The Bible: An All-Sufficient Book

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

In our first article on all-sufficiency, printed in last month's TRUTH MAGAZINE, we emphasized that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient Savior. If you ever had any doubt that He is sufficient, we hope that we removed that doubt. In this article we want to suggest that the Bible is an all-sufficient book. By "all sufficient," we merely mean that the Bible is equal to the end proposed by God for it. It is all that we need to lead us from earth to heaven. The fact that the Bible is the product of an omnipotent God should be sufficient proof to demonstrate to us that it is sufficient to accomplish God's purpose for it. The Bible affirms its own inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1 :20, 21; I Cor. 2:13; Gal. 1:12). The Bible also refers to God as an infinite God who is perfect in all His ways (Ps. 18:30; Isa.. 55 :8, 9; 1 Cor. 1:21-25). Therefore when God gave us the Bible, being an Almighty God (Rev. 4:8), He made the book adequate to the ends He proposed for it.

The Bible Claims To Be an All-sufficient Book. Not only does the Bible claim for itself inspiration, it also declares that it is all-sufficient. Observe what the Bible claims for itself in the following passages.

  • 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 - "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." By the Scriptures the man of God is outfitted unto every good work.
  • 2 Pet. 1 :3, 4 - "Seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of him that called us . . ." What more could you want?
  • John 20:30, 31 -- "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name." Man can believe only upon the presentation of adequate evidence. So the Bible records the "signs" done by Jesus. Luke calls these "many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3--KJV). So the Bible presents sufficient evidence to cause one to believe.
  • The Holy Spirit guided the inspired writers to reveal "all truth" (Jno. 16:18) for all time (Jude 3). No other revelation is needed. Therefore, no other revelation will be given.
  • "Isa. 55:10, 11 - "For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and giveth seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." The Bible may not accomplish everything some man may think it should accomplish. But God declares it will accomplish everything He wants it to accomplish. That is precisely what we mean when we say the Bible is an allsufficient book. We mean it is capable of performing the things that God intended that it perform.
  • Man is not able to find his own way to heaven (Jer. 10:23), If he were, there would have been no need for the Bible. But since men flounder in the quagmires of sin, God gave them a revelation to "open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18). The gospel is God's power to save (Rom. 1:16), and it is perfectly sufficient, being "able to save your souls" (Jas. 1:21).

The Catholic Position On an All-Sufficient Bible - Though the Bible plainly declares it is all-sufficient, as the above quoted passages show, the Catholics are just as emphatic in their denial of its all-sufficiency. Catholics actually recognize three authorities in religion: (1 ) Tradition, or the voice of the "Fathers;" (2) The living voice of the church, culminating in the "Infallible" decrees of the Pope; (3) And the Bible. The living voice of the church is the most important of the three sources of authority to Catholics. For they say that the Bible and tradition are not understandable unless interpreted by the voice of the church. Following are several quotations from Catholic sources showing that Catholics are explicit in their denials of the all-sufficient book.

"I would not believe the Gospel, if I were not compelled by the authority of the universal church." Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Book 1, Ch. 39, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers.

Augustine here says that the Bible is not sufficient to make him believe. It does not present sufficient evidence to cause him to believe in it. He believes not because of the Bible's content, but because the Catholic church tells him to believe. The Bible, then, is not sufficient, because it is not self-authenticating.

In the "Profession of the Tridentine Faith" issued in 1564, and subscribed to by all priests, bishops and teachers in Catholic schools, the following profession is made:

"I also admit the Holy Scriptures, according to that sense which our holy mother church has held and does hold, to which it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures; neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers." Quoted in Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, Vol. 2, pg. 207.

The Catholic is told that he cannot understand an infallible Bible, but must wait for an "Infallible church" to tell him what the Bible means. It has always been interesting to ponder how one could understand the decrees of an "Infallible" church or pope, but not be able to understand an infallible apostle. The above quotation shows that the Bible can only be interpreted in harmony with what the "Fathers" have said. So the Bible alone is not sufficient authority to the Catholic.

"A Pope's letter is the most weighty authority in the church." James Cardinal Gibbons, Faith of Our Fathers, 94th Edition, pg. 93.

This statement simply says that if the apostle Paul and Pope John XXIII should be in direct conflict on some point of doctrine, the word of the Pope, instead of the teaching of the apostle, would prevail.

