Dr. Steve Lawson (original source here)
As the church of Jesus Christ enters the twenty-first century, she once again finds herself standing at a dangerous crossroad. Two roads stand before her, both of which are marked “truth.” One is paved with the lethal lies of Satan, the other with the life-giving truths of Scripture.
Confronted with these two choices, many sectors of the present day church have abandoned their once tightly-held commitment to the authority of Scripture, and the consequences have been nothing less than devastating. Choosing to follow liberal theology with its higher criticism, many have arrived at destinations previously thought to be unthinkable: inclusive universalism, radical feminism, same-sex marriages, annihilationism, and open, even worse, theism. Sad to say, this broad path has proven to be a deadly detour to the destruction of many.
Yet, in the midst of this rampant apostasy, a most amazing phenomenon has occurred, a modern Reformation of sorts. A renewed commitment to biblical inerrancy has emerged in isolated pockets of the church, a conservative resurgence that has signaled a return to a fundamental belief in the inspired, infallible Word of God. In these days, many have chosen to return to old paths, a road paved with biblical authority, and for this much thanks should be offered to God.
But having safely negotiated this crossroad, a second intersection now looms on the evangelical horizon, one equally threatening. Writing shortly before his recent death, James Montgomery Boice, pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, observed that while many churches now assert biblical authority, they equivocate on biblical sufficiency. Boice writes, “Our problem is in deciding whether the Bible is sufficient for the church’s life and work. We confess its authority, but we discount its ability to do what is necessary to draw unbelievers to Christ, enable us to grow in godliness, provide direction for our lives, and transform and revitalize society.”1
With penetrating insight, Boice then added, “In the sixteenth century, the battle was against those who wanted to add church traditions to Scripture, but in our day the battle is against those who have to use worldly means to do God’s work.”2 The sufficiency of Scripture, Boice argues, is the urgent issue of the day which must be addressed. He is correct.
The sufficiency of Scripture can best be defined as the Bible’s supernatural ability, when rightly proclaimed and properly followed, to produce any and all spiritual results intended by God. Referred to as sola Scriptura by the Reformers, this core truth does not claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture, nor does it imply that everything Jesus or the apostles taught is preserved in Scripture (Jn. 20:30; 21:25). Rather, the sufficiency of Scripture affirms that everything necessary for the salvation of sinners, the sanctification of believers, and the spiritual direction of ministry is provided by God’s Word. Psalm 19:7 affirms this central truth when it declares “the law of the Lord is perfect” (emphasis added), meaning it is whole, complete, lacking nothing, a comprehensive treatment of truth.3 The Scripture, Paul writes, makes the man of God “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). This said, the Bible claims a divine potency, for itself, a supernatural ability, if you will, to more than adequately carry out God’s work in the world.
This commitment has long been the time-tested position of most evangelical churches over the last 350 years. Written in 1647, the Westminster Confession of Faith affirmed “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 scripture or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men”.4 Thus, the sufficiency of Scripture has long been a defining mark of evangelical faith and a chief cornerstone of biblical orthodoxy. Sola Scriptura was the battle cry of the Reformers and has shaped the church for the centuries that have followed.
But in this present hour, there has been a strange departure from this once firm position on the sufficiency of Scripture. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the shrinking power of the evangelical pulpit. Trendy worship styles, worldly entertainment, crass pragmatism, pop psychology, and the like are all competing against the centrality of biblical exposition. Throughout the evangelical world, preaching is becoming watered down with heavy doses of cultural wisdom, therapeutic advice, psycho babble, mystical intuitions, positive thinking, and political agendas, all mixed together with a barrage of personal anecdotes.
This present famine of biblical preaching is light years removed from the theologically steeped expositions of previous generations and can only be explained by a vanishing confidence in the power of Scripture itself. The crisis now confronting Bible-believing, churches, organizations and institutions, whether they realize it or not, is this matter of the ability of Scripture to accomplish God’s intended work. Continue reading