Before we can answer this question, it’s important to ensure we are working from a solid foundation: Scripture is (1) inspired by God, (2) the perfect representation of truth, and (3) alive.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. –Hebrews 4:12
Scripture serves as our most effective, efficient, and powerful resource for life and godliness. As believers, we are empowered and indwelled by the Holy Spirit – the author of Scripture (2 Pet 1:21). This means two things. First, God has given us the means to understand His word. Second, God puts in his children a healthy appetite to directly engage with His word. The Bible is not like any other book, so, naturally, the understanding taken from it far exceeds worldly expectations for “knowledge,” “wisdom,” and “understanding.” Since Scripture is living and active, our understanding of it continues to increase as we engage with it time and time again.
With that in mind, what do we mean that Scripture is sufficient? In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he shows that Scripture can fully equip the man of God for any good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). Plainly put, to say Scripture is sufficient means we recognize that the Bible is adequate to achieve God’s purpose—namely, His glory—in all things.
Here are two examples:
First, Scripture is sufficient to save. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can cause a lost sinner to place his or her faith in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross and be reconciled to God. Yet we learn even this truth through what God has revealed in Scripture. In Romans 10:14-17, Paul explains how faith comes from hearing and believing the words of Christ, which are recorded in Scripture.
Thus, we need not fear when we present the gospel to people (or wonder if we’ve been engaging enough with our words). It isn’t our persuasion that saves people. Rather, a simple, precise presentation of the gospel (see 1 Cor 15:1-8) is plenty—because it isn’t our work that saves. This really can be as simple as (1) stating the gospel message, (2) praying the Holy Spirit would cause the hearer to respond in faith, and (3) assisting in answering any questions that arise.
Secondly, in the hands of a believer, Scripture is sufficient to sanctify. When we say “sanctify,” we mean continually growing in Christ-likeness as we wait for His return—this idea, of course, assumes our connection to one another as a church family. For believers who are engaged in their local church, the Bible is our greatest resource as we collectively grow into the body of Christ (Eph 4:1-16). Scripture even speaks about how our knowledge of God becomes indispensable in a right walk with Him.
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
–Psalm 119: 9-16
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. –Romans 12:1-2
God’s word establishes a clear pattern between knowing God, as He has been revealed in Scripture, and living a life that glorifies Him. If you were to review the prophets and wisdom books of the Old Testament, then you’d quickly see that the ability to honor God is directly attached to knowing Him and humbly seeking after Him.
Fast forward in the New Testament era, and Paul’s letters to the early church model a similar pattern. Paul first presents truths to establish a foundation. Then, after explaining the attributes and works of God, he launches into applications guiding believers in their life in Christ.
Paul’s prayer for the saints in both Ephesus and Colossae is that they might more fully know and understand the work of God the Father, Christ the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the saint’s inheritance. Simply put, knowing God helps us grow in God.
So what’s next? What are practical tips for engaging with Scripture to increase in our understanding of it and become transformed by it?
- Pray before you read/study your Bible. Ask the Lord for humility, that you would seek to learn what He has said in His word. Ask the Holy Spirit to grant understanding of what you are about to read. Pray that you reach a more precise and involved understanding of the truth God has revealed and that He would be glorified through your study. (If you need help, consider our reading plan to get started.)
- Consider asking and answering these questions as you read a passage: What is the passage saying? What does the passage mean? What truths does it contain? Who are the actors in the passage and what are their roles/actions/responsibilities? Are there any aspects of the passage you don’t understand?
- Consider joining one of our community groups to be around other believers who are growing in their knowledge of God’s word and would love to help you do the same.
Podcast on Sufficiency: In this episode of The Genesis Daily, we discuss sufficiency with Bart.
About the Author: Bart Stykes is a long-time Genesis member who, with his wife Candice, lead a new community group in the Fox Run area (reach out to join!). By day he is a Professor of Sociology at Sam Houston State University.