Bibliology #4 – Sufficiency

The sufficiency of Scripture answers the question if we are to look for other words from God in addition to those we have in Scripture, or is the Bible enough for knowing what God wants us to think or do? The definition can be described 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 everything we need God to tell for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly.

Salvation
Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 3:15 that “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to be saved.

Trust
David says in Psalm 9:10 that “and those who know Your name will put their trust in You. For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those you seek You,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to trust Him.

Obedience
In Jeremiah 7:23 it is said that “this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it will may be well with you’,” which means that in Scripture we have all the words of God we need in order to obey Him.

The sufficiency of Scripture implies that God has not spoken to mankind any more words which He requires us to believe or obey other than those which we have now in the Bible. It 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 that God has already spoken (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19). Practically it should encourage us as we try to discover what God would have us to think or to do. We should be encouraged that everything God wants to tell us about for our salvation, trust and obedience is to be found in Scripture. This doesn’t mean that the Bible answers all questions that we might think up, for “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29). It does mean that when we are facing a problem of genuine importance to our Christian life, we can approach Scripture with the confidence that from it God will provide us with guidance for that problem.

Summary and Conclusion
What then can we say in summary? It ultimately comes down to a desire for wisdom, for “the beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7), and a step of faith “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). We must not forget the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in overcoming the effects of our fallen condition, and to give us revelation of the truth of the Bible. We have in the Bible God’s very words, and we must not try to improve on them in some way, for this cannot be done. Rather, we should seek to understand, approach them with an open and humble heart and mind, and then trust them and obey them with our whole heart.

Does Bibliology help you in your understanding of the Bible? In other words, to what extent does the Bible have authority in your life? Do you feel encouraged that Scripture is meant to be understood by all, although sometimes it takes effort? Does understanding the necessity of Scripture stir you to more study of it? Do you feel that the Bible provides sufficient answers for your life? If not, is that because of a lack of understanding, of trust or of obedience? How does this help you in sharing your faith with non-believers? All these questions are so relevant to our every day life that I think it is sometimes good to understand the theory (doctrine) behind these things so that we can be more focused and determined in our efforts.

Bibliology #3 – Necessity

The necessity of Scripture answers the question how much people can know about God without the Bible? And for what purposes are the Bible necessary? It can be defined as such that the Bible is necessary for knowing the Gospel, for maintaining spiritual life, and for knowing God’s will, but it is not necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about God’s character and moral laws.

The Gospel
Let’s look at the necessity of Scripture for knowing the Gospel. In Romans 10:13-17 Paul says, “‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” So, one must call upon the name of the LORD to be saved. You can only call upon the name of Christ if you believe in Him. You cannot believe in Christ unless you have heard of Him. And you cannot hear of Christ unless there is someone to tell you about Him. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that saving faith comes through hearing (the gospel message), which comes through the preaching of Christ (which is proclaiming His word).

Spiritual Life
The necessity of Scripture for spiritual life is maintained by daily nourishment with the Word of God, and spiritual growth is maintained by nourishment with the Word of God. Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,” and Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 2:2 “like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you my grow up to salvation.”

God’s Will
The necessity of Scripture for knowing and understanding God’s will means that God has revealed His words to us that we might obey His laws and thereby do His will. And if we are to have a certain knowledge of God’s will, we must attain it through the study of Scripture. Deuteronomy 29:29 says that “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law,” and John says in 1 John 5:3 that “to love God is to keep His commandments.

God’s existence
What about people who do not read the Bible? People can obtain a knowledge that God exists and knowledge of some of His attributes. David says “the heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1), and Paul tells to the people in Lystra that “in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17). Even without the Bible, people have had evidence in creation that God exists. It is questionable though if this is a knowledge that can bring salvation.

Bibliology #2 – Clarity

The clarity of Scripture answers the question if only scholars can understand the Bible rightly? It can be defined as saying that the Bible is written in such a way that its teachings are able to be understood by all those who will read it seeking God’s help and being willing to follow it. Psalm 19:7 says that “the law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple“, and Psalm 119:130 says that “the unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple,” which indicates that you do not be a scholar to understand the Bible because it makes wise the simple. This does not mean that everything is easily understood, as Peter mentions in 2 Peter 3:15-16 “just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Scripture is able to be understood by all unbelievers who will read it sincerely seeking salvation, and by all believers who will read it while seeking God’s help in understanding it. This is because in both cases the Holy Spirit is at work overcoming the effects of sin, which otherwise will make the truth appear to be foolish. The existence of many disagreements about the meaning of Scripture throughout history reminds us that the doctrine of clarity of Scripture does not imply or suggest that all believers will agree on all teachings of Scripture. The problem though always lies not with Scripture but with us. To paraphrase a quote from Wayne Grudem in his book “Systematic Theology” (page 106): “Whether addressing scholars or untrained common people, Jesus never once in the Gospels said anything like: “I see how your problem arose – the Scriptures are not very clear on that subject.” Instead His responses always assume that the blame for misunderstanding any teaching of Scripture is not to be placed on the Scriptures themselves, but one those who misunderstand or fail to accept what is written. Again and again He answers questions with statements like, “have you not read…” (Matthew 12:3,5; 19:4; 22:31), or even “you are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:39; 9:13; 12:7; 15:3; 21:13; John 3:10)”

This should keep us humble and ever searching for God’s heart in each matter pertaining Scripture. Every time you run into some text which is difficult or seems like a contradiction, it’s an opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit insight in this, to learn and get a broader and deeper perspective of God.

Bibliology #1 – Authority

Much can be said about the Bible as a book in and of itself. The official term for the study of the Bible is the doctrine of bibliology, which can be defined as the study of the Bible and the beliefs and doctrines about the Bible. It answers relevant questions like: what does the Bible say about itself? What does it claim to be? Is the Bible the only and true inspired Word of God? Why do some books belong to the Bible and others not? Are there any errors in the Bible? Why is bibliology important for us to understand? Well, it will develop our understanding of the overall message of the Bible, and it will force us to make a decision about to what extent we let it influence our personal lives. When we would zoom in on the question ‘what does the Bible say about itself?’ we can identify four central Doctrines or characteristics of Scripture: a) the authority of Scripture; b) the clarity of Scripture; c) the necessity of Scripture; and d) the sufficiency of Scripture. This series of posts will be a sort of quick and dirty introduction to these characteristics, with this first covering the authority of Scripture.

The authority of Scripture answers the question: wow do we know that the Bible is God’s Word? It can be defines as “all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” Let’s look at God’s word. There are frequent claims in the Bible that all the words of Scripture are God’s words. In the Old Testament this is seen in “Thus says the Lord…” Furthermore, God is often said to speak through the prophet. In the New Testament, Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” A second thing is the truthfulness of Scripture. In Titus 1:2 it is said that “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,” and the writer of Hebrews says in 6:17-18 that “in the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us“. Because God is a God who cannot lie, His words can always be trusted. Thus there can be no untruthfulness in Scripture.

This is of course a simplified explanation which could be described as circular reasoning. But I leave it to this right now. Like I said, it’s a quick an dirty introduction to get you going and thinking about the subject itself.