In this session of Secret Church 17, Pastor David Platt makes a biblical case that the Bible is not only divine, true, and clear, but it is also sufficient. He shows us that God’s Word is sufficient to save us from our sins, to sanctify us, and to satisfy our souls. God’s Word does not address everything we are curious about, but that doesn’t mean we should, or need to, add to it. By the power of the Spirit, God’s Word provides believers with all they need in order to know and follow Christ.
- The heart of Christ
- The mind of Christ
- The will of Christ
- The body of Christ
Three questions down, two to go. Let’s keep moving.
- Is the Bible divine or did humans create it?
- Is the Bible true; can we trust it?
- Is the Bible clear; can we understand it now?
- Is the Bible sufficient? Is it the only book we need? Is it indeed holy—meaning set apart from all other books in such a way there’s no other book like it? Is this the Holy Bible? Or is it like other books? Are there other books that we need in order to know God?
This may seem basic in light of all we’ve seen, but this question is extremely important. I appreciate what James Montgomery Boice said in this quote here: “Inerrancy is not the most critical issue facing the church today. The most serious issue I believe is the Bible’s sufficiency.” And Boice is a part of the group that formulated that Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, so he believed inerrancy was important, but he knew sufficiency was just as—if not more—important.
So did John MacArthur who’s also part of the Chicago Statement. Listen to what he said because if we’re not careful, we can think, “Ah, this is just a theological discussion that doesn’t affect my life.” If you think that, you are wrong. This has everything to do with how you live your life every day. Listen to MacArthur:
Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies many people seek ongoing revelation from heaven—meaning that, for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. With them, biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal ‘words from God,’ supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster.
If you are constantly looking for more revelation from God, for special words from God, feelings from God when it comes to what you need to do or how you need to live, then please listen to this truth concerning the sufficiency of Scripture.
The Bible contains all we need in order to know and walk with God.
All we need in order to know and walk with God. That’s a huge statement and I want to show you it’s true. This is why God said over and over again, “Don’t add to my Word. Don’t take away from it.” “You shall not add to the Word that I command you, nor take from it…” (Deuteronomy 4:2). “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32).
Why would God say that if He thought or knew we needed something else? We just read in 2 Peter 1 that God “…has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” which is why I love this quote from Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher, who said:
The Scripture is the library of the Holy Ghost; it is a pandect of divine knowledge, an exact model and platform of religion. The Scripture contains in it the credenda, ‘the things which we are to believe,’ and the agenda, ‘the things which we are to practice.’
“The library of the Holy Spirit…”
So, think about the Bible’s sufficiency on multiple levels.
The Bible is sufficient for our salvation.
The Bible tells us how we can be saved. Ephesians 2 is probably the clearest passage from start to finish in the entire Bible about how we can be saved from our sins. To realize—especially if you are not a follower of Christ—this is how God in His Word has said we can be saved from our sins. We realize we are sinners before God. Ephesians 2 says “we’re dead in our sins and we deserve His judgement.”
At the same time, God is rich in mercy and He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price for our sin so that we can be saved from our sin not based on what we do, but based on what He has done for us in His grace. It is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So, how can you be saved from your sins and reconciled to God? Put your faith in the grace and love of God. Trust in what Jesus has done for you paying the price for your sin on a cross, rising in victory over sin and death from the grave. Put your faith in Jesus. He will forgive you of all your sins and reconcile you to Himself to live forever with Him. If you have never done that, I invite you. I urge you to do that. This is the Word of God saying, “By grace through faith in Christ” you can be saved from your sin and reconciled to God forever. It’s the Word of God.
Faith like that comes how? “…from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). So the Word of God is sufficient to show you and me how to be saved from our sins. James 1:21 talks about “the implanted Word which is able to save your souls.” So the Bible is sufficient for our salvation; sufficient to bring us into a relationship with God forever.
The Bible is sufficient for our sanctification.
We just read and then referenced this: God has given us everything we need to grow in godliness. This is the purpose of the Bible. This is so big, so please follow along very closely with me here.
The purpose of the Bible is not to answer every question we may ask or to provide direction for every situation we may face. Now, that may sound even radical to some like, “Whoa, wait a second!” Some people say, “The Bible answers all my questions,” but that’s not true. There are all kinds of questions the Bible doesn’t answer. The Bible doesn’t answer how to do calculus. The Bible doesn’t answer all kinds of questions we have about American history. America didn’t exist at that point. The Bible is not intended to answer every question we have.
