The Sufficiency of Scripture


Fairly recently two of my work colleagues (AJ & DM) really encouraged me in their firm conviction of sola scriptura. The occasion that prompted this conviction of sola scriptura was question I’d asked, enquiring whether Scripture addresses everything pertaining to human life. I was somewhat taken aback by the promptness and firmness of conviction; how couldn't it be they asked, when Scripture is given in order to equip the man of God for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17)?

Before considering the massive implications for such a belief, let us briefly unpack what sola scriptura means. In sum, sola scriptura asserts that Scripture alone is the primary and absolute source of authority, the final court of appeal for all of life. In other words, Scripture is the alpha and omega regarding everything in life and there is no aspect of human existence that is not authoritatively addressed by the Bible.

One passage which reiterates this view is 1 Corinthians 10:31:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

If Scripture expects us to do everything to God's glory and if Jesus declares that human existence fundamentally depends on all God's words (Matthew 4:4), then there is no human activity that is either validated or repudiated in Scripture. In simple words, there in no activity where someone can say “We can never know whether _______ pleases or displeases God.” John Frame captures this view succinctly when he writes that 'the whole Word applies to the whole world.' (Doctrine of the Christian Life, 152).

Yet as one begins to consider the full implications of this claim you soon realise that this view is somewhat more complex. How for example does the Bible address the issue of what food I should eat? What is the bible's message on what clothes I should wear? Thinking of a contemporary example, is right for a Christian to celebrate Christmas?

In response, I want to suggest that although the Bible appears 'silent' on a wide variety of issues, it nevertheless endorses or renounces these various issues by implication. In other words although the Bible never explicitly mentions the issue of what constitutes a healthy diet or whether it is right for a man to have long hair it nevertheless provides biblical principles which equip us to know the rightness or wrongness of these (or any other) issues.

Two very brief examples to consider. Recently the issue of the state's role in providing public services has been hotly debated. This is especially the case in America, where pundits have been pondering the extent to which it is fitting for the state to provide health care (as the Obama administration is proposing to do). People on either side of the debate have accused their opponents of being uncharitable and sometimes even un-Christian. Very rarely however has anyone (even among “bible-believing” Christians) stopped to consider what the Bible expects governments to do and if such expectation extends to the realm of health care. It is my view that a careful study of how governments are portrayed in Scripture (e.g. in Romans 13 and in 1 Peter 2) limits their role principally to the execution of justice and to provide security.

My second example relates to a case last year where before embarking on a courtship a certain young man spoke to the father of the girl to ask for his permission to court the young lady. On hearing about this, most of the young man's peers sneered and thought it somewhat old fashioned whilst a few of his friends were surprised (and a tad impressed?) that this 21st century youth was being courageous in embracing this honourable tradition. But is it really a matter of tradition? Here we turn to the Old Testament book of Numbers which says

“When a young woman still living in her father's house makes a vow to the LORD or obligates herself by a pledge and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she obligated herself will stand. But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she obligated herself will stand; the LORD will release her because her father has forbidden her.” Numbers 30:3-5

In other words a father can revoke a daughter's word. It is his God-given privilege as head of the household to endorse or overturn anything that his daughter has committed herself to. And note the context of what the father can revoke in the passage above, it is a vow to the LORD. If such a solemn vow can be revoked by the father, how much more that which is lesser e.g. courting a certain Mr charming? It is right therefore that fathers expect to be asked about their daughters and it is right that young men seek permission before engaging in courtship.

Thus for the issue of courtship or diet or big festivities such as Christmas and the like, the Scriptures are not silent but rather it is the case that after a careful examination of God's word and an earnest call to God the Holy Spirit in prayer we will discover whether all our activities right down to the films we watch, the food we eat, and the festivities we celebrate bring glory to God or not.

This is a guest post from Kip' Chelashaw

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  1. What an encouraging article. Thankyou! :)

  2. Thank-you for this. This was so refreshing to read, and an excellent reminder that Scripture does indeed address all issues of life, but sometimes we just have to 'dig a little deeper' to find the answers for some things. For example, it might not say in the Bible that a certain book is wrong to read or a particular movie is wrong to watch, but we can compare it against Phil 4:8, 'whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report' and if they don't match up with this, then we know that God woud not want us to have anything to do with it.

    Thanks again!

  3. Kip'

    That was a great article! We as Christians SHOULD glorify God. Even down to our eating and drinking! We shouldn't however lose fellowship with other Christians for over small issues. For example Alcohol. We shouldn't impose our views on others to do things that we think is 'OK!' For we might cause others to sin. Which in itself is a sin.

    Anyway back to the Article. You said " is it right for a man to have long hair?" I would point to Corinthians 11:14 The Word of God says:
    "Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace to him, (15) but if a women has long hair it is her glory?''
    Kip' this must mean that it's shameful for a man to have have long hair. But for a woman it is her glory. Or in Proverbs it says 'Crown in glory'. We must therefor conclude that man shouldn't have long hair. It goes against nature!
    Today in our Culture it is now OK for men to have long hair. This is wrong. Women today are choosing to be more Masculine and Men to be Effeminate! This is wrong. Women are under the Husband or Father. That is a Biblical principle. Is not therefore man having long hair more effeminate. And putting on something that is reserved for women only!! Man should be Masculine!! So Guys,(who are reading this,including me) BE MEN! And to the Girls(who are also reading this) BE WOMEN! its simple really. But we choose to rebel against Nature and Ultimately God! This is wrong and must therefore stop.

    Kip' is this not proof that Men should NOT have long hair? Please correct me if I am wrong or Explain what you meant.

    Thanks again.


  4. Good post Kip.

    Jonah, some would argue that it was a purely cultural thing, or too subjective. You hit the nail on the head with what you were suggesting about how we should endeavour to preserve a distinction between the sexes.

  5. Jonah,

    Thank you for your kind words (and thanks too to Lizzy, Rebekah and James for your encouraging words.

    I want to make a few comments about your point that we should not loose fellowship with other Christians over small matters before answering the point about long hair. I completely agree with you that we should not loose fellowship with other believers over small matters. This is basically following biblical teaching e.g. Romans 14. Nevertheless I want to encourage you and other readers of this blog, to regularly and diligently spend time thinking of how Scripture informs every area of life and beyond that to pray that once we are clear on what God expects to then pray to Him to help us be obedient and that His Spirit would direct us to know when it is best and wisest to speak up about an issue.

    Thus on the issue of alcohol, I am convinced that Scripture is happy for us to drink alcohol. Nevertheless, when I go home to Kenya for holidays where drinking alcohol is considered a sin, I am very very careful not to touch any drink. If however I was going to back home to live there and opportunities arose with a good friend or family to chat seriously about this issue then I would consider exploring it and asking them to reconsider their views in light of the bible.

    As to your comments about long hair (a no no for men and a yes yes for girls/ladies), I am in general agreement although even here we need to be careful about dogamatic statements that fail to take note of the "contrary" examples in Scripture e.g. Samson.

    I think there are cases where God has encouraged men to have long hair in demonstration of their commitment to Him (not off course why many men today have long hair) but that the general principle is that men should have short and well-kept hair whilst women should have long and unbraided(?) hair.

    One final comment, whenever we are grappling with issues such as these please please please, let us never loose perspective of the important things. The bible indicates that some things are far more important than others (see e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:1-3) so let us always have our hearts and minds dominated by the fundamental of the Faith, whilst also making every effort to take every deed, thought and word captive and obedient to our elder brother and great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

    Kip' Chelashaw


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