************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 8, 2019
Belgic Confession Article 7
"The Sufficiency of Scripture"
We rejoice on this Lord's Supper Sunday that God has made Himself known. That God has told us about Himself. We did not think it up. We did not fabricate it. Rather, God came to us and told us about Himself. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to have a relationship with Him. That's why He has given us the Bible. Isn't He marvelous and gracious?!
I Scripture is Sufficient
A Now, speaking of this, is the Bible complete? I ask this because when you consider just the first three chapters of Genesis it seems that many things are missing. For example, how long did Adam and Eve live in Paradise before the fall into sin? Or, when were the angels created, and how did some fall and become evil spirits? Why did Eve listen when the serpent spoke? What would have happened if Eve refused to listen? Would man have fallen some other way? Who were the wives of Cain and Seth?
We can go through the rest of the Bible and ask other questions. For instance, when did Abraham begin to believe in God? And, what happened to Abraham's father? What did Jesus all do and say that is not reported by the Gospels? And what did Paul write to the Corinthians in the so-called missing letters? So, I repeat, is the Bible complete?
Just like we can't answer every question of a child, so the Bible can't answer every one of our questions. The Bible is not an encyclopedia; it is not a book of facts meant to satisfy our curiosity. It has been given to us so that we might know God.
B Just as our earthly fathers and mothers tell us what we need to know, so the heavenly Father tells us what we need to know -- nothing more and nothing less. What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that the Bible is sufficient. The Bible is sufficient. "Everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it." The Lord has not left us in the dark with respect to the way of salvation. The Bible tells us all we need to believe to be saved. The Bible tells us all we need to believe about sin, salvation and service.
The Bible tells us all we need to believe about man's fall into sin and how this fall has so poisoned our nature that we are born sinners -- corrupt from conception on. It tells us, in the words of the Belgic, that "all human being are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself." It tells us we are dead in sin. In other words, the Bible tells us we are people who need saving because we can't save ourselves. What the Bible says about sin is sufficient. We may want to know more but we don't need to know more.
Today, many people don't read the Bible in order to learn about their sin. They read the Bible to learn about salvation. Or, they come to church to hear the minister speak of salvation, of the promises that are signed and sealed in the covenant. They don't want to learn about sin. They don't want to hear they are sinners under the curse of God. But that is where the Gospel begins.
The Bible also tells us all we need to believe about God's plan for our salvation. That in the fullness of time the second person of the triune Godhead took to Himself a truly human nature. That He was obedient in our place and He was cursed in our place. That Jesus does what we don't do and can't do. That it is Jesus Who saves us. What the Bible says about salvation is sufficient. We may want to know more but we don't need to know more.
What the Bible tells us about salvation is the old, old story of Jesus and His love. Sad to say, but there are people who grow tired of hearing this story. They want to hear something new, something different. But there is nothing new, nothing different. It is the old, old story. And to teach or say or believe anything else puts you under the curse of God.
The Bible also tells us all we need to believe and do in a life of service. Says the Belgic, "the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length." By God's service the Confession means how God wants us to live -- that is, according to His holy Law. But it also refers to worship, details of everyday life, day-to-day actions, and how we treat one another. Jesus sums this all up in the summary of the Law:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself (cf Mt 22:37-40).This is how we live a life of service to God. We learn in Scripture that we live for His good pleasure, His goals, His honor, His glory, His demands. We learn that all of life is to be lived for Him. What the Bible says about service is sufficient. We may want to know more but don't need to know more.
The service of God is not of great interest to the natural man. Of how much interest is the will of God to the church? If we want to serve God, then we will never set aside the revelation of God even for a moment. Because when we do we begin to serve God in our own manner and that is not acceptable. It is impossible for us to serve God rightly apart from His Word.
C The Bible is sufficient, dear brothers and sisters. It tells us all we need to believe to be saved. It tells us all we need to believe. To believe. In other words, it comes down to faith. The Word of God needs to be believed. It needs to be trusted, relied upon, and understood through the light of the Holy Spirit. It is through this Word and Spirit that the Lord gives faith, nourishes faith, and causes it to grow.
The Roman Catholic Church says we can't have faith unless the church explains the Bible to us. The liberals tells us we can't have faith unless learned scholars tells us what to accept at face value and what to discard in the light of greater learning.
What kind of faith is needed in this present life? We do not need to make it complicated. It comes down to sin, salvation, service. It comes down to the Gospel. And it all is sufficiently taught in Scripture.
God is saying He wants us to know everything we need to believe so we can be saved.
II Scripture is Perfect and Complete
A Not only is the Bible sufficient in telling us everything we must believe to be saved, the Bible is also "perfect and complete in all respects."
If the Bible is perfect and complete, it is unlawful for any one, though an apostle, "to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us." The Lord expects us to reject whatever anyone tells us that is not consistent with the Bible -- no matter how smart, gifted, or persuasive the person may be.
(Gal 1:8) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!
Also, because God's Word is perfect and complete, we may add nothing to it or take nothing from it. If we do, we expose ourselves to the threat of Revelation 22:
(Rev 22:18-19) I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. (19) And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.This is strong language. It is serious business. We can't add to or take away from God's sufficient and perfect Word. We can't add to the Word, we can't claim new revelations, or add the authority of councils and synods or traditions to the authority of the Word. And, we can't take away from the Word the sections we don't like or have problems believing.
B In speaking this way the Belgic is first of all combating the errors of Rome. On the one hand, Rome was guilty of obscuring the clear teaching of Scripture. For centuries they kept it from the people. Every time I talk to practicing Roman Catholics, I am surprised at how poorly they know the Bible. For centuries they have been discouraged from reading the Bible. The result is great Biblical ignorance.
To make matters worse, Rome added to the Bible the pronouncements of Church Councils and popes. Rome placed the traditions of the church above the teaching of the Word. They have forgotten that the Word is perfect and complete and we may not tamper with it. The Bible is entirely the Word of God, aimed at God's honor and dedicated to bringing sinners back to God. Therefore, if we add to or subtract from the Word we are tampering with God's honor.
It is easy to point the finger at Rome or at the Mormons or at the JWs. Cut do we add to or take away from the Word?
There are those who want sermons to focus on man, on self-help enterprises. But sermons, like Scripture, need to focus on everything one must believe to be saved.
There are those who set aside the Word of God. They claim to worship God outside of the church or by a walk in the park.
Some tamper with the clear and direct promises of God. The promise of the Gospel is this: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). And yet, there are those who don't or won't or can't believe this includes them.
Others, in the name of science, reject the first three chapters of Genesis. They cut these chapters out as scientifically impossible. The next step is to do the same with whatever is miraculous in the Bible.
True faith receives and embraces all of the Word because it is the holy and complete and perfect Word of the holy God so we may be saved.
What the Word teaches is confirmed for us this evening in the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper reminds us of our sin, our Savior, and our need for service. The Lord's Supper reminds us nothing else is needed but what we hear in the sufficient and perfect Word of God.
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