The Sufficiency of Scripture Part 2
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/10/2003
Category: Christian Living
"The Sufficiency of Scripture"
Let's open our Bibles to the nineteenth Psalm, Psalm 19. As you know, last week I began to share with you on the subject:
the sufficiency of Scripture. And I would like to conclude that brief interlude in the midst of our study of 1 Timothy by going
back to that very subject. Only this time, rather than dealing with it by looking at many passages, I want us to focus on one
passage, Psalm 19.
As is my habit from time to time, I enjoy reading the Puritans and I'll pull a book of the Puritans off my shelf and sit back in
my chair in my study and read. And I was reading this week Thomas Watson's great section on Scripture and he had one
statement that I thought was fitting for us. He said this, quote: "The devil and his agents have been blowing at Scripture light
but could never blow it out, a clear sign that it was lighted by heaven," end quote.
I shared with you last week that it's my conviction that a very unlikely group of people seem to be blowing today at
Scripture light trying to blow it out. And what is amazing about it is that the attack that I am most concerned about on the
Word of God seems to be coming not from those who deny it to be the Word of God, but from those who would affirm it to
be so. It seems to me that one of the must subtle and dangerous threats facing the Word of God is coming from within the
category of evangelical Christianity, by people who claim to believe the Bible to be the Word of God but betray a lack of
trust in its sufficiency and therein speak evil of the Word of God.
Reading the Word, teaching the Word, proclaiming the Word, obeying the Word, living it out does not seem to many today
to be sufficient for matters of life and conduct within the spiritual dimension. And these people are developing, I suppose,
what they think to be the necessary props to hold up the Bible. Perhaps they feel that it needs some kind of a transfusion to
give it the power it seems to lack on its own. And I believe, as I pointed out last time, that this is a gross sin against God and
against His Word and betrays a serious distrust in the sufficiency of the Scripture.
As I pointed out last time, the almost wholesale move in the evangelical church to psychology as a means of solving man's
problems, the search for methodology for church growth in the world's patterns of business and corporate structure, the
demand for political power as the key to revival as some are saying, the cry for miracles and signs and wonders and new
revelations and supernatural activities, the perversion of the simple gospel and the true Word of God into a sort of pop
gospel of prosperity, indulgence, sensuality and success propagated by celebrities who are supposed to have a great ability
to reach people that the simple Word could never reach all betray to me not only a horrifying worldliness in the church but a
woefully weak view of Scripture. And it has forced me to ask the question: is the Bible really sufficient for matters of spiritual
life? Is it sufficient for the people of God and all of the necessary resources 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 wisdom and technique
developed by well-meaning people who want to help God out a little bit?
Now to answer the question of scriptural sufficiency, I want you to look with me 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. And by the way, we'll compare with
Psalm 19 Psalm 119 because it has many parallels. Let me say at the very outset that David, who is the author of Psalm 19,
was a man who understood the extremities and the exogensies and the vicissitudes and struggles and trials and troubles and
tribulations of life to the degree that few people have endured them. 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 betrayed a monumental sacred
trust. He knew what it was to have his own children rebel against him. 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 of all,
in verses 1 through 6, we read of God's revelation in nature. God has revealed Himself in the heavens, verse 1 says, which
declare His glory, in the firmament, all of the stellar bodies which demonstrate his handwork. It goes on to talk about the
movement of the sun and its marvelous course in orbit through the universe. And all of that is symbolic of the natural
revelation, what theologians for years have called general revelation. God is revealed in His creation. Much like Romans 1,
"The things that we see reveal to us that there is a God and He is eminently powerful.
But there is even a more specific revelation in His Word and to that the psalmist turns in verse 7. And in the second half of
the Psalm, from 7 through 14, the focus is on special revelation, the revelation of God in holy Scripture...to that, we want to
look and we find in looking at verses 7 to 14 the sufficiency of Scripture. In fact, I want to point out three things, if I might,
this morning: the sufficiency of Scripture, the value of Scripture and finally, the commitment to Scripture.
