By James W. Adams
“All-sufficiency” is a compound term composed of two words: (1) all; (2) sufficiency. “Sufficiency” signifies: enough, equal to the end proposed,”and “all” means: totally, wholly, completely, without limitation. To speak of the “all-sufficiency of the Scriptures” is to say that they are completely equal to the accomplishment of the end for which they were designed by the God of Heaven. We must regard it as axiomatic that: whatever God institutes for specific purposes is
always totally adequate for the accomplishment of those purposes. Otherwise, God would not be God. Other articles in this special issue of Guardian of Truth address themselves to: “The Validity of the Restoration Principle” and “The Restoration of Respect for the Authority of the Bible. “‘ If one believes in the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of God, the verbal inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, and in the validity of the “restoration Principle,” he cannot escape the necessity of embracing the conclusion that the Holy Scriptures are all-sufficient. The premise is irresistible. It never ceases to amaze, me, when those who profess to accept our first three propositions, theoretically and/or practically deny their obvious conclusion — the postulate that is the subject of this article. Yet, they do!
It should be obvious to them that: to deny, either theoretically or practically, the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures is tantamount to affirming that God was not wise enough to produce a revelation of Himself and His will that would complement man’s nature, capacity, spiritual and fleshly needs in his present, earthly environment, and his eternal destiny in the world to come. On the other hand, if it be acknowledged that God was wise enough to”produce such a revelation, we may conclude that He did not possess the power to do so. If it be admitted that He had the power to do , so, but did not, we are forced to conclude that He did not will to do so. This would impeach His benevolence — Hisgoodness. It is almost universally agreed among believers that man is a responsible and accountable being who will one day answer to God in judgment for “the deeds done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12). Hence, to repudiate the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures would be to impugn the justice of God. Under a system of justice, responsibility and accountability emanate from and their extent is determined by a universally available, intellectually intelligible, and totally inclusive standard of human conduct. Therefore, it is with supreme confidence that we affirm the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures with reference to the conviction and conversion of the alien sinner and the sanctification, and eternal salvation of the child of God, believe implicitly, as we do, in the infinite wisdom, power, justice and goodness of God.
Amplifying this point, it should be noted that one who believes in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is obliged to acknowledge their authority, unless he is prepared to repudiate the right, of God to rule his life. If he acknowledges the right of God to rule his life, the verbal inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, and human fallibility – the proneness of humans to err from the Divine standard, he is compelled to acquiesce in the validity of the “Restoration Principle”; that is, a return to the original, Divine standard in his faith and practice.
The Scriptures Attest Their Own All-Sufficiency
It has been established that the acceptance of the verbal inspiration and authority of the Scriptures demands an acceptance of their all-sufficiency. The Scriptures profess to be Divinely revealed and verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. Note the following passages:
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11, 12).
But as it is written, Eye hato not seem, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost (“the Spirit,” ASV) teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual (“words,” ASV) (1 Cor. 2:9-13).
The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).
It has also been established that the recognition and acceptance of the Scriptures as authoritative in the realm of religious faith and practice demand an acceptance of their “all-sufficiency.” Being Divinely revealed and verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures represent themselves as being infallible, imperishable, and authoritative. The New Testament Scriptures characterize themselves as an inerrant and complete record of the word of Christ, either spoken in His own person while on earth or through His Holy Spirit inspired apostles and prophets after He ascended to His throne in heaven. They likewise represent themselves as being the standard of eternal judgment. Jesus affirmed the inerrancy and immutability of Scripture in general when He said: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10.34-26) The expression “the Scripture cannot be broken,” affirms inerrancy and immutability.
It is acknowledged that the quotation of Jesus is from the Old Testament, yet His statement concerning Scripture is an appeal to a general principle governing all of the sacred writings. Jesus made it clear on many occasions that such was true of His words. Note several of these instances:
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Mt. 24.35). “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one thatjudgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you. . . ” (Mt. 28:18-20a, ASV). “I testify to every man that heareth the words of the book of this prophecy, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, Godshall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18,19).
The inspired apostles and prophets of Jesus Christ likewise emphasized the inerrancy, inviolability, and authority of the words which the Lord spoke from heaven through them. They also set them forth as the standard of eternal judgment. Note several examples of this in the following Scriptures:
“If any man among you think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). “Whosoever goeth onward, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. . . ” (2 John 9). “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (Jas. 2:12).
On the basis of the preceding considerations, the conclusion is irresistible that: The gospel as God gave it is perfectly adapted to man as God made him and totally adequate for the accomplishment of the purposesfor which God gave it, hence “all-sufficient.” To the correctness of this conclusion, Paul and Peter, apostles of Christ, gave their inspired testimony: “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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16,17). “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and our Saviour Jesm Christ, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:2,3).
