“That Book in Your Hand”
For a variety of reasons, I’ve left my Bibliology series on hold for a while, but I’ll return and finish it (I finished preaching it long ago). My eighth sermon in the series was on the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture.
This doctrine is the antidote to the man-exalting traditionalism of many mainline churches (Catholic and Protestant), the dangerous mysticism of modern “pop” Christianity, the pseudo-authority of God-ignoring psychology, the famous-preacher-worship of much of evangelicalism, and the cancerous imperial minister syndrome that infects many independent churches (Baptists and others).
Sermons on the nature of the Bible (Bibliology):
- The inspiration of the Scriptures, their divine nature, from II Timothy 3:16.
- The moving of the Spirit in giving us the Scriptures, from II Peter 1:19-21.
- The inerrancy of God’s Word (its complete reliability).
- The preservation of God’s Word.
- The illumination of the Scriptures, the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us to understand spiritual truths.
- The perspicuity of Scripture — the Scriptures can be understood and rightly interpreted.
- The canon of Scripture — this wasn’t a sermon, but it belongs in this study on Bibliology
- The unity of Scripture — it is one Book by one Author with one unifying message.
For this study, we’ll start with a very well-known passage, hit a few other points, and then close with yet another well-known passage.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
God’s Word is Perfect
General Revelation in Psalm 19
Psalm 19 begins (the first six verses) with a description of how God reveals Himself in nature (what theologians like to call ‘general revelation’). ‘The heavens declare the glory of God’ in verse one is perhaps the most frequently cited verse for general revelation in the Scriptures.
Here, the name used for God is El, the shortened version of Elohim. The emphasis is on God as the Mighty One, the One who is powerful and strong — and this is seen in His work of creation. As Romans 1 says, ‘For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.’ God’s power and divine nature can be seen in His creative work.
Scripture in Psalm 19
Verse seven shifts from talking about creation and ‘general revelation’ to God’s revealed Word, the Scriptures. That we are dealing with Scriptures is clear from the first term used — the ‘law’ of the Lord. It is also clear from the shift from El (in verse one) to Jehovah (verses seven and following).
Translated as ‘the LORD’ in our text, the name Jehovah (some say it ‘Yahweh’) is the name God used in establishing His covenant with His people. He often uses this name to identify Himself as the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. He wants a relationship, to be in fellowship, with mankind (see the Unity of Scripture if you missed it), and Jehovah is a name that emphasises this aspect of His nature. Thus, John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jehovah (Isaiah 40:3), as He came to re-establish fellowship, and almost every use of the word ‘Redeemer’ in Scripture is closely linked to this name, Jehovah.
God’s fellowship covenant with Israel was the written Word, the Law. The transition to the covenant name Jehovah, and the use of ‘Law’ in verse seven, makes it clear we are looking at a description of Scripture. The following key words (testimony, statutes, commandments, and judgments) all refer to Scripture, so we should see ‘fear’ in verse nine as a form of metonymy, where the effect of Scripture is used as a figure of speech to describe Scripture itself.
Verse seven tells us the law, the written covenant of the relational / fellowshipping God, is perfect. From Keil and Delitzsch:
One can discern how now the heart of the poet begins to beat with redoubled joy as he comes to speak of God’s word, the revelation of His will.
The Hebrew word for ‘perfect’ is tamiym, which is often translated ‘without blemish,’ ‘upright,’ and ‘sincere,’ in addition to the usage here. It implies completion, and is used to mean exactly that in Leviticus 25:30 (‘a full year’) and a few other places in Scripture.
Our English word ‘perfect’ also implies completion, for something that is unfinished or lacking is not perfect. But the sense of ‘completion’ is stronger in the Hebrew word than in the English word ‘perfect.’ If we say a day is perfect, we don’t mean that it is finished, we mean that we like what happened that day, or that the weather is good. 🙂 If Hebrew says a day is tamiym, it means it is finished.
When we’re told God’s law is tamiym, we’re not only being told of its blameless quality, we’re also being told it is complete. The written covenant of Jehovah-Who-Covenants is complete and perfect. He didn’t leave anything out that needed to be there.
Just How Complete Is It?
Is ‘complete’ really complete? David elaborates.
- clean and enduring
- true and righteous altogether
This list emphasises the high moral quality of the Scriptures, rather than the completeness of God’s Word, but completion is implicit. No one would say these things of a father who neglects his duty to provide for his family, nor of a government that fails to protect its people from evildoers.
Nor would anyone say that a contract which left out important provisions, and gave one party the opportunity to behave inequitably, was ‘true and righteous altogether.’ God’s Word is ‘sure,’ reliable, dependable. That can only be true if it covers all the points that it needs to cover to govern our relationship with Him. It is a contract that He has made with us — God’s contracts don’t leave important things out.
- converting the soul
- making wise the simple
- rejoicing the heart
- enlightening the eyes
We can add ‘warning’ and leading to ‘great reward’ from verse eleven. Scripture is sufficient for conversion, wisdom, joy, enlightenment, warning, and reward. If Scripture can be trusted that ‘it does what it says on the package,’ we should take notice, because the package says it does quite a lot.
The Scriptures are perfect and complete. In this relationship that God has established with us, He’s not holding anything back. He’s given us everything we need to know the responsibilities and privileges of walking in fellowship and covenant with Him. There are no hidden clauses or loopholes — it’s all there in the Scriptures for us. We don’t have to hope He’ll fill us in on the rest of it later.
More to come….