Episode 22: The Bible as Sufficient & Complete

Peace to Live By Episode 22: The Bible as Sufficient & Complete - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       In living life, it is good to have a foundational set of principles by which to live by. We believe that those foundational principles, what should live by, are indeed found in the Bible. In fact, I would argue that there are no other foundational principles by which someone should live by, but only the Bible is sufficient in order to live life by. But is the Bible really sufficient? We believe that it is, and this is what we mean when we talk about sufficiency of the Scriptures. Sufficiency of the Bible means that the Bible contains every thing that a person needs in order to live his or her spiritual life out before God. Today, I want to focus on this sufficiency of the Bible.

       As a quick aside before we get started, we need to be careful and make note here that when we discuss the word 'life,' we do not mean all parts life. For instance, the Bible does not give people instructions on how a surgeon is to conduct a surgical procedure. This person of expertise does not look to the Bible to learn his trade. Of course, this is just one of many examples of things the Bible does not talk about.

       Nevertheless, when we discuss the sufficiency of Scriptures, we are also discussing the fact that God, at each time in human history, provided all the knowledge necessary for the people living at that time. Therefore, in the Old Testament when God gave the law to Moses, the Israelites had all of the Commandments that they needed to live by at that time. They could therefore be pleasing to God. The disciples of Jesus Christ during the time of his death and shortly after his death and resurrection, could be certain that they had all of the Commandments needed for the understanding of how to live life. Moreover, those of us right now in the church age can be certain that the Bible contains all that we need for our spiritual lives and godliness. Only the Christian, through the power of the Spirit of God, and with his or her Bible in hand, can truly overcome life's spiritual issues.

       Also today I want to go over the Canonization of the Bible. The Bible in Canon form is an important concept to understand because it gives us, as Christians, the hope and confidence that all of the 66 books of the Bible are meant to be there. Without a Canon, there would undoubtedly be confusion and chaos related to which books should be included within the collaborative Biblical Text. For a book to be considered part of the actual Canon, it had to be accepted as genuine in the past and also have apostolic authority behind it. Also any book within the Canon is allowed to prescribe how we are to live our lives totality.

       In discussing the sufficiency of the Scriptures, first, let's look more closely at the adequacy of God's law of the time of Moses and the Israelites. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (ESV). It is interesting to note that in this passage God is the one who's in control. God is the one who chooses what to reveal of his things. God also said, "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 ESV). The first five books of the Bible were sufficient for the Israelites in the early days.

       Now let's look at the sufficiency of the Scriptures regarding the church age. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (ESV). This includes both the Old and New Testaments. John 20:30-31 says, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (ESV). You see, it isn't necessary for us to know everything that God has done. It is only necessary for us to know what God needs us and wants us to know.

       I would like to discuss how the Bible gives us the necessary information for people to see and obtain salvation from God. In 2 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul says to Timothy, "from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (ESV). In order for someone to believe in God, the person has to hear a word from God. This Word which we proclaim ourselves, is Jesus Christ our Lord. He died, was buried, and rose again so that the people may have payment for their sins and be at peace with God. Paul notes in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (ESV).

       Moreover, by Jesus's death and resurrection, people are granted salvation. The Apostle John states in his gospel, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned," (John 3:16-18a, ESV).

       When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that person has a new life. The Bible tells us everything we need to know to live this new life. I have already mentioned 2 Timothy 3:16 and how the Scriptures are used by God to carry along the believer. Since God has revealed himself to us, it would then therefore make sense that God has instructions for us. Jesus himself throughout his earthly ministry taught many teachings, obviously, which believers today live by. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 through 7 give us a great deal of information about how life is to be lived. Jesus ends that sermon by discussing the difference between one person who builds his or her house on the sand versus another person who builds his or her house on the rock.

Jesus states in Matthew 7:24-27, ““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”” (ESV)

The differences between these two ways to live are startling, and each way has different end result for the quality of life.

       But how, as humans, do we trust in God? If it were not for the collection of the books of the Bible, we would not be able to trust God. The Scriptures give us all the information necessary for the believer to believe in God. The Old Testament gives us plenty of information about God, about his character, and how God relates to people. If it were not for the Old Testament, we would not have a complete picture of God. And, we do not need any other source but the Bible tell us about God. The first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, is where we meet God for the first time. Genesis, especially in the early chapters, displays God's power and awesomeness. After the fall in Genesis chapter 3, we see how God deals with mankind and his chosen people Israel. Of course, Israel would rebel time after time again, and God would eventually send his Son into the world as payment for the sins of all mankind---everyone who has every lived: past, present, and future. Therefore, we have the New Testament, which tells us about God's relationship right before, during, and after the first coming of Jesus. Finally, we are not only told how we are to live as a church and individually, but we are also told what is going to happen in the future. God lays out his plan for the future carefully and precisely. Namely, Jesus will return a second time to establish his kingdom that he did not establish the first time. And the Bible tells us about what will happen after that and the future of eternity.

