Piper’s “THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION” Key Arguments pt. 2

The series on Piper’s “The Future of Justification” is continued in this post by taking a brief look at Piper’s key arguments against Wright and the New Perspective. This will be done in two parts due to length, today’s post will conclude the key arguments section (part 1 can be found here).


 Piper’s Key Arguments

 

One of John Piper’s major concerns is what Wright teaches about the role of the imputation of God’s righteousness in Christ and the imputation of the obedience of Jesus to believers according to Romans 5:19. Wright argues that it makes “no sense” to say the judge imputes his righteousness to the defendant. He believes that righteousness is not something that “can be passed across the courtroom.”[1] Wright thinks that when God acts to vindicate His people, then they will metaphorically have the status of righteousness, “But the righteousness they have will not be God’s own righteousness. That makes no sense at all.”[2] The righteousness of the Judge and the defendant has two different meanings and looks nonsensical to Wright because of the framework and method Wright used to evaluate it is incorrect according to Piper. From Piper’s perspective, Wright treats the righteousness of God merely in terms of the actions of the Judge, and not in terms of His deeper attribute of righteousness and omnipotence.[3] Piper believes Wright’s paradigm to explain Paul turns out to limit and distort rather than clarify.[4] Piper brings the argument back to the glory of God. As Piper examines the teachings of Paul and using this law-court imagery, Piper concludes the reason God acts the way He does is not because God is unrighteous, but because God will act in a way that most fully upholds and displays the supreme worth of His glory.[5] Interpreting Paul and the Old Testament, Piper defines God’s righteousness as most fundamentally His unwavering allegiance to uphold the value of His glory. God also demands His creatures forsake their unrighteousness and glorify Him.[6] In contrast to Wright’s view of the defendant and judge, Piper makes the case that what makes God and humans “righteous” is their unwavering allegiance to treasure and uphold the glory of God. Thus, it is conceivable for the Judge’s righteousness to be shared with the defendant. Piper sees the Judge, who is also Creator and Redeemer, will find a way to make His righteousness count for the defendant since it is the exact righteousness they need.[7]

Piper concludes his volume by citing that the reason he wrote this book is to avert the “double tragedy” that is caused by Wright and the New Perspective. The first tragedy is where the obedience of Christ, imputed to the believer through faith alone, is denied or obscured.[8] Piper believes that inevitably a believer’s own works – the fruit of the Spirit – will take on a function that contradicts the very reason the good works exists. Piper argues Wright’s perspective elevates the importance of the works of love, that in turn begins to nullify the glory of Christ and His work that were designed to be displayed.[9]

The other tragedy that Piper hopes to avoid is the undermining of what makes the works of love possible, which is that Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice secured completely the glorious reality that the omnipotent Father is for His beloved children. Piper believes that if Christians deny or minimize the importance of the obedience of Christ, imputed to Christians through faith alone, their works will begin to assume the role that should have been Christ’s.[10] Piper argues at length about the supremacy of God’s glory and that God does all He can to uphold His glory and will not do or allow anything to take from his glory.


[1] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 98-99.

[2] Ibid, 99.

[3] Piper, The Future of Justification, 71.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 70.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 71.

[8] Ibid, 187.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

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Piper’s “THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION” Key Arguments pt. 1

The series on Piper’s “The Future of Justification” is continued in this post by taking a brief look at Piper’s key arguments against Wright and the New Perspective. This will be done in two parts due to length, so part two will come in the following post that will provide more arguments and Piper’s main goal with this book.


 Piper’s Key Arguments

Piper argues that what God requires regarding a person’s salvation Christ accomplished by becoming the pardon and perfection for that believer. The final suffering and death of Jesus propitiated God’s wrath against the believer. Also, Jesus’ whole life of perfect righteousness, culminating in His death, is then imputed to those who believe. God provided in Christ what God demanded from a person in the law.

N. T. Wright says, “Justification is not how someone becomes a Christian. It is the declaration that they have become a Christian.”[1] Justification “was not so much about ‘getting in’, or indeed about ‘staying in’, as about ‘how you could tell who was in’. In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church.”[2] Wright sees justification in the first century as not how someone might establish a relationship with God, but “about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present…of who was a member of his people.”[3] Piper believes Wright’s disconnected justification from the event by which a Christian is saved or enters into God’s favor. A main issue that Piper takes with Wright’s thinking is at what point is God totally for the believer; Piper sees that before conversion and faith in Christ, God’s wrath was against the believer, in contrast after conversion and union with Christ, God’s wrath is no longer against the believer. Piper counters Wright’s argument by claiming justification is the moment or the event when a believer put their faith in Jesus Christ and at that moment God is no longer against them but is for them, and counts them as acceptable, forgiven, righteous, and obedient because of their union with Christ.[4] At that moment, even though the person is ungodly, they are declared and constituted just. Where Wright, according to Piper, sees the call as the only decisive saving moment, Piper puts the call with the work of God justifying the believer.

