The Sufficiency of Scripture Part 1
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/10/2003
Category: Christian Living
"The Sufficiency of Scripture"
As you know, we are studying 1 Timothy, but I have been hesitant in these next couple of Sundays to get back to 1 Timothy
until all of our folks are back. We have many who are away over this particular holiday season. And so, I have postponed
getting into chapter 2, which is a vital chapter, for at least a couple of weeks. Not only because of scheduling but also
because of a second reason, and that is there has been something on my mind for the last month or so and it's sort of burning
in my heart and I need to spend a couple of Lord's days just sharing my burden with you. And so, this morning and next
Lord's day morning, I want to speak to you on the subject, "The sufficiency of Scripture...the sufficiency of Scripture." I
really believe this is a vital vital subject. In fact, I trust that even after the messages have been given and you've heard them,
you'll pick up the tapes because I think these are things that you will want to refer to again and again and give to other
people. I'm not going to tell you my perspective on things, I'm not going to try to deal with the sufficiency of Scripture from a
philosophical viewpoint, or an experiential one, but what I want to do is have us look together at the Word of God and see
what it says about its own sufficiency. And as a church and as people whose lives are built upon the foundation of the Word
of God, this is a very, very important study.
Now something in particular has triggered my interest in this study and I'd like to speak to that, if I might, for a few moments.
There is, I believe, a strong and pervasive and somewhat subtle strategy unfolding today among those who call themselves
"evangelical Christians." This is being masterminded by the arch enemy, Satan, and sadly being bought into by many many
people in evangelical churches. This subtle strong strategy basically is an attack on the sufficiency of the Word of God. Now
in all times and seasons, the Word of God is under attack. And we have to be somewhat careful and somewhat wary and
somewhat watchful to discern how it's being attacked. I believe presently the attack on Scripture is primarily coming from
those who deny its sufficiency for all matters of faith and conduct. One of the great statements of theology, of traditional
evangelical theology is that the Scripture is adequate for all matters of faith and conduct. That is being attacked today.
Let me briefly describe what I mean by that with some illustrations from various angles. First of all, in the last few years in the
church, there has grown to be among church leaders a great preoccupation with what I would call "worldly management
technique." With all of the books being written on successful corporations and successful styles of management and
leadership and so forth, the church has perked up its ears and gone after that really as if it were the very life of the church.
There are many who bow, as it were, to the gods of worldly management technique. Churches are learning those kinds of
methods as if they were the keys to building the Kingdom of God. And in a very subtle way, this is an attack on the
adequacy of Scripture, as if to say, "Knowing the Word of God and understanding its principles and the principles taught
therein related to the growth of the church is not adequate and we must go to the management techniques and the systems of
success the world uses in its corporate environment and transfer those to the church if we want the church to really grow and
develop." I believe this is a subtle attack on the sufficiency of the revelation of God for the matter of the growth and
development of the church.
Secondly, another angle that I've been recently concerned about is that there are many people who feel the Scripture is not a
sufficient diet for the saints of the church and there must be along with it a certain amount of entertainment. And churches are
spending a lot of money to entertain people. We have developed because of our penchant for entertainment in our society a
sort of a Christian celebrity list. We are heavy into entertainment which is costing the church when you include Christian TV
entertainment, billions and billions of dollars of the Lord's money. And it is, in a sense, a concession to those people who do
not believe that the teaching and the study and the learning and the application of the Word of God is an exciting enough
diet. In fact, there are many people who seem rather bored with the things of God revealed in Scripture and are really in
desperate need of some entertainment. And there is in that, I believe, an attack on the sufficiency of the Word of God to
bring to the life of believers all that is needed not only for the matter of spiritual battle but for the matter of joy and fulfillment
Another area of great distress to me is the area of, I suppose what we could call, mysticism, or the occult. I believe in
evangelicalism, if you look closely and you'll hear more of this on Tuesday night when you hear from Dave Hunt, but I
believe if you look closely at evangelicalism today, you will find in many places people becoming preoccupied with the
occult. They don't think that's what it is, but in fact that is indeed what it is. They are reaching into the world of mediums and
demon spirits and the devil himself because they are searching for supernatural power, supernatural experience, ecstatic
experiences. They are searching for miracles and signs and wonders. There are schools now teaching courses in signs and
wonders. There are people saying that we can never reach the world with the gospel unless we can raise the dead and heal
the sick and call down fire from heaven and do all kinds of supernatural things. Peter Wagner recently said at the American
Association of Bible Colleges Convention, quote: "The simple gospel is no longer adequate without signs and wonders," end
quote. We cannot reach the world, he is saying, with just the Word of God. We have to have signs and wonders and he is
talking, along with many others, about finding the power source and delving into supernatural powers to do miracles and
create these signs and wonders.
