Quest. 13: What is meant by the “sufficiency” of Scripture?
Ans: The “sufficiency” of Scripture means that the Bible alone is sufficient to rule or regulate our lives and teach us concerning God and our relation to him.
Matt. 4:4. ...It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
See also: Jn. 17:17; Col. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Peter 3:18.
Man, as the image–bearer of God was created as a creature of faith because, first, every fact is a created fact, and, second, because the source of truth and knowledge was external to himself, i.e., his faith was to be placed in the Word of God. Only fallen man seeks to find the source of truth within himself, independent of God, i.e., fallen, sinful man considers himself to be autonomous [a law unto himself, i.e., self–determining and completely independent of God] (Gen. 3:1–7).
Christians are to have a “revelational epistemology” [Epistemology is the science of knowledge and truth–claims], i.e., the Scriptures are to form our authoritative, non–contradictory source for truth and knowledge. This holds true for our lives, worship, morality, corporate church life, evangelism and defending the faith.
Although the Scriptures do not reveal everything (Deut. 29:29), their revelation is sufficient for our knowledge, obedience and expectation. To go beyond Scripture in matters undisclosed to us is speculation. To reason from the Scriptures and draw “good and necessary consequences” is legitimate, as it is by this means that we apply the Scriptures consistently to our lives, remain consistent with preaching on aspects of doctrinal truth or to situations which may confront us—but only if such consequences or reasoning are both good and necessary. We must never base any doctrine on such reasoning. Good and necessary consequences are concerned with application, not interpretation. Our Lord used this means of reasoning from the spiritual nature of God to true spiritual worship (Jn. 4:23–24). He reasoned from the Scriptures to justify his healing, doing good on the Sabbath Day, and reasoned that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Matt. 12:10–12; Mk. 2:23–28; 3:1–5). He also reasoned from God’s care of creation to comfort and provision (Matt. 6:28–32; 10:28–31; Lk. 12:22–31).
Historically, in the organized or state church [Roman Catholic], authority and sufficiency derived from Scripture, tradition [writings of the Church Fathers, ecclesiastical traditions, etc.] and Papal edict. At the Protestant Reformation, the cry became, sola scriptura [by Scripture alone], sola fide [by faith alone], sola gratia [by grace alone] and solo Christo [by Christ alone], as opposed to the Church of Rome with its traditions, Papal decrees, prayers to Mary and the saints, and its sacerdotal and sacramental doctrine of salvation. The Protestant Reformers held that the Scripture alone was sufficient and authoritative to guide both the church and the individual life.
Baptists, as true New Testament Christians and the inheritors of primitive Christianity, have always held to the sufficiency of Scripture as our primary distinctive or characteristic. Every other distinctive derives from this. See Question 156. Do we approach the Scriptures in such a consistent and practical way?
Quest. 12: What is meant by the “inerrancy” of Scripture?
Ans: The “inerrancy” of Scripture means that the Scriptures are free from error and wholly true in every respect.
Jn. 17:17. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Also see: 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21.
Because the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, it is infallible and inerrant. The term “inerrancy” [without and incapable of error] dates from the nineteenth century when the trustworthiness of the Scriptures in historical and scientific matters was questioned. This term was added to the term “infallibility” as a further test of orthodoxy.
Some have tried to satisfy the charges of rationalistic biblical criticism and modern science and at the same time seem orthodox by attempting to hold to a “salvific” inerrancy [that the Scriptures are only true and trustworthy as they pertain to the truth of salvation, while alleging that they do contain historical and scientific errors]. This view is nothing more than a relativistic view of Scripture—a subtle accommodation to unbelief—and is in itself an inherent denial of inerrancy. If the Scriptures contained any error, such would be a reflection upon the veracity of God. He either could not or would not give us his Word without error.
Quest. 11: What is meant by the “infallibility” of Scripture?
Ans: The “infallibility” of Scripture means that Scripture as the very Word of God is incapable of error and therefore fully trustworthy and free from deception.
Jn. 17:17. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Lk. 24:44. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
See also: Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:13–18.
Infallibility means incapable of error and free from deception. Because the Scripture is the very Word of God, it is necessarily infallible. Infallibility necessarily follows from Divine inspiration. The Word of God reflects the attributes of its Divine Author as to its veracity or trustworthiness.