Piper sees Wright’s view on the gospel as challenging and involves some provocative denials about how the gospel relates to becoming saved. Piper claims Wright does not deny that God uses the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection and lordship over the world to save people. Wright wants to stress that there is a difference between one of the effects of the gospel—namely, personal salvation—and the proclamation of the gospel itself.[5] Piper is concerned that expressing the gospel in this manner will confuse people because it does not include the good news about salvation. In particular, if the announcement does not include news about how and why a person will not be “destroyed” by the risen Christ because of their sin, then it is not good news but actually terrible news.[6] Piper argues that unless the meaning of Jesus’ death and what He achieved is explained, it is not good news. It is good news because now reconciliation with God can be enjoyed by faith, and a person moves from God’s wrath to God’s righteous child. Piper believes in Wright’s passion to liberate the gospel from individualism to making it more historical and global, Wright leaves it vague for the individual sinner.[7]

Piper takes issue with another one of Wright’s gospel nuances. N. T. Wright argues that when Paul talks about how a person can come into a living and saving relationship with the saving God, it is not justification that “springs to his lips or pen.” Wright believes that when the gospel message about Jesus, the cross, and his resurrection is announced to a person, that through this, God works by His Spirit upon that person’s heart to believe.[8] Piper counters this thinking by pointing to Paul’s gospel sermon to the people in Antioch (Acts 13:38-39). As Paul brings his sermon to a close about how people can come to an eternal relationship with God, Piper believes Paul brings this message to a climax with justification.[9] Piper strongly disagrees with N. T. Wright’s theory that justification does not come to Paul’s lips or pen about how to have a saving relationship with God. He says, “It’s not only misleading, it’s not true to the text and it’s going to hurt the church.”[10]

to be continued…


[1] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 125.

[2] Ibid, 119.

[3] Ibid, 125.

[4] Piper, The Future of Justification, 181-182.

[5] Ibid, 45-46, for multiple quotations on Wright’s view of the gospel.

[6] Ibid, 46, 81-91.

[7] Ibid, 86.

[8] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 116.

[9] Piper, The Future of Justification, 20.

[10] Ibid.

Piper’s Thesis of “THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION”

The Thesis of “The Future of Justification”

In the opening lines of the introduction, Piper lays out the intent and thesis of the book: “the subject matter of this book—justification by faith apart from works of the law—is serious. There is as much riding on this truth as could ride on any truth in the Bible. ‘If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose’ (Gal 2:21).”[1] Piper goes on to remind the reader that if Christ died for no purpose, then believers are still in sin, and those who have died in Christ have perished.[2] N. T. Wright believes the “discussions of justification in much of the history of the church,” since Augustine, got off on the wrong foot of misunderstanding Paul and “have stayed there ever since.”[3] Piper believes that Wright’s portrayal of the gospel, in particular the doctrine of justification, is so disfigured that it is difficult to recognize as biblically faithful. In Piper’s eyes Wright may think he has a clear grasp of the gospel and justification, but Piper is concerned that this belief system will not make the lordship of Christ good news for sinners or show how those overwhelmed with sin may stand righteous before God.[4] Piper’s hope with this book is to correct this misunderstanding and cause believers to seriously study and faithfully preach the gospel, including the good news of justification by faith apart from works of the law (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16).[5] The dominant argument of this book is that John Piper believes the gospel is being lost not in outright dismissal of it, but in a gradual relaxing of it due to the obscuring of the biblical understanding of justification. Piper believes this distorting of justification is so dangerous that Wright may be reinforcing Roman Catholic soteriology.[6]

[1] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 14.

[2] Ibid, 14-15.

[3] N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Saul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 115.

[4] Piper, The Future of Justification, 15.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 183.

CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION

The next few post will look at a popular book on soteriology and having a critical examination of it, in the spirit of grace and love. This is not about condemnation of an author or a view, but about examining what the author is saying or arguing for and what can be learned from this. The critical interaction with the material will focus on four main goals:

    1. Briefly summarize the author’s thesis.
    2. Explain key arguments used to support the thesis.
    3. Evaluate the thesis and the means of presentation.
    4. Discuss personal and ministerial application of this material.

