Phillip Blosser who was a graduate of MA in religious studies at Westminster Theological Seminary and was converted to Roman Catholicism writes, The early Church taught that the Scriptures are not materially sufficient; that is, not all of God’s revelation to the Church is contained in Scripture, but there are extrabiblical doctrines and traditions handed down orally from the apostles which form the complete corpus of revelation.1 Rome (RCC) claims that the Scripture is not sufficient, both materially or formally.
But the Scripture can stand on its own! The Church, the Magisterium and tradition are to submit to the Scriptures.
We define sufficiency as referring to the Scripture being the only inspired, inerrant, and therefore final authority for Christians for faith and godliness, with all other authorities being subservient to Scripture. As the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith similarly puts it, The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience (1:1).
Only the Scripture is theopneustos, God-breathed. The oral or public preaching of Paul at that time was not inscripturated. The church must submit to God-breathed revelation.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, though the direct context is the old testament, there is no doubt that Paul had the gospel in his mind as Peter did with Paul’s letter (2 Peter 3:16).
Discussion: Can there be more authoritative word than one that comes to us on divine breath? This is a common-sense question. If this is God-breathed, then nothing can be more authoritative than it. The church is not God-breathed. This is the ontological nature of the Scriptures. This is not to diminish the importance of the church but to give both the Scriptures and the church’s their proper place as clearly laid down in the revealed Word of God.
There is no other higher court. The Scripture is the only revelation that we possess today, then no rule of faith can supersede Scripture. There is no higher court to which we can appeal or faith and practice, for there is nowhere else besides scripture where we can surely find God’s voice today.
The Scriptures do not tell us everything about everything. You cannot find in it programming lessons, how to cook the best food, how far the sun is from the earth, etc. But what the Scriptures tell us is what is true and sufficient for us.
The Scripture is sufficient for everything we need to learn in order to live to the glory of God and enjoy Him for ever we will find in the Scripture (2 Tim 3:15).2 In other words, the Scriptures are sufficient for a specific task: they reveal who God is, who man is in relation to him, and how that relationship is to be articulated in terms of worship.
The Scope of the Scripture’s Sufficiency
#1 Sufficient as the Noetic Ground of Knowledge of God
The word Noetic relates to the mental ability or the intellect. This means that all theological affirmations are to be consistent with the Scriptures. For example, the statement God is Trinity. It is true that it is nowhere to be found in the Bible but its conceptual content is there; that is why it should be affirmed by all Christians.
By contrast, “Mary was conceived without original sin” is not a concept found anywhere in Scripture. The Roman Religion who affirms the notion thereby reveal their view that the Scripture is not sufficient as the noetic basis for theology, but needs to be supplemented by the teaching magisterium of the church. As their council audaciously claim, “Wherefore, by divine and Catholic faith all those things are to be believed which are contained in the word of God as found in Scripture and tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal Magisterium.” (First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, 8.)
#2 Sufficient for Christian Practice
This means that whatever question or trial the people of God are facing; they are to go to the word of God for their answers. It is sad to know that some churches require their pastor to study psychology since his knowledge of the Scriptures is not enough to minister to God’s people in times of distress and affliction. But we preach because we know that God’s word is enough.
God’s word is the final authority for the Christian in all matters of faith and doctrine.
Christians should seek out godly guidance, but we should test all advice against the word of God. In Acts 17:11, Paul commends the Bereans and said that they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
When we lack wisdom, we must pray for God to grant it (James 1:5) and seek it eagerly from the mouth of God (Proverbs 2:3-6). Paul taught the Colossians that they were to continue to grow in the Word of God, which tells them of Christ in Colossians 2:6-8 that they may not be taken captive by philosophy and empty deceit.
# 3 Sufficient for the Christian Ministry
Church leaders are to build their ministers on the rock of the Word of God. We are not to depend on man’s ideas or be influenced or swayed by worldly philosophies or programs. The church is not dependent on man-made activities. The church can stand without those only with the faithful proclamation of God’s word. The Church should not be activity driven but word driven.
1 Corinthians 3:10-13 is a somber warning for every Christian not to lay a foundation other than Jesus Christ. The church must be built by the Word of God alone. The building mentioned here is the church. The Lord has given the people of God instruments to build the local church. The word of God is able to build us up. Acts 20:29-31.
The wisdom of God contained in the precious treasure of Christ is to be used by the preacher to build up and equip the people of God. Paul builds not with the wisdom of men but with the gospel of Christ contained in the Word of God. Scripture alone gives the people of God the truth they need to live and grow as the church of Jesus.
#4 Sufficient in terms of Public Worship
We had an open lecture on Biblical Worship. Since corporate worship is one of the primary tasks of the gathered church, God, who is the sole object of worship has the right to say and command the way to worship Him that is pleasing to His sight. The Scripture is sufficient for establishing its elements: singing of praise, prayer, the reading and preaching of God’s word, and the sacraments. As with creeds, Scripture is also sufficient to regulate the agenda and content of sermons, worship songs, prayers, what the money is spent on, who is baptized, and who receives the Lord’s Supper.
