In an article for 9marks, Carl Trueman writes:
“The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture lies at the heart of what it means to be a Protestant. Protestantism and Roman Catholicism share much in common in terms of basic theology, such as a commitment to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. When it comes to matters of authority, however, there are major divergences. One of these is on the matter of Scripture: is Scripture sufficient as an authority for the church or not?”
(By the way, this is a great article to read if you need a brief overview of what this doctrine means and does not mean.)
Trueman’s final question is an important one. And it’s not just enough to ask for a theoretical answer. We must look at our own lives, our own doctrine, and our own churches and ask how are we functionally answering this question.
I was recently at a meeting for churches and ministries in my area. A panel of ministry leaders sat at the front of the room, and a moderator asked members of the panel about how they structure and organize their churches, small groups, ministries, etc. I was helped by their answers. However, I was surprised that none of the panel leaders referred directly to Scripture. It was as if the Bible was in the background of the conversation but never brought forward. It was assumed but never acknowledged. It was there but never opened. And so, in some ways, it seemed as if these leaders had abandoned the sufficiency of Scripture. They spoke eloquently about what works in their churches, about what they’ve experienced, and about how they’ve done church. But nobody looked to the words and will of King Jesus for his churches.
This experience got me thinking. Are there ways that I have functionally abandoned Scripture’s sufficiency? Are there areas in my life where I’ve stopped looking to Scripture, where I’ve stopped being reformed by the word of God? I’m still thinking through these questions. I want the Bible to be an open book, and I want to submit my life, my doctrine, and my ministry to the life-giving words of the King. It’s amazing though, how easy it is to just drift away from this life-giving doctrine in the small, daily decisions of life and ministry. We just stop asking. We just stop looking. We just stop digging. We just stop reading. Our Lord commands us through Paul in 1 Timothy 4:15–16: “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (NIV)
What about you? How do you live out this doctrine in life and ministry? Have you seen examples of people who know who have lived out this doctrine well? Have you seen examples of people who have functionally abandoned this doctrine even if they still affirm it on paper?