Over the next few posts, we will delve deeper into each of these different areas. The book that I will be reviewing “The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright” by John Piper. It can be found here  for free (Please note there are many resources available from Piper and N.T. Wright for free that are very valuable for personal growth; I would highly recommend checking out both sites to review their material). This book is in response to N.T. Wright’s view on the “New Perspective” on Paul’s theology and is Piper’s goal to correct the renowned Wright on his wrong views on justification. First, we will introduce this further and provide a thesis and foreshadowing of where we will be going during this series.


CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION
N. T. Wright, a world-renowned scholar and bishop in the Church of England who has spent years studying Paul’s writings, has developed a “New Perspective” on Paul’s theology in collaboration with other leaders of the same viewpoint. Wright believes the church has misunderstood Paul’s theology, specifically justification, and has set out to correct these errors by offering a fresh perspective on the doctrine of justification. John Piper, renowned pastor and scholar, wrote “The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright” as a response to and critique of N. T. Wright’s view of justification; Piper deems Wright’s take on justification as an alarming, confusing, distorted, and possible heretical understanding of the doctrine. Piper, concerned that Wright’s view distorts the view of God’s glory and grace, challenges Wright’s interpretation of justification and sets out to provide a faithful and clear exposition of this important salvific subject matter of justification. In The Future of Justification, Piper documents the errors in N. T. Wright’s view on justification and proposes a traditional solution that is true to the intent of Paul and what has been defined by the Reformers.

What is Prayer?

As part of the Delighting in Trinitarian Prayer series, this post focuses on the concept and act of prayer. One of the most powerful tools a Christian has is prayer, yet so often, it is either not used or taken for granted. We, including myself, let many distractions get in the way of our prayer time. We either come before God and mark off a box because we know we are “supposed” to pray or we don’t pray because we would rather sleep or use our time doing 100 different other things. 

One of the ways we as believers can worship God and have fellowship with Him is through prayer. It is a way to get direction, a way to listen, a way to confess, and a way to talk your problems and struggles over with the Creator. A weapon that can be used against evil and our flesh, often goes without being used because we fall into the temptation of not praying. Sometimes that is seen in the form of trying to control a situation in our own power, or we say we don’t know what to say or how to pray. Sometimes the hurt is so much, we don’t feel we can come to God. Yet, at any given point in the day, God is there for all of us. he wants us to pray and talk with Him. He wants to have fellowship with us and build a deeper relationship. God already knows your prayers, yet He wants all of us to come to Him and seek Him. It is about remembering who is first, who is in control, and why we need Him. We will continually fail until we reach out to God and seek Him. 

The beauty of prayer is that we can never go to the president or CEO of a company. Even our loved ones won’t always be available to us. But God always is and He is ready for us. he wants us to come and talk with Him. He doesn’t need it or need us to come, but we do. We need prayer. In a recent book by Tim Keller called “Prayer”, he describes a situation in which a woman compares prayer to medicine that is absolutely wonderful. When we are sick, hurting or injured, we will take some medicine to heal. The woman who is suffering from a major ailment that requires taking medicine every day to attack the illness says she would never miss a day of the medicine. Why would she subject herself to pain by not taking the medicine. But, she also prayed because while the medicine may alleviate the pain or go after the virus, only prayer can heal. Prayer cures and helps the spiritual that leads to other areas of our lives. She says that she would never miss prayer because she needed it. Prayer was the true medicine. Why would we not pray and take the “medicine” that our bodies and souls truly need.

What is Prayer

“Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.”[1] Prayer is an act of worshiping God. It is the calling out to God for assistance, thanking the Father for His provisions, adoring the Triune God, a confession of sins, and conversing with the Almighty God. It is one of the most important ways of building intimacy and fellowship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Heidelberg catechism “affirms that prayer is quite simply the first act of thanksgiving toward God. The word ‘thanksgiving’ is more appropriate than gratitude because it means acting according to what we know has been given.”[2] However, prayer and adoration are different. Adoration praises God because of his character, whereas thanksgiving is the expression of gratitude for what God does. “Thanksgiving arises from the reception of God’s gifts; adoration centers on the Giver.”[3]

Prayer is the Christian’s way to take their cares and concerns to God for help. Joseph Scriven is quoted as saying, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer!” “Prayer is God’s appointed way to fullness of joy because it is the vent of the inward burnings of our heart for Christ.”[4] It also “provides the power to do what we love to do but can’t do without God’s help…. Prayer is the fountain of joy because it is the source of power to love.”[5] “In the biblical view of prayer is the pouring out of the soul to a God who hears and acts. Prayer is crying out to God in our anguish and being set free when he answers (Ps 118:5; cf Ps 116:1-8).”[6]

[1] John Bunyan, A Discourse Touching Prayer, internet, accessed 2 December 2014, http://acacia.pair.com/Acacia.John.Bunyan/Sermons.Allegories/Discourse.Touching.Prayer/2.html.

