Enough: The Bible (Part 3)

The food was beautifully presented on the plate,  a work of art (we almost wanted to frame the bill as well).  However at the end of the meal, we were left far from satisfied, our stomachs were still rumbling.  We were ready for another meal.  Have you ever felt like that?  Well the promise is that the Bible provides a full nourishing meal.  You won’t need to go looking for something else. “Thoroughly equipped for every good work”

The all-encompassing nature of Scripture’s effect is drawn out by the second half of 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Scripture is useful not just for teaching so that people acquire intellectual knowledge but also for “rebuking, correcting and training.” Sometimes people need to be taught facts on which to base their decisions, sometimes they need to be encouraged, sometimes they need to be shown how to do something.  Sadly, all too often, they need to be corrected when they are getting something wrong (for example, they have listened to the deceit of one of the false teachers) and rebuked when they are in the wrong and falling into sin.  It is Scripture that does these things and this in itself should be a corrective to us.  Nothing that we can come up with will be more loving and encouraging than Scripture.  A the same time, no matter how frustrated or cross we are, rebuke is God’s domain and we should let the Holy Spirit use Scripture to bring conviction and repentance. The result of Scripture’s “teaching, correcting, rebuking and training” is that God’s people will be thoroughly equipped. This means that in Scripture they have everything they need to live fruitful lives in God’s service. We talk about these things under two headings: the Necessity of Scripture and the Sufficiency of Scripture. Scripture is necessary to our spiritual lives, in that without trusting Scripture we have no spiritual life; and it is sufficient in that if we have trusted Scripture, we have spiritual life.[1] In other words, you cannot live the Christian life, pleasing to God, without hearing, knowing and understanding Scripture. Christians need to be regularly reading their Bibles and churches need to ensure that their gatherings are saturated in Scripture.  It is no use simply to have one or two short readings.  Time needs to be given to preaching so that Scripture is opened up and proclaimed, so that those who need help to grow in their understanding are helped, so that all are reminded again of its teaching, correction and rebuke.  We need to be singing and praying Scripture.  Our liturgy, if we use liturgy, needs to be rich in Scripture too. Francis Turretin makes some careful distinctions when talking about necessity. He says that when talking about Scripture as written mode, this is not in and of itself necessary.  We know this because people in the past survived without Scripture.  God gave them enough revelation for their time through General Revelation and through Special Revelation delivered orally.  However, he says that Scripture as “doctrine delivered” is necessary because God has ordained that this is how we are to know him and hear him speak.[2]  In other words, God is sovereign and could choose, and in the past has chosen to reveal himself in various ways, but he has sovereignly chosen to reveal himself to us through written Scripture.  “God is not bound to Scriptures but he has bound us to them.”[3] Frame says that Scripture is necessary because of the covenant nature of our relationship with God[4] People often claim to have a personal relationship to Christ, while being uncertain about the role of Scripture in that relationship. But the relationship that Christ has established with his people is a covenant relationship and therefore a verbal relationship, among other things.  Jesus’ words today are found only in Scripture.  So if we are to have a covenant relationship with Jesus, we must acknowledge Scripture as his word. No Scripture, no Lord.  No Scripture, no Christ.[5] Sufficiency reminds us that if Scripture is what we need for Spiritual life, then we don’t need anything else either. This is important when we remember again the context.  Christians facing difficult situations may at times be tempted to look elsewhere for guidance and encouragement.  The church going through a period of opposition may want their preacher to stand up and rather than give a simple exposition to share a new vision or even a special word from the Lord for the way forward.  The couple whose marriage is in trouble may turn to a secular counsellor hoping that the latest therapy will help.  Yet, if we are to take Paul seriously here then for both these circumstances, it is Scripture that is needed and it is Scripture that will do.

[1] Frame, DWoG, 210. [2] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, II.II.ii. (Giger, 1:58). [3] Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, II.II.ii. (Giger, 1:58). [4] Frame, DWoG, 211. [5] Frame, DWoG, 212.