The Creeds are the normed norm. The Scripture is the norming norm.
One of the students during this lecture cited this statement from Bavinck, “The function of the confessions or creeds is not to push the Scriptures into the background, but rather to maintain them and to protect them against individual caprice.” (Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith)
We are not to add anything to God’s word (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6, Rev 22:18)/ No one can say that God has not revealed enough for us to be saved or to live a life pleasing to Him. The Scripture makes us competent and “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Some Misunderstanding oF the scripture’s sufficiency
#1 It does not mean we don’t have to read/interpret Scripture carefully
Not every doctrine is tied to one verse/text (e.g. Trinity). Though the Trinity is biblical, we cannot find a single verse that explicitly teaches it. Not everything is said with equal clarity. God has not told us everything (Deut 29:29). There are secret things that belongs to the Lord. The things for us are what He revealed
#2 It does not mean that tradition is not important
There are good and bad traditions. Tradition should guide, inform our reading of Scripture (e.g. Confessions, doctrines: Trinity, Christ, justification, etc.). Yet all tradition must be put to the test of Scripture (Mark 7:1-23). For example, the teaching on reprobation is clear in Westminster Confession but not in the 1689 London Baptist Confession (On chapter 3 paragraph 3).
Arguments for the All-sufficiency of the Scriptures
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. (1689 LBCF 1.6)
- The whole counsel of God has been proclaimed (Acts 20:27).
- We have all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
- The Faith has been revealed once and for all (Jude 3).
- The Scriptures can make us complete for, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17)
So, Who is right? The Roman Catholic Religion says “Whatever the Scripture does not forbid it allows.” The Reformed Churches says “Whatever Scripture does not command, it forbids.”
Classic Romanist objection: Why the differences? There are many areas of understanding the Bible where Protestants, equally committed to Sola Scriptura, are in fairly radical disagreement. If the Scripture is sufficient, why don’t you all agree about everything?
These are our responses:
First, even the Christian has a mind that has been heavily influenced by sin, and as a result we often impose on the Bible our own understanding of what it is saying; we all come to the Bible with our prejudices and preferences and that affects how we understand it. The fault lies in us, not in the Bible! You cannot blame the car for the car accident.
Second, we must humbly admit that our fallen mind cannot always grasp the great and deep things about God that are revealed in the Bible. There will be some things that, though revealed to us, are beyond our ability to understand fully.
The Catholic religion proponents and leaders also have differences among themselves, even the present Pope himself released some statements not in accordance to their church’s belief!3 If they are guided by the same Magisterium, they should be saying the same thing (compare also the Boston College and Catholic Answers).
But we must take a stand and affirm the sufficiency of the Scriptures for the church life in all matters of faith and practice.
Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Matthew Henry concludes in his commentary on Hebrews 1:1-2, Now we must expect no new revelation. The excellency of the Gospel is the final, the finishing revelation to which nothing is to be added so that now the minds of men are no longer kept in suspense by the expectation of new discoveries. A revelation which God has made by His Son far superior to all the ancient prophets by whom God communicated His will to His people in former times.
We should never abandon our high view of the Scriptures and it should be treated far above any human institution. It is sufficient and final. The church should bow down to it as designed by Him who revealed His Word to us, lest we incur upon ourselves this warning, “Church history has repeatedly and clearly proven one thing: Once the highest view of Scripture is abandoned by any theologian, group, denomination, or church, the downhill slide in both its theology and practice is inevitable.” ― James R. White, Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible’s Accuracy, Authority, and Authenticity
May the Holy Spirit be pleased to help us all through His regenerating and illuminating work with and by the Word that we may accept this truth forsaken by some to their peril.
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
*This blog post is based on our notes on Bibliology provided by our pastor.
1 Cited by William Webster on Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers: The Material Sufficiency of Scripture. Read more on the related article by the same author: Sola Scriptura and the Church Fathers: The Formal Sufficiency of Scripture
2 Readers are invited to watch our podcasts on Sola Scriptura
3 Americamagazine, Why do some Catholics oppose Pope Francis?
During the Q&A, questions arose about Cessationism. The reader is invited to read the following articles.
- Dr. Peter Masters on Proving Charismatic Gifts have ceased, Charismatic Illusion and Cessationism
- Continuing Revelation by ReformedAnswers
- Sam Waldron’s To Be Continued, check the review here.
You can also watch the 3-part video series on Pastor Noel Espinosa’s lecture on the Holy Spirit and the Word here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
7 thoughts on “CRSA Bibliology: Session 7 – The Bible: Sufficient and Final”
Praise God for this!
The sufficiency of the Word of God.
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Grateful the Word is Sufficient and the Final authority
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