[2] Karl Barth, Prayer, (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 14.

[3] Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000), 495.

[4] John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2012), 176.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Donald Bloesch, God the Almighty, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 231.

Conclusion of “Surprised by the Voice of God

This post wraps up the discussion on Jack Deere’s “Surprised by the Voice of God.” To look at what is true, normal and real, this post summarizes what has been discussed and asks, “how can we know we are listening to the Holy Spirit?”

Conclusion

The issue in all of this is not that we judge each other about the experience. While the experiences may be real, it doesn’t mean that they are true. The description of it may be true, it might be truly what someone thinks happened, but it doesn’t mean that the content of the experience is actually true. An experience can be either: real and true, real and untrue, unreal and true, or unreal and untrue. Just like parables were not real, they were still true and true does not always mean that it is real. The problem at the root of the issue is simply how can we know if it is true? The only way to know is to measure it against a standard of truth. The standard of truth is that it comes from God and it has God as its source. While it is not proper to judge others experiences, we should examine the truthfulness of it. The question is how would we know if it is true? Deere suggests that we trust the voices inside of us that he calls the “spirit.” He is asking us to accept something that doesn’t carry the authority of Scripture. He is asking us to trust something that is inside of us and may not even be from God. Deere is suggesting that we walk by signs and wonders instead of by faith. From an evangelical Christian perspective, a fundamental problem with getting revelation from experience instead of Scripture is that it “makes rather selective use of the Bible and even contradicts many biblical texts.”[1] This experiential model of revelation “deprives Scripture of revelational value and considers it the framework for a ‘language-event,’ an internal encounter in which one experiences authentic being.”[2] Another issue arises with receiving revelation from God only through experience. The characteristic defect is not that its emphasis is on experience, but rather its excessively narrow concept of experience.[3]

While this writer agrees that we need to be humble, willing and obedient, we must also come to God seeking His will and plan for our lives and be “willing to live by faith and trust His ways that are far greater than ours” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV). God is meant to be feared. He is worthy of awe and who are we to demand anything of Him. God has provided us a trustworthy collection of inspired God-breathed books that come with His divine authority equipping His servant for obedience. His Word is filled with historical stories that are unique and are profitable for us because they teach us about and how to follow Him.

Bibliography 

de Bras, Guido. “The Belgic Confession.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Internet. Available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1992.

Deere, Jack. Surprised by the Voice of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

Mayhue, Richard. “Alarmed by the Voice of Jack Deere,” in The Masters Seminary Journal. Fall 1997, 151-161.

McQuilkin, J. Robertson. Understanding and Applying the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986, 240. Quoted in Roy Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, 285. Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991.

Pinnock, Clark H.. Biblical Revelation – the Foundation of Christian Theology. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.

Piper, John. “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.” Desiring God. Internet. Available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 8-18.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “True Words.” in But is it All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, ed. Alan Padgett and Patrick Keifert, 35-43. Cambridge, UK: WM. B. Eerdmans 2006.

Zuck, Roy. Basic Bible Interpretation. Colorado Springs: David Cook 1991.

[1] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books 1992), 78.

[2] Henry, 24.

[3] Dulles, 81.

The Sufficiency of Scripture According to “Surprised by the Voice of God”

This post continues the review of the Vineyard Movement leader jack Deere’s book, “Surprised by the Voice of God,” and how it handles the Sufficiency of Scripture. He seems to elevate the experiences, dreams and visions to the same level as Scripture.

Sufficiency of Scripture

The sufficiency of Scripture was a result of God’s divine inspiration of Scripture. The doctrine of sufficiency affirms that Scripture is enough. The Belgic Confession says that, “we believe that the Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God and that whatsoever man ought to believe onto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”[1] Inside the pages of Scripture lies everything that is needed for the follower of God to be “…thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV); it provides all that is necessary for the Christian to live a godly life. “The written Scriptures were the statute-book by which God instructed, warned, and judged his ancient people.”[2] The stated purpose of the biblical writings is to “give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[3] Scripture is sufficient in that it is practical because it is worthy to be taught, studied and obeyed.

