Sufficiency of Scripture

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Here is an excerpt from Truth Matters, a collection of John MacArthur’s landmark chapters. Here he is working through Psalm 19:7-4 to show what God says about His Word. I think that one of the greatest attacks continually is on the sufficiency of scripture. Most Christians might say that God’s word is important, but is it “sufficient?” Is it all that we need for “life and Godliness” as Peter says in his the third verse of his second Epistle? Do you look toward your inward experiences to get closer to God, or some sort of “small still voice” like many others claim you need to do? Are you chasing signs and wonders to verify God’s word or love for you? How many other things do we run to that take the place of God’s word? How much time do you spend in it trying to understand it? Many other questions I could ask but read carefully because this is a great portion. I may include the rest of the chapter later but this part really stuck out to me.

“Scripture is Perfect, Restoring the Soul

In the first statement (v. 7), he says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul.” The Hebrew word translated “law” is torah, which emphasizes the didactic nature of Scripture. Here David uses it to refer to Scripture as the sum of what God has revealed for our instruction, whether it be creed (what we believe), character (what we are), or conduct (what we do).

“Perfect” is the translation of a common Hebrew word meaning “whole,” “complete,” or “sufficient.” It conveys the idea of something that is comprehensive, so as to cover all aspects of an issue. Commentator Albert Barnes wrote,

The meaning [of “perfect”] is that [Scripture] lacks nothing [for] its completeness; nothing in order that it might be what it should be. It is complete as a revelation of Divine truth; it is complete as a rule of conduct… It is absolutely true; it is adapted with consummate wisdom to the [needs] of man; it is an unerring guide of conduct. There is nothing there which would lead men into error or sin; there is nothing essential for man to know which may not be found there.

Scripture is comprehensive, embodying all that is necessary to one’s spiritual life. David’s implied contrast is with the imperfect, insufficient, flawed reasoning of men.

God’s perfect law, David said, affects people by “restoring the soul” (v.7). The Hebrew word translated “restoring” can mean “converting,” “reviving,” or “refreshing,” but my favorite synonym is “transforming.” The word “soul” (in Hebrew, nephesh) refers to one’s person, self, or heart. It is translated all those ways (and many more) in the Old Testament. The essence of it is the inner person, the whole person, the real you. To paraphrase David’s words, Scripture is so powerful and comprehensive that it can convert or transform the entire person, changing someone into precisely the person God wants him to be. God’s Word is sufficient to restore through salvation even the most broken life—a fact to which David himself gave abundant testimony.

Scripture is Trustworthy, Imparting Wisdom

David, further expanding the sweep of scriptural sufficiency, writes in Psalm 19:7, “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” “Testimony” speaks of Scripture as a divine witness. Scripture is God’s sure testimony to who He is and what He requires us. “Sure” means His testimony is unwavering, immovable, unmistakable, reliable, and worthy to be trusted. It provides a foundation on which to build our lives and eternal destinies.

In 2 Peter 1:16-18 Peter reflects back to his time on the Mount of Transfiguration with all the supernatural events of that marvelous occasion (the majestic glory of Christ, the voice from heaven, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah). But despite all he had experienced, he says in verse 19, “We have more sure—the prophetic word” (literal translation).

In that statement Peter affirmed that the testimony of God’s written Word is a surer and more convincing confirmation of Go’ds truth than what we had personally seen and heard at the transfiguration of Christ. Unlike many today who cite spurious mystical experiences, Peter had a verifiable real-life encounter with Christ in His full glory on the mount. And in contrast with those today who advocate miracles as the necessary proof of God’s power and presence, Peter looked to Scripture as a higher and more trustworthy authority than even such a dramatic experience. Commentator Samuel Cox has written,

Peter knew a sounder basis for faith than that of signs and wonders. He had seen our Lord Jesus Christ receive honor and glory from God the Father in the holy mount; he had been dazzled and carried out of himself by visions and voices from heaven. But, nevertheless, even when his memory and heart are throbbing with recollections of that sublime scene, he says, “we have something surer still in the prophetic word.” …It was not the miracles of Christ by which he came to know Jesus, but the word of Christ as interpreted by the spirit of Christ.

Scripture is the product of God’s Spirit moving upon its human authors to produce His Word in written form (2 Peter 1:20-21). As such, it supersedes even apostolic experiences with Jesus Himself. Perhaps that is why Jesus prevented the disciples on the Emmaus Road from recognizing Him as He “explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures: (Luke 24:27). He wanted their faith and preaching to be based on Scripture, not merely on their own personal experience—no matter how moving or memorable that experience might be. If that was true of the apostles, how much more should believers today seek to know God’s Word rather than seeking supernatural or ecstatic experiences. Experience can be counterfeited easily, but not Scripture. It is once-for-all delivered!

God’s sure Word makes the simple wise (v. 7). The Hebrew word translated “simple” comes from an expression meaning “an open door.” It evokes the image of a naïve person who doesn’t know when to shut his mind to false or impure teaching. He is undiscerning, ignorant, and gullible. But God’s Word makes him wise. “Wise” speaks not of one who merely knows some fact, but of one who is skilled in the art of godly living. He submits to Scripture and knows how to apply it to his circumstances. The Word of God thus takes a simple mind with no discernment and makes it skilled in all the issues of life. This, too, is in contrast to the wisdom of men, which in realty is foolishness (1 Cor. 1:20).” (pg. 3-5)

MacArthur, John. Truth Matters: Landmark Chapters from the Teaching Ministry of John MacArthur. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. 2004. Print.

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