Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sola Scriptura: The sufficiency of Scripture

Carrying on with my two previous posts on the subject of Sola Scriptura, I would like to carry on with the next part; the sufficiency of Scripture.

The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture basically states that all that we need to know to live our lives as Christians can be found in the Scriptures and in them only. Thus, all other materials, tools or other stuff that are present are at best secondary sources of authority, to be used inasmuch as they agree with the primary authority of Scripture. This is what I would set off to prove in this section. After proving the necessity of Scripture in the last section, I will use Scripture to prove the sufficiency of Scripture. This is valid because since Scripture is necesary for Christians and for correct Christian teachings and doctrines, we would need to consult Scripture itself on this particular topic also. References to other sources are not needed since, if Scripture itself does teach that Scripture is sufficient, then all other sources will either agree with Scripture, or disagree with it. If it agrees with Scripture that Scripture itself is sufficient, then the extra proof is superfluous. Consequently, if it does not agree with Scripture and thus contradict Scripture, since Scripture is necessary and thus it must be accepted, Scripture's verdict on its own sufficiency will stand while the others will fall. Of course, if the sources do not speak at all on the subject at hand, it is totally useless with regards to this topic.

I would like to tackle this topic first using the same passage that was used to prove the necessity of Scripture — 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

All Scripture is breathed out (Gr. θεοπνευστος, transliterated: theopneustos) by God and is 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. (2 Tim. 3:16-17 —ESV)

From this passage, I have shown previously how it mentions that Scripture is to be used for the building up of believers in righteousness. I would like to focus now on the later part of the passage in verse 17, where it is stated that "... the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work". From this part, we can see that Scripture is meant to equip us Christians for EVERY good work, not just some, but EVERY single one of them. Furthermore, we are to be made competent to do these good works. In the NIV, it is stated that the man of God may be "thoroughly equipped" and the NASB translates the word as adequate. The word translated 'competent' here is αρτιος (transliterated: artios) in the Greek, which according to the NAS New Testament Lexicon on is used only once in the Greek NT and its definitions are:

1) Fitted,

2) complete, perfect (a) having reference apparently to "special aptitude for given uses"

For those who want more concrete proof, I looked up my copy of the Word Study Greek-English New Testament with complete concordance by Paul R. McReynolds, (c) 1998 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and it was confirmed that this was the case. For those people who love the KJV, this is the case also, with the word artios occuring once there and being translated perfect in the KJV.

Thus, we can see that the passage says that we are perfectly and completely equipped to be able to do every good work by the usage and application of Scripture. Now what is the Scriptural definition of good works?

In Scripture, good works are defined differently according to the context. One has just to search for the phrase 'good work' or 'good works' in the search engines on sites such as BibleGateway which contain the entire Bible to find out. However, we are only interested in the good works that the saints do, which would tell us what Scripture means when it states that we are able to do every good work.

The phrase "good work(s)" as talking about the saints occurs a few times in the Bible. They are found in Mat. 5:16; 2 Cor. 9:8; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10; 2 Thess. 2:17; 1 Tim. 2:10; 1 Tim. 5:10; 1 Tim. 5:25; 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:21; Titus 1:16; Titus 2:7; Titus 2:14; Titus 3:1,8,14 and Heb. 10:24. In order to know what "good works" of the saints are, let us look to these verses.

In Mat. 5:16, the idea of good works that the saints do are linked to the idea of being the light of the world. Therefore, we can that these good works are the works which we do which witness to people and bring glory to God. In 1 Tim 2:10, Paul tells Timothy to tell women to adorn themselves with good works which is proper for those who profess godliness. Thus, this verse in its context tell us that good works and godliness go hand in hand. In 1 Tim. 5:10, we can see some examples of good works which women ought to do, which are bringing up children, showing hospitality and care towards the saints and the afflicted. Verse 25 says that good works are plain for all to see and cannont remain hidden. In 1 Tim. 6:18, Paul admonish the rich to do good works in being generous and ready to share. We can see further in Titus 1:16 that people who teach false doctrines, in this context the insubordinate people of the circumcision party aka the Judaizers (Titus 1:10), who are not sound in the faith (v. 13), are not fit for any good work, and in fact their false teaching and unsound faith are their wicked works which show their denial of Christ (v. 16). Therefore, it can be seen that only people with sound doctrine and faith could do good works in accordance with God's will for the saints.

