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?
By Dr. W.R. Downing