Skip to content

The Sufficiency of Scripture

This series offers an overview of the chief teachings of the Christian church.

Owner’s manuals, employee handbooks, and college catalogs are examples of documents people use as guidance for their new appliance or how to navigate the requirements they face on the job or at school. It’s only a matter of time, unfortunately, until the document in question proves to be insufficient, and the person has to turn elsewhere for an answer that the document can’t provide. Thankfully, the Bible does not have this problem. By bestowing upon us the Old and New Testament books of Scripture, God has provided a complete Bible that offers everything that a person needs to know for a Christian’s faith and life. This characteristic of Scripture is known as its sufficiency and is closely related to the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, as well as its clarity and efficacy.

In fact, the inspiration of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture have a common proof passage in 2 Timothy 3:15-17: “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Verse 15 puts a focus on the power of the Old Testament, which Timothy had been learning as a young child. It contains the prophetic Gospel of salvation, which gave him and many others the wisdom of saving faith in Christ. The same goes for the New Testament and its Gospel of Christ crucified and risen in fulfillment of God’s plan and prophecies in the Old Testament. The two Testaments together, as inspired Scripture, comprise all that we need for teaching the Lord’s revealed truth, for refuting that which is contrary and false, for exposing that which is sin, and for showing that which is right for God’s people to do.

When understood according to its God-given purposes, the Bible is completely sufficient to accomplish what God intended the Bible to do. The truth expressed in Scripture never needs a human authority to authenticate or elucidate what it says. By design, God’s truth will lead people to know Him as the only true God through faith in Christ. This same truth reveals their need for salvation and what Christ has done to atone for all their sins and free them from death and hell. God’s revealed truth also includes the teaching of what we should think, say, and do in our earthly lives of following Him and ministering His Word to others. In fulfillment of each purpose, the Bible provides in clear and certain terms all the necessary information, with the Holy Spirit operating in human hearts to bring about sufficient understanding and to work Christian faith and repentance in people around the world and down through the ages.

It doesn’t take much to make a man-made document obsolete. God’s Word, on the other hand, will stand the test of time and be the only thing on earth that applies the diagnostic tool of His Law and the life-saving tool of His Gospel. The universal pervasiveness of human sin and death can only be dealt with by the inspired, inerrant Scriptures, whose clarity and effective power are completely sufficient to show us our sin and our Savior, to create and sustain our faith in Christ, and to lead us in a godly life of serving Him in worship, prayer, teaching, and witnessing, as we await His return to bring us glorious entrance into His perfect light.

Steven Sippert is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.