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Monday, August 1, 2022

Are the New Testament Scriptures Alone Sufficient

Sometimes we take it for granted that everyone who calls themselves a Christian holds the New Testament scriptures in as high a regard as we do.  However, that is not the case.  Some, while calling themselves Christians, do not believe in the all-sufficiency of the New Testament scriptures to save a person.  They feel we need more guidance and direction than can be found in the scriptures alone.

Who are these Christian (God will decide) groups who are not satisfied with the New Testament scriptures alone?  I can think of three groups off-hand and there may well be others.  (1) The Catholic Church and they do not deny it.  (2) The Mormons.  (3) Those groups or individuals who believe they need and receive direct guidance from the Holy Spirit in addition to the scriptures. 

What do the scriptures themselves teach on the subject?  If the scriptures make the claim to be sufficient then those denying such make it clear they are not Bible believers despite all claims to the contrary.  

The Holy Spirit speaking through Paul the apostle said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NKJV) 

Who was Paul, at that time, writing to?  To Timothy but it is obvious that what applied to Timothy as to how he was to view scripture was and is applicable to all.  Paul says scripture is able to make us complete.  If we are complete we lack nothing.

However, the objection is made that Paul was obviously speaking of the Old Testament scriptures, at least primarily, as not all of the New Testament had yet been written.  Well, what is that supposed to imply?  Is it supposed to cast doubt on scripture given at a later date?  Is it designed to cast doubt on books written later as to their inspiration, books that are included in our New Testaments? 

Were none of the New Testament books written when Paul wrote the words found in 2 Tim. 3:16-17?  Most scholars believe 2 Timothy, quoted above, was written somewhere in the range of 66 to 68 AD.  While dates are all over the place on some New Testament books all scholars I know about concede that Second Timothy was the last book written by Paul.  Was Paul excluding his own writings when he spoke of scripture being given by inspiration of God, books he had already written? 

To the Corinthians Paul said "the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Cor. 14:37 NKJV)  Paul issued commands (1 Cor. 7:10, 2 Thess. 3:4, 6, 12) and directed Timothy to do so (1 Tim. 4:11, 5:7, 6:17).  To the Galatians he claimed inspiration for his message.  “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:10-11 NKJV)  He says the same thing again in Ephesians 3:3.  Paul recognized his own inspiration. 

But we also have Peter's testimony on the subject when he says, "as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15-16 NKJV) 

Sounds like when Peter wrote this Paul was still living but had already written many epistles which Peter compares to "the rest of the scriptures."  He says Paul's writings could be twisted to the destruction of untaught and unstable people.  Peter considered Paul's writings to be scripture just like "the rest of the scriptures."

When Paul wrote what he did in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 he was not excluding his own writings or talking merely about the Old Testament scriptures.  Neither was he excluding what might be written later in other New Testament books by other apostles or men of inspiration.  

But now note something else.  What is the purpose of scripture?  It is, as Paul puts it, "that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:17 NKJV)  If that is the case then the one who says the New Testament scriptures alone are insufficient is in an awful bind.  Why?  Because his position is that the man of God cannot be complete, cannot be thoroughly equipped for every good work by the scriptures alone and he thus puts himself in opposition to what the word of God says. 

An objection might well be made here by those in opposition that I have left the barn door open for later revelation.  Indeed I did for as I said Paul's statement was not just about scripture already written but about all scripture given by God regardless of the date it would be given.  The door was left open but only for a limited period of time. 

The key here is the term or phrase Paul used when he said "given by inspiration of God."  As you well know some speak of latter-day revelation hundreds of years after the completion of the New Testament.  How can we be sure revelation ceased when the New Testament scriptures as we now have them were completed?

When God gave scripture he gave mankind a means by which man could be assured that the message was from God.  The message was given orally and then later written down by inspired men.  The Bible says the word was confirmed as the apostles went out everywhere, "the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." (Mark 16:16 NKJV) 

The Hebrew writer says salvation (speaking of the word of salvation) "began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Heb. 2:3-4 NKJV) 

All through Acts we see miracles being performed.  There were the tongues from God that sat upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost and the speaking in tongues that day as the word was first preached to man after Christ's resurrection.  

