Martin Luther hammered his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s disputes were primarily two-fold: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), the belief that the Bible alone is our authority for truth, and Sola Fide (Faith Alone), the belief that personal regeneration is by faith alone in Christ alone as opposed to good works.
Unbeknownst to Luther at the time, he and many other faithful believers began the Protestant Reformation. Years afterward, as the Word of God spread like wildfire, Luther was asked, “What did you do to cause the Protestant Reformation?”
Luther humbly replied, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise, I did nothing. And while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
Now, some 500 years later, we must ask, “Is this still true? Is the Bible really enough? Or do we need something more?”
Throughout church history, theologians have highlighted four essential characteristics of Scripture. Author and theologian Wayne Grudem uses the acronym, SCAN, to describe these:
Sufficiency of Scripture: The Scriptures contain everything we need for the knowledge of salvation and godly living. Thus, God’s Word is enough.
Clarity of Scripture: The Scriptures contain a clear, saving message of Jesus Christ that can be easily understood by everyone who has eyes to see. Thus, God’s Word is understandable.
Authority of Scripture: The Scriptures are authoritative, and we stand under the Word of God as our final authority. Thus, God’s Word is final.
Necessity of Scripture: The Scriptures are perfect and complete, giving us all we need to know about Christ, salvation, and godliness. Thus, God’s Word is needed and necessary.
Although every generation has fought for the characteristics of Scripture, our generation is certainly contending for the Sufficiency of Scripture, namely, “Is the Bible really enough? Or do we need something more?”
After all, pastors faithfully preach the Word every week, and if we’re honest, months (and even years!) can pass without seeing the results we so desperately seek.
We are constantly bombarded with letters, magazines and emails describing the latest church-growth strategy, but almost always noticeably absent from these resources is the primacy of preaching God’s Word. Strangely enough, church leaders get caught up in the power of entertainment, the power of good organizational principles, the power of rhetoric and humor, and so much more.
But does any power in the universe match God’s power to breathe out words or to dismiss death simply with words? “Let there be light!” and “Lazarus, come forth!”? No; there’s nothing like it. And yet, this same power is available to the preacher through God’s Word. Relying on anything else indicates a dramatic failure to recognize God’s Word is sufficient. God’s Word is enough.
Martin Luther certainly understood the Sufficiency of Scripture, as noted in his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”:
“Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
the body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever!”