“If we take the position that God does not speak apart from Scripture, we are left with no purpose…” for the biblical stories.[4] Deere asserts that his experiences are on the same level as Scripture: “I have confined my discussion to the part of the language of the Holy Spirit that seems most common in Scriptures, or to those aspects that either I have personally experienced or that someone I know to be a credible witness has experienced.”[5] For Deere, he believes that the conservative evangelical believes that the sufficiency of Scripture is the only way God speaks to his followers today. Deere strongly condemns the “Bible deist” for being so confident in their theological methods and interpretations that it is difficult for them to be corrected by experience.[6] On the one hand, he makes a valid argument that many people, evangelicals and others, make the Word of God into God. All too often, some will worship the Bible instead of the Author of the Bible who is revealing Himself in it. His caution about worshipping the Bible instead of God is valuable.

However, he has severely mislabeled the evangelical by arguing that the only way they receive revelation from God is by Scripture alone. This writer would argue that the evangelical model for receiving revelation is much broader than what he has condemned. The evangelical model holds Scripture in the highest regard for God’s revelations, however it also asserts that God reveals Himself through acts of history, through a personal and communal experience with his followers, by revelation through God’s initiative and revealing in Christ, and through an awareness of symbols and experiencing God in creation (For further discussion on models of revelation, please see post on Dulles). As you can see, revelation from God comes from more than just Scripture, but with Scripture as its main standard of truth, all other forms of revelation must be measured against it.

In addition, Deere asserts that miracles are used today to provide guidance to believers. Hence, God is guiding believers today through the same type of miracles he used in Scripture. But, in using this logic, he is assuming that God must continue to use miracles today rather than through the faithfully recorded history of biblical miracles.[7] Thus, according to Deere, what is in Scripture is insufficient for the modern Christian. The issue is that the doctrine of sufficiency never denies the possibility of miracles, it just means “that we [Christians] don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.”[8]

In addition, Deere says that, “I can longer conceive of trying to live the Christian life without it.”[9] Unfortunately, Deere isn’t talking about Scripture, but he is referring to the voice of God beyond the Bible. Consequently, in making a statement such as this, he is suggesting that his theology and experiences are far superior to those who don’t hear God’s voice. In his spiritual elitism, because those who do not possess the special knowledge that he and only a few have, the evangelical Christian will never progress in the kingdom of God.

Deere continues his attack of the Bible’s sufficiency saying, “but after God wrote the Bible, he apparently went mute, or so it seemed to me, for the only way I could hear him speak was through his book.”[10] But, Scripture passages such as Psalm 19, 119; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; and 2 Peter 1:3 all make claims and promises that Scripture alone is sufficient in spiritual matters. In spite of that, Deere craves more and shows that he doesn’t appreciate what he has in the Bible. In much the same manner as seeking a spiritual “high”, he seems to be craving the “high” instead of the Almighty.

Finally, Deere concludes that “…even knowledge of the Bible was is an insufficient guide to Jesus.”[11] What he is suggesting is that without extra-biblical revelation from God, no one will know Christ in a sufficient manner.[12] That is to move away from the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Although later he contradicts that statement saying, “The most common way the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus and speaks to us today is through the Bible.”[13]

In light of this, the Christian must remember that “the Scriptures are sufficient in the sense that they are the only (‘once for all’) inspired and (therefore) inerrant words of God that we need, in order to know the way of salvation (‘make you wise unto salvation’) and the way of obedience (‘equipped for every good work’).”[14] “For the Bible is God’s Word now. It is his authoritative Word, in and through and by which the Spirit addresses us today….Scripture is indeed what God himself would have us know and would have us obey in the church as the Word of God.”[15]

[1] Guido de Bras, “The Belgic Confession,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, Internet, available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

[2] Henry, 10.

[3] Ibid, 27-28.

[4] Deere, 281.

[5] Ibid, 156.

[6] Ibid, 253.

[7] Mayhue, 155.

[8] John Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture,” Desiring God, Internet, available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

[9] Deere, 17.

[10] Ibid, 19.

[11] Ibid, 38.

[12] Mayhue, 161.

[13] Deere, 100.

[14] Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.”

[15] Henry, 10-11.