A little later in Acts 4 upon the release of Peter and John from arrest and imprisonment a prayer is uttered by the disciples.  "Lord … grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus." (Acts 4: 29-30 NKJV)  Then in verse 33 we read, no doubt in answer to their prayer, "with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." 

In Acts 5:12 Luke says, "And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people." (NKJV)  Both Peter and Paul raised the dead through the power of God.  Philip worked miracles in Samaria.  Paul spoke of preaching the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum with "mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God." (Rom. 15:19 NKJV)  Here is the point--if there has been latter-day revelation there has to have been of necessity confirmation from God by means of miracles. 

If we have additional scripture that has been given since the New Testament scriptures were written where are they and where is the proof that shows God confirmed them?  Now I understand some are ready and willing to show me these additional scriptures they claim are from God but where is their proof?  We need some confirmation from God in the same way we got it in the first century. 

Miracles were only to last as long as they were needed and they were needed only as long as there was revelation being given that needed confirmation.  It is too long to quote here but read Eph. 4:7-14.  Paul was here talking about God giving gifts (miraculous abilities) to men which he says was for "the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:12 NKJV) 

But, I want you to note that he sets a time limit on this.  He says in verse 13 "till."  And I want you to look closely at verse 14 which shows us when this "till" shall have come to pass for many think it will be when Jesus returns.  Not so.  It was to be while the earth still stood and prior to Jesus' return. 

Paul says when that "till" arrives we will "no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ." (Eph. 4:14-15 NKJV)  Thus Christians will still be on the earth when the till that is to come arrives but they will no longer be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  Why not?  Simply because they will have God’s completed revelation available to them and can compare its teaching versus man’s teaching. 

The till that is to come is the completed scriptures.  In Eph. 4:13 he says, "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man." (NKJV)  That perfect man is the mature man, the man who has been made complete by the scriptures, the perfect man of Eph. 4:13 (NKJV) is the complete man of 2 Tim. 3:17 (NKJV). 

Paul speaks of this also over in 1 Cor. 13:8-12.  "Whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." (NKJV)  

That which is perfect which was to come was the completed scriptures or as you might put it the completed revelation of God to man.  How can we be sure this passage is not a reference to Christ's second coming?  Do you think knowledge will vanish when Jesus comes?  I think there will be a great increase in knowledge.  People will know things they never knew before.  Obviously, the knowledge that is being spoken of here that is to vanish away is miraculous knowledge that God gave to man in the days of spiritual gifts (see 1 Cor. 12:8). 

Now consider this, if we continued to have revelation after the death of those granted spiritual gifts in the first century even up to modern times it means no one has yet been able to overcome the “trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph. 4:14 NKJV)  Why not?  Because they lacked the whole truth of God’s revelation that would allow them to know truth from error.  It means all those who lived from the second century on up to today have lacked part of what they needed to combat error.

If part of inspiration came say in the sixteenth century then where does that leave the man or woman who lived and died before then?  This is the dilemma all so-called Christian groups face who claim inspiration and revelation outside the New Testament.  Catholics, for example, have added untold numbers of new doctrines across the ages.  Truth in many of these religious bodies is never fully attainable for you never know what is coming down the road in the next generation.  

Let us take a second look at 1 Cor. 13:8-12 quoted above.  What is to vanish in addition to knowledge and tongues?  Prophesy. 

This eliminates latter-day prophecy and Mormon prophets.  When?  When scripture is completed.  How can we know when that is?  When miraculous confirmation by miracles has ceased.  Has that happened?  If you define a miracle as being the kind of miracle performed in the book of Acts, and how else can one define one, then they ceased sometime around the end of the first century. 

If prophecy has ceased we no longer have apostles.  If we do we seek the signs of an apostle which Paul talked about.  He says, "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds." (2 Cor. 2:12 NKJV)  Some still claim we have and need apostles today.  Where are their signs and wonders and mighty deeds? 

Thus when miracles ceased revelation had ended; the scriptures had been completed; the man of God had the means to be made perfect (Eph. 4:14), to be made complete (2 Tim. 3:17), to become mature.  Henceforth nothing else would ever be needed. 

The New Testament scriptures alone are a sufficient guide to heaven and all you need.  God warns us about adding to his word.  The New Testament is enough; the New Testament scriptures are sufficient.  Anything more than that is man playing God.

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