The Bible is Sufficient

by Cliff McManis

“The Bible is all I need.” That should be the heart’s cry of every Christian…because it is true. This is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible is enough; it is sufficient; it is complete. Let’s explain this in more detail.

A simple definition of the sufficiency of Scripture is the Bible contains all the information God wants us to know in order to live a life that pleases him. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything there is to know, but it tells us everything we need to know. And it tells us everything we need to know in order to have a personal, loving relationship with God and it tells us all we need to know in order to live a pleasing life to him while we are here on this cursed earth.  

There are dozens of Bible verses that inform the doctrine of sufficiency, but just two will sufficiently establish its truth: 2 Timothy 3:17 and 2 Peter 1:3. First consider 2 Timothy 3:17 in context with 3:16:

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

We already discussed 3:16 and the inspiration of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture flows from the doctrine of inspiration. Because the Scriptures are the very thoughts of God’s perfect, infinite mind, they are sufficient. Second Timothy 3:17 explains specifically how Scripture is sufficient. Paul clearly says the written Scriptures have the ability to make “the man of God,” or the believer, “adequate” and “equipped for every good work.” “Adequate” refers to what a Christian is and “equipped for every good work” refers to what a Christian does. The English word “adequate” translates the Greek word artios which means, “fit, complete, sufficient, able to meet all demands.” So biblical truth can make any Christian “fit” for living this life, no matter what comes their way.” In addition, Paul says the Scriptures enable the believer to be “equipped,” which means, “thoroughly furnished” by God, with potential to complete “every good work” God requires one to fulfill. That is sufficiency. If you have a Bible, you have everything God demands of you. Living it all out as God expects in this fallen world is a different story.    

The other verse that informs sufficiency is 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” This verse teaches that through salvation in Christ every believer has already been given “everything” they need relative to life and godliness. “Everything pertaining to life” covers all areas of practical living. “Everything pertaining to…godliness” is in reference to every matter related to our spiritual lives. This sufficiency covers every area of our being. And the needed “divine power” to confront every issue in life comes from the Scriptures, which are “powerful” and the living Word of God.

The sufficiency of Scripture also works in tandem with the sufficiency of the Holy Spirit on our behalf. As a matter of fact, some of the Reformers rightly noted that the Holy Spirit usually works in conjunction with the Word (i.e., Scripture), and that Scripture does not do its full efficacious work apart from the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God cannot be separated from one another when it comes to God operating with sufficiency in the life of his children.   

There are countless implications that flow from the doctrine of biblical sufficiency. The greatest of which is that the truth in the Bible (the gospel) is all that we need to enter into a perfect, secure, eternal relationship with the infinite Creator God of the universe. And it is by grace through faith in Christ and his work. No other religion of human invention can do that, nor does any even promise that. 

A second truth that flows from sufficiency is the fact that we don’t need anything more than what is in the Bible to bolster our relationship with God. We don’t need tempting, shallow worldly substitutes. Through the truth of Scripture, we have a sufficient Savior, a sufficient salvation, a sufficient indwelling Spirit, a sufficient spiritual family in the Church, a sufficient means of spiritual communication through prayer, sufficient promises that God will take care of us at all times, and a sufficient guarantee of an eternal future in glory beyond this life and the grave.

What more do you want? What more are you longing for? I ask these two questions because sometimes Christians don’t feel like or think they have everything they need. The Bible is great, but not quite sufficient in a few pressing areas of life. They don’t have sufficient peace so they take medication, drink alcohol or meditate on a mantra. They don’t know how to deal with their kids so they look to secular specialists and therapists who will be able to fix their kids’ behavioral problems because the Bible supposedly doesn’t have the answers. Or some professing Christians will look to secular, Darwinian, atheistic scientists to answer the question, “How old is the universe” because they don’t like God’s simple answer given in Genesis and Exodus 20:11. Or they have to go to the “real” experts in marriage, those secular psychologists, to fix their spouse because the pastor will only give them answers from the Bible. Or they will jettison the Bible altogether when a pandemic hits and watch secular news for all their information and directives on how to live day to day because, after all, the Bible doesn’t talk about Covid-19.

“The Bible is all I need.” That statement is actually easier to say than to believe and put into practice. Nevertheless, it’s true. The trick is, you have to believe it (James 1:6-8), own it, and walk by faith (2 Cor 5:7). Otherwise it will never be a reality for you. Jesus believed in sufficiency. He said, “know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). That is blessed biblical sufficiency.