The Sufficiency of Scripture and Concluding Thoughts on Inspiration

The final doctrine on the inspiration of Scripture is discussed briefly here in the form of the Sufficiency of Scripture. The conclusion ties the last few posts up and discusses the overarching theme on the importance of the inspiration of Scripture.

Doctrine of Sufficiency

The third doctrine that resulted from the doctrine of inspiration is that of the sufficiency of Scripture. This doctrine affirms that Scripture is enough. The Belgic Confession says that, “we believe that the Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God and that whatsoever man ought to believe onto salvation is sufficiently taught therein.”[1] Inside the pages of Scripture lies everything that is needed for the follower of God to be “…thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, NIV); it provides all that is necessary for the Christian to live a godly life. “The written Scriptures were the statute-book by which God instructed, warned, and judged his ancient people.”[2] Henry concludes that the stated purpose of the biblical writings is to “give man all that is necessary and sufficient for his redemptive rescue and obedient service of his Maker.”[3] Scripture is sufficient in that it is practical because it is worthy to be taught, studied and obeyed.

God, in His infinite wisdom, gave us everything He wanted us to know in His inspired Word. He gave us what we needed and because it is from God, He gave us enough. If He wanted us to know more, He would have provided that to us. Sufficiency doesn’t mean that the Bible contains all the truths of this world or all that we need to live as obedient stewards of this world. It also doesn’t mean that all of God’s revelations were or are included in the Bible. There are truths outside of the Bible, like science and economics for example. “The sufficiency of Scripture means that we don’t need any more special revelation. We don’t need any more inspired, inerrant words. In the Bible God has given us, we have the perfect standard for judging all other knowledge.”[4]

The doctrine of sufficiency is that God has thoroughly, competently and completely provided all that is necessary in His Word for His believers to obey Him.

Conclusion

God has provided all mankind a true and accurate account of Him and His redemptive works that comes with His authority, been He has preserved and collected through all the ages and has equipped those who read this book everything they will need to listen and obey Him. This all started by God breathing out the very words that we can read today. It all started with inspiration when God breathed out these trustworthy words that came with His authority to be preserved so that His people may be equipped for obedience. “For the Bible is God’s Word now. It is his authoritative Word, in and through and by which the Spirit addresses us today….Scripture is indeed what God himself would have us know and would have us obey in the church as the Word of God.”[5] John Piper sums it up nicely saying, “the Scriptures are sufficient in the sense that they are the only (‘once for all’) inspired and (therefore) inerrant words of God that we need, in order to know the way of salvation (‘make you wise unto salvation’) and the way of obedience (‘equipped for every good work’).”[6]

The doctrines of authority, canonicity and sufficiency are all derived from inspiration. When God gave us His inspired works and these doctrines came to be, He provided the Christian examples of how God has worked in history, how He is working today and how He is equipping us for the future. He has provided us a profitable collection that is trustworthy and more than enough.

[1] Guido de Bras, “The Belgic Confession,” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, Internet, available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

[2] Henry, 10.

[3] Ibid, 27-28.

[4] John Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture,” Desiring God, Internet, available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

[5] Henry, 10-11.

[6] Piper, “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.”

Bibliography

de Bras, Guido. “The Belgic Confession.” Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Internet. Available from http://www.reformed.org/, accessed 20 April 2014.

Erickson, Millard J.. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Geisler, Norman. “Canonicity of the Bible.” Internet. Available from http://www.pinpointevangelism.com/ The-Canonicity-of-the-Bible.pdf, accessed on 20 April 2014.

Henry, Carl F.. “The Authority and Inspiration of Scripture.” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 1, 2-35. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.

McGrath, Alister E.. Christian Theology: An Introduction. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Piper, John. “Thoughts on the Sufficiency of Scripture.” Desiring God. Internet. Available from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/thoughts-on-the-sufficiency-of-scripture, accessed 20 April 2014.

“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” in Inerrancy, ed. Norman Geisler, 493-502. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 1-7.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-1-7.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Warfield, Benjamin B.. “Inspiration 8-18.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Internet. Available from http://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Def.show/RTD/isbe/ID/ 4618/Inspiration-8-18.htm, accessed 13 April 2014.

Truth and Righteousness

Ephesians 6:14 – Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place

Stand firm in the truth that if you believe in the Almighty Father that sent His only Son to be the sacrifice for us, you have life and hope. Stand firm in the truth that Jesus took the full brunt of God’s wrath. Stand firm in truth that because of Christ, you are now a child of God if you believe in Him. Stand firm in the truth that you have been pardoned from the guilt of sin. Stand firm in the truth that when you accepted Christ as your Savior, He has made you righteous.