The All-Sufficiency Of The Scriptures Practically Repudiated By Professed Christians
Many constituents of so-called “Christendom” give lip service to the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures while repudiating the principle in their practice. Roman Catholics do this. They profess to honor the Scriptures as the inspired word of God, but repudiate their all-sufficiency by recognizing two sources of authority, the “written word” and “the unwritten word.” By “unwritten word,” they mean Roman Catholic “tradition.” They believe that “the word” was delivered to the church at the beginning in unwritten form and that she was made the guardian and preserver of this “body of doctrine,” that the church has “infallibly” kept this body of doctrine “free from any admixture of error at each point of time, from its foundation to the end of the world.” This is accomplished, they believe, through “tradition.” This body of tradition they call “the deposit of faith,” and they insist that all Scripture be understood and applied by an “analogy of faith.” This simply means that Roman Catholic “tradition” supercedes the obvious, literal meaning of any statement of Scripture relative to matters of faith, and morals. This point of view is well illustrated in the decree of the Council of Trent in its fourth session: “No one, relying on his own skill, shall, — in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, — wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to the sense which holy mother Church, — whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, – hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers. . . . ” Joseph-Dixon, Archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, explains this decree as follows: “The sum of this decree is, that no one is to presume, to interpret the scripture against that sense which the church has held and holds, nor against the unanimous consent of the fathers.” He goes on to say later, “We must not by any means, attach to any text of scripture such a sense, as would be irreconcilable with any portion of the doctrine, which the church teaches” (Introduction to the Sacred Scriptures, pp. 196-198).
In the formation of human creeds as bases of communion and fellowship, protestant denominations, despite their protestations to the contrary, repudiate the all-sufficiency of the revealed word of God. “Sold Scriptura” was one of the mottoes of the “Reformation” of the sixteenth century. This means “Scripture only,” yet those who originated it were flagrantly guilty of repudiating it in their practice by formulating human creeds around which their followers rallied and upon the basis of which they formed separate communions of professed believers.
We pose the following objections to human creeds in religion: (1) They are unreliable, because they are based on the mere inferences of fallible human wisdom, and understanding; (2) they are incomplete and inadequate, because, in the very nature of the case, they can contain no more than the combined wisdom and knowledge of the fallible men (however dignified) who formulate them; (3) they impeach, as we have previously established, the wisdom, power, and/or goodness of God because the sense of necessity that gave them birth is, within itself a repudiation of the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures; (4) they disparage, in the face of their existence, the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit – i.e., they are formed and promoted on the assumption of the inadequacy of the Holy Spirit’s revelation; (5) they are not apostolic in origin – the apostolic church had only the words of the Holy Spirit; and (6) they are either unnecessary or evil – if they contain only that which Scripture teaches (as denominational scholars insist) they are unnecessary, and if they contain less or more than the Scriptures, they are condemned (Gal. 1:6-12). It is often argued that they are essential to unity. This is absurd. With the formulation of every human creed in history, a new sect has been born. Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:20,21) was predicated on the words of the apostles as its basis. Unity was attained in the apostolic age without human creeds, hence why should they be needed now to achieve it?
Modern cults such as: so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, and so-called “Christian Scientists,” while professing to recognize the Scriptures as inspired of God, repudiate their all-sufficiency by the reverence which they manifest toward the writings of The Watchtower Society, Ellen G. White, Joseph Smith, and Mary Baker Patterson Eddy.
Brethren among professed churches of Christ insist on the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures, yet deny it in practice by their inordinate reverence for the points of view of the dignitaries of “The Restoration Movement,” or the “consensus of the views held by the majority of the churches of Christ in the brotherhood.” Brethren likewise indict the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures when they form human organizations unknown to the word of God and/or convert local churches and elders into centralized agencies through which the churches generally function to perform Divine responsibilities. They indict the principle of all-sufficiency when they presume to add to the acts of social worship things not authorized by Scripture (such as mechanical instrumental music) or to the work of the church things purely social and recreational in their character. The only course consistent with the all-sufficiency the Scriptures is that expressed in the slogans which animated the churches in days. past: “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is not light in them (Isa. 8:20); a thus saith the Lord for every act of Christian work or worship; let us call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways; let us speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent.” Sad it is that brethren once dedicated to this course in religion, seek now for justification of religious faith and practice in a mythical “law of expediency” or smugly excuse obviously non-authorized teaching and practice with a shrug of the shoulders and a glib, “We do many things for which we do not have Scripture.”
Guardian of Truth XXX: 11, pp. 323-325
June 5, 1986