The Scripture is Sufficient for Apologetics

by Cliff McManis

God’s Word is sufficient! That is what God has claimed and His followers have maintained since the beginning of time. This is the doctrine of  “Biblical Sufficiency.” It means that God has revealed adequate information to His people, at any given point in history, enabling them to live a life that pleases Him while at the same time meeting all of their needs as people made in His image. For us today that means the written 66 books of the Bible are sufficient for us—Scripture contains everything required for us to live a godly, fulfilling life as God intended. As religious and spiritual beings, we don’t need extra or ongoing divine revelation apart from the Bible.

Today in the world, and in the Church, biblical sufficiency is under attack. Unbelievers say, “Your Bible doesn’t cut it!” And even Christians are saying, “We need something more.” It’s very sad. But this should not surprise us. Biblical sufficiency has been under attack for 6,000 years, since the beginning.

In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve everything they needed to know—what to eat, what to stay away from, how to work (Gen 1-2). But then Satan came in and questioned the sufficiency of God’s Word (Gen 3:5), convincing Adam and Eve that they needed to know more than God had revealed. And as a result they plunged all of humanity into the Fall by dismissing sufficiency. Rejecting or undermining biblical sufficiency ushers in dire consequences.

During the giving of the Law the Israelites rejected the sufficiency of God’s written Word as given by Moses when they invented their own ways of trying to do religion and worship God…like when they built a golden calf (Exodus 32). Later in the dark days of the Judges, once again the Israelites did not hold to scriptural sufficiency, but put aside God’s written Law for counterfeit alternatives in false religion and idolatry. And as a result, “The anger of the LORD burned against Israel” (Judges 2:14). Early in Church history, many professing believers spurned biblical sufficiency and supplanted it with man-made religion and superstition that resulted in false religion that gave us deviant doctrines like purgatory, Mary worship, transubstantiation, mandatory celibacy and more.

We need to guard against the never-ending tide of false religion and so-called human wisdom that threatens pure biblical sufficiency. Biblical sufficiency is taught and modeled all throughout Scripture, but two foundational passages are 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3. Second Timothy 3 says that all Scripture came directly from God and is fully sufficient to make a believer “adequate, equipped for every good work” (v. 17). Some Bibles translate the word “adequate” here with the word “complete” which is perfectly legitimate. Scripture has the power to make a believer “complete” in every area of life and service to God! That is sufficiency.

2 Peter 1:3 affirms this truth as it says that God has granted believers “everything pertaining life and godliness.” Through salvation, which is based on Scripture and defined by Scripture, Christians have “everything” they need to live this life the way God expects. God’s Word, which is supernatural and alive, is sufficient for every Christian in how they live and how they do ministry. That is God’s promise and decree.

I believe this biblical sufficiency is most undermined today among Christians in three areas of life and ministry: preaching, counseling and in apologetics. In this article I want to show how Scripture is sufficient for the work of apologetics, despite the common practice of many who say otherwise.

“Apologetics” is from the compound Greek word apologia, apo (back) + logia (to answer). To give an apologia is to “give an answer back” to someone who asks a question. In the New Testament it usually refers to the way a Christian responds to an unbeliever about faith in Jesus. The classic New Testament verse for this is 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

The Apostle Peter exhorts believers to always be ready to respond to unbelievers with a word of defense. And the content of that defense is supposed to be an explanation of “the hope” that is in us. What is the “hope” of every Christian? Scripture is clear: our only hope is salvation, the forgiveness of sin, eternal life and resurrection from the dead in Jesus Christ—there is no other hope. Jesus is the only hope. Or as Paul said to the Colossians, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). That is what we are to defend and tell unbelievers when they ask.

Unfortunately in the evangelical world it is commonplace for self-proclaimed professional Christian apologists to distort this simple truth about how we are to apply 1 Peter 3:15. A counterfeit alternative has been raised and championed in its place. Typical high-profile Christian apologists today say that when we speak to the world we can’t just use the Bible as we talk about Jesus, the only hope for a lost world. Why? They try to tell us, “Unbelievers don’t believe the Bible, so we need to start with something else to woo them closer to the truth and gain their trust. After we have their trust, then we can use the Bible.”