Say those words, “I am righteous.” Not bashfully, but unapologetically. Boast in the Lord for what He has done. We can say that we are righteous because that is exactly what Christ did. It seems weird to say that when we know how sinful we are. When all we can see is our sin and problems, it is so difficult to even think that. Yet, God has allowed us to say that. By the grace of God in the gift of Jesus to bring glory to His name, we have been made righteous. How can I say that, because of what God did and what God told us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (italics mine).

So many times in our lives, as we face attacks and various struggles, the devil shoots all sorts of arrows at us. It causes us to question things we wouldn’t normally. He starts to twist words and our thoughts. The struggles ramp up. The pain increases. Our eyes and heart are taken off of Christ and fixed on the problem. We start fighting the battle around us. We dwell on the battle. The weight of the guilt increases. The burden becomes too heavy and we start listening to the lies. The lies have a hold of us.

“How can God love someone like you?” “How can God use someone who has done the things you have?” “If God loved you, why would He let this happen?” The attacks come on our faith. They come against our bodies. They come as we pray. They come as we read Scripture. We start forgetting the foundations of truth that our lives with God are built upon. But God does love us and still calls us His children even when we do fail. There is never anyone too far out of His reach.

There are times when these attacks really take a toll on me. I feel so awful for even battling them, but what amazes me is during these times of struggle, doubt and pain; God uses this to remind me of truth. He uses these awful attacks from Satan to remind me who He is. What He has done. It gives me a chance to be reminded of the very basic truths that Christ died for me and has given me life. He is my satisfaction and what I long for. While my body fails, He never will. Even though I may stumble, He will still love me and help me get back on track. While the guilt gets to me, He wipes it away. It isn’t fun and is actually quite frustrating to face these battles and thoughts. I can’t stand it, but by God’s grace He still teaches. He still uses it.

But that is why we need to stand firm with the belt of truth. We need to remember the foundations of our lives with God. The attacks will come and keep coming. But God will help us if we let Him. The attacks will be too much, but His truths are greater. Most of all, the Truth has set us free from our guilt, from sin and from our old lives. The Truth has given us life in a brand new exciting world.

God has set you and me apart as His very own. We have been righteous by Christ. We are His children. So the next time the attacks come, which may be in the next minute, remember who you are. You will be challenged to focus on the pain and wrong thoughts. Test those thoughts about what is in Scripture. Test those thoughts with what God has already taught you and shown you. Remember you are a child of God. Remember what He did for you in His Son. Stand firm in the confidence that the God of all creation, the only God, is for you. He is here for you. He is with you. He will not leave you. You may turn to this world to fill those longings and desires, but only He will satisfy. Keep your eyes on heaven. It won’t be easy. The struggle won’t go away quickly. It will be painful. But God will give you victory. There is only victory with God.

Here are some truths that come from a Bible study in the YouVersion app from “15 days with John Piper”

1. In Christ Jesus you were given grace before the world was created. 2 Tim. 1:9

2. In Christ Jesus you were chosen by God before creation. Eph. 1:4

3. In Christ Jesus you are loved by God with an inseparable love. Rom. 8:38-39

4. In Christ Jesus you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins. Eph 1:7

5. In Christ Jesus you are justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imparted to you. 2 Cor 5:21

6. In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God. 2 Cor. 5:17

7. In Christ Jesus you have been seated in the heavenly places even while he lived on earth. Eph. 2:6

8. In Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you. 2 Cor. 1:20

9. In Christ Jesus you are being sanctified and made holy. 1 Cor. 1:2

10. In Christ Jesus everything you really need will be supplied. Phil. 4:19

11. In Christ Jesus the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. Phil. 4:17

12. In Christ Jesus you have eternal life. Rom. 6:23

13. In Christ Jesus you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord. 1 Cor. 15:22

This is a wonderful truth. Union with Christ is the ground of everlasting joy, and it is free.

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that restoring? Doesn’t that give you such hope and peace? Doesn’t it settle your heart in difficult times of trials to know that you can have peace in Christ.

Following and enjoying God’s Word

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me. (Psalm 63:8, KJV)

Today I started a new book study (The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer) and this verse was the start of chapter 1. What a way to start. The reason I chose this verse was because of what I needed to hear, to follow hard after God. These past few days and weeks there has been a theme that keeps coming up: Enjoying and delighting in God and His Word.