Likewise, the Bible doesn’t provide direction for every situation we face. We were talking about teenagers earlier. So, what does the Bible say specifically about raising teenagers? Now sure, there are different principles we see in Scripture, but the Bible is not a parenting-teenagers-how-to book.
Similarly, the Bible doesn’t tell us everything about how to manage money or walk through grief or deal with divorce. Sure, there are principles we see in Scripture that help us, but the Bible is not intended to be a money management how-to book; a grief recovery, or divorce recovery book. The purpose of the Bible is not intended to answer every question we ask or provide direction for every situation we may face.
Now, you might think, “I thought you were trying to us the Bible is sufficient. Seems like you’re showing us it’s insufficient.” No. Follow me. The purpose of the Bible is not these things because if that’s what its purpose was, then it would be insufficient, but the purpose of the Bible is something far better than those things. The purpose of the Bible is to conform us into the image of Christ.
We’ve hit on this in some different ways, but I just wanted to put it together. Think about bookends in the Bible if you think about the beginning and the end of the Bible. “In the beginning [when it starts] God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). We talked about this in the story of the Bible. Man was created in the image of God, had perfect communion with God, but man’s sin marred God’s image so in Genesis 3 man was cast out of God’s presence.
Then look at Genesis 3:23: “…the Lord God sent him out from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” So, that’s at the beginning of the Bible. Think in bookends, that’s the very beginning.
Now, you jump to the end, the last two chapters of the Bible and we see Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” And look how heaven is described in Revelation 22:1-5. This is no coincidence.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of [what?] life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.”
You see that? The tree of life. It’s the first time we see it since Genesis 3, but now it’s different. Let’s pick up in verse two:
The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Did you catch that? The beginning of the Bible, man is made in God’s image with perfect communion with God. Then man was separated from God. The rest of the Book is all about bringing men and women back to God, back to the image of God, restored to perfect communion with God. That’s what the whole Book is about. The purpose of the Bible is to bring people back to God; into the image of Christ.
Your study guide has a smattering of verses here that show this over and over again:
- The Psalmist anticipates the day when he’ll see God’s face in righteousness. “…when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
- God has “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined [purposed for us] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29-30). And one day we’ll be glorified in that way.
- Toward that end we “…are being transformed into the same image (the image of Christ) from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
- One day He “…will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).
- This is a process for putting on “…the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10)
- “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:3-4).
- “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
This is the purpose of the Bible to make this a reality in our hearts. So, you’ve got some concentric circles in your notes. I think it’s the one on page 98 and I put this here just as a visual to think about how this works. God’s Word works to transform you and me into the image of Jesus so, when we’re saved—when we trust in God’s grace in Christ to save us from our sins—at that point we receive a new heart. So, put that word in the innermost circle.
The Bible can sufficiently transform all parts of us
Heart: The heart of Christ. In Christ, we have a new heart. We’re a new creation. All of a sudden we’ve been born all over again and this begins a process by which the Spirit of God through the Word of God begins transforming us more and more and more into the image of Christ. Sanctification starts with a heart of Christ in us and works out from there.
Mind: He transforms our minds to be more like the mind of Christ. So, you might write “mind” in that next circle. Romans 12 talks about being “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” First Corinthians 2 says, “…we have the mind of Christ.” Second Corinthians 10:5 talks about how we “…take every thought captive to obey Christ.” So, the more we read the Word under the leadership if the Spirit, the more we think like Christ, the more we understand Who God is, how God works, how God calls us to live which then leads us to live differently.
Will: Next circle you might write in there the “will of Christ.” The will of Christ. John 15: “As we abide in Christ, His Words abide in us. He bears His fruit through us. We learn to obey His commands.”
Body: As we do, we learn to live in His love, experience His joy and all that leads to the last circle. So, you got a “heart,” “mind,” “will,” and then you might write in that fourth circle “the Body of Christ.”
I love this picture from Paul in Galatians 4 as he talks about the church—these followers of Christ. He talks about them like they are his children and he says it’s like he’s “…in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” That’s Paul’s goal. That’s the goal of a pastor. He says, “I want to see Christ formed in these people.” The goal of the Bible is to see Christ formed in us; to see our hearts transformed in a way that then transforms our mind and our will and what we look like as the Body of Christ.
