The (In)Sufficiency of the Word

  In chapter three of Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace James M. Boice discussed the sufficiency of God’s Word.  Listen to these thought-provoking insights.

“…Inerrancy is not the most critical issue facing the church today.  The most serious issue, I believe, is the Bible’s sufficiency.  Do we believe that God has given us what we need in this book?  Or do we suppose that we have to supplement the Bible with human things?  Do we need sociological techniques to do evangelism, pop psychology and pop psychiatry for Christian growth, extra-biblical signs or miracles for guidance…?”

“It is possible to believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and yet to neglect it and effectually repudiate it just because we think that it is not sufficient for today’s tasks and that other things need to be brought in to accomplish what is needed.  This is exactly what many evangelicals and evangelical churches are doing” (p. 72).

Boice is right on.  There are many ways churches today act as if the Word is not sufficient.  I’ve seen churches advertise holy humor Sunday with Christian clowns making the service “fun” (implying that expositional sermons are boring).  Some churches supplement or replace preaching and public Bible reading with skits, shows, or movies.  A recent trend in American seminaries is to add drama classes to the M.Div. track, so preachers can learn how to act and participate in worship skits.  One emergent church even had a silent worship service where everyone simply watched an artist sculpt a statue.  The list goes on.

In Reformation terms the sufficiency of Scripture means the Word by itself is sufficient to guide us in matters of faith and piety (which also has to do with sola scriptura and the means of grace – preaching and the sacraments).  The Heidelberg Catechism ties this in with the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), that we should only worship God in ways he has commanded in his Word – God wants his people instructed by the preaching of the Word (see Lord’s Day 35).

Thomas Murphy summarizes this theme well.

“The things of God and the soul and eternity are too solemn to be trifled with.  The preacher who is really earnest in his work will not turn aside from the eternal interests on hand to amuse the people, to startle them, or to gain their applause with his ingenuity and flights of fancy.  His heart will be so set upon delivering the message of God that he will have no eye, no ear, no taste for anything else.  One thing – the glory of God in the conversion of souls – will he ever keep before him, and that will cut off all that is sensational or selfish or unbecoming in his discourses.  He will have no heart but to preach the gospel in the most direct and emphatic matter” (Pastoral Theology, 207).

The ultimate and pressing question is this: Is the Word alone – preached, prayed, sung, and confessed – enough for us when it comes to our worship, faith, and spiritual growth?

shane lems

sunnyside, wa