Biblical Sufficiency: Is the Bible Enough?
It’s easy to start to think of the Bible as the meat of our spiritual meals. After we decide eating meat alone seems boring or flavorless, we start adding flavorful spices. We might read a Bible commentary alongside our reading plan or listen to a podcast to help us stay on the leading edge of modern thought. You may find, however, that doing too much on the side can affect your reading of the Bible, the same way too many spices could make any meat inedible. And eating spices alone is neither wise nor nourishing.
Very few people would argue that the Bible is anything less than sufficient. But, if we examine our habits of reading the Bible, we may expose a dependence on other sources that is less than healthy. Using different spices to liven up our reading life such as devotionals or even blogs to help get a spiritual dose of nutrients isn’t necessarily bad in moderation, but these are never comparable to the nutrient-packed Word of God.
A borrowed understanding of the Bible often results in a borrowed faith. Therefore, we must learn to limit how much time we spend outside of the Bible to dig deep and understand for ourselves what is already in the Bible. As a general rule, if you are confused about something you read, try reading what’s around it or using cross references to get a better understanding of the situation before asking the Internet.
What Do We Need the Bible For?
In case you aren’t convinced that the Bible is the primary nourishment of your spiritual life, consider Paul’s take on it in 2 Timothy 3:15. He tells Timothy that it is his teacher for salvation. That is definitely first and foremost. We need the Bible to tell us how to be saved. Paul goes on to say that the Bible helps make us wise and give us the things we need to live as Christians (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This means that the Bible is not only useful for a one-time salvation experience, but also for the rest of our life that follows.
God’s Word contains many commandments for Christians to follow. Jesus followed them all perfectly, and it should be our goal and aspiration to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, do the same. We can find all of these commandments sufficiently given to us through the Bible and, therefore, we do not require anything else to instruct us on how to live.
The Bible as Our Guide From the Past
Now, what about God’s people before the Bible? Back in Jesus’s time, they didn’t have the Gospels, Acts, or any of the other books and letters we have now. But, the words that were written down were inspired by the Holy Spirit so that Christians would obey the commandments.
Although the idea seems complex, the truth is that the Bible is sufficient for every age of time in which it is given. At the time of Moses, they only had the first five books of the Bible, but that was sufficient for them. At the time of Jesus, they had the entire Old Testament but none of the New Testament, and yet that was sufficient for them. In our age, we are blessed to have both the Old and New Testaments, and it is sufficient for us.
That still leaves the question of how the Bible can be sufficient when there are topics it doesn’t explicitly cover. The Bible’s sufficiency doesn’t rest in having answers for every problem. We know the Bible is sufficient because it contains all the principles we need to make godly decisions in all situations and in all ages. It helps us make sense of the issues from the present and the past. For example, while we don’t engage in animal sacrifices now, we see from what the Bible says about animal sacrifices that the consequence of sin results in death, a motif that is explicitly stated in Romans 6:23. It is from these principles that we are guided in our walk with God.
The Bible as Our Guide From the Future
So what neat and awesome applications can we take from understanding that the Bible is enough? Consider these two things.
First of all, the Bible is a dynamic speaker who provides morals and principles for things that it doesn’t speak directly about. Consider abortion for example. The Bible says that we are made in the image of God and that murder is wrong. But, it never says outright that killing a child before it is born is wrong. We come to that unwavering conclusion pretty easily, however, by putting the two principles together. Some will topics can be more difficult to navigate, such as dating. The Bible was written during a time when modern dating didn’t exist, but it still gives solid principles on finding a good husband or wife.
Secondly, when we understand that the Bible is enough, we know not to add anything to the Bible, take anything away from it, or go somewhere else to find an answer that we like better. If we do, we risk becoming just like one of the many cults out there who use other books as if they are equal to the Bible. Not only does God warn about adding to his Word (Revelation 22:18), but it also creates a lot of confusing paradoxes. In a more simple explanation, it means that we cannot interpret the Bible however we want to. Using Bible study helps is permissible, even recommended, but be wise when doing so. At the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, don’t replace the real thing with the CliffsNotes version or someone else’s interpretation.
To summarize, the Bible is given to us by God to help us live our lives and answer our questions on a daily basis. Treating the Bible as anything less than our ultimate guide for spiritual truth will leave us vulnerable to many pitfalls. A healthy understanding of the sufficiency of the Bible leads to a strong desire to read God’s Word and the powerful truths it holds.
Benjamin Murray graduated from Grand Canyon University with a BA in Christian Studies with an emphasis in Biblical Studies. Since high school, Benjamin has had a discipline for learning and passion for God's Word and his Church.