There are those who are today advocating Christian montras, a chanting kind of thing. There are those offering formulas for
confronting Satan, formulas for dealing with demons, positive confession and visualization techniques where you sort of
visualize something as a reality, whether it's your healing, your new car or the girl you want, a new house, or reaching a
certain group for Christ, or developing a ministry, you get into this heavy kind of self-hypnotic visualization technique. These
kinds of things are all forms of occult magic. They are being practiced to gain supposed divine power but the power they
gain is the power of the enemy.
In fact, this could be called "the new religious science." We have now developed an evangelical science of the mind. Many
of the people are getting into Eastern and Hindu thought thinking they're...they'll be able to capture the power of the Eastern
world if they can get themselves into the paradigm of their kind of thinking. There's a preoccupation with this mysticism.
Psychic power is cultivated. People are claiming authority over the devil, authority over demons, authority over disease.
They're going around in the name of some supposed psychic power commanding not only Satan and his forces but disease,
sickness, negative circumstances and other things.
Further, another category in which we see this kind of abandonment of the belief of biblical sufficiency is in the matter of
marriage and family, for one. There was a time when we believed that the Bible gave us adequate insight into marriage and
the family. That if we studied the Word of God, we would be able to live life in the family to its fullest, that marriage could be
all that God ever intended if lived by biblical principles. Families can be all that God ever intended if lived by biblical
principles but now there is a proliferation of tricks and gimmicks and sex techniques and just a plethora of things that are
added to the Scripture to try to deal with family problems. And in an underlying and subtle way, they are making the
comment that the Bible is to one degree or another insufficient or inadequate.
It used to be that we could accept what the Bible said in sociological areas, whether it's homosexuality or the role of a
woman. Now we're hearing that the Bible is rather unsophisticated and cannot comment on these contemporary sociological
issues because of its lack of sophistication. And so there is an insufficiency in the Bible's ability to deal with contemporary
sociological phenomena. This is coming on a wholesale level into the church, particularly marked in the area in the liberal
church homosexuality, in the more evangelical church in the redefining of the role of women away from the traditional biblical
But perhaps as dominant or more dominant than any of these themes is this area of psychology. Psychology today is making
inroads into the church that really are frightening. In fact, there is in the evangelical church what is fast becoming a wholesale
exodus from the traditional land of biblical theology into the new promised land of psychology and psychotherapy. Churches
that once and for always would hire pastors and evangelists and teachers are now hiring psychologists. Pastors that once
would go to seminary and learn the Word of God or Bible college and master the Scripture are now going to schools of
psychology to study human wisdom in dealing with the problems of mankind. This again is a subtle way of saying the Bible is
insufficient. When coming to grips with these deep seeded emotional anxieties of man, we cannot expect the Bible to speak
in any sophisticated way to those problems. Seminaries are changing their curriculum dramatically. For the first time in the
history of the church, seminaries are hiring psychologists on their staff to teach, psychiatrists to teach, they're teaching
psychology, they're adding more psychology courses in many places, diminishing the biblical content of their curriculum.
Colleges are doing the same thing. Churches are doing it. It's a wholesale exodus.
And to this sort of encroaching mysticism and preoccupation with supernatural powers and science of the mind and
visualization techniques and hypnosis and all of this self-image stuff comes this psychology and together it is creating the new
God of the church. And I can look back to our own law suit where we were literally mocked for being so primitive as to
assume that the Bible could give people help when they had severe problems. The world has been saying the Bible cannot
help and now sad to say, the church is chiming in and agreeing that the Bible is inadequate to deal with psychological
problems. In fact, I would go so far as to say there are many advocating today a psychological salvation in place of the new
birth. There is nothing in this more than a pseudo-evangelical humanism. This preoccupation with self-esteem and self-love
and self-fulfillment and self-actualization that psychology has brought into the church knows no biblical counterpart.