Now let me say before we dig in to it, I want you to listen very carefully, of necessity I will cover a lot of material somewhat
rapidly, I want you to be tuned in and thoughtful because I really believe this is a foundational message for our commitment
to the Word of God.
Now to begin with, let's notice the sufficiency of Scripture, verses 7 through 9. Follow them as I read. "The law of the Lord
is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring
forever. The judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous all together."
Now I want you to 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 Scripture is called the law, testimony, statute, commandment, fear and judgment. All of
those are synonyms for the Scripture. Its characteristics are, it is perfect, sure, right, clear, clean and true. Its six benefits are,
it converts the soul, it makes wise the simple, it rejoices the heart, it enlightens the eyes, it endures forever and it is all
together righteous...that is, it provides full spiritual resources.
Now, in those three verses, consistent with the infinite intelligence of the infinite mind of God, you have an absolutely
surpassing and comprehensive statement on the Scripture reduced to a very few words. The magnitude of this section of
Scripture stretches us beyond our ability.
I want you to notice another element, another six-fold element. Six times in these three verses we read "of the Lord." The
law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the statutes of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, and
the judgments, or ordinances of the Lord...again we note that this then represents that which proceeds from God. Six times
the covenant name of God, Yahweh, is used to identify the source of the sufficient Word. Now here we have then in Psalm
19 through the psalmist, God's own testimony to the sufficiency of Scripture for all spiritual needs.
Now let's look at these six. Number one in verse 7, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." Now the first title
for Scripture is "the law." And that gives us an emphasis of the Word of God, the word is torah, it basically means biblical or
divine teaching. It points to the teaching or the didactic nature of Scripture. It is God instructing man. The term refers to
instruction. It identifies the Scripture as doctrine, dispense from God to man. It has in view divine instruction relative to
creed, that is what we believe, relative to character, that is what we are, and relative to conduct, that is what we do. It is a
complete explanation of God's instruction for man's life. It is teaching from God for life.
Now this teaching which comes through the pages of holy Scripture, it says in verse 7, is perfect...it is perfect. James even
called it the perfect law. And it is set in contrast by the psalmist to the imperfect flawed reasonings of men. Now to
understand the word "perfect" we need only to understand that it is a common word which means perfect or whole or
complete or sufficient. In fact, one Old Testament scholar says that the fullness of the meaning is to say that it means "all
sided so as to cover completely all aspects of a thing." It is a word of comprehensiveness. It is to say then that the Scripture
covers everything. It lacks nothing. It lacks nothing. It is a comprehensive source of teaching from God which therefore
embodies all that is necessary to the spiritual life of God's people.
Now the particular focus of verse 7's initial statement is that its perfection is related to converting the soul. And there we find
the first of the six benefits. It converts the soul. The Hebrew term for converting can mean reviving, restoring, refreshing,
converting. But my favorite synonym is transforming.
It has the idea that Scripture is so comprehensive that it literally followed can transformed a person's life. It gives full life in all
aspects to the soul. Now the word soul, a familiar word also, nephesh, that word means the person or the self or the heart.
It's sometimes translated all those ways. The sum of it is, the inner person, the whole person, the real you. The word then is
so comprehensive as to have the ability to totally transform the real you, the whole person. It is sufficient then for a
conversion, for transformation, for restoration, for spiritual birth and growth to perfection for the whole person. It is
reminiscent really of Paul's letter to Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:15 to 17, where Paul reminds Timothy that the Scripture is able to
make you wise unto salvation. Not only that, to make you perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
The Word of God then has the power of total transformation. It is so comprehensive that it can mold a soul, a living person,
into precisely what God desires that person to be. And that begins at conversion. In 1 Peter 1, we read the same testimony,
verse 23, being born again not of corruptible seed but by incorruptible by the Word of God which lives and abides forever.
