If Scripture is Truly Sufficient, Why Do We Need Other Books on Scripture?

Our stance as a church is that we believe in the authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture.  The Baptist Faith & Message (2000) states in Article I: Scriptures:

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The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

In our day, the sufficiency of Scripture stands as the great front in both the cultural and ecclesiastical battles of our day, especially ecclesiastical:  is the Word of God sufficient in the life and practice of the church?  Since the essence of Scripture is that God has spoken, it is sufficient and it must be sufficient.

One question one might ask is, “If Scripture is sufficient, then why do we need other books about areas that Scripture addresses?”

It’s a valid question. But we must realize that just because Scripture is sufficient does not mean that we can I have other books to help us understand Scripture. Some principles need to be in play.

  1. The Scriptures are a closed canon.  A ‘canon’ is a measuring rod or stick; so in relation to Scripture, the Bible is the ‘measuring stick’ for the authority of truth.  The canon is closed in that when the last apostolic eyewitness of Christ’s earthly ministry (the apostle John), then the canon was closed with his last book, the Revelation of John, which outlines the end times.   Every religion has their perceived ‘canon’ (Muslims with the Qu’ran, Mormons with their Book of Mormon, etc.), but with us as Evangelical Protestants, the 66 books of the Bible serve as our canon.  Every OT book except for Esther is mentioned in the NT.  And every NT author has a connection as a witness to the earthly ministry of Jesus.
  2. Preachers are called to expound on Scripture by using Scripture.  While this may seem a circular argument, we see that it’s not due to the fact that the Bible is not simply one Book but a collection of books written by 40 men over a span of 1500 years and present an ‘inspired’ unity of one Author.  Given the continuity of the same progression of redemptive revelation that God unrolled, we most certainly can use Scripture to interpret Scripture and still sleep well at night.
  3. God’s ways are higher than ours and his thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).  As a result, God has called preachers (Romans 10:13-14) to go and to preach the gospel as outlined in the Scriptures to others who do not know the Good News of Jesus.  Preachers must not make up new ‘inspired’ material; neither should authors or blog posts.  We read books on Scripture, listen to preachers preach on Scripture, go to classes to learn to study Scripture better (a discipline known as hermeneutics) because we understand the vastness and the majesty of the One who penned it.
  4. We were never met to ‘do’ Christianity alone–and that includes interpreting Scripture.  All of us stand on the shoulders of the giants who went before us, all the way to the foundation of the apostles and the prophets (the Scriptures).  Those committed to the authority of Scripture will seek to rightly divide Scripture.  Should someone say, “God told me this…,” how can we know if it’s true?  Not based upon our fallen, fallible faculties; but on the perspicuity and infallibility of Scripture.  We are an ‘ekklesia’ (called-out ones), a ‘koinonia’ (a fellowship of believers united to Christ), a body of believers with one True Head who is Christ (Colossians 1:18).  To say we need no help is disingenuous (after all, we have received the help of those who translated it from the Hebrew and Greek to begin with), and arrogant.

This is not meant to be all-inclusive or necessarily authoritative.  But these are reasons which have helped me in holding to the Scriptures alone as sufficient, but actually reading other commentaries and listening to other preachers in the process of interpreting, explaining, and applying Scripture.

What think ye?

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