We must, therefore, conclude that the Scriptures alone cannot be sufficient guide and rule of faith because they cannot, at any time, be within the reach of every inquirer, because they are not of themselves clear and intelligible even in matters of the highest importance, and because they do not contain all the truths necessary for salvation. (My emphasis - CW), Gibbons, Faith of Our Fathers, 94th Ed., pp. 89, 90.

God said the Bible will furnish a man unto every good work. The Catholic says the Scriptures alone cannot be sufficient guide and rule of faith." The Bible says that you can understand the Scriptures (Jno. 17:7; Eph. 3:3-5). The Catholic says ' you cannot understand. The Bible says the Word of God is "able to save your souls" (Jas. 1:21). The Catholic says the Bible does "not contain all the truths necessary for salvation."

"I maintain that it (The Bible) contains part of God's revelation. All that is contained in the Bible has been revealed by God, although further information is given in other ways." Radio Replies, pg. 20, Rumble and McCarty Imprimatur.

So you can plainly see that the Catholic does not hedge in denying the all-sufficiency of the Bible. He is not the least bit reluctant to add to God's revelation. He simply says, "the Scriptures alone cannot be sufficient . . ."

The Jewish Position On An All-Sufficient Bible - The orthodox Jew also denies the all-sufficiency of the Bible, but in a different way than the Catholic does. The Jew believes the Old Testament Scriptures, but denies the need, importance and inspiration of the New Testament. Jesus showed the Jews that they could not accept the Old Testament and refuse to accept what the Old Testament says about Him. He said "Ye search the scriptures, because Ye think that in them Ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me" (Jno. 5:39). Further He says "For if Ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (Jno. 5:46, 47). There is this difference in the Jewish denial of the all-sufficient Bible, and the Catholic denial of the all-sufficient Bible: The Jew says we can do without half of the all-sufficient revelation, and the Catholic says we need something more than the all-sufficient revelation. Anything less than the revelation of God is too little, and anything more than God's revelation is too much. Either position insults both the revelation of God, and the God who, provided it for us. As Christians, we believe that all the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient.

The Protestant Theoretical Position On An All-Sufficient Revelation - The Protestant churches, almost without exception, profess to believe in an all-sufficient Bible. The basic differences between the Protestants and the Catholics that led to the Protestant reformation were that the Protestants believed that (1) The Bible is the only rule of faith and practice, to the exclusion of all canons, decretals, traditions and philosophies, and (2) The right of private study and interpretation of the Bible is the right and duty of all. Following are several quotations from representative sources to show that the Protestants theoretically believe in an all-sufficient Bible.

  • Martin Luther - "We must not explain the Scriptures by the Fathers, but explain and judge the Fathers by the Scriptures." Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. IV, pg. 204.

  • Chillingworth - "The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of the Protestants."

  • Alexander Campbell - "We take the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible as the foundation of all Christian union and communion. Those who do not like this will please show us a more excellent way." Introduction to Second Edition of The Christian System, June 13, 1839.

  • Lutheran Creed - "The only way to settle doctrinal questions is to show what the Bible teaches." Our Creed: What Lutherans Believe and Teach, J. M. Weidenschilling, pg. 2.

  • Methodist Creed - "The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be taught requisite or necessary to salvation." Methodist Discipline (1948), pg. 25.

  • Presbyterian Creed - "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in the scripture, or by good and necessary consequences may be deduced from scripture; unto which nothing at any tirne is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit or traditions of men." Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church (1949), pg. 6.

  • Baptist Creed - "We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instructions; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its content." Church Manual, J. M. Pendelton, (1950), pg. 43.

Now these quotations all seem to agree that the Bible is an all-sufficient book as the Bible teaches it to be. However, we shall show in a succeeding article that this is simply the "theoretical" Protestant position; that in reality they too deny the all-sufficiency of the Bible by the very existence of the creeds from which we have quoted. But this article is long enough for now. Next month, the Lord willing, we will show how that the Protestant churches deny also the all-sufficiency of the Bible. Any position that requires more than the Bible or less than the Bible denies the all-sufficiency of the Bible, regardless of how loud the affirmations of one's faith in the all-sufficiency of the Bible may be. The Catholics and the Jews make no pretentions to believe in the all-sufficiency of the Bible. The Protestants profess to believe in the adequacy of the Bible, but by the very existence of their creed books, deny their loudest affirmations.

(Note: I wish to give credit to Brother E. L. Flannery of Bedford, Ohio for locating several of the quotations used in this article. He used these quotations in a sermon delivered in Nashville, Tenn. recently, and these are used with his express permission. -- CW).

Truth Magazine IV:4, pp. 7-9
January 1960