Sure, Scripture is nice to have. But is it necessary?
Yes. Scripture is necessary. We need it. One dictionary of theological terms I checked gave me this definition.
The necessity of Scripture means that the Bible is necessary for salvation because it alone reveals the gospel” (153).
But that doesn’t go far enough. We don’t just need Scripture to know the gospel. We need it to live the Christian life. And we need it to know God’s will (116). But let’s start with the necessity of Scripture for salvation. Let’s let Paul take us down a path in the book of Romans 10. Quoting from the book of Joel, he says in v. 13:
…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Then Paul says that to call on the Lord, you must believe. To believe in the Lord, you have to hear about Him. To hear about Him, someone has to preach the good news to you. And Paul concludes:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).
I discussed earlier in this series how God’s general revelation shows us that He exists. And God has also placed His law in our hearts. But without God’s Word—without “specific knowledge of God’s words of promise”—you cannot come to saving faith (118). The evidence of God’s existence is out there. The heavens declare the glory of God (Rom. 19:1), but we need Scripture to tell us we are enemies of God who must trust His Son for salvation. And God’s Word tells us that, even after we’re saved, we still need Scripture.
Remember that time Jesus was being tempted by Satan in the wilderness and He quoted that passage from Deuteronomy?
…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut. 8:3).
And, in the New Testament, Peter compares the Word of God to nourishing, life-sustaining milk analogous to what a baby requires. He says:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation (1 Pet. 2:2)
Peter already told his readers in 1:23 that they were born again “through the living and abiding word of God.” And right after that he also told them that “the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Pet. 1:25). This Word of God is what a Christian is supposed to continue to feed on in order to grow in spiritual maturity (82–83).
So we need the Bible for salvation. We need it for the Christian life. And an important part of the Christian life is knowing God’s will. And, guess what. We need God’s Word for that.
Yes. The Christian has the Holy Spirit, a conscience, and common sense—but we live in a fallen world. We’re sinners. Our hearts are wicked. We could have no certainty of God’s will without Scripture. There we find God has actually told us His will.
Sometimes it just says point blank “this is the will of God” like in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 where we’re told that our sanctification is the will of God. He hasn’t told us everything. But He’s told us enough. Just read 2 Tim. 3:16.
We need God’s Word. For salvation, for the Christian life, to know God’s will. But, ultimately, we need it to be certain about anything. And to explain what I mean, let’s turn to our featured theologian—one I’m heavily indebted to for much of the material in this episode: Wayne Grudem.
A graduate of Harvard and Cambridge—he’s a seminary professor in Arizona who has written a popular book of systematic theology. And if you have an ESV Study Bible, he was the General Editor. And he raises an important question.
If we do not know all the facts in the universe, past, present, and future, how can we ever attain certainty that we have correct information about any one fact?
And he comes up with two possibilities. Either we have to learn all the facts in the universe from the past and present so we can evaluate future facts to be sure they don’t contradict. Or we need someone who does know all the facts in the universe to tell us what is true. And then we know those true facts will never be contradicted. And the second possibility is, in fact, what God has done. Grudem writes:
“It is from this infinite storehouse of certain knowledge that God, who never lies, has spoken to us in Scripture, in which he has told us many true things about himself, about ourselves, and about the universe that he has made. No fact can ever turn up to contradict the truth spoken by this one who is omniscient” (119–120).
We need God’s Word for confidence to know. To know His Son who died to redeem us. To know how to please Him and worship Him. To know His will for our lives. And to have certainty on anything.
That’s why the necessity of Scripture matters.