Updated: Aug 3
In this article, I present two reasons why we need the Bible. While it is true that the bible is authoritative for matters of faith and practice, it is also true that this statement sadly restricts the authority of God's word to the church and her work. The implication of this is that the Bible cannot speak authoritatively on matters of science, history, geography, psychology or even human rights. These are often considered to be outside the purview of scripture. While agreeing that the bible is not a science, history or geography textbook, it is, however, authoritative when it touches on those subjects.
The unfeigned and veritable truth is that the Bible is the all-encompassing sufficient, authoritative word of God on all it covers. It is not only for matters faith and practice, it is the definitive voice, the measuring line and the unequivocal authority over every aspect of human life and existence. Whether it deals with creation or conduct, gender or geography, history or haughtiness or marriage and manliness. This means no one has a right to project how this world will end, for God has already decreed it. No one can redefine marriage, for God has already defined it. No one can decide what gender is, for God has already delineated it. The scripture is the final authority, for, in it, God speaks authoritatively.
Whenever scripture deals with man, science, history, geography or the future, it is perfectly accurate on every detail, without error and fundamentally authoritative. Scripture also tells us that God's work includes the nations, unbelievers, the righteous and the ungodly, those who hate Israel and those who are His by faith. No one is excluded from the scope of God's Sovereign authority in the Bible.
God's acts are the active display of His Sovereign, kingly reign over all creation. Therefore all of creation is subject to His rule and reign. Again, it is not just about faith and practice, for, it is more than that. The Bible is God's word and it communicates God's words, God's works and God's plan, why? so that we may know Him.
God revealed truth about Himself in scripture, which could not otherwise be known. He gave us His Word and this Word is adequate, sufficient and necessary.
God did not choose the ongoing use of revelation through dreams and visions to sustain His people. While it is true that God used dreams, visions, prophecies and many other means to communicate His will to His people, however, He does not speak to us today in the same way. The author of Hebrews says that in these last days, "God spoke to us by His Son" (Hebrews 1:2). This does not mean that Christ is visiting people today and giving them private revelation but rather, God is speaking through Christ in a particular way. What is this way and how is He speaking?
It is through Christ that the New Testament writers were inspired to write their books. This is in fulfilment to Christ's own words that the Holy Spirit will "bring to your remembrance all that I have told you" (John 14:26). This means that none of the writers created their own independent narrative but were merely reminded of the words of Jesus as they wrote their respective works.
Jesus also said:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13–14, ESV).
These verses are often used to speak of New Testament (NT) believers. However, there is a strict limitation on the work of the Spirit of God in this passage.
First, this is the means through which Christ will speak to them.
Note the emphasis on speaking "he will not speak on His own authority" and "whatever He hears He will speak". You could add "declare" in there as well. This is a revelation from Christ by means of the Spirit to the apostles. Christ is the Source and the Spirit is the means of this communication. So essentially, Christ is speaking through the Spirit to the apostles.
The Spirit will only speak what He hears from Christ. This means, whatever the apostles are writing down or receiving as a revelation, are in fact given from Christ through the Spirit. This is what the author of Hebrews meant when he said that God speaks to us by His Son. It was Jesus who was giving them revelation through the Spirit. So when you pick up the New Testament, you are picking up the words of Christ.
Second, the Spirit will guide them into all the truth, why?
Because they would be the agents through which God would write His word. The Spirit is by nature truth, He is characterized by truth and therefore cannot lie or deviate from the truth. He is the one who would guide them into all truth concerning Christ.
This is the same reality Jesus affirmed in John 14:16-31. In this passage "the truth" is best understood to refer to the truth concerning Christ. They needed the guiding Advocate to help them remain true to the truth as they wrote the truth concerning Christ in their books.
Now, if the Spirit of truth guided the writers of the New Testament into all truth, then it stands to reason they also wrote, truthful words, which can be trusted and believed. John in his gospel wrote that "these have been written, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31). Believing this truth will result in eternal life. This is the weight of their words, this is the veracity and reliability of their words. If it is believed, then it will result in life eternal with God. Why? because of the Spirit who is truth and who guided them into all truth, provided the truth concerning Christ and this they penned down.
Third, they will be able to know of things to come (eschatology), because the Spirit will reveal it to them.
This means that all they needed to know about the present and future will be made known to them. This revelation has been captured in the pages of scripture. The writers of the New Testament did not create their own end-times theology, not at all, they were given it by Christ himself. In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John says that it is the, "Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to show to His bond-servant the things which must shortly take place and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John" (Revelation 1:1).
