Scripture’s Authority is Sufficient (2)6 min read
Scripture is Sufficient in its Authority
The implication of 2 Timothy 3 is clear: Scripture is the only needed dictate of one’s beliefs and actions. If it is sufficient for all a Christian needs to be and do, then it is sufficient in its authority. The Christian is able to bow to the Scriptures alone and fulfill God’s entire will for his life. This is authoritative sufficiency. A technical definition might look like this: “Scripture does not require another source except its Author to either validate it or interpret it to determine its authority over an individual, nor does it allow for a separate body to coincide with or preside over its authority.” This gives us four pillars of the sufficiency of Scripture’s authority:
- Scripture Needs Nothing to Validate It, for It is Self-Authenticating. In Peter’s second epistle (2 Peter), he desires to ground the believers in the Word of God regardless of what age it was given in. In it he validates both prophetic writings and apostolic writings. He begins by emphasizing the fact that he was an eyewitness; this confirmed that he was not subscribing to fables. However, despite the strength of his eyewitness testimony, he pointed God’s people to the prophetic word, the Scriptures. This, said Peter, is more sure than an eyewitness testimony. Such a testimony is the highest evidence in our minds, yet Scripture is above it. Surely this Book is self-authenticating; it does not need a supreme source to validate it.
- Scripture Needs Nothing to Interpret It, for the Spirit Illuminates It. This was John’s burden in his first epistle (1 John). False teachers were denying the true humanity of Christ, and they were claiming to have secret knowledge. Some doubtless desired to interpret the Scriptures allegorically. To combat this, John says, “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. . . let that which you have heard from the beginning abide in you: if what you have heard from the beginning abides in you, you also shall abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:20, 24). In other words, the Spirit of God is the only One needed to interpret the truth of what Christ and the apostles taught. There is no body of councilors that dictate its meaning. God gave the meaning, and God teaches the meaning.
- Scripture Needs Nothing to Coincide with It, for It is Unique. In the record of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), the rich man was sure that if a man were to rise from the dead his brothers would believe. But Abraham responded, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let [your brothers] listen to them.” In other words, Scripture needs nothing to complement it. It stands authoritative all by itself. Nothing supersedes or matches its authority, and a person will be held accountable though all he possesses is Scripture alone.
- Scripture Needs Nothing to Preside Over It, for It is Supreme. John says, “Believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they be of God, because many false prophets have gone into the world” (1 John 4:1). So then, every voice in the world is to be compared by the individual to an ultimate standard. This standard is, of course, Scripture. The implication is that nothing presides over the authority of Scripture; Scripture judges all people and is not judged by anyone. Scripture is God speaking. No one can question God. In all cases God’s word supersedes man’s word.
Most of us would appreciate these four pillars. Yet many stop at appreciating them and do not apply them. At the heart of the world’s system are man’s words and traditions. They permeate every false system that questions God’s word.
For instance, there is formal tradition that contradicts the authority of Scripture. Especially in Roman Catholic and denominational churches, there is an overriding regard for religious traditions. The Roman Catholic Church actually supersedes Scripture in that it can both define old revelation and give new revelation; at least that is what it pretends to do. Denominational churches are also rife with nominal converts who simply fill a seat and fulfill the rituals but are not proactive in challenging unbiblical practices. This seems so obviously wrong, but how many of us have challenged ourselves to support our convictions by all of and only Scripture?
There is also liberal tradition which claims to preside over the authenticity of Scripture. Skeptics, higher critics, and liberals masquerade in different forms, but they all wave the same banner, that is, the banner of unbelief. Scripture, they say, is not the pure and authoritative Word of God. And they give themselves the authority to define what the Scriptures should and should not contain. If a miracle seems implausible, they cut it out. If a statement offends their lack of morals, they disregard it. Man has made himself the judge of God. In fact, man has made himself God by dictating what revelation would look like if God gave it. This is repugnant. Yet are not most so-called “Christian” training institutions sympathetic to these views? Sadly this is the truth. We have lost the divineness of the Scriptures.
Then there is natural tradition which forms subconsciously based on what the majority believes to be true. We are all creatures of the crowd at heart. We all desire approval from fellow men. We are all told how to think by the millions of voices around us. The manipulation is subtle, and the destruction is grave. Unless we are constantly resisting the norms of every man-made system, our convictions will give way to “natural tradition.” We must understand that a person does not have to be an outright skeptic or religionist to deny the authoritative sufficiency of Scripture. A person denies the authority of Scripture by being passive toward its teachings and commands. Anything less than trembling at God’s word (Is. 66:2) is destruction.
Finally, there is the assault of personal preference. This may be the gravest of all human traditions, for this tradition is backed by personal pride and wavers with our fickle emotions. The deceptive thing about personal preference is that it often desires something which Scripture contains. The problem is that it chooses parts and not the whole of what Scripture contains. Thus, a person may look very conservative and well-meaning while they are only fulfilling the formalities that fit their sphere of comfort. They read the Scriptures through the lens of their flesh. If we really believe in the authority of Scripture we will not embrace the convenient parts only. Rather we will bow to it all as the singular voice of the living God. “Man shall not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Deut. 8:3).