It is interesting when we hear something like, enjoying God’s Word more, and we like the thought but it is hard to apply. Or we don’t even know how to apply. This has been a theme for me in a couple of devotionals, a book and now another book. I felt it even came up in a sermon. So finally, it hit me, only after being hit over the head for the 100th time, that I don’t only need to pray to enjoy God and His Word more, but I need to constantly pray that. I need constant reminders to not just read the Word of God, not just go before Him in prayer, but to truly enjoy Him. To truly behold and enjoy His insights. To seek Him that I may find Him and not just mark off a box. It is funny as I write that, I am reminded of a verse that I have committed to memorize, Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.

When we seek God, truly seek God, isn’t our prayer time so much sweeter and better. Isn’t it so much more of a joy when we don’t come to him to make ourselves feel better but to learn and grow from Him? In the book Desiring God by John Piper, he quotes from George Mueller about Scripture. Here is what Mueller said:

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.

I have started to try to apply this in my morning devotionals. As I go from my mundane prayers marked with motions and not of value until the last few minutes when I am late and need to get done, I am doing my best to focus on feeding this inner man. Realizing that I can’t do this day on my own. I can’t drive to work, I can’t accomplish my responsibilities, and I can’t even breathe without God. I am completely dependent on Him for everything, yet all too often I live a life of independence. I don’t follow hard after God. The NIV of this verse says “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me”. That is definitely what I need to do, every hour and every moment of the day. I need and desire to cling to God, to cling to the cross and remember what God has done, to cling to my Savior who because of Him I can be a child of God. I cling to God and follow and seek Him because He is what my soul needs. It is what my soul desires. It is the only thing that will satisfy.

I recently read a devotional in the YouVersion app from “15 days in the Word with John Piper”. On one of the days he talked about struggling reading the Bible and why we should do it even when it feels like a duty. He also mentions this in the revised editions of his Desiring God book in the last chapter, but the main thing that hit me was to confess to God that I don’t always enjoy His Word like I should. I have broadened this to my prayer life as well mainly because as much as I pray throughout the day, somehow I make talking to the amazing, awe-inspiring Almighty a box to check off to make myself feel better. Then, the next step was to asking God to help me enjoy Him, enjoy and delight in His insights that He gives and behold the awe of God. So, I have started that and today God answered in awesome ways.

In different parts of the Old Testament, there are several verses that talk about the right hand of God upholding us. Isaiah 41 mentions this and how it strengthens and upholds us. There are several Psalms that make mention to this. I have wondered about the right hand of God and even going as far to think of God holding my hand with His but then I would start thinking about how Jesus was at His right hand and it would throw me off. Today it hit me and there was such joy in an awesome insight that I completely forgot about. An insight I never thought of. While this isn’t new to many, it was of great delight to me.

The reason I am upheld by the right hand of God is simply Jesus Christ who is at the right hand. I am in Christ. When the Father looks at me, He sees Jesus. He sees His only Son. I am upheld because “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, italics mine). I can enter the throne room and be near God because of the eternally great and awesome sacrifice of Jesus. I am declared righteous because Jesus took the full brunt of the wrath of God. How awesome is that!!! I am new. God is making me and all things new!

Here is the thing with this verse. I think it is a great reminder about not being satisfied in things of this world. It reminds how we should seek after God. I think it is reminding us that the only thing that satisfies is not found in this world and what it treasures. The money, the fame, the popularity, the power, the security, the relationships will all fail us and leave us empty. We will keep building broken cisterns. But if we seek after God, He will uphold us. He will strengthen us. He will show us the beauty of a relationship with Him. A relationship we will never be able to fully grasp because of the infiniteness of God.

But here is what I want to focus on: seek God with all your heart and follow Him. Enjoy and delight yourself in God. Enjoy His teachings. Let Him teach you and show you new things. It may not happen immediately. Maybe it will. But the thing is if we have the right attitude and pursue our Lord, what an awesome promise He makes in upholding and strengthening us. During all periods of life, He is there and will be there. Ask God to help you. Ask Him to enjoy His Word, prayer and restore the joy of your salvation. He will help you and lead you. He won’t let you down. He won’t disappoint. Instead, He will encourage and open new things to you. Your “inner man” will be fed and nourished in new ways or in ways of delighting in Him again. I am on this journey with you and need so much help to enjoy God each day. I let stresses and other things distract me. But, when those light bulb moments come, my soul rejoices and leaps in joy. God has so much to offer, it is a joy to know more about Him.