If we don’t use the Bible when we first talk to unbelievers, then what should we use? We are told, “We need to use the laws of logic, science, philosophy, archaeology, common sense, history, cosmology, Darwinian evolution, naturalism, natural theology…” and on and on the suggestions go. But whatever you do, simple-minded Christian, “Don’t just use the Bible!” So the expert Christian apologists tell us. But this thinking is wrong-headed, ineffectual and misleading. Defending the faith, or doing apologetics, without the Bible is completely unwarranted. Christian—when you do your apologetics, use your Bible! God will honor that and bless your ministry if you do. Your Bible is sufficient for the work of apologetics. There are many reasons why that is so, but I’ll just share a few of the most obvious and important ones.

When Jesus did the work of apologetics He always used divine revelation—in the form of truth He was speaking from the Father or truth He got from the Old Testament. In other words, Jesus believed in Scriptural sufficiency when He engaged in any type of ministry. For example, Jesus’ view of Scripture clearly implies this. In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus said He came to fulfill the entire Old Testament and He promised that “not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away” from the Old Testament until “all” of it is accomplished. Jesus had the highest view of written Scripture. He maintained its ultimate inspiration, authority, inerrancy and sufficiency.

In addition to Jesus’ high view of Scripture is the model of how He used Scripture when He engaged in apologetics with critics, inquisitors and unbelievers. One of Jesus’ favorite phrases when engaged with critics was, “It is written,” and then He would quote Scripture as the final authority on the topic under discussion (cf. Matt 4:4; Mark 7:6; John 6:45). For Jesus, the written Bible had the sufficient answer.

Another common phrase Jesus used in apologetics was, “Have you not read” (Matt 19:4) or something similar like, “Did you never read in the Scriptures” (Matt 21:42), or “What did Moses command you?” (Mark 10:3). There are many more examples that could be given here, but these suffice to show that Jesus’ first resort was to written Scripture when defending His faith or true religion. He knew God’s special revelation was adequate.

In addition to the example of Jesus is the Apostle Paul, whose thirty-plus years of ministry in evangelism and apologetics was marked by a consistent commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. This is most obvious in the Book of Acts. Everywhere Paul went critics, skeptics and the curious would ask Paul about the “hope” that was within him. Every time he responded, the gospel of Christ as expounded in Scripture was front and center. This is clear when he gives his apologia on six different occasions as he defends his faith. In each instance, Paul emphasizes the good news of Jesus Christ through death and resurrection (cf. Acts 22-26).

Paul did not resort to human philosophy in an attempt to pacify the Gentile pagans before using Scripture. He did not default to human wisdom, formal rhetoric, classical debate, or natural theology to win the naysayers over. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 Paul explicitly rejects all forms of non-biblical rhetoric when it came to spiritual ministry and gave sole allegiance to biblically revealed truth as found in the gospel. As such, he could declare as his motto: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:18, 23). And similarly in Galatians he hailed, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (6:14).

Fellow Christian, you can trust your Bible just as Jesus and Paul did. Scripture is God’s thoughts and God’s will put in writing, for our benefit and God’s glory. The Bible is supernatural food for our souls. It is living and active, able to accomplish all that God has intended. It never returns void. Your whole Bible comes from the very mind of God and is able to make you completely mature and fulfilled as a Christian. It contains all the resources needed for living day to day and for doing ministry—including apologetics—the ministry of defending the faith and proclaiming the gospel.

Unbelievers are blinded supernaturally by their own sin and the deception of Satan. Only a supernatural remedy can overcome those two barriers. And only the Bible, which contains the gospel, has the power to override supernatural sinful blindness and Satanic deception. All human means will prove futile. The Bible is sufficient and Paul said it best when he proclaimed, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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