Is Scripture sufficient? Is it enough for us?
Man has always been tempted to search for God on our own terms, rather than to seek him where he has promised to be. God has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures. Do we believe this is enough?
The mere fact that God has revealed himself there should be enough for us to trust it, but we are often tempted to search for him in other places. I suppose the root of the temptation is that, in our sinfulness, we would like a second opinion. If your doctor tells you that you’re dying, and you need to have a major surgery, exercise more, and drastically change your diet, you might get a second opinion. You do this, because you’re really hoping your doctor is wrong. You don’t want to do what she says.
With medical things, it’s not always wrong to get a second opinion. Doctors, as great as they are, can err from time to time. God, however, does not err. Therefore, our lack of faith in his revelation (the Scriptures) is sin.
Sometimes we might confess with our lips that Scripture is God’s authoritative revelation, but in practice we look for him elsewhere. Certain branches of the Christian Church have even claimed additional sources beyond God’s Word. These are all attacks on the sufficiency of Scripture.
During the Middle Ages, and leading up to the Lutheran Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church developed a three-fold source of authority: The “Magisterium” (the pope and bishops), Scripture, and “apostolic tradition” (teachings of the apostles that were not recorded in Scripture, but supposedly passed down through the Church). This ultimately resulted in the pope becoming the final authority.
Later, the Church of England developed a slightly different three-fold source: Scripture, reason, and tradition. This ultimately resulted in the “reason” of whoever has the political power in the church having the final authority.
Other churches, without officially saying so, have adopted these same additional sources or added some of their own.
We are tempted by pragmatism. We think, “Yeah, I know what Scripture says, but this other thing seems to work better.”
Mysticism is a big one. This is the attempt to know God through our experience (usually emotional). Mysticism really just results in us listening to our own sinful hearts. Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “I just don’t think God would do that”? Does this conviction come from Scripture, or does it come from somewhere within your own heart?
Reason, tradition, and various other sources of knowledge can be helpful, but they must be used to serve the Word of God. We use our brains when we study Scripture. That’s reason. It’s often helpful to consider what others in the past have taught. That’s tradition. But we must be cautious. We should be especially cautious of our own sinful hearts. Anytime we elevate something next to (or even close to) Scripture, it has a tendency to overrule Scripture.
Here’s the crux of the matter: Is God gracious? Is he generous? Is he forthright with us? Or is he stingy and secretive? Over and over again in the Scriptures, God proves himself to be merciful, gracious, and loving. We should conclude from this that he is also loving toward us in what he has revealed and what he has left hidden. We should trust that he has revealed exactly what is good for us to know.
The peace of Christ be with you all,