What Is An Evangelical? Part 4: The Sufficiency of Scripture
Now, I believe it is a good time to expound upon the next section of my series, “What Is An Evangelical?” For previous entries in the series, check the sidebar under the heading “Evangelicalism.”
To recap: an “evangelical” is a person (preacher), church, or denomination that has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, especially the primacy of Christ’s work, as the central article of faith; that believes the spreading of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is the number one duty of the Christian; that believes all moral/spiritual truth is found in the Bible; and that Christians are called to live lives of service before God and fellow man.
Thus far we’ve discussed the meaning of “evangelical,” the Gospel, and evangelism. Today we will discuss the sufficiency of Scripture.
What do we mean by sufficiency? Dictionary.com gives a good definition: the quality of being sufficient for the end in view, with “sufficient” being understood to mean enough to meet the needs under the law of a situation or a proposed end. So understood in this way, we can understand “the sufficiency of Scripture” to mean that Scripture is enough; it is all that we need to guide our moral and spiritual lives.
I’d like to take a moment to point out I am not saying other religions or philosophies do not contain truth. Many of them do contain valid and helpful truisms. I would submit to you that this is nothing more than the “law of God written on human hearts” that Paul talks about, that instinctive knowledge that all humans possess. Also interesting is that usually any helpful truisms we find elsewhere are already biblically affirmed.
How do we get this doctrine biblically? There is a prominent text that gives us sound reasons. Let’s see 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 competent, equipped for every good work.
And to elaborate, let’s look at Hebrews 4:12.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Notice, if you will, that these verses establish three doctrines simultaneously: sufficiency, inspiration, and inerrancy.
Why inerrancy? Because if something is inspired by God, does it not follow that it cannot be wrong, since God Himself cannot be wrong? What is errant is human interpretation of Scripture, not Scripture itself.
Now, if Scripture is good enough to teach us, correct us when we have erred, and train us in how to obey God (righteousness), and is never wrong; then we now can say that Scripture is sufficient for all of our moral and spiritual needs. This is why we say that Scripture contains “all moral and spiritual truth.”
Furthermore, Scripture becomes sufficient for salvation. Why? Because in Scripture contains the knowledge we need to understand who Jesus is and to come to faith in Him. I am not saying that simply knowing the Bible is enough to get saved. Many people today think all they have to do to get to heaven is read their Bibles. Let’s look at Jesus’ words in John 5:39-40:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (emphasis added)
So it is clear here that Scripture is sufficient for salvation in that it contains the witness to Christ–the Gospel. Jesus expounds on this witness by making it clear that the way to salvation is to respond to the witness of the Gospel. “You refuse to come to me that you may have life.” What a sad commentary on spiritualism–spiritualists seek to glean moral truth from the Bible, yet refuse to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
So, in conclusion, the “sufficiency of Scripture” refers to the concept that all moral and spiritual truth is contained in the Bible; that the Bible is able to save us by the witness of the Gospel; and that the means of that salvation is our response to the truth contained within its witness by coming to Christ in faith.
I close this installment of the series with a favorite and timeless children’s song:
Yes, that’s the book for me
I’m standing firm on the Word of God!
Join me next time for the last characteristic of an evangelical (but not the final post in the series): Christian service!