An Introduction to the Sufficiency of Scripture
When discussing the doctrine of Scripture, its sufficiency is typically not the first characteristic considered. Instead, its inspiration is rightly celebrated, its infallibility and inerrancy are appropriately defended, its perspicuity readily lauded, and its authority carefully articulated.
And all for good reason! Scripture is inspired,1 breathed out by God himself and, originating in God and operating as an extension of God—a God who cannot lie2—it necessarily is without error,3 unable to err,4 and boasts the authority of its Source,5 he who is a capable communicator and, thus, understandable.6
God’s word is authoritative because it is without error and it is without error because it is inspired by God. These pronouncements address questions of the immeasurable gravitas, unflappable trustworthiness, and divine nature of the biblical text. It’s little wonder the psalmist declares to God, “I shall delight in your commandments, which I love. … O how I love your law!”7
How Far Does it Reach?
But what of its scope of influence? Does the Bible’s authority extend indefinitely? Is Scripture all we need? And, if it is, for what is it all we need?
Theoretically, God could have provided his people with a perfect and binding word that was, at the very same time, incomplete, in need of supplement or, at least, not opposed to supplementation.
What follows in this series of posts is a brief explanation and defence of the sufficiency of Scripture, a doctrine rooted in its authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and inspiration, and one that is crucial for the people of God to not only understand theologically and accept conceptually but to apply consistently.
Indeed, the Bible is enough; it is sufficient. More next time …
1 Ex 4:12–16; 17:15; Acts 4:25; 1 Cor 2:13; 2 Cor 13:2–3; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20–21; “The theological use of the term inspiration is a reference to that controlling influence which God exerted over the human authors by whom the Old and New Testament were written. It has to do with the reception of the divine message and the accuracy with which it is transcribed.” Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 61.
2 Num 23:19; John 17:17; Tit 1:2; Heb 6:18
3 Pss 12:6; 18:30; 119:89, 160; John 10:34–35; 14:26; 15:26; 16:12–15; 17:17; Jas 1:16–18
4 Pss 12:6; 19:7; 119:89 Prov 30:5; Matt 22:41–44. “Infallibility means that something cannot err, while inerrancy means that it does not err. Infallibility describes ability or potential. It describes something that cannot happen. Inerrancy describes actuality.” R. C. Sproul, “Based on God’s Word Alone,” in One Foundation: Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture (Valencia, CA: Grace to You, 2019), 7.
5 John 10:35; Acts 24:14; Tit 2:15; 1 Pet 4:11; “If the Bible is God’s Word, and God can never lie, then we have a perfect standard to embrace and obey. It is our authority. We do not have the option to reject words that are given to us from the God who never lies. We are required to submit.” Heath Lambert, “Counsel the Sufficient Word,” in Sufficiency: Historic Essays on the Sufficiency of Scripture (Jacksonville, FL: Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, 2016), 122.
6 Scripture is described as illuminating (Ps 119:105; 2 Pet 1:19), profitable (2 Tim 3:16–17), explaining salvation (2 Tim 3:15), addressed to common people (Deut 6:4; Mark 12:37; Eph 1:1; 1 Cor 1:2), teachable to children (Deut 6:6–7; 2 Tim 3:14–15), and useful as a plumb line of truth (Acts 17:11). See Larry D. Pettegrew, “The Perspicuity of Scripture,” TMSJ 15:2 (2004): 209–225.
7 Ps 119:47, 97a; All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Babra, CA, 1995).