In other words, the new birth or conversion, transformation is accomplished by the Word of God. And in the next verse he
says and this is the Word by which the gospel is preached unto you. So it is the Word that converts the soul. Paul said the
gospel of Christ in and of itself is the power of God unto salvation in Romans chapter 1 and verse 16.
The word then in its power is able to transform a life. It is the agency of the new birth. And yet today, it seems to me that
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 by packaging it perhaps in some worldly sexy rock singer who quote/unquote
from Eternity magazine "mixes her representation of the old, old story with a little vulgarity," end quote. Or is the Word of
God so weak and so without power in itself as to be convincing only when it is propagated by a superstar celebrity,
personality, one who is famous for being famous? And not famous for being godly and not well-known for great skill in the
Word but famous not because of great accomplishment for God or great character but because the media made them
famous for being famous. 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 the emotions of 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 and perhaps not even know what it
Or does the gospel because in itself it's weak have to be polluted with promises of material success? Why do TV evangelists
have to tell us that if only we will send them large sums of money and believe, our quote/unquote "seed" faith will bring us
back more money than we can imagine? Is this necessary to add money to the gospel to make it palatable because in and of
itself it cannot convert the soul? Is the Scripture so insufficient to save that we need Christian congress and we need control
of the government in order to bring about regeneration of a nation? Is it really the Lord's plan for men called to preach the
unsearchable riches of the Word of God to leave the Word of God not to serve tables but 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 salable palatable marketing plan that shows the
perspective buyer primarily what's in it for him?
Now what are we saying by all of this? 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. The Word is the field
where Christ the hidden treasure is buried. And the testimony of Psalm 119 certainly affirms this and we will be paralleling it
all the way through. Psalm 119 verse 41 says, "Let Thy mercies come also unto me, O Lord, even Thy salvation according
to Thy Word." Salvation, says the psalmist, is connected to the Word of God. In verse 50, "This is my comfort in my
affliction, for Thy Word hath given me life." Verse 81, "My soul faints for Thy salvation but I hope in Thy Word." Verse 146
similarly says, "I cried unto Thee, Save me, and I shall keep Thy testimonies." Verse 155, "Salvation is far from the wicked
for they seek not Thy statutes."
In other words, it's found in Thy Word and they're not looking there. Verse 158, "I beheld the transgressors and was
grieved because they kept not Thy Word." Verse 174, "I have longed for Thy salvation, O Lord, and Thy law is my delight."
The Word of the living God is sufficient. Is it any wonder Paul said, "Preach the Word"? The Word is sufficient to convert
Secondly, the psalmist says the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. And he takes another step in building
this tremendous magnificent presentation of scriptural sufficiency. He uses the word "testimony" which looks at God's Word
not as divine instruction, but as divine witness. It is God giving testimony to who He is and what He requires. So as you look
at the testimony of God to Himself in the Word of God, you find that His testimony is, says the psalmist, sure. It is sure.
Again, in contrast to the unsure, insecure, wavering, changing, shifting, unreliable, untrustworthy notions of men, the Word of
the living God is sure and the word means unwavering, immovable, unmistakable, worthy to be trusted and reliable. The
Word then provides a foundation on which life and eternal destiny can be built without hesitation.
I'm reminded of what Peter said in 2 Peter chapter 1, he was rehearsing his personal encounter with the majesty of Christ at
the transfiguration and he said, "I was there when He was transfigured, I saw His majestic glory in that marvelous scene
when the heroes of the Old Testament appeared and we were there on the mountain in the wonder of supernatural glory.
And I say this to you," in verse 19, "there is a more sure word than this." Experience, supernatural experience, signs and
wonders have their place, Peter says, there is a more sure word than this, and that word is the Scripture...the Scripture given
as holy men were moved by the Spirit of God. The Scripture is the more sure word in contrast to the unsure reasonings,
musings and opinions of men about God and morality, we can stand on the Scripture.
