Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – The Four Characteristics of Scripture: (4) Sufficiency – Is the Bible enough for knowing what God wants us to think or do?
This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.
Synopsis of Chapter
In Chapter 8, Wayne Grudem tackles the fourth and final characteristic of Scripture: sufficiency. He defines sufficiency of Scriptures as “Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly.”
There are several reasons to believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. One of the verses Grudem cites is 2 Timothy 3:15, “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” This suggests the Bible is sufficient to provide all the information we need to believe in order to be saved. The sufficiency of Scripture does not negate the value of historical theology, but it does place a premium on what the Bible teaches over any other teacher after the New Testament age.
There are practical applications to the sufficiency of Scripture. For instance, we understand God’s opinion about many subjects are found in the Bible. There’s no reason to look to outside revelation, subjective feelings, or any prophetic word. In addition, the doctrine reminds us that only the Bible defines what is right or wrong. No guru can add to or take away from God’s revelation. In everything, the Bible is sufficient to tell us what God has been content to reveal to us in Scripture.
Comprehensive Theological Answers on Particular Topics
The sufficiency of Scripture promises an immense benefit to anyone searching for God’s opinion on a matter. In most cases, we can find answers to any theological question by looking for answers in God’s word. Whether we want to know about divorce, the atonement, stealing, the work of the Holy Spirit, or another theological topic, the Bible can teach us what God thinks about something.
This approach stands in contrast to the Roman Catholic or nonevangelical approach to theological matters. Instead of being dependent on official church teaching throughout history like Catholics, or looking to what other Christians may have experienced in early church history like nonevangelical theologians, evangelical theology depends on Scripture first because of the sufficiency of Scripture.
Scripture Was Sufficient At Each Stage of Redemptive History
In addition to God’s word being sufficient to teach us what we should know, God’s revelation was also enough in each stage of redemptive history. The Bible was not written at one time. Moses wrote the Pentateuch / Torah, then David and others wrote the Psalms, and so on. At each time the Scriptures that either ancient Israel or the church possessed was enough for that time.
There are several passages that suggest God’s revelation was sufficient to teach God’s people what they needed to know at that time. To add to or remove words from God’s word indicates a lack of trust in the sufficiency of Scripture:
- “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)
- “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32)
- “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)
- “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19)
Practical Applications of the Sufficiency of Scripture
There are several practical applications to the sufficiency of Scripture. For one, we should be encouraged that we have answers to questions about God, ethics, and everything the Bible has addressed. God has given us “things that are revealed” and those things “belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
In addition, we do not need to look to other books that cults and other religions claim are equal in authority to the Bible. For instance, the Mormons look to the Book of Mormon and Christian Scientists appeal to Science and Health With a Key to the Scriptures. There is no need to point to other books that claim special authority – the Bible is sufficient.
In a similar way, the sufficiency of Scripture reminds us that we don’t need to follow non-Biblical prohibitions against things like caffeine or movies. God has given us everything we need to understand in an ethical framework. It is complete so “the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17). We don’t have to listen to extra-Biblical advice about not doing this or doing that – whether it’s from another religious text, teacher, or so-called prophet. The Bible is sufficient to teach us what is right and wrong.
Conclusion: The Sufficiency Of Scripture is A Comfort To The Student
In sum, there are many religious texts in the world that various groups revere. But there is only one book that is the Word of God. There is no need to depend on other texts for authoritative pronouncements on matters of faith and practice — the Bible is sufficient to teach us what we need to know about God, how to live in a way that pleases him, how to be saved from the wrath to come, and the coming kingdom.
“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!” (Psalm 119:1)
- sufficiency of Scripture
Resources: Wayne Grudem
- Wayne Grudem: Book: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
- Wayne Grudem: 148 Lectures on Systematic Theology at Scottsdale Bible Church
- John MacArthur: The Sufficiency of Scripture
- John Piper: Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture
- Carl Trueman: The Sufficiency of Scripture
- Matt Slick: Are the Scriptures Sufficient? (especially vs. Roman Catholic doctrine)