       All of this being said, how do we really know that God will do what he says? Well, in the Old Testament God said he would do a great number of things, which were fulfilled the New Testament. God said that he would send his son into the world for the redemption of both men and women. He did this, of course, in the person of Jesus Christ. And in accomplishing this task, God fulfilled numerous amounts of little things that added up to the complete picture. An example of this could include when Jesus was on the cross, he said he was thirsty so that He might fulfill an Old Testament passage (John 19). Later in Acts, the Apostle Peter would fulfill an Old Testament passage by have the church pick the twelfth disciple after Judas had gone astray. Not only to mention events like this, but we as Christians in our own lives can see God working through his Spirit as we live out our Christian life. People today who are not Christians do not know God and cannot have this experience. God might intervene in their lives from time to time, and they may see God at work doing a particular thing, but unless one believes, that person's eyes really are not open to see the truth. And hopefully, our own Christian lives can bear witness about God that He is true.

       So, we as Christians believe that God exists, but how do we do what is pleasing to him? To please God, or rather be pleasing to God, we as Christians need to have guidelines and rules to live life by. The Bible, in its entirety, is sufficient in giving us these rules and guidelines to follow. In the church age of today, the New Testament is particularly resourceful in laying out how the Christian should live and walk about in his or her life. Jesus, in his teachings, said that the teaches he presents do not abolish the Old Testament law, but rather indeed fulfill the Old Testament law. And Jesus laid out all kinds of guidelines in different areas of life throughout his earthly ministry. The Apostle Paul would get even more specific in regard to the behavior of the church and the Christians in particular. Throughout all of his books, there are very specific instructions for how to live. Issues like relating with other people, family, marriage, divorce, parenting, and other areas of life are discussed. Both Paul and the Apostle John, especially, note that the Christian's love is vitally important in his and her relationships with others, for instance. See 1 Corinthians chapter 13 and John's epistles for more on this.

       Now I want to discuss the canonization of Scripture. In understanding the canonicity of the Bible, there are certain things one needs the know. For starters, each book from the Bible is self authenticating. In other words, each book stands by itself as Scripture whether or not it is approved of by mankind. I will quote again 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which states, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (ESV). Councils would eventually put together in the Bible in the first 400 years after the birth of Christ, but all the books were inspired by the Holy Spirit from the point in which they were written. And it wasn't that the councils actually made a book become inspired.

       Obviously, because the Bible had not been put together, at least the New Testament, at the time of the early church (where Peter was head), it was necessary for groups of people to come together and decide which books should be part of the Canon. Of course, like with anything, there were disputes and disagreements as to which books should be considered as part of the Canon of Scripture. Nonetheless in 397 A.D., it was decided that all 27 books of the New Testament that we have today be considered as the Canon of the New Testament. The Old Testament books, all 39 books, had already been decided upon in the past. This was the complete Canon, and all and any future hopes of adding to it were eliminated at this point in human history.

       I think it is important to look at Galatians 1 discussing whether a new book should be added to the Bible. At the time the Apostle Paul wrote this, some Jewish believers were changing the way of Christianity that Christ had ordained by his death on the cross.

Paul says, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6-9, ESV).

This is an important passage because, for one, it tells us that there should never be another form or different type of Gospel that is to be preached, like some so called 'Christian' religions of today prescribe, for instance. It also tells us that a supernatural being can actually present something as being part of God's Word. But this, just because it is supernatural, does not give it authority as being from God. Satan and his demons can appear as angels of light to offer new revelation, but they are always lying to led people astray. Remember, there is never any new relation anymore. We can all likely think of people we know who have been led astray by some form of incorrect, added to, so called 'Christian' teaching. And we need to pray for those who have been influenced by them, so that they will come to know the 'true' truth. It is also important to note that not all of the New Testament author's writings were included within the Canon. Undoubtedly, many of the New Testament writers wrote other things that were not inspired by God. And these, whether in existence today or not, are not considered part of the Biblical Canon. It wasn't until 1546, for instance, that some included the books of the Apocrypha as part of the Biblical Canon. Due to the obviously significant late date, among other more important factors, we obviously do not include the Apocrypha as part of what we believe as pertaining to the inspired books of God in the Canon.

       I want to take look at the Old Testament Canon, all 39 of its books, and see how it was decided that they should be included as the Canon of the Old Testament. Interestingly enough, in the Old Testament a number of the writers actually referred to other older Old Testament books when writing their own books. Examples this can include books like Joshua, Nehemiah, and Daniel. This is pretty encouraging because it lets us know that these Old Testament writers saw the older books at their time as being part of the collection of the Scriptures. As to the end of the Old Testament, in the book of Malachi, it is actually noted that there would not be anymore Words from God until the coming of a prophet like Elijah. John the Baptist fulfilled this promise.

