Is the Bible really sufficient for matters of spiritual life, for the people of God, and for the fullness of living in the will of God? Or do we need to concede that the Bible has some rather glaring limitations that can only be overcome by techniques developed by well-meaning people?
To answer, I want to look at Psalm 19, what I believe to be the most concise and direct treatment of the sufficiency of Scripture in all of the Word of God.
David, the author of Psalm 19, was a man who understood the extremities, the exigencies, the vicissitudes, struggles, trials, and tribulations of life to the degree that few people have endured. He knew what it was to have his life threatened continually. He knew what it was to have fallen into deep sin. He knew what it was to have fouled up marriages and distressing family circumstances. This is a man who speaks out of the depth of human emotion and yet finds consummate sufficiency in the Word of God.
Now Psalm 19, by way of a general introduction, is intended to convey to us the significance of God’s revelation. First, in verses 1-6, we read of God’s revelation in nature. The heavens, verse 1 says, declare His glory — all of the stellar bodies demonstrate his handwork. It goes on to talk about the sun and its marvelous course through the universe. Much like Romans 1, the things that we see reveal that there is a God and He is eminently powerful. But there is even a more specific revelation that the psalmist turns to in verse 7. The second half of the Psalm focuses on the special revelation of God in Scripture.
To begin with, let’s notice the sufficiency of Scripture in verses 7-9:
The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of Yahweh is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of Yahweh are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of Yahweh is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of Yahweh are true; they are righteous altogether.
Note, for a moment, the structure of those three verses. There are six lines of thought. And each of those six lines has three elements. It has a title for the Word of God, a characteristic of the Word of God, and a benefit of the Word of God.
The titles are the law, testimony, statute, commandment, fear, and judgment. All of those are synonyms for Scripture. Its characteristics are perfect, sure, right, clear, clean, and true. Its six benefits are that it converts the soul, it makes wise the simple, it rejoices the heart, it enlightens the eyes, it endures forever, and it is altogether righteous. That is, it provides full spiritual resources.
Now in those three verses, consistent with the infinite intelligence of the mind of God, is an absolutely comprehensive statement on the Scripture, reduced to a very few words.
The first title for Scripture is “the law.” The word is torah. It basically means biblical or divine teaching; it points to the didactic nature of Scripture. It has in view divine instruction relative to creed, what we believe; relative to character, what we are; and relative to conduct, what we do. It is a complete explanation of God’s instruction for life.
Now this teaching that comes through the pages of Holy Scripture, it says in verse 7, is perfect. And it is set in contrast by the psalmist to the imperfect, flawed reasonings of men. To understand the word “perfect,” we need only to understand that it is a common word which means whole, complete, or sufficient. It is a comprehensive source of teaching from God which, therefore, embodies all that is necessary to spiritual life.
Now, the particular focus of verse 7’s initial statement is that its perfection is related to converting the soul, the first of the six benefits of Scripture. The Hebrew term here can mean reviving, restoring, or refreshing. But my favorite synonym is transforming. It has the idea that Scripture is so comprehensive that, if literally followed, it can transform a person’s soul. The word for “soul” here basically means the inner person, the real you. The Word is sufficient then for a conversion, for transformation, for restoration, for spiritual birth and growth to perfection for the whole person.
It is reminiscent of 2 Timothy 3:15-17, where Paul reminds Timothy that the Scripture is able to make you wise unto salvation. Not only that, it is able to make you perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. The Word of God then has the power to totally transform you. It is so comprehensive that it can mold a soul, a living person, into precisely what God desires that person to be. It is the agency of the new birth.
And yet, there are people who do not believe in the power of the Word of God. They feel the Word of God, because of certain inadequacies or impotence, must be assisted. Is the Word of God so weak and so without power as to be convincing only when it is propagated by a superstar personality, one who is famous for being famous and not for being godly? Are we to believe that they can do what the power of the Word cannot accomplish?
Or do we need to make slushy appeals to people based on their feelings, their bruised egos, and their need for self-esteem, thus altering the hard gospel into something very easy so they’ll take it? Does the gospel have to be polluted with promises of material success?
Is the Scripture so insufficient to save that we need a Christian Congress and control of the government to bring about regeneration of a nation? Is it really the Lord’s plan for men called to preach the Word of God to become political activists and lobbyists, hoping to overcome the deficiency of Scripture with human power? Do we feel that the gospel drives people away when coming straight from the Word, so it must be put in a sophisticated, palatable marketing plan for the prospective buyer? It seems to me that what we’re saying is we don’t trust the power of the perfect Word of God to convert the soul.
The Word is the sea where Christ, the pearl of great price, is found, where Christ the hidden treasure is buried. The Word of the living God is sufficient. Is it any wonder Paul said, “Preach the Word”? We’ll continue looking at Psalm 19 next time.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1986, titled “The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 2.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at www.masters.edu.
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