Jonathan Edwards and the Sufficiency of Scripture

Shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus observed the Passover meal with His disciples.  As He spoke to them and explained what was to come, He told them,

“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you”  (John 14:25-26, NKJV).

As one person of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit was of course always present in the world.  Jesus promised the disciples in this passage that the Spirit was to come in a new and fuller sense.  Jesus told them that, when He was gone and the Spirit came, the Spirit would teach them, help them to understand what they had seen in Jesus, help them to see Christ as the fulfillment of the messianic anticipation and prophecies in the Old Testament.  And the Spirit would “bring to (their) remembrance” the events they had seen and experienced in their time with Jesus.  In John 20:22, after the resurrection, “He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  The eyewitnesses, as they later recorded the gospels and the writings of the New Testament, wrote not just as witnesses with fading memories.  They wrote as eyewitnesses under the teaching, guidance, and inspiration of God the Holy Spirit.

Peter later wrote, “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21, NKJV).  The Old Testament writings were from men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  The New Testament writings are from those who were both witnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and were under the inspiration of the Spirit.  The authors of the Bible wrote the objective message of God that He wanted to convey to mankind.  Jonathan Edwards (1703-1751) is regarded as perhaps America’s foremost early theologian.  He was a brilliant man who spoke and wrote extensively of the sovereignty and holiness of God.  He understood this principle of the sufficiency of scripture.  Edwards wrote,

“And yet some people actually imagine that the revelation in God’s Word is not enough to meet our needs.  They think that God from time to time carries on an actual conversation with them, chatting with them, satisfying their doubts, testifying to His love for them, promising them support and blessings.  As a result, their emotions soar; they are full of bubbling joy that is mixed with self-confidence and a high opinion of themselves.  The foundation for these feelings, however, does not lie within the Bible itself, but instead rests on the sudden creations of their imaginations.  These people are clearly deluded.  God’s Word is for all of us and each of us; He does not need to give particular messages to particular people.”

The Spirit gave us the Word, and it is that written Word that tells us all we need to know.  The written Word communicates the gospel to us, the gospel that coupled with the ministry of the Spirit brings us salvation.  His continuing ministry to us is to illuminate the written Word.  He does not give us, and we do not need, new revelation outside of the Bible.  It is the Bible that teaches us what the Savior did and taught.  Learning to hear the Spirit in the Bible is our lifelong assignment.  Through our prayerful and careful study of Bible, the Spirit develops our ability to discern truth from error, make decisions, and live the life He has for us.

We don’t need dreams, visions, voices, or impressions.  We don’t need to seek continuing revelation, and we can and should be skeptical of the claims of others that they have received such direct communication from God apart from the written Word.  We need the Spirit’s ministry through the Word.  Reading and studying the Bible, however, might be the easy part.  Obeying it and putting it into practice, well, that is sometimes the real challenge.

 

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