       I think that it is also important to bring up the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. One potential problem with the Dead Sea Scrolls, some would suppose, is that with the biblical books we see as authoritative are also a number of books that we do not see as authoritative and inspired by God. However, any such doubt is quickly debunked by the fact that the commentaries within the Dead Sea Scrolls only discuss books that we considered to be inspired. In fact, none of the books that we do not considered to be inspired of God are even evaluated.

       Now, how does the New Testament come into play when evaluating the canonicity of the Old Testament? It is good to note that 250 times in the New Testament, the authors quote Old Testament books. Perhaps even more amazing than this is the fact that all of the Old Testament books were quoted by the New Testament authors, with the exception of Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. As an aside, perhaps the reason for Esther not being quoted is because the book bears the name of a woman, which perhaps would not have been culturally acceptable by many at the time. And perhaps Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon were not included because of the nature of their content or the fact that Solomon ended up forsaking the Lord God later in this life.

       I want to turn now from the Old Testament and take a look at the New Testament, and how it relates to being part of the Canon of Scripture. Books that were accepted into the Canon were said to have the authority of an apostle behind them. In the early church, the 12 Apostles were considered the spiritual leaders of the Church. These apostles were the ones that were originally given the Great Commission, except for Matthias, of course. Jesus also bestowed on these people special supernatural abilities, though some of this special connection to God was shared by others. It is important to note that an apostle did not write every book and New Testament. However, it is said that an apostle must have approved a said book for it to have been included in the Canon. Luke is a good example of a New Testament writer that was not an apostle. However, Paul is said to have supported Luke's writings.

       There were two more things considered in placing a book in the Canon of Scripture. Secondly, for a book to be included in the Canon of Scripture it had to show it's own originality. After all, if all the books were almost identical or the same, there would be no purpose of all the different books. Thirdly, it was important for a book that was to be placed in the New Testament to be considered accepted by the original first and early churches. And it would come about that there would be no book doubted by the churches to be included in the Canon.

       But how can we be sure that the books in the New Testament are actually the Word of God? Well, based on everything I've said we need to have faith in God that they are indeed the Word of God. Remember, God is in control at all times, and he is even able to turn the hearts of people. At any time, then, God could have corrected error in regard to his Word. I feel we can be confident in God that he is put together a perfect book. I want to consider an encouraging passage of Scripture.

2 Peter 3:16 says: "And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15, 16 ESV)

One interesting thing to note about this passage is that Peter so quickly recognizes Paul's writings as being that of Scripture. This is a very short turnaround. Another important fact to note is that the church fathers toward the end of the writing of the New Testament books and shortly thereafter, acknowledged all of the New Testament books in discussion about doctrine. But it wasn't until 397 A.D. that we have gathered together what is the New Testament as we consider it today. This decision was made by The Council of Carthage. This is all 27 New Testament books.

       I want to take a moment and quickly discuss some discrepancies within the 27 New Testament books. There is some debate today among theologians as to whether certain passages of Scripture should be considered part of the New Testament canon. Perhaps of the two most famous examples are John chapter 8, involving the woman caught in adultery, and Mark chapter 16, involving Jesus' instructions to the 11 Apostles. Some Bibles will have these passages bracketed or starred as doubtful. For John chapter 8, the earliest manuscripts are said not to include this passage. As for Mark 16, some of the early manuscripts did not include this passage. I think part of the debate stems in not only the manuscript discrepancies, but some some feel there are doctrinal problems within these passages. Putting aside either of these issues, I believe that these passages should be included in the New Testament simply because God has included them for the past 1600 years at least. God is the one who can persuade the human heart, and these passage have stayed part of God's Word. He could have easily has them removed a long time ago if he had wanted to.

       In finishing today, you know, maybe you've been considering what I have been discussing in regard to the sufficiency of the Scriptures and the canonization of the Bible. Perhaps you have come to believe that God's Word really is the truth, the real way to having true life.

James 1:25 states, “But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy.” That was the New Century Version.

God's word not only leads the Christian to being happy, but leads him or her to living true life. If you want to experience life the way God intended it, you can. God has provided a way for you to be forgiven from the sin debt which stands between you and him. God is holy, and he cannot have fellowship with anyone who willing disobeys him. However, he has provided a way for you to be made right with him, through his Son Jesus Christ.

       All you have to do is pray this simple prayer, and God ensures that he will save you from your sins, any of his wrath to come, and give you eternal life, which starts now. Just pray:

God, you are the true God. You are holy. I am a sinner. I have sinned from the beginning of my life. I have not doing the things you have wanted me to do, but I have been doing the things I have wanted to do. Today, I accept your free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, Lord of all. I believe that Jesus came to the earth as a human man and died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. I accept his work on the cross as payment for my sins. I believe Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his death, and that today He dwells at your right hand in Heaven. I believe that Jesus truly is Lord of everyone and everything. I surrender my life to you. Please change my life, and me like Jesus.

-Daniel Litton

Scriptures quoted (NCV) are from The Youth Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.