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The church is at a watershed moment. Much like the church of a hundred years ago, in which parties divided over the doctrine of biblical inspiration and inerrancy, we are at a crossroads. This time, rather than biblical inerrancy, the division is over the Bible’s authority and sufficiency. The predominant worldviews in our culture firmly oppose the Christian worldview. We live in a post-Christian society. So the pressure exerted on both the individual Christian and the church to abandon biblical doctrine, especially along the lines of biblical sexuality, is immense. Therefore, the issue of biblical authority and sufficiency is the continental divide of our generation. I believe that we will see a great rebellion and apostasy in our lifetime because of a fundamental rejection of this doctrine (Matt. 24:11–14; 2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Tim. 3:1–8). Many who claim the name of Christ have already begun following after the world rather than holding fast to the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

The locus classicus text that speaks to the Bible’s inspiration and authority is 2 Timothy 3:16–17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Paul makes a most definitive statement: every word of Scripture is breathed out by God. In other words, as B.B. Warfield used to say, “When Scripture speaks, God speaks.” For that reason, Scripture is authoritative on every subject that it addresses. We should add that this means that Scripture is the final authority, and no other authorities in this world even come close to it. For what can stand against God’s Word (Isa. 40:8)? In addition to seeing Scripture’s inspiration and authority in this text, Paul presses us to understand Scripture’s sufficiency. Scripture is given so that the “man of God may be complete” (2 Tim. 3:17). The word that is translated “complete” (Greek artios) means “fit, complete, capable, adequate, sufficient.” Paul says that God’s Word is complete and sufficient so that we can be men and women of God, “equipped for every good work” (v. 17). The word that is translated “equipped” (Greek exartizo) was used to describe a wagon that was completely outfitted for a long journey or a rescue boat that was sufficiently prepared for its mission. It is a wonderful picture of both the Christian’s and the church’s relationship to Holy Scripture.

Real humility is found by submitting to the Word of God, no matter the consequences.

Scripture is all that we need to be “outfitted” for the Christian life. Scripture is all we need for “righteousness.” Scripture is all that the church needs to faithfully serve and honor Christ and advance the kingdom. We do not need the world’s theories or methods. We do not need to mix Scripture with Stoic philosophy or neo-Marxist ideologies to arrive at godliness. We do not need to consult the latest marketing strategies to grow the church. In fact, if we seek to do so, we will fundamentally deny Scripture’s sufficiency. “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” Paul said (Gal. 6:14). What we need is for a new generation to champion Scripture as the lifeblood of the Christian life with the same Apostolic vigor that Paul had. We do not need the world’s ideas for the Christian life; nor do we accept them. We stake everything on Scripture.

In short, there is an urgent need for a revival of God-centered Christianity that clings to every single word breathed out by God. God has raised up many faithful men throughout the ages to remind His people of the centrality of Scripture. But just like the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Scripture’s inspiration and authority must be championed anew in every generation. We need an army of Christian disciples, pastors, theologians, evangelists, and churches that are willing to persevere in this fight of faith (Eph. 6:10–20; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7).

What are the particular issues in which biblical authority and sufficiency is challenged? Let me outline the three most blatant. First is adding worldly philosophies to Christian doctrine. Many Christians believe that we must supplement the Bible’s instruction with secular psychology and worldly philosophy. Stoic philosophy, especially, is on the rise, with its exhortations to simply “try harder,” “be more disciplined,” “develop better habits,” and “develop grit.” Neo-Marxist ideas, including critical race theory, are being put forward as a new way to understand justice in the public square. Furthermore, many Christian counselors use worldly psychology more than Scripture rather than merely understanding the spiritual need and remedy to a person’s problems in primarily biblical terms. Over and against these ideas, we must emphatically reassert that all that is needed to successfully live the Christian life is found in the Word of God.

Second is the compromise of the church’s biblical worship and practice. Rather than allowing Scripture to regulate our worship, churches are literally listening to the world—to what the “seeker” desires. This is reflected in a number of ways: the neglect of the true preaching of God’s Word in exchange for self-help comedy routines, the canceling of Lord’s Day services on holidays, allowing women to preach to men, the failure to exhort believers to “examine themselves” when taking the sacraments, and so forth. The church that is not anchored to biblical authority in terms of its worship practice now is a church that will probably have largely abandoned Christian orthodoxy ten years from now.

Third, and probably most insidious, is the abandonment of the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexuality. In reality, this is downstream from the two issues previously mentioned. The world has undergone a sexual revolution of the likes of which has never been seen before, in which even one’s gender is up for grabs. I saw one evangelical writer recently say that she holds the issue of homosexuality with an open hand and that she “could be wrong.” Though it sounds humble, that sentiment is a complete abandonment of scriptural authority. Real humility is found by submitting to the Word of God, no matter the consequences. For this reason, the issue of gender and sexuality will be the great acid test between true and false Christianity in our own day. We must remember that Paul warned us of this exact division:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9–11)

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From the June 2023 Issue
Jun 2023 Issue