There is much debate as to what kind of genitive "of Jesus" really is. I will not settle that argument here, but what is clear, is that John is saying that this revelation, is both a witness of God and a testimony of Jesus Christ. In verse 4, John says that while he is writing, he adds these words "John to the seven churches that are in Asia, Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness..."
This is a threefold revelation, from God, from the Spirit and from Jesus Christ. The same idea is repeated in verse 9 and 10. This is the testimony of Jesus. This is not John's Revelation, but this what Christ wants to say to His churches, this is what Christ revealed about things to come. John is recording the words or testimony of Christ. This affirms that God is speaking to us by His Son.
Fourth, the Spirit takes what is Christ's and reveals or discloses it to the apostles.
Why? Because this glorifies Christ. Jesus said that He (the Spirit of truth) will glorify me. This is a testimony of the deity and majesty of Christ. Note the emphasis on the content of this revelation. The truth concerning me and he will take what is mine, speaks of what Christ desires to reveal to His people. This was given to them since they needed this direct revelation for the writing of the NT scriptures.
The second person plural (you) here is limited in scope. This is not meant for all believers, but only those to whom Jesus was speaking. Why did they need the Spirit to cause them to remember all that Jesus said? Not only because of their preaching but also because they would pen down, the very words of Christ. The New Testament is the words of Christ, penned by men of God who were led by the Spirit of God. This is how Jesus speaks today, through the word of God.
This means, that God does not need to use dreams, visions or prophecy to communicate because He has given His word to confirm all that He wanted to say. Now let's consider why we need the entirety of both the Old and New Testaments.
1. We need the Bible because Scripture Reveals God.
The bible is a necessity because of the insufficiency of natural revelation or theology.
The Bible or Word of God is God's written revelation to man. It is not written as an epistemological treatise, it does not aim to prove the existence of God but presumes His existence and expects everyone to know him and extol Him (Psalm 117:1).
The propositional presupposition of the Bible is God's pre-existence. The first line of scripture boldly declares, "In the beginning, God created" (Genesis 1:1). This is an absolute statement of fact and reality. The eternal un-created God, created both as a demonstration of His great power and to make Himself known. The apostle Paul says that God makes known His divine power and invisible attributes, how? through what He created.
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, ESV).
This is a gracious act of Divine Accommodation. If God did not reveal His majestic perfection in what He has made, we would not know what He is like. God did not create to remain hidden but that He may be known. A corollary to this reality is that Jesus came to earth, not to hide the Father from us, but to reveal and lead us to the Father.
Jesus said, "no one comes unto the Father but through me" (John 14:6, ESV).
In John 12:49, He said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49, ESV).
And again, “They said to him, therefore, 'Where is your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.' ” (John 8:19, ESV)
Knowing Jesus is knowing the Father. Jesus came that we may know Him. See, God wants to be known and the primary means that we can know Him today is through scripture.
What are some ways that God reveals Himself?
God chose to reveal Himself in creation, the conscience, and also through the scriptures. We would not be able to know any truth about God if He did not reveal himself through these means.
There are primarily three ways through which God reveals himself.
Creation: The Bible says that God revealed His glory in creation (Psalm 19). His divine nature and attributes are discernible from His creative acts (Romans 1:20).
Conscience: God also wrote His moral expectation on the hearts of people (Romans 2:14-15).
Scripture: God also personally reveals himself in the pages of Scripture. (1 Corinthians 2:10; 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21).
While it is true that God reveals himself in Creation and in the conscience of man. It is also true that we are all without excuse with regard to the knowledge of God's existence, yet, this knowledge is not sufficient to place man in a right relationship with God. This general revelation in creation and even the consciousness of God's law written on man's heart is not enough to lead people to salvation. For this reason, God revealed himself through scripture. Both the inadequacy of general revelation (in creation) and sufficiency special revelation (in the word of God) can be seen in Psalm 19.
In Psalm 19, David indicates that God demonstrates the majesty of His glory in the expanse of His creation (Psalm 19:1). This is general revelation, whereby God makes known to man the majestic beauty of His glory in all that He has made.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1, ESV)
Yet it is only the Law of the Lord that has the capacity to restore, turn or convert the soul (19:7). Scripture is given as the means through which God will draw men and women to Himself. General revelation cannot do this, only the law of the Lord.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;” (Psalm 19:7, ESV)
For this reason, we have a tremendous privilege to discover divine truths about God in His word. This is a Blessed Discovery, a discovery of the beauty and majesty of the Almighty, which brings light to darkened souls (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). It is this beatific vision of God's majesty in the face of Jesus Christ, found in the pages of scripture, that is able to give light to a sinner's heart.
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, ESV)
The Bible reveals God and this revelation changes those who come to Him by faith. We need the bible because God reveals himself in it.