The term “infallibility” also means “unfailing” or “certain.” The Word of God is infallible in the sense that everything revealed or predicted in Scripture will certainly come to pass in the eternal purpose of God (Isa. 46:9–11; Eph. 1:3–11; Phil. 2:9–11; 2 Pet. 3:7–13). Further, God’s Word sent forth will not return void of result, but will accomplish the Divine purpose (Isa. 55:10–11). The infallibility of Scripture is foundational to every promise and prophecy God has given.
The Eastern or Greek Orthodox Church holds that infallibility rests in the Councils of the Church. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that infallibility rests with the Pope [papal infallibility in matters of faith]. Biblical Christianity holds that infallibility rests with the Scriptures alone [sola scriptura]. One can easily see how closely the authority and infallibility of Scripture are related. Do we hold to the infallibility of Scripture in a practical sense? Do we trust God’s promises? Do we heed his warnings?
Quest. 10: What is meant by the “authority” of Scripture?
Ans: The “authority” of Scripture is the rule or government the Bible is to have over our total lives as the very Word of God.
Matt. 4:4. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
See also: 2 Cor. 10:4–5; Heb. 1:1–2; 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:20–21.
The term “authority” derives from the Latin auctor, “originator” or “author.” The authority of Scripture derives from the self–disclosing or self–revealing triune God of Scripture. The Bible is the authoritative Word of God because it is just that—the very Word of God inscripturated. Man as the image–bearer of God is Divinely and instinctively preconditioned to receive authoritative Divine revelation both in creation [natural revelation] and in God’s Word [special revelation] (Psa. 19:1–6; Jn. 14:6; Rom. 1:18–20; Col. 2:3; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16–17; 2 Pet. 1:20–21). Both are sufficient to hold him inexcusable (Rom. 1:18–20; 2:11–16; 2 Pet. 3:3–5). The Scriptures are self–authenticating or self–attesting, i.e., they witness to themselves by virtue of their coherency [non–contradictory nature], the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, the witness and power of the Holy Spirit and their power to transform lives. See Questions 14 and 136.
The authority of Scripture is necessary. Man needs special revelation [a direct and authoritative word from God] to lead him to truly and rightly know God, be reconciled to him and live in the context of his revealed will. The authority of Scripture is comprehensive. It encompasses the whole of life and reality. The authority of Scripture is executive. The Word of God comes to us as mandate or command—his “Law–Word”—not merely suggestion or information—we must read, study, submit and conform to it as such. The authority of Scripture is legislative. It is to be our rule of both faith and practice. The authority of Scripture is judicial. It is the ultimate and absolute standard of what is right or wrong, revealing the moral self–consistency of God. The authority of Scripture is perpetual. It is never “old fashioned” to believe and obey the Bible. “It is written” means “It stands written with full and undiminishing authority.” See Question 1. The authority of Scripture is ultimate. Because the Scriptures derive from God himself, there is no other criterion or authority to which they can be subjected or by which they may be judged. Thus, using the facts of history, science or various arguments to credential Scripture is inherently to give such evidence more authority than the Scripture itself. See Question 136.
There is an essential and primary matter which ought to be addressed concerning biblical authority. In a meaningful exchange [an intelligent conversation at the presuppositional level, i.e., a conversation in which one speaks from his basic assumptions, expressing his faith and world–and–life view. See Questions 120 and 136] when the believer is asked by an unbeliever why he believes and holds the Bible to be the very Word of God, he answers, “Because the Bible declares itself to be the Word of God, and this assertion is evidenced by the witness of Scripture to itself.” To this, his respondent may retort, “That is ‘circular reasoning,’ and thus, it is invalid! Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy. It is begging the question!” [petitio principii. This occurs when one assumes in his premises what he is attempting to prove in his conclusion]. But when speaking or arguing in the context of ultimate issues, all human reasoning is broadly circular or presuppositional, and is necessarily faith–based.
In other words, all facts are interpreted by one’s presuppositions. This holds true for the Christian who acknowledges his faith–based presuppositions, and also for the non–believer who may deny this, and claims to rest in the alleged “neutrality of scientific facts.” All facts are created facts. There are no “brute” or “neutral” facts, and the unbeliever himself necessarily, though unadmittedly or unknowingly, assumes Christian Theistic principles and laws or he cannot argue “scientifically”! Indeed, unless one assumes an ordered universe established by given laws, no coherence is possible on which to ground any science. The laws presupposed by science are God’s laws. The question is, are one’s arguments consistent with his professed system. In this respect, the believer is consistent [non–contradictory or coherent] and the non–believer proves inconsistent. See Question 136. Is God’s Word authoritative in your life?