The Bible is sufficient to bring all of that about. To conform us in the image of Christ and to bring us into step with the Spirit of Christ so, the more we become like Christ, the more we’re in tune with the Spirit of Christ.
So, now bring this back around to what we were talking about earlier. The Bible, for example, is not a parenting how-to book. You know what, though? The Bible’s something better. It is a book that is guaranteed by the Spirit of God to make you look more like Jesus the more you read it. It is guaranteed to bring you into step with the Holy Spirit the more you read it and do you know what your children’s greatest need in your life as a parent is? They need a parent who looks, thinks, acts and loves like Jesus. They need a parent who’s walking in step with the Holy Spirit on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis. That’s their greatest need in you.
No, the Bible is not a grief counseling how-to book. Instead, the Bible is something better. It’s a book that’s guaranteed to strengthen your heart with everlasting, never-failing hope of Christ and help you every day walk in the strength of the Spirit of God, the Divine Comforter Who’s promised to give you all the grace and strength you need for every emotion you feel and every heart-ache you experience.
The purpose of the Bible is to save and sanctify us, to bring us into the image of Christ more and more and more in our lives. That is our greatest need and the Bible alone is sufficient to meet that need. So, let me urge you on a practical level before you go to the Christian bookstore and pick up all kinds of how-to books for this or that in the Christian life—I’m not saying those books are bad; well some of them are bad, but not all of them—but, before you go there and start filling your time reading this or that book about this or that issue, do not bypass the only Book that is guaranteed to meet your greatest need. God’s Word is able to meet your greatest need.
People say, “Why should I read Leviticus when I’m struggling with parenting in my life? What does Leviticus have for me?” Well, here’s what Leviticus has for you that no book in the Christian bookstore has. Leviticus has the power of God to transform you into the image of Christ and your greatest need today, the greatest need you have in your life, the greatest need others around you have in your life is for you to think and act, to live and love like Jesus and Leviticus is inspired by God to make that a reality.
That leads to the question then of how does the Bible accomplish that purpose? And according to 2 Timothy 3, the rest of Scripture instructs us, teaches us. It convicts us. “It pierces us,” Hebrews 4 says. “It helps us to avoid sin,” Psalms 119: 10-11 says.
Now, I’m going to make an important note here. Just a side note that I hope will be helpful for you. We need to identify as sin only that which the Bible explicitly or implicitly identifies as sin. So, we’ve got to be careful not to call sin that which the Bible doesn’t call sin. Just like we’ve talked about not adding to God’s Word, we need to be careful not to create rules and regulations beyond God’s Word and call not following those rules and regulations sin. There’s a ton more we could talk about there and that might be another Secret Church.
How does the Bible make us look more like Jesus? How does the Spirit do this through the Word? The Word instructs us, convicts us and corrects us. It “disciplines” us in the words of Hebrews 12. It trains us. I love how Titus 2 describes the way God’s grace trains us in godliness and the Bible equips us for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6).
Then I love Hebrews 13:20: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will…” This is what God has promised to do for you through His Word. “Equip you with everything good that you may do His will…”
We trust that everything required of us by God is explicitly or implicitly commanded in the Bible. In other words, everything God ultimately wants us to do, He has revealed to us. God has not left us in the dark concerning His will. A couple of the most common questions we ask in the church today are “How do I know God’s will for my life? How do I find God’s will for my life?” And the good news is: God’s will is not lost. You don’t have to find it. God’s given us everything we need to walk in it.
I love how Oswald Chambers said, “The Christian should never ask, ‘Where is God’s will for my life? What is God’s will for my life?’” He said, “If you’re walking through a forest, when is the only time you need to ask where the path is? When you’re off the path. As long as you’re walking in the path, you don’t have to ask where the path is.”
So, instead of wondering, “What is God will?” walk in His will every day. Do what He’s revealed and He will lead. He will guide by His Spirit. In all this, the Bible is sufficient for our salvation. It’s sufficient to bring us to faith in Christ. It’s sufficient for our sanctification. It’s sufficient to help us grow in Christ.
The Bible is sufficient for our satisfaction.
