The Unity and Sufficiency of Scripture
By Gerhard Pfandl
Though the Bible is made up of 66 separate books, written by about 40 authors over a period of 1,600 years, there is such a unity of subject, spirit, and purpose throughout the whole that if written without divine guidance, the Bible would be one of the greatest miracles ever known. But because all the authors were inspired and guided in their work by the Holy Spirit, its unity is that of a divine plan. Many important themes illustrate this unity.
Creation. The Bible not only opens and closes with a creation account (Genesis 1 and 2; Revelation 21 and 22), throughout the Old and the New Testament God is repeatedly referred to as the Creator (Ex. 20:11; Deut. 4:32; Job 38:4; Ps. 33:6, 9; Eccl. 12:1; Isa. 40:28; Mal. 2:10; Mark 13:19; John 1:1–3; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16). Psalm 33 tells us how He did it: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. . . . For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6, 9, NKJV).1 And Genesis 1:26 assures us that men and women were created in the image of God and are not the product of evolution.
Messianic Prophecies. Prophecies of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament and their fulfillment in the New provide a strong connection between the two portions of Scripture. The first such prophecy is found in Genesis 3:15, in which the promised seed of the woman is said to crush the power of the serpent. The last messianic prophecy appears in Malachi 3:1—“‘the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.’” The first was fulfilled when Christ on the cross said “‘It is finished’” (John 19:30). His victory over Satan assured the salvation of humanity. And the last one was fulfilled when Jesus, God in human form, entered the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:25–32; Matt. 21:12). Between Genesis and Malachi are prophecies that predict how and where the Messiah will be born (Isa. 7:14; Micah 5:2), when He will be born (Dan. 9:24–27), what His work will be (Isa. 61:1), how He will die (Psalm 22), and that He will be resurrected (Ps. 16:10, 11).
Salvation. The story of salvation is the single most important unifying theme in the Bible. From the promise in Genesis 3:15 to the description of its final fulfillment in Revelation 21, salvation shines forth throughout its pages. Christ as the Lamb of God is the central figure of Scripture (John 1:29). In the Old Testament, He is foreshadowed in the sanctuary service, prefigured in the lives of individuals such as Moses, Joshua, David, and Daniel; and prophesied by men of God like Isaiah and Zechariah. In the Gospels, He is revealed as the Person who procured our salvation; in Acts, He is proclaimed as the risen Savior; and in the Book of Revelation, He is the coming Lord.
Israel. From the time that God promised Abraham that he would be the originator of a new nation (Gen. 12:2) until the appearance of the Messiah, God’s actions with the people of Israel link the books of the Bible together. He chose them to be a light to the world (Isa. 49:6), He shepherded them through their tumultuous history of rebellion and repentance (Deut. 31:27; 2 Kings 18:1–5), and when the nation finally rejected the Messiah (Acts 7:51–58), He used those who had accepted Christ to forge a new Israel, a worldwide, spiritual Israel to complete the mission of heaven (Matt. 21:43; Gal. 6:16).
The remarkable unity of the Bible “is among the most convincing proofs of its divine origin. Only divine guidance, divine superintendence, could have planned and fitted together the work of so many men of different lands, times, speech, and talents, into a perfect, harmonious whole.”2
The Sufficiency of Scripture
There is much talk today about the fast-changing world in which we live. In the field of technology, new inventions are often out of date by the time they hit the market. Social changes since the 1960s have completely reshaped whole sections of society, and Christians at times wonder whether the Bible is still relevant. Can a book, even an inspired book, written 2,000 or more years ago in another culture be sufficient for our spiritual needs today? Do we perhaps need psychology and psychiatry for our Christian growth, and sociological techniques and methods to do evangelism in our modern world? “Must we attract people to our churches by showmanship and entertainment?”3
The answer to all these questions is, of course, “No.” “All Scripture,” says the apostle Paul, “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17, italics supplied). The Bible is sufficient in all matters concerning salvation, whether the subject is evangelism, spiritual guidance, or overcoming temptations. Though we must take note of new developments in science and technology and use them, if possible, to hasten the proclamation of the gospel in all the world, we must never succumb to the temptation to supplement or replace the Bible with man-made theories that undermine or contradict the spirit of the Word itself.
Donald G. Barnhouse, in a memorial booklet marking the 25th anniversary of his pastorate in the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, wrote: “It is my prayer that no man shall ever stand in this pulpit as long as time shall last who does not desire to have all that he does based on this Book. For this Book does not contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God. And though we may preach the Word with all the stammering limitations of our human nature, the grace of God does the miracle of the ministry, and through human lips speaks the divine Word, and the hearts of the people are refreshed.”4
What Barnhouse asked from God for his church applies to us as a church as well. Whatever we do must ultimately be based on Scripture. Not only that, but it must be based on a correct interpretation of Scripture. Paul counselled young Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Rightly dividing the word of truth is a gift of God for which we must pray every time we open His Word. At times, personal views, traditional interpretations, or political and social norms influence our understanding of Scripture. This should not be, but it happens, not just in other churches but also in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Particularly, social pressures seek to determine what we understand the Scriptures to teach. There was a time, for example, not so long ago when homosexuality was a crime; today changes in society on this issue seek to pressure theologians to reinterpret the biblical witness on homosexuality to make it conform to the society’s position.
During the time of the end for Judah, God was looking for a man who would “stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land” (Eze. 22:30). Today, we live in the time of the end of the world’s history, and God is looking for men and women who will “stand in the gap” before Him. He is looking for men and women who love the Lord and His church, who rightly divide the Word of God, and who are willing to stand up and be counted.
Gerhard Pfandl is an associate editor for Perspective Digest, a publication of the Adventist Theological Society. This article has been reprinted with permission.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references in this column are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.
2. Carlyle B. Haynes, The Book of All Nations (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Publishing, 1950), 77.
3. James M. Boice, Standing on the Rock (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1994), 133.
4. Quoted in ibid., 131.