Quest. 9: What is meant by the “inspiration” of Scripture?
Ans: “Inspiration” is the work of God upon the hearts, minds and hands of men to give us the very Word of God in written form.
2 Tim. 3:16. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
2 Pet. 1:20–21. 20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
See also: Isa. 8:20; 1 Cor. 2:9–14; Heb. 1:1–3.
The term inspiration derives from the Lat. inspiro, “to breathe into,” referring to the human authors. The actual issue, however, is that the Scriptures themselves are “God–spirated,” i.e., God–breathed [theopneustos] (2 Tim. 3:16).
The great truth of Divine revelation is that God has spoken to men (Heb. 1:1–3). He has not only spoken to men, but he has spoken in understandable terms. The great truth of inspiration is that this revelation is preserved and protected as the very Word of God inscripturated. Inspiration is the supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are the very Word of God. Thus, Divine inspiration extends to the very writings themselves. Any view of Divine inspiration which does not pertain to the very text itself as inspired, is both inadequate and defective. Inspiration is thus both verbal [extending to the very words, and therefore to the nuances of grammar and syntax in the original languages] and plenary [full or equal throughout].
There is a distinct difference between a translation and a version. The plethora of modern versions makes this discussion necessary. A strict translation begins with the original language and, while expressing itself in another language, keeps as closely as possible to the text in the original language with its grammatical intricacies, syntax and idioms—even to the sacrifice of style. A version differs from a translation in that it is a version of a previous translation in a second language, uses the grammar, syntax and idioms of that second language and makes much greater allowances for smoothness of reading and expression of thought. In short, a translation holds more closely the original language while a version holds more closely to the second language. To the extent that a given translation or version expresses the thought and truth of the original language, such a translation or version is the authoritative Word of God. This necessarily takes into consideration the idiomatic expressions of a language, the incapacity of some secondary languages to express the fullness of the original, and a determined faithfulness to the grammar, syntax, context and theology of the text.
Many modern “versions” are wholly inadequate, as they are not based on any given text, but are in reality paraphrases, and some have actually changed the meaning of the text and so altered its doctrinal teaching. There is no substitute for a knowledge and study of the original languages.
The Divine inspiration of Scripture is the primary presupposition of Christianity. It is Divinely revealed religion and thus stands unique among the religions of the world. The Scriptures are then the pou sto [Lit: “a place where I may stand”] or point–of–reference for the Christian. Biblical Christianity is Christian Theism, i.e., the truth of the triune, self–disclosing God of Scripture. All subsequent faith [what is to be believed] and practice [how we are to live] derive from this truth. The Scriptures are thus our only rule of both faith and practice. How vitally important it is then both to know them and to correctly interpret them. Is Scripture your rule of faith and practice?
Quest. 8: What are the important terms concerning the Bible as the written Word of God?
Ans: The important terms concerning the Bible as the written Word of God are “inspiration,” “authority,” “infallibility,” “inerrancy,” “sufficiency,” “canonicity” and “illumination.”
If the Bible is the very Word of God preserved in written form [inscripturated]—and it is—then there are certain things that are necessarily true: The Bible is the inspired Word of God, not merely the work or words of men. Because the Bible is the very Word of God, it is authoritative—the very highest authority. As the very Word of God inscripturated, it is infallible—incapable of error and without deceit. As the inspired, authoritative, infallible Word of God inscripturated, it is necessarily inerrant or without error and wholly true in every respect. Because the Bible is the very Word of God and completely trustworthy in every respect, it is sufficient as our only rule of both faith [what we are to believe] and practice [how we are to live]. God has seen fit to authenticate and preserve certain books and no others. Together these form the canon or body of Divine truth we call “the Bible” or “the Scriptures.” The process by which only these certain books were duly recognized is called the canonization of Scripture.
The very nature of Divine inspiration, authority, infallibility and inerrancy necessarily determines the preservation of the Scriptures throughout the ages in the original languages as the very Word of God.