I love these verses! Just listen to how the Bible is talked about here: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm1:1-2).
Is your delight in the law of the Lord? Do you meditate on it, like it, love hearing it?
When my wife, Heather, and I were dating and I never had a girlfriend before. That sounds noble but I was just very socially awkward and God in His mercy provided a girl who was attracted to my social awkwardness. Anyway, I was new to the whole dating thing and she would write me a letter.
Talk about meditation. I would just take that letter and look at every word. Like the greeting: “dear.” She said “Dear David” —that’s me. I’m “dear” to her. That’s good. “Dear David…” [This sounds so lame in front of this many people, but it’s true.] She’d put a smiley face on it and I’m like, “Oh! What does that mean? A smiley face right there!” Or she’d write, “I’m praying for you.” I’d meditate, “Oh, what does she mean? ‘I’m praying for you’ like she’s praying for a lot of people? Or ‘I’m praying for my future husband and you come to mind so I’m praying for you?’” It was just delightful to meditate on those letters from Heather!
And that’s the picture here, like you’re just soaking in the Word as a delight. Think about that. This is so important! Let me ask: Is Bible study duty for you, or is it delight? We’ve got to ask ourselves the question. This isn’t intended to be duty as much as it is delight.
If I were to come home from work, walk in the house and give my wife a big hug and a kiss on the lips and she might respond with, “Well, where’d that come from?” What if I were to say, “Well, it says here in my how-to marriage book that it’s advisable to come home from work and give your wife a hug and a kiss. So I felt that would be appropriate in light of the book.” What’s going to happen? She’s going to take the book and throw it back in my face! Duty and delight are very different things.
So, is it delight? God intends His Word to be delightful. We read at the beginning, “More to be desired [is God’s Word] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).
Listen to the Psalmist:
- “In the way of Your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches…” (Psalm 119:14).
- “I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your Word” (Psalm 119:16).
- “Your testimonies are my delight…” (Psalm 119:24).
- “…I find my delight in Your commandments, which I love” (Psalm 119:47).
- “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning” (Psalm 119:54).
- “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:72).
- “How I love Your law. It’s my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).
- I love this one: “I rejoice at Your Word like one who finds great spoil” (Psalm 119:162). Oh, that’s so good! You wake up in the morning, you just open up the Word and there’s treasure—spoil—just waiting for you and the next day there is more treasure and the next day and the next day. It’s delight!
We need not add to the Bible because the Bible is sufficient
The Bible is sufficient for salvation, sanctification and our satisfaction. So in light of the Bible’s sufficiency, in this way we must not and do not need to add anything to Scripture. We must not and do not need to elevate anything above the authority of Scripture, which means we don’t elevate teachers. We must always be careful never to elevate teachers of the Word over the Word they teach which is unhealthy.
We don’t elevate teachers and we don’t elevate traditions, which if we’re not careful, we’re so quick to cling to. Jesus rebukes those. The last part of the passage of Matthew 15: 6-9 reads,
So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Colossians 2: 8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” This is a huge error in Roman Catholicism, the error of exalting human traditions to the stature of Scripture. Athanasius well commented: “Vainly do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded councils for the faith’s sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things.”
Official teaching from the Catholic Church and the Council of Trent clearly teaches that traditions are the same level of the Old and New Testaments. Consider this quote:
Following, then, the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testaments, since One God is the author of both; also, the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession.
[Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, Roman Catholic Church]
In other words, the Catholic Church is saying, “We need traditions. The teachings of the church are authoritative, in addition to the Old and New Testaments.” And it’s not true.
In the words of J.I. Packer:
Scripture can and does interpret itself to the faithful from within— Scripture is its own interpreter, Scriptura sui ipsius interpres, as Luther puts it—so that not only does it not need Popes or Councils to tell us, as from God, what it means; it can actually challenge Papal and conciliar pronouncements, convince them of being ungodly and untrue, and require the faithful to part company with them. … As Scripture was the only source from which sinners might gain true knowledge of God and godliness, so Scripture was the only judge of what the church had in each age ventured to say in her Lord’s name.
This is not just a danger in Roman Catholicism. Think about our criticism which lowers Scripture to the level of human tradition. So basically it says, “Oh, these are just average, everyday documents with all kinds of falsehoods.”
