August 29, 2014 Broadcast

Scripture for Life: The Sufficiency of Scripture

A Message by Stephen Nichols

The concept that an ancient book might offer sufficiency for life rubs against the grain of our postmodern culture. How can one source possess all the answers for life, let alone an archaic, outdated text? Behind this question lies the desire for the individual to choose what is sufficient, a grasp for autonomy that began with our first parents in the garden of Eden. They sought to cast off the yoke of the Lord, which they considered heavy and unnecessary, and instead they exalted themselves to the place of their Creator, arbiters of sufficiency. This sin remains alive today, compelling Christians who have tasted the streams of everlasting life flowing from our Savior to proclaim the truth that life and its rule may only be found in Christ and His Word.

From the series: Why We Trust the Bible

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Bind These Words

  2. blog-post

    What Does Sola Scriptura Mean?

  3. article

    Unquestionable Authority

Bind These Words

Miles Van Pelt

The final words of the Shema contain Moses' command to the Israelites to bind the words of God as signs on the hands and between the eyes (Deut. 6:8). He also commands them to write these words on the doorposts of their houses and on their gates (v. 9). In previous verses (vv. 6, 8), Moses calls for God's words to be "on the heart" of each Israelite, and that they be considered and discussed daily as a part of ordinary family life. Given this context, his commands to bind these words to our bodies and to write them on our homes are to ensure that God's people never forget His Word (see Deut. 4:9, 23; 6:12; 8:11, 14; 25:19).

We should have no trouble understanding the rationale behind such commands, even in our own day. Consider, for example, the contemporary custom of wearing a cross around the neck. It serves much the same purpose—to remind us of Christ's work on our behalf, to keep us from forgetting something that has defining importance in our lives.

It is interesting to note, then, that most Israelites never took these commands literally (though some did and still do). We simply lack any biblical evidence that these commands were ever carried out in a literal sense. There is no record of Samuel, David, or Solomon ever wearing armbands or headbands as described in these few verses. We never read of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, or the prophets either enjoining or following these commands. And what about Jesus? He was the very embodiment of true Israel, yet it is never recorded that He followed this practice. So, if these commands did not require wearing Torah scrolls around the arm or between the eyes, what did Moses intend?

We may be helped by considering the appearance of a similar command in Exodus 13:9: "And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt" (see v. 16). Some forty years earlier, Moses commanded that Israel's redemption and deliverance from Egypt be bound to each Israelite on hand and forehead, just like the commands in Deuteronomy 6, so that it might be carefully remembered and passed down to succeeding generations (vv. 8, 14). In the case of Exodus, however, commandments or statutes were not bound to each Israelite, but rather the Lord's redemption of His people from Egypt—not words, but events. Thus, some type of literal observation would have been almost impossible— unless each Israelite had worn the image of a dead firstborn child or an Egyptian drowning in the Red Sea.

The only other instance of this type of command is found at Deuteronomy 11:18: "You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes." In this instance, we are back to binding words to the body, similar to the injunction in 6:8–9. But carefully observe the preceding context, where Moses says God's Word is to be laid up "in your heart and in your soul." Thus, it appears once again that Moses is using an outward, physical reality in order to illustrate an important inner reality. In other words, Moses desires that God's words should be bound to the hearts of each Israelite, just like bracelets and headbands are bound to their owners, out in the open, in plain view, never to be forgotten or neglected.

Remember that jewelry and articles of clothing are often symbolic of nonphysical realities in the Bible. One excellent example is found in Proverbs 1:8–9, where the instruction of one's parents is to be worn on the head and around the neck like jewelry (see also Prov. 3:3). In Isaiah 62:3, Jerusalem is described as a "crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord." In Song of Songs 8:6, the woman desires to be placed like a seal upon the heart and arm of her beloved, representing the strength of their love (see also Prov. 3:3; 4:9; Isa. 11:5; Job 11:5). Sartorial accoutrements of these types communicate the special value of an intangible possession, and like their tangible counterparts, they also should identify, typify, and define the possessor.

In addition to the crucifix mentioned above, our modern culture is filled with items of clothing or jewelry that characterize the wearer. The wedding ring is a reminder of our marriage vows and a particular status. The number on our favorite jersey connects us with our favorite athlete. The logo on a shirt may communicate brand loyalty or someone's place of work. We wear these things to remind us about what is important and, to a certain degree, what defines us. Since this is almost universally true, then let us forever put on Christ (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27)—the very Word of God (Deut. 6:6–9) and perfect redemption (Ex. 13:9, 16).

What Does Sola Scriptura Mean?

John MacArthur

The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that "scientific truth," for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a "more sure Word," standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is "more sure," according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks.

But there are many important questions on which Scripture is silent. Sola Scriptura makes no claim to the contrary. Nor does sola Scriptura claim that everything Jesus or the apostles ever taught is preserved in Scripture. It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture (2 Peter 1:3).

Furthermore, we are forbidden to add to or take away from Scripture (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19). To add to it is to lay on people a burden that God Himself does not intend for them to bear (cf. Matt. 23:4).

Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That—no more, no less—is what sola Scriptura means.

"The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men." —Westminster Confession of Faith

This excerpt is taken from John MacArthur's contribution in Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible.

Unquestionable Authority

Burk Parsons

I am terribly vexed. I have just finished reading an article from the notoriously left-wing magazine Newsweek. In the cover story, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage,” author Lisa Miller argues the case for gay “marriage” using the Bible as her authority. Miller opens with this line: “Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does.” She later asserts, “The Bible gives us no good reason to oppose gay marriage.” 

It takes no brains but a lot of guts to try to make a case for gay “marriage” (of course, the phrase itself is a contradiction in terms). But it’s just downright crazy to try to make a case for the legitimacy of gay “marriage” using the Bible. 

I was recently at an event with Mike Huckabee as the keynote speaker, and I was delighted when the former governor quoted from the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 17:6). This recurring assessment from Judges is certainly applicable to our own day. While the Lord has shown that He will raise up and sustain a faithful remnant of His people in every generation, in His providence He has also shown the chaotic and noetic effects of the fall in every generation. And if you haven’t yet realized it, I’ll let you in on something — we are among the faithful remnant in this generation.

With the Bible as our only infallible authority for every aspect of faith and life, we must stand on the truth and for the truth with uncompromising commitment to the truth and unwavering compassion for those who hate the truth, deny the truth, and use the only infallible authority for truth to defend their lies. By God’s grace, we have been called out of darkness in order to stand in His marvelous light so that we might boldly go into the darkness of this world as a light to the world, proclaiming the way, the truth, and the life before the face of God, coram Deo, and before the faces of our enemies. But in doing so, we must not in practice deny our allegiance to the authority of the Word of God by saying we believe it while continuing to live according to what is right in our own eyes.

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