And just to put things in perspective, the church inevitably...inevitably, buys into these things and in fact, the world will more
readily admit the error of these things often than we will. For example, in the Los Angeles Times on the eighteenth of this
month, you perhaps read an interesting article about a recent convention of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and psychologists in
Phoenix, Arizona, the largest convention, 7,000 people apparently attended. And for the first time in the history of the world,
the leading psychoanalyst, psychologist and psychiatrist of the world got together. Men like Carl(?) Rogers, Albert Ellis,
R.D. Lang, Bruno Bettleheim(?), Joseph Walpi(?) and Thomas Szaz, those are the most famous names in the world in terms
of techniques and methods of psychotherapy. They were all there.
And the article was really amazing. It said, for example, "The heroes were there to evaluate where psychotherapy has come
in 100 years and where it might be going." Except, they really couldn't agree on either. Lang, one of the famous ones, known
for his work on schizophrenia said, "He couldn't think of any fundamental insights into relations between human beings that
had resulted from a century of psychotherapy." He couldn't think of any? The 7,000 practicing and student psychotherapist,
psychiatrist and social workers who attended various sessions were undaunted by the debates and differences of opinion.
Obtaining autographs was the priority for many.
One of these leading psychoanalysts said, "The best therapy he had found for his anxiety was to hum a tune." And the sad
thing about that is that the church has bought into that as if it is the savior of man. Nobel prize winner Richard Fryman(?)
said, quote: "Psychoanalysis is not a science." What did he mean by that? He meant that there are no rules to guide it, it's a
whole lot of human opinion. New York University professor, Paul Veets(?) criticized Christianity and he criticized the
Christian church for its tendency to do what he called "buying high and selling low" in regard to social science. He said, "The
church is eager to adopt popular trends of thought at the very time the secular professionals are beginning to criticize them."
In fact, he put it this way, "It is a matter of climbing on the bandwagon just about the time it's slowing down," end quote.
We tend to do that, to jump into movements that are just about dead because they have proven a washout even to the
people in the world who started them. But here we have in our contemporary Christian church, these things making
tremendous inroads. I am absolutely amazed at the inroads of mysticism, science of the mind, occultism, psychology and
these other things into the church, the college, the seminary environment and the pooh-poohing of biblical theology and
Now all of this, I believe, is not some small problem. I believe it is a serious and sinful view of the Word of God. I believe it
is the sin of the church to believe the Bible to be inadequate. J.I. Packer in his little book on the Word of God puts his finger
on the problem in a paragraph that says this: quote: "Certainty about the great issues of Christian faith and conduct is lacking
all along the line. The outside observer sees us as staggering on from a gimmick to gimmick and stunt to stunt like so many
drunks in a fog, not knowing at all where we are or which way we should be going. Preaching is hazy. Heads are muddled,
hearts fret, doubts drain strength, uncertainty paralyzes action. Unlike the first-century Christians who in three centuries won
the Roman world and those later Christians who pioneered the Reformation and the Puritan awakening and the evangelical
revival and the great missionary movement of the last century, we lack certainty," end quote.
And the reason we lack certainty is because we have a sinful view of Scripture. We do not any longer seem to believe that
the Bible is sufficient for the life and conduct of the church. That is a sin...a sin of monstrous proportions, to deny the
sufficiency of the Word of God.
Now how can we answer this? How can we come at this? And I could take another couple of hours to delineate to you the
problem, but I want to deal with the solution. You'll hear more about the problem on Tuesday night. But can we go to the
Bible and find in it that which is sufficient for all of life and conduct? And the answer, I believe, is a resounding yes. And the
proof is the testimony of the greatest authority in the universe, none other than God Himself. And what I want you to see
today and next Lord's day is God's own testimony to the sufficiency of the Word of God. Now we're going to set our
attention next Lord's day on one single passage and that will be Psalm 19. But...and I think that's the single greatest passage
on the sufficiency of Scripture in all of the Bible, but this morning, I want us to simply look at a myriad of passages that will
strengthen our understanding of this vital truth.
