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What is the Bible? The Sufficiency of Scripture



You may have met someone who said their life’s goal is to buy a farm, get off the grid, and live a “self-sufficient” life. They want to not need anything from the world. You may have the desire to do this as well, or you may be like me and prefer to have your groceries delivered, but at the core of all people, there’s this desire to not need anything. We crave sufficiency. As we continue discussing and answering the question “What is the Bible?” we’ll see that the Bible meets that desire. What makes the Bible different is that it is sufficient.

 

Defining Sufficiency

The sufficiency of Scripture means that the Bible has everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). There is no ideology or practice that Scripture needs to supplement. God has given us a book that leaves nothing out or left to the imagination for us to live and to be godly. You may have read that statement and immediately thought of something that Scripture doesn’t mention and think that disproves sufficiency. It’s a fair objection, so to handle it we first need to understand maximal sufficiency and minimal sufficiency, and then to examine how the Bible is sufficient for life and for godliness.

 

Maximal Sufficiency v. Minimal Sufficiency

The term sufficiency is used by a wide swath of evangelicals, with very different definitions of it, complicating what sufficiency means. The terms maximal and minimal sufficiency are terms that I have coined to better understand what is meant by sufficiency. Maximal sufficiency is the belief that Scripture needs nothing added to it for life and godliness nor can anything be added to it to increase life and godliness. Minimal sufficiency is the belief that Scripture needs nothing added to it for life and godliness, but ideologies and other things from the world that do not directly contradict Scripture can be helpful to increase life and godliness. Minimal sufficiency observes Scripture and would say that it suffices like an unseasoned piece of meat would suffice to feed someone hungry. They would say that if you give the Bible to an unreached people group and then leave, the Bible has enough to suffice, but for those in a developed nation, the things of the world, as long as they don’t directly contradict Scripture, can be helpful to the believer’s life and godliness. The piece of unseasoned meat is good to eat, but it could use the seasoning of the world. Maximal sufficiency says the opposite of this. The Bible has everything for life and godliness, so whenever the things of the world are added, it’s either neutral, neither adding nor subtracting from life and godliness, or it subtracts from life and godliness. Maximal sufficiency means that the piece of meat comes pre-seasoned and that adding anything to it will not make it better and will likely make it worse.

 

In this article, I’m advocating for maximal sufficiency. Anything that God has deemed good for your life and good for your godliness is in the Bible. There are things in the world that can be value-positive, but these things are also found in Scripture. The ideology of private property is both good for our lives and is espoused by secularists, but that concept can be found in Scripture as well. It is value-positive because of what Scripture says, not what the secularist says. Then, there are things in the world that are value-neutral. Instructions on how to drive a car are not found in Scripture, but driving a car isn’t necessary for your life from God’s view and, therefore, does not add to your life or your godliness, but also does not per se take away from your life and godliness. It’s value-neutral. There are also things in the world that are value-negative. Ideologies like Marxism are value-negative concepts from the world that will only take away from your life and from your godliness. There is nothing in the world, though, that is not also found in Scripture that can add to your life and godliness.

 

Sufficient For Godliness

From that concept, what does it mean that the Bible is sufficient for godliness? This means that the Bible has every instruction on what our problem is, how to be saved, and after salvation, how to live a moral and God-pleasing life. This means that Scripture has told us what sin is and what the consequences of sin are. While the world may try to create new sins or say that sins according to Scripture aren’t sins, the Bible is sufficient to tell us every sin there is. There may be many different praxes of sin, but Scripture is sufficient to identify it as sin and tell us the consequences for it. Scripture is also sufficient to tell us the remedy for sin. There is no additional book, philosopher, church dogma, or preacher necessary to believe for salvation. Scripture’s communication of the gospel and how to receive it is sufficient. Scripture is then sufficient to tell us what it means to live a godly and moral life. There is no modern movement that you must join to be considered a moral person. There is no secular penance that a church has to partake in to be pleasing to God. It tells us how to worship, how to pray, how to repent, how to evangelize, and how to love. Scripture is sufficient to tell us what God expects of you as a child of God and what He expects of His church. Worldly business concepts, secular music, social movements, and pop culture cannot increase the godliness of the church or the believer. Scripture alone can increase the godliness of the church or a believer.

 

Sufficient For Life

Scripture is also sufficient for life. Scripture tells us how to live out the supposedly unspiritual things of life. Someone may bring up the objection of a car as proof that Scripture is insufficient for life because Scripture doesn’t speak to that. Well, maybe Scripture does speak to cars, albeit indirectly. Scripture tells us that we must take care of our property, so that tells us we need to change the oil in the car. It tells us that we are to use everything for the glory of God, so that tells us where we can take our car. Scripture tells us that we are to obey laws, so that tells us how we are to drive our car. Scripture actually says a lot about a car, and this is just one example. When we examine Scripture what we’ll find is that anything that relates to our lives, we can find biblical principles about how we are to live. Scripture tells us how to engage in politics, how to handle sickness and diseases, how to find hope in a hopeless world, and how to be good neighbors. A note here as well, if you truly cannot find biblical instructions on how to live something out in your life, you may already be doing something the Scripture says you mustn’t. There is nothing in the world that will actually increase what God meant for your life. Scripture alone can increase your life.

 

Application

So what do we now do with the doctrine of sufficiency? The starting point is to stop looking at other places for life and godliness. Instead of going to the world for how to deal with your problems, search Scripture and go to people who will tell you what Scripture says. Instead of looking for the next political movement that you can jump on, go to Scripture and see what it says about government and citizenship. Scripture is already sufficient, it doesn't need to prove itself. The question for us is whether we will treat it as sufficient. If you want to increase your life and godliness, if you want something that is truly sufficient, go to the Bible alone.




Article written by Klayton Carson



The "What is the Bible" series will also be on the Text-Driven Podcast. You can listen to the Text-Driven Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or at www.textdriven.org/podcasts.



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