct us as we read. Now we see that the Scriptures help to train in righteousness. This is others-focused. It is not only enough to make us righteous but also to equip us to help others become righteous. This refers to what we call counseling or discipleship.
The Bible is everything I need to help my brother or sister grow in Christlikeness, to counsel them with the wisdom of God, to point them in the path to joy and peace, which by the way come from righteousness.
The Apostle Paul says it this way:
My brothers and sisters, I myself am convinced about you that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to counsel (or instruct) one another.”Romans 15:14
The Bible is all we need to counsel and disciple one another.
Sixth, that the man of God may be complete. Complete here reemphasizes sufficiency, with the word of God, we are a complete person. We lack nothing. There is nothing else we need. There are no pieces that are missing.
Seventh, equipped for every good work. There are no good works that we are not equipped to complete by God’s word. God has saved us and called us to produce good fruit, to do good works. To fulfill this calling, everything we need is here in the Scriptures.
The Apostle Peter sums up this list very well:
His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness.2 Peter 1:3
If you aren’t ready to memorize all six aspects of the sufficiency of the Scripture, remember them with those two words: life and godliness.
I’ll add an important point here. According to God’s word, the ministry of God’s word is meant to happen in the context of the local church.
Let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25
God has given us the wonderful gift of one another. We are meant to counsel one another, to encourage each other, to provoke one another to good works, to help one another love the Lord.
All of this is done as we minister the Scriptures to one another. The Scriptures are all we need, but the Scriptures tell us not to neglect the church.
Defense of The Sufficiency of Scripture
There are three primary forces that constantly refute the sufficiency of Scripture, and I’m mentioning it because you’ll encounter all three of them.
The first is the culture. This has been true always, there are people who want to tell us that God’s word is not enough for us.
Rome told us in the 1400s and beyond that inspired words of Scripture weren’t enough, we need the inspired words that also come from the papacy.
Liberal scholarship told us in the 1800s and beyond that the words of Scripture are not really God’s inerrant words.
Our culture here and now tells us all the time that meaningful joy, peace, contentment, and goodness cannot be found in the words of Scripture but are only found deep within ourselves, or only in the mystic energies of the atmosphere, or only in the man-centered wisdom of modern philosophies.
The second is the enemy. He has questioned God’s word since the very beginning when he tempted Eve saying “Did God really say?” He repeats those words to us still, and it has been the motto of his army for millennia.
The third is ourselves. We’re constantly talking to ourselves, and we will often tell ourselves that God’s word cannot possibly be enough.
We doubt the sufficiency of the Scriptures when we find problems that are great and we run everywhere but to God.
We doubt the sufficiency of the Scriptures when we need wisdom for navigating life and read every book but the Bible.
We doubt the sufficiency of the Scriptures when we need freedom from sin and try every technique we can find online before we ever open God’s word.
Trust in Your Father’s Good Word
So, I just want to summarize this because I know it can be a complex topic. Three questions.
What is the Sufficiency of Scripture? The sufficiency of Scripture is that, in the Bible, God has given us all we need to live godly lives.
Why do we believe the Sufficiency of Scripture? We believe the sufficiency of Scripture because our loving Father gave us the Bible to guide us, and the Bible claims to be sufficient.
What is Scripture sufficient for? The Scriptures are sufficient to make us complete and give us everything we need for life and godliness.
You are more equipped with the Bible to deal with all of the issues of life and godliness than you would be with a giant library filled to the brim with all of the wisdom of men and without the word of God.
I want to end with Psalm 19:7-11, one of the clearest passages regarding the sufficiency of Scripture, which I hope will encourage you all.
The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise. The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad; the command of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold—than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey dripping from a honeycomb. In addition, your servant is warned by them, and in keeping them there is an abundant reward.Psalm 19:7-11
God’s word is sufficient for life and godliness. Amen.