And what is its benefit? Notice again, its benefit is making wise the simple. The root of the Hebrew word for "simple" is the
idea of an open door. A simple person is a person who's undiscerning. They don't know when to shut the door. They don't
know what to close out. Everything comes in. They're not discerning. They're unlearned, inexperienced, ignorant and naive.
But they can be made wise. And what is the source of that? The Word of God. Scripture takes the naive, unexperienced,
undiscerning, uninformed and brings to that individual wisdom. I love the word "wise," it is a rich Hebrew word. It basically
means to be skilled in the art of godly living, to be skilled in the matters of practical living. It is to master the art of daily living,
accomplished by the knowledge and application of the Word of God.
And by the way, in Scripture, God is always the source. It is that wisdom which is, as James called it, from above. And the
Old Testament really would kind of define this as the ability to make right choices about right things at the right moments in
life. And here is a marvelous promise. The Word of God can take a naive, inexperienced, undiscerning, uninformed, ignorant
person and bring them to such wisdom that they can live out a godly life according to the will of God. This through the Word
of God. It is the providing source of all that is necessary for applying God's will to daily living.
Are we to believe the Word of God is not sufficient then? Are we to believe that we find in the human resources all around
us of sociology, psychology, philosophy and human wisdom what makes up for the lack in the Word of God? Is it really
necessary for preachers to go outside the bible to quote/unquote "make truth relevant" and practical, as I often hear? Listen,
the testimony of God Himself is that His Word is sufficient to make the simplest wise in the matter of the art of living life in
the will of God.
And listen again to the wonderful testimony of Psalm 119, as in that great, great psalm of tribute to the Word of God, the
psalmist says in verse 27, "Make me to understand the way of Thy precepts." In other words, he's calling on God to teach
him, for God knows the right way to walk, the right way to live. Verse 34, "Give me understanding and I'll keep Thy law,
yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart." It is the source of wisdom. Verse 66, "Teach me good judgment and
knowledge, for I believe Thy commandments." Verse 98 to 100, "Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser
than mine enemies, for they're ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers." We have more understanding
than all of those who propagate human knowledge. "For Thy testimonies are my meditation." Verse 100, "I understand more
than the ancients because I keep Thy precepts." In verse 104, "Through Thy precepts I get understanding." In verse 125, "I
am Thy servant, give me understanding that I may know Thy testimonies." Verse 169, "Give me understanding according to
You see, the psalmist knew that the source of wisdom was in the Word of God. The Scripture...is it sufficient? It is sufficient
to transform the soul. It is sufficient to bring about consummate wisdom in the matter of daily living to the glory of God.
Thirdly, would you notice verse 8 of Psalm 19? "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart." Where does a
believer go to find joy? Where does a believer go to find relief, happiness, deliverance from sorrow, anxiety and depression?
Where does a believer go? Where is the resource? The testimony of the psalmist is it's the Word. It is the Word that
rejoices the heart.
The term here for Scripture is the word "statute." It means not divine teaching and yet in a sense it embodies divine teaching.
It has the idea of not divine witness specifically though it embodies that. But more the idea of divine principles, divine
precepts, divine guidelines. The Scripture is full of guidelines for living from God. Now notice that they are, it says in verse 8,
they are right. That is to say they show the true path. They give you right guidance. They guide you in the proper way to true
understanding. What a wonderful thing that is. I mean, for those of us who have been Christians for a long time to try to think
back to how it was when you had to chart your own course with no knowledge of what to do, what a legacy we have in the
Word of God laying out a true path. We're not left without a chart and a compass. We're not left without principles for life.
We're not left to wander around in a fog of human opinion. We have a true word to follow. And the result of that is, we
walk a right path that rejoices the heart. I believe true joy comes from following the Word of God, from applying its
principles, from walking in its precepts and pathway.
Jeremiah in the midst of tremendous human stress, rejection of his message, rejection of his person, the disaster falling on his
entire nation, gave great testimony to the joy that comes through the Word in the fifteenth chapter of his prophecy, verse 16
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