Is the Bible Enough?

Matthew 15:8–9 (ESV)
"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."

With this verse, Jesus is stating that the Pharisees have made void the word of God with their traditions and rulings: anyone who broke a human law in order to perform works that are prescribed by God’s law would have committed a serious transgression, according to the Pharisees. Thus, they have placed the wisdom of man over the wisdom of God.

We would be hard-pressed to find any Christian denomination (Protestant or Catholic) that has not placed the wisdom of man in front of God’s Word at one time or another.

One of the guiding forces in the Reformation led by Martin Luther was Sola Scriptura—the belief that the Word of God is the sole infallible rule of faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul writes that “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”. Two words stand out in verse 17: complete and every. The Greek word for complete, artios, has been translated to our word also as proficient, competent, and perfect so there can be some ambiguity depending upon your translation. The Greek word for every, pas, though, means just that: all, total, whole. We can then state that what Paul is telling Timothy is that in God’s Word, we have everything we need to live a perfect Christian life.

This is probably as close as we can get to the Bible directly affirming the concept of Sola Scriptura. Additionally, we can find references throughout Scripture that forbids additions or deletions to God’s Word (Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Matthew 5:18; Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19).

When the above is taken with the rebuke by Jesus to the Pharisees for placing commandments of men over God’s Law, we can get a pretty good picture of not only the position of Scripture over man’s writings, but also the sufficiency of Scripture in light of man’s writings.

However, who should interpret Scripture? Only those who are scholars and possess a high office among men? The apostle Paul commends the Bereans for their desire to search the Scriptures themselves (Acts 17:11), but there is further Scriptural support for independent study among all people (John 5:39; Galatians 1:6-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:15; Jude 3; 1 John 4:1). Further, we are promised to have the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us when we read Scripture (1 John 2:20, 27).

The Bible is not unknowable for man (Psalm 119:130) and that while the things of God are “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14), a proper understanding of Scripture is often more the result of an individual’s spiritual condition than his or her intellectual ability. Unfortunately, many of us today are still allowing other men to do our study and interpretation for us, believing we either lack the insight or have been expressly commanded to rely on others through denominational or cultic dogma.

The above can be helpful if a Jehovah’s Witness comes to your door. Although they are very adept at quoting Scripture, they are discouraged from individual interpretation and are commanded to rely solely on the interpretation of the Governing Body. Unfortunately, this results in a community of lost individuals that need to hear the Gospel and The Truth. If one interprets a passage that goes against the leaders, they will not stay in the good graces of the JW for very long. While our first inclination would be to slam the door in their face, this goes against the Great Commission—we need to share God’s Truth will all who are lost. We likely will not convert them right there on the doorstep, but we can be what I like to call a “pebble in their shoe” and give them something to think about.

Religion is ultimately a personal matter. Each Christian must know and believe the truth explicitly for himself, on the direct ground of its own moral and spiritual evidence, and not on the mere ground of blind authority or reliance on another human’s interpretation. When the day comes for us to give an account to our Savior, it will mean very little if we say we were a good Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, or any other denomination created by man. Where was our heart? Did we put our trust in Him only or on the commandments and works decreed by man?