John Calvin said, “We owe to the Scriptures the same reverence as we owe to God, since it has its only source in Him and has nothing of human origin mixed with it.” Don’t miss this. Whether it’s Roman Catholicism that exalts tradition to the level of Scripture, or higher criticism that lowers Scripture to the level of tradition, both have the same disastrous effect: minimizing the voice of God.
As you may know, this year is the five-hundred-year anniversary of the Reformation. So, Lord willing, next week I’ll be preaching in Germany and taking a couple of my kids with me, visiting some of the historic Reformation sites. Somebody was giving me a hard time when they heard that, saying, “Oh, you’re a great dad. Most people take their nine and ten year olds to Disney World and you’re taking them to Wittenberg? Really? I’m sure they are blessed kids.”
Anyway, I think they’ll have a fun time. We’ve been talking about the Reformation and have even walked through a book telling the stories of the Reformers. Mary Ruth, our six year old, said the other day, “Why do all these guys get burned at the stake and this or that?” At least part of the answer is because they believed in the authority of the Bible.
J.I. Packer sums it up:
What Luther thus voiced the at Worms [where he was tried] shows the essential motivation and concern, theological and religious, of the entire Reformation movement: namely that the Word of God alone must rule, and no Christian man dare do other than allow it to enthrone itself in his conscience and heart.
This is critical. Francis Schaeffer said words that we need to hear in light of the rise of megachurches around our country over the last twenty to thirty years:
There is no use of evangelicalism seeming to get larger and larger, if at the same time appreciable parts…are getting soft at that which is central core, namely the Scriptures… We must…say most lovingly but clearly: ‘evangelicalism is not consistently evangelical unless there’s a line drawn between those who take a full view of Scripture and those who do not… Holding to a strong view of Scripture or not holding to it is the watershed of the evangelical world.
Most importantly in the Words of God:
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:1-2).
We must not add anything to Scripture. We must not elevate anything to the authority of Scripture. Why not? Because the Bible is sufficient. Sure, any number of other books might be helpful, but ladies and gentlemen, mark it down that this is the only Book we need.
Session 6 Discussion Question
Study Guide pp. 94-108
1. What’s the difference between believing that the Bible is true and believing that it is sufficient?
2. What are some practical ways the sufficiency of Scripture ought to affect our spiritual growth?
3. Does the fact that Scripture is sufficient mean that it will help you know what job to take? Explain your answer.
4. What is the purpose of the Bible?
5. Can you think of some examples of when your beliefs or actions have been corrected by Scripture?
6. What are some signs that a church does not view Scripture as sufficient for making disciples?
7. What’s wrong with a pastor adding a few prohibitions to Scripture in order to make sure the members do not fall into sin?
8. What’s wrong with giving our own religious traditions the same level of authority as Scripture? Can you list some ways that we do this, maybe even without realizing it?
9. If the Bible is sufficient for our satisfaction, then does this mean that we will always feel encouraged after reading it? Explain your answer.
10. Discuss some ways the sufficiency of Scripture should affect our missions strategies.
Key Terms and Concepts
- The Bible contains all we need in order to know and walk with God.
- The Bible is sufficient for our salvation, our sanctification, and our satisfaction.
- Sanctification: God’s work of making believers more like Christ by the power of His Spirit. Sanctification involves a continual turning from sin and growth in righteous living. God has already declared us to be righteous in Christ (by virtue of our justification), but our sanctification will not be complete until Christ returns and we are fully conformed to His image in our resurrected bodies.
- The Bible’s purpose is not to answer all the questions we may have or to provide specific direction for every situation we face, but rather to conform us into the image of Christ and to bring us into step with the Spirit of Christ.
- We must not (and do not need to) add anything to Scripture or elevate anything to the authority of Scripture.
- The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Church’s official teaching carries the same authoritative status as Scripture. (Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent – see p.106–107 of the Secret Church 17 Study Guide).
- Higher Criticism: the study of biblical writings to determine their literary history and the purpose and meaning of the authors (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Some scholars who use this method operate with an anti-supernatural bias, as they do not accept Scripture’s supernatural claims. They claim to base their research solely on human reason and that which is objectively verifiable.
- Both Roman Catholic theology and higher criticism minimize the voice of God through their respective views of Scripture.