The Sufficiency of Scripture & Practical Bible Doctrine

by Darin Smith August 19, 2016

The backdrop of opinions on the Bible vary from contempt to celebration. Some are bothered by passages they don’t understand; others are troubled by the ones they do. Scripture is seen by some as a stumbling block in the path of progress, while others see its meaning widen and deepen over the years.

Either the Bible is right or it is wrong; it is either an ordinary book or a divinely-inspired text.

This is why many today will say, “What is right for you is right for you. But what is right for me is right for me.” According to this worldview, all universal moral absolutes lose all meaning. Everything becomes relative and is up to the whims and fancies of the individual.

Tragically, this worldview has also penetrated the local church. No longer is God’s Word—the Bible—considered the sufficient standard for all matters of faith and practice. Rather, our own existence and experience now sets bar. In many study groups, it seems that the most common question is, “What do you think about this verse?” The better biblical question, though, is: “What is the true meaning of this verse?”

Is the Bible our sufficient authority? Or, is our authority some arbitrary combination of what we think, feel, and the Bible?

What is the sufficiency of Scripture?

Believing in the sufficiency of Scripture means that what it says and what it doesn't say both matter. Both its commands and its silence speak. This is why 2 Timothy 3:16 says:

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…"

Scripture, and Scripture alone, is the only authority by which one can come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and continue in a life of obedience to the Lord’s will. A commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture is evident in what you find to be insignificant just as clearly as what you find important.

Stop and think about this for a moment: there are many spiritual writings in this world, but only one reveals Jesus Christ. The point of the Bible is salvation—not where the world came from or how to live an ethical life. Those matters, while important, are tangential compared to matters of salvation and the God of it, which is the central storyline of the Bible.

The Bible isn’t the product of human imagination. Timothy knew that Scripture alone is useful for the ministry to which he has been called. Scripture contains all that Timothy needed to preserve the church from false teaching. The Scriptures are all-sufficient and they won’t disappoint.

This doesn’t mean that the Scriptures alone contain all knowledge that exists. The Scriptures aren’t some secret agent decoder book where, if you have the right cipher, you can unlock all of the knowledge in the universe. Rather, the Scriptures alone are sufficient for salvation and knowing God personally (Rom. 10:13-17). Wherever the Bible does speak, whether it is in areas of history or science, for example, it speaks with infallible authority. It is sufficient.

Why is this the most practical teaching for the Christian and church today?

The sufficiency of Scripture is a most practical doctrine because it informs not only the ends, but also the means of all ends. It helps us answer the following questions:

1. What should we do?

The answer is in the Bible. God made us; look to his Word if you want to know how to live. God’s Word has to do with life. God’s Word tells us everything we need to know about every aspect of life and how to live as a Christian, either implicitly or explicitly.

2. What should we believe?

The answer is in the Bible. God has revealed the truth about Himself to us and Churches seek to do what God has told us. Our actions are based on our beliefs. Our doctrine comes from God’s Word. This is why we’re to add nothing to Scripture, for there is no new revelation. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Paul gives a summary on what early Christians believe for this very reason.

3. How should we worship?

The answer is in the Bible. God tells us how we are to approach Him. We read the Bible, sing the Bible, preach the Bible, and pray the Bible.

Why? Because it is sufficient!

We come together regularly to worship God (Heb. 10:24-25). Local church worship isn’t about creativity and sensitivity. Human inventions are idolatrous (Ex. 32). We don’t care if something is traditional; we care if it’s biblical. Look at God’s Word. Sin makes us all unreliable guides.

Our services begin with a scriptural call to worship. The first words we hear are from God’s Word. We sing hymns because we are commanded to (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). We are found praying in praise reading God’s Word to each other, confessing our sins (1 John 1:9), giving financially. and preaching (2 Timothy 4:2).

4. How should we live together?

How shall we organize ourselves as a church? The answer is in the Bible.

Some today may not accept today that the Bible tells us how to live as a church. Why? Many say there’s no consistent pattern in the Bible. Scripture teaches us many things implicitly. It is sufficient for knowing what God would have us to do.

Scripture also frees us from the tyranny of human opinion. God gives us a picture of the church in the Bible and we should value it. Our concern should be that the church display the glory of God. We are to show what God is about.

The function of the sufficient Scripture is to teach us our inadequacies, to strip us of our confidence and false assumption. We are condemned—a fact we hide ourselves from. When Scripture reveals these things, it transcends all the instincts of our nature and the prerogatives of our culture—an almost impossible task.

Has it performed this function in your life? Do you trust in Christ alone? Scripture should probe our consciences and lift false security not found outside of the Bible’s sufficiency.

How does God's Word impact our prayers?

God invites His children to talk with Him, yet our prayers often become repetitive and stale. How do we have a real conversation with God? How do we come to know Him so that we may pray for His will as our own?

In the Bible, God speaks to us as His children and gives us words for prayer—to praise Him, confess our sins, and request His help in our lives.

We’re giving away a free eBook copy of Praying the Bible, where Donald S. Whitney offers practical insight to help Christians talk to God with the words of Scripture.