There are three further, important terms with which one ought to be familiar: exegesis, hermeneutics and application. Exegesis [to bring out the significance of the text (word meaning, grammar and syntax) in the original language] pertains to the reading of the text, i.e., it answers the question, “What does the text say?” Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. It answers the question, “What does the text mean?” (Lk. 10:26). Application refers to the text of Scripture as it may be applied to a given situation: “How does or can this passage legitimately be applied to our modern era and situation?” Application derives from interpretation. A necessary distinction must be made between interpretation and application. If these are confused, then one may believe that the application is the interpretation, and thus be removed from truly understanding a given passage. Some preaching violates this principle and leads to misunderstanding and confusion.
The doctrinal study of the Scriptures is termed “Bibliology,” from the Gk. biblos, “book,” which is the first word in the Greek New Testament. In this day, when the Scriptures are assailed as to their Divine inspiration and authority, it must be understood that the Bible is our only objective truth; everything else is subjective and subject to misunderstanding or change.
Quest. 7: What is the Bible?
Ans: The Bible is the special revelation of God to man in written form.
2 Tim. 3:16–17. 16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
See also: Ex. 17:14; 24:12; 31:18; Lk. 24:25–27, 45–47; Jn. 5:45–47; Heb. 1:1–3; 2 Pet. 1:20–21; 3:15–16.
The word “Bible” derives from the Gk. word for “book.” It occurs as the first word of the Greek New Testament: “The book [biblos] of the generation of Jesus Christ...” (Matt. 1:1). It is from this occurrence that we have our English word “Bible,” which now refers to all of the written Word of God. The Bible is both a book and a library of sixty–six books which comprise the canon of Scripture. The Scriptures form a unified, non–contradictory [coherent] whole as the very Word of the living God inscripturated [preserved in written form].
The Bible is also known as “Scripture,” or “The Scriptures.” The word means “writings” [Gk. graphai] and refers especially to the Word of God in written form—the Word of God inscripturated and preserved for us. The formula found seventy–one times in the New Testament, “It is written,” means that it stands written with full and undiminishing authority.
The Christian life is comprised of two aspects, objective and subjective. The objective is revealed in the truth of Scripture as the standard of belief and conduct; the subjective aspect is our personal experience, which ought to derive from and reflect the objective aspect. Apart from Scripture, we would be left entirely with the subjective aspect. All would necessarily become relativistic (no final, authoritative word, except the strength of individual experience), empirical (all judgment would be based on experience alone), existential (completely subjective and tending toward irrationalism or emotionalism) and pragmatic (whatever seemed to work best would be right). Thus, the most emotional or mystical would be the most spiritual, and the strongest or most persistent personalities would determine the direction of Christianity. The only safeguard for such deviations is the inscripturated Word of God rightly understood and correctly interpreted (Psa. 119:105; Isa. 8:20; Jn. 17:17; 2 Tim. 2:15).
The end of all Bible study is doctrinal truth. One simply does not know the Scriptures until he consistently arrives at their doctrinal teaching, and conversely, no one knows Christian Doctrine as he should, unless he understands it biblically. It is the doctrinal teaching of Scripture that is to govern our thinking, guide our lives and rule over our emotions.
Some might object to an “intellectual” Christianity, preferring a more simplistic or “devotional” approach, not realizing that the devotional—if legitimate at all—must derive from the doctrinal, and the doctrinal from the hermeneutical, and the hermeneutical from the exegetical [exact reading of the text]. Many seem to want a “heart” and not a “head” religion, which often becomes a misplaced zeal without adequate knowledge. Irrationality is not spirituality, nor is feeling the proper basis for faith or practice. We must understand that ignorance of Divine truth, religious irrationalism, and an aversion to doctrine, serious study and learning, are neither Christian virtues nor characteristics to be emulated.
As God made man with both a heart and a brain, and made him upright with his brain above his heart, we prefer a necessary balance as reflecting the Divine design. Emotions are to be responsive to Divine truth, never causative. Did not the Apostle Paul write to one of his most beloved churches, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all discernment, in order that ye may approve on examination things which differ…” (Phil. 1:9–10) And to another assembly: “I….cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him…” (Eph. 1:15–17). And did not the Apostle Peter close his last epistle with the words, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Pet. 3:18)?
Why study the Bible? The following are the main correct reasons: to glorify God, to commune with Christ, to know the will of God, to be obedient to God, to grow toward spiritual maturity, to further our sanctification, to prepare for the ministry of the Word, to understand the purpose and retain the purity of the church, to edify others, to evangelize the unconverted, to intelligently defend the faith and to prepare for eternity. Are you a lover and student of the Bible?
By Dr. W.R. Downing