2. We need God's Word because the Scriptures are Sufficient.
God spoke in His written Word by a process of dual authorship to produce a word which is inerrant and sufficient in all its parts. The Holy Spirit so superintended the human authors that, through their individual personalities and different styles of writing, they composed and recorded God's Word as God intended, without overriding their individuality (2 Pet. 1:20; 2 Tim. 3:16).
If the scripture is not God-breathed it cannot be sufficient, but since it is God-breathed, it is, therefore, more than adequate for God's people. The adequacy of God's word is vitally linked to the nature and the essence of God's word.
This reality is expressed in Psalm 119 where the writer shows how the Word of God is adequate and sufficient for every aspect of life. Scripture shows it's sufficiency for man in every sphere of human existence, from devotion, purity, sanctification, salvation, enlightenment, faithfulness, hardship, weakness, strength, highs, lows, sustenance, emptiness, loneliness, sin, righteousness, anguish, longing, eternality, covenant loyalty to a plea for help, desire for mercy, seeking direction and yearning for God, (see, Psalm 119:1, 9, 17, 25, 33, 41, 49, 57, 65, 73, 81, 89, 97, 405, 113, 121, 129, 137, 145, 153, 161, 169).
This Psalm is a masterpiece of the all-encompassing sufficiency of God's word. God revealed Himself in Scripture because He alone can satisfy the inner yearning and longing of our souls. For this reason, we do not need to look to psychology, science, man, or culture for answers. We need only look to God in His word.
Dr, John MacArthur explains
God’s Word is sufficient to meet every need of the human soul as David verifies frequently in his psalms. Psalm 19:7-14 is the most comprehensive statement regarding the sufficiency of Scripture. It is an inspired statement about Scripture as a qualified guide for every situation. Scripture is comprehensive, containing everything necessary for one’s spiritual life. Scripture is surer than a human experience that one may look to in proving God’s power and presence. Scripture contains divine principles that are the best guide for character and conduct. Scripture is lucid rather than mystifying so that it enlightens the eyes. Scripture is void of any flaws and therefore lasts forever. Scripture is true regarding all things that matter, making it capable of producing comprehensive righteousness. Because it meets every need in life, Scripture is infinitely more precious than anything this world has to offer. (John MacArthur, TMSJ, 15/2 (Fall 2004): 165-174).
God has adequately provided for His people in the pages of scripture. Psalm 19 exposits this reality.
A. David under the guidance of God the Holy Spirit says that the scripture alone can, restore the soul (Psalm 19:7a).
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;” (Psalm 19:7, ESV)
The word "restore" is polysemic and can convey a number of different ideas, ranging from turning, returning, to retreat and abandon. However, the Hebrew form of the verb gives the following sense, "to bring back" or "to lead back". (The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, 1432)
Since this verbal form is causative, (where the object is caused to participate in the action of the verb) it can therefore be understood to mean, that the scriptures can cause one to be turned back or it can cause a return.
It gives the idea of a wayward and wandering soul that is caused to return as it is exposed to the veracity of God's word.
B. Scripture alone can provide sound wisdom to the simple (Psalm 19:7b)
The "simple" man is the one who is ignorant, one who lacks discernment, or as HALOT says "inexperienced, easily seduced, but needing instruction and capable of learning" (The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament, 989)
it gives the idea of one who needs instruction for life or one who needs to be informed so as to be able to make wise decisions. Scripture provides this.
C. Scripture alone can provide strength to a grieving soul (Psalm 119:28)
“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” (Psalm 119:28, ESV)
the word "melts" can mean "to go about depressed" or "to go sleepless" or "to be restless". There is an element of suffering, sorrow and grief in view.
The request is not for the sorrow to be removed or for the cause of the sorrow to be lifted but that God would grant strength in the midst of the grief "according to (His) Your word"
God's word can lift up the grieving or aching soul.
These are representative of how the scriptures are sufficient. It is the comprehensive provision of God for the needs of the soul. God gave His word as a constant companion to His people. Through it, he awakens, nourishes, strengthens, equips and sanctifies His people for His glory.
The word of God is the unfeigned and veritable truth, it is the all-sufficient, authoritative word from God. Therefore, child of God, take up the word of truth and nourish your soul on the deep truths of God. Delight in it, meditate on it, and long for it. God has adequately provided for your growth in Christ, that you may become like Christ through His word.
Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.
Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989.
MacArthur, John, and Richard Mayhue, eds. Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.
MacArthur, John. "The Sufficiency of Scripture." The Master's Seminary Journal 15/2 (Fall 2004): 165-174. Accessed, June 2017, https://www.tms.edu/m/tmsj15g.pdf
Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000.
Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.