In Titus 2:7, the context tells us that good works consists in godly behavior, and verse 14 tell us that believers will be zealous in doing good works. Similarly Titus 3:1 and verse 14, together with Heb. 10:24, exhort believers to do good works. Titus 3:8 on the other hand show that correct doctrine especially in salvation (Titus 3:4-7) would make people careful in doing good works.

From these verses so far, we can see that good works in the biblical sense (as opposed to the secular sense) for the saints is intricately linked with godliness and caused by embracing of correct doctrine, and that only people with sound doctrine and faith can do such good works. Also, these good works would make us witnesses for Christ as lights in the world. Examples of such good works can be seen in the passages quoted, and all of them bring glory to God. Therefore, given this definition of good work(s), let us apply that to 2 Tim. 3:16-17 and also to the remaining verses where the term good work(s) appear — 2 Cor. 9:8; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10 and 2 Thess. 2:17.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8 -ESV)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10 -ESV)

so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:10 -ESV)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word (2 Thess. 2:16-17 -ESV)

Applying this definition to 2 Tim. 3:16-17 give us the idea that all Scripture is sufficient, adequate, complete and perfect to help Christians do every good work. Since good works are caused by embracing of correct doctrine, for Scripture to be able to be adequate and complete to help Christians to do every good work, Scripture must contain ALL the doctrines needed for Christians to believe in, nothing more, nothing less. Since good works is intricately tied to godliness, Scripture is all the Christian will ever need to grow in Christ-likeness and maturity in Him. Since good works are tied to being witnessed for Christ as the light of the world, Scripture must therefore be able to equip us completely to be witnesses for Christ in the world. In short, all Christian activity and growth can be completely accomplished through Scripture alone. Thus, as of this moment, the sufficiency of Scripture has been proven already. We will however finish looking through all the other verses.

Applying this to 2 Cor. 9:8, we can see that God's grace is able to to help us abound in every good work. The context is on giving to the Lord, but in the middle of this passage on giving is this amazing verse which tell us that God's grace is sufficient for us to do every good work. Granted, this passage is talking about giving to the Lord, and definitely giving to the Lord is a good work, but the context doesn't negate the fact that God's grace is sufficient for us in doing EVERY good work, especially in giving to the Lord. Knowing from 2 Tim. 3:16-17 that Scripture is sufficient for every good work, putting the two principles together just shows that God's grace works through the use and application of Scripture.

Eph. 2:10 comes on the heel of the great soteriological passage of Eph. 2:8-9, where the great truths of Sola Fide and (slightly) of Sola Gratia are found. We are reminded that it is by grace we are saved, through faith, and the whole salvific enterprise is not from ourselves or our works, lest anybody should boast. Eph. 2:10 ends off this passage by stating that we are saved to do good works which God has foreordained that we Christians should walk in them. Thus, this again shows that biblical good works can only be done by the saints after they are saved by God's grace through faith.

As a side note, the reason why biblical good works can never be done by non-Christians is that non-Christians DO NOT seek to grow in godliness, never mind about seeking God (Rom. 3: 10-12)

In Col. 1:10, we can see that good works are considered good fruits, and they are pleasing to God. This brings to mind the parallel passage of Mt. 7:17-20, and this just goes to confirm that non-Christians cannnot do good works, and the presence of biblical good works confirm the salvation status of a professing Christian. As for the final passage of 2 Thess. 2:16-17, we can see that this passage shows that it is Christ Himself who enables us to do good works. Therefore, even good works are by grace alone, and we are empowered to do them by God's grace in Christ through the usage and application of Scripture, which as we shall see in the section of the perspicuity of Scripture is done through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the next installment, I would like to go on further to discuss other confirmatory passage with regards to the sufficiency of Scripture and a few objections, and thus create a totally irrefutable case for the sufficiency of Scripture (even though now in my opinion it is already watertight).

[to be continued]

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