Yesterday my family and I began reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time the section of Chapter 8, “The Four Characteristics of Scripture: (4) Sufficiency,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in which he considers seven practical applications of the doctrine of the sufficiency of the Bible. That doctrine says that the Bible contains all the words of God that we need to know to be saved and to do His will and that it contains all the words of God that He intended people to have at each stage of redemptive history. Yesterday we read what Grudem says about the first four applications that he considers, and later today we’ll read what he says about the other three.
1. The sufficiency of the Bible should encourage us as we try to find God’s answers to our questions on doctrinal and moral issues. We won’t find answers to all of our questions because “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV). And sometimes the answer that we find will be that the Bible doesn’t speak directly to our question, such as how long we should spend reading the Bible each day. However in many cases we will find direct guidance so that we will be “equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
2. The sufficiency of the Bible reminds us that we are not to add anything to it or to consider any other writings of equal value to it. Almost all cults do this, the Mormons for example claiming divine authority for Joseph Smith’s The Book of Mormon. But even in orthodox churches people sometimes go beyond what the Bible says.
3. The sufficiency of the Bible tells us that we do not have to believe anything about Him or His redemptive work that is not found in the Bible. In explaining this application Grudem focuses on collections of alleged sayings of Jesus that weren’t preserved in the Gospels, asserting that it doesn’t matter if we never read any of them because the Bible contains all that we need to know about Jesus’ words and deeds.
4. The sufficiency of the Bible tells us that no modern revelations from God are to be placed on a level with the Bible in authority. This would include revelations made through the operation of the spiritual gifts of prophecy and of tongues with interpretation.
Grudem points out that whenever challenges to the sufficiency of the Bible has come by other documents being placed alongside the Bible, such as the accumulated teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and The Book of Mormon, the teachings of the Bible have been made less central and things have been taught that are contrary to what the Bible teaches.