Now I'm going to give you a lot of Bible passages, I don't expect you to look them up. But this is very, very important and
very foundational. So I want you to at least write them down and be sure you get the tapes so you'll have them for future
reference. But don't try to follow me in looking them all up, you might get lost. I'll tell you the ones that are important to turn
A good starting place to give us a sort of a general feeling of what we want to get into would be in Paul's second letter to the
Corinthians. And I want to mention one verse to you and quote it and then I want to comment on it. Second Corinthians
3:5...2 Corinthians 3:5, listen to what it says, very short so listen carefully: "Our sufficiency is from God." Did you hear that?
"Our sufficiency is from God." Now we could preach off of just that statement at great length. Our sufficiency is not from
men. Our sufficiency is not from human wisdom. Our sufficiency is not from human resources. Our sufficiency is from God.
Our sufficiency...what does that mean? That means our capability of living life in God's plan to the maximum is from Him.
In other words, we--because we are Christians--live in an environment in which the resources for life are divine. Okay?
They're divine. We live at a sphere, at a strata, at a level which human wisdom does not feed...for which human wisdom
cannot provide resources. Now I want you to understand in what I say this morning that I am not saying that there's nothing
outside the Bible that has any value. There are many things that have value. God's common grace, that is the grace of God
on all men, will create certain things in our human environment that are very helpful. But when it comes to the matters of
spiritual life, all we need to know is revealed in the Word of the living God and ministered to us by the Spirit through that
Word. And outside the Word of God we do not have to look for a sufficiency that is not provided in the Scripture. That is
the sin. It is not to say that there's nothing in the world that isn't helpful. There are many helpful things in the world. But those
matters which have to do with spiritual life and conduct and ministry are in the Word of the living God and they are
sufficient...they are sufficient. Our sufficiency as believers is from God.
So we don't say, "Well, this is a problem that we can't handle...Oh, this...boy, you've got a spiritual problem the Bible
doesn't deal with, you better...you better find some power source out there, you better get into sort of actualization or
visualization or psychotherapy or psychoanalysis or, boy, we just can't handle this one." If it is a spiritual issue, if it has to do
with the life of a believer, if it has to do with the life of the church, if it has to do with the soul of man, the struggles of man,
those things that are in his life that bring difficulty, the Bible can deal with those things and does, it is sufficient.
Another verse in 2 Corinthians is in chapter 9, in fact it's parts of two verses, verses 8 and 10. Second Corinthians 9:8 says,
and listen to this, just listen to what I say carefully and I want you to mark in your mind the superlatives..the superlatives. In
fact, why don't you open your Bible to 2 Corinthians 9:8 so you can underline them. Watch the superlatives here...2
Corinthians 9:8. "And God," and there again is our sufficiency, God is our sufficiency, He is our source, "God is able," there
are no limits on His ability, "to make all grace," now there's the first superlative, "all grace," not just some grace, not just most
grace but all grace. "He is able to make ALL grace ABOUND" there's another superlative, another word that speaks of a
superlative indulgence. "He is able to make ALL grace ABOUND toward you that you...here's another
superlative...ALWAYS," not sometimes, not most of the time but all the time, "will have ALL sufficiency," there's another
superlative, "will have ALL sufficiency," not in some things, a few things, or most things, but in what?..."in ALL things."
I mean, it's an absolutely amazing statement. And anybody who goes around saying, "Well, you know, the simple gospel just
isn't enough. The Word of God isn't enough. I've got to have this and this philosophy and this human wisdom and this
approach," doesn't understand that that is a sin against the claim of God Himself to be able to make ALL grace ABOUND
toward you so that you ALWAYS have ALL sufficiency in ALL things, and again, you will ABOUND, another superlative,
and here comes another one, to EVERY good work, or to ALL good works. Absolutely unlimited superlatives.
And then verse 10 adds, "Being enriched in ALL things, or in EVERY thing to...here it comes again...ALL bountifulness
which causes us thanksgiving to God, causes us to give thanksgiving to God." The superlatives here are staggering,
Now when somebody comes along and says the Bible is just not sufficient...boy, this is an issue the Scripture can't deal with.
"Well, the Scripture can't go into that culture, boy, we've got to have some kind of supernatural power, boy, the Scripture's
not adequate." or when somebody says, "Well, we just don't have the answers in Christianity for those deeper kind of
problems," we fly in the face of the testimony of God in this very passage itself. Our God is able to provide the resources for
all our needs. Our suffic
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