************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 7 ************
By: Rev. Robert Godfrey
This sermon was preached on August 9, 2009
Belgic Confession Article 7
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
"Scripture is Sufficient"
Today we come to our conclusion on the Belgic Confession's treatment of Scripture. Remember what an Important issue this is in the grand scheme of the confession. Articles 2-7 have all dealt primarily with scripture. That is over 15% of the entire confession! Let's sum up what we've already seen:
Article 2 dealt with how we know God…through creation and through Scripture.
Article 3 dealt with the Inspiration of Scripture.
Articles 4&6 told us what books belong in Scripture and what books aren't truly Scriptural (or Apocryphal as they are called.)
Article 5 told us where the Authority of Scripture comes from.
This evening we will be looking at article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture. What does it mean that scripture is sufficient? Young people if you're teacher hands back a paper or a project to you and says "this is sufficient" how do you feel about that? Is it a ringing endorsement? Are you proud as can be? Are you going to hand it to your parent so they can put it up on the refrigerator? Probably not. A Sufficient paper will probably earn you a C, C+, or maybe a B- if the teacher is gracious. It means you have given and adequate answer, but you haven't gone above and beyond. You have given only what is necessary.
Is that how we are to view scripture? Should the Bible receive a C or C+ in our minds? Certainly not! No, the Sufficiency of Scripture is to point us to the fact that God gives us exactly what we need, exactly what is necessary for us to know. He gives us exactly what He wants us to know.
In I Corinthians 15:2 Paul admonishes us that if we "are saved, If [we] hold firmly to the word." Scripture is sufficient for us to know salvation, and if it is sufficient, we are to hold firmly to it. Therefore, we can ask what does it mean to trust the sufficiency of scripture and hold firmly to it? It means three things: 1st Not to add to it. 2nd Not to take away from it. 3rd To take comfort in it.
I. Not to Add to It (Revelation 22:18 "If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book")
The Belgic Confession takes this idea from revelation and makes it crystal clear. Nothing can add to the word of God. Nothing can be considered of equal or greater value to it. Because no matter how great it's source it will only detract from and confuse the message of scripture.
A. No matter how great the source: The Belgic cites many sources that could seem to command the respect and authority that scripture does.
The Author: There are many smart, holy, and charismatic men who have claimed divine authorship and inspiration over the years.
The Custom: Many long standing traditions often take precedents even when they are shown to stand against scripture. Certainly during the time of the Reformation this was the case.
The Majority: The voice of the Mob often can outweigh the voice of the Word
The Age & The Passage of Time: So too the voice of the Day and the movement of time can often undermine the authority of God's word
Councils, Decrees, or Official Decisions: This is an ironic statement because the Belgic Confession stood as a decree that would later be adopted by a council as an official decision. But the author wanted to make it crystal clear that this was a summary of Biblical doctrine and in no way stood equal too and certainly not above God's holy Word.
All these things are made clear because we are sinners, and we are vain. Any attempts to equal God's word are folly. They could not compare to its greatness, and if it is attempted it can only detract from and confuse the Message
B. It Detracts from and Confuses the Message: Once again we can say there is a reason this document was written when it was. During the Protestant Reformation there were many additions to Scripture taking place. Many things claiming the same authority as scripture (The Pope, Apocryphal books, sacred relics, traditions, etc.) were detracting from the sufficiency of scripture.
But all that these things added to scripture was confusion. They muddled the doctrine of salvation by adding our own works to those of Christ's as a necessary element of our salvation. They added unbiblical teachings in regards to worship, looking not to the Word but to traditions and the world. But during the Reformation there was an outcry as this Belgic Confession shows. There was an outcry to trust the sufficiency of Scripture.
This sufficiency of scripture is so beautifully portrayed in a picture from the times of the Reformation. It was an engraving made to show this point that we are now making. In it there stands a scale. On the one side of the balance there are piles of relics, and the popes hat, and bishop standing on the scale, and many other Roman bishops pulling at their side of the scale seeking to yank it down. But it is outweighed by the other side, where all that sits on the scale is a Bible.
You see the Scripture is sufficient. It stands alone and nothing can outweigh it. Nothing can add to it, and those who seek to add to it, only call down the danger highlighted in Revelation 22 upon themselves.
Likewise Revelation 22 makes it clear that we are not to take away from Scripture…
II. Do not Take Away From It (Revelation 22:19 "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.")
A. No Matter How Noble the Motive
Often the reasons to take away from scripture seem very noble indeed. In the name of unity, peace, and love scripture is ignored and detracted. In the name of unity, the desire to have one voice, we remove anything from scripture where there is disagreement. In the name of peace, we remove anything from scripture that could potentially offend someone. In the name of love we remove anything from scripture where we find themes of justice, punishment, and wrath.
These motives certainly seem noble. If someone asks you are you in support of unity, peace, and love? Of course you would respond, "yes." But at what cost do these things come? Well, though the motives are noble…taking away from the message can only cheapen it
B. Can only Cheapen the Message
To take away from the truth of Scripture will only cheapen its message. Just to think of a few examples: Some may say, "We don't need to worship God like that anymore. Those instructions were only for that time and place. They don't apply to us anymore." Or "We can't say that the miracles really happened. Unbelievers we'll think we're ridiculous and they'll never come to faith."
Such statements may not seem to take away too much, but they necessarily lead us down a slippery slope. Because once we are willing to take away something from scripture, how can we discriminate what is essential and what it not? If this happens the ultimate deletion will inevitably take place. Rather than Christ being THE way, He merely becomes A way.
May this never be! Revelation 22 makes it clear that taking away from Scripture is just as serious as adding to it. If we are not to add to it, and not to take away from it, then what are we to do?
Beloved, Take comfort in it.
III. Take Comfort in It (I Corinthians 15:1-8)
To take comfort in the sufficiency of scripture is to realize two things. It is to realize that it wasn't given to us that we might know everything we desire to know, and it is to realize that it was given to us that we might know everything we need to know
A. Not to Know Everything
Scripture wasn't given to us that we might be given every answer we desire. Often that is a misconception about scripture. It is treated as a textbook or an answer manual. People turn to the Bible to learn lessons about science, economics, math, or cooking and are surprised that it doesn't give them every answer they desire. They turn to the Bible as an answer manual, should I buy a hybrid or diesel car? Who should I take to prom? Where should I eat lunch today? We come to expect that there should be an exact Book Chapter and verse for any particular question we might have.
The outworking of this approach to Scripture is filled with difficulties and errors. It leads to taking Scripture out of its true context and misrepresenting it. Years ago Geocentricism was a big controversy in the Christian community. Many thought the Bible clearly taught this view, that the Earth was the center of the universe. When science definitively showed that to be untrue, it made the Bible seem to be lacking. This was because Scripture was being used for a purpose it was never intended to be used for. It is not sufficient to know all things of this world.
Furthermore, it is not sufficient to know all the answers of scripture and the Christian walk. There are many answers we desire to have about God, our faith, sin, glory, and the Bible that we simply aren't given in Scripture. What was it like before the fall? When did Satan fall? What was that like? What exactly will glory look like? What exactly is the distinction between the new heavens and the new earth? These are just a few of the many many questions we have where Scripture gives us no definitive detailed answer.
But Scripture is suffictient. Scripture tells us what we must know, what is essential, what God would have us know.
B. To Know What is Essential
What is truly essential is what we find in I Corinthians 15:1-8, Salvation in Jesus Christ. Paul tells us to hold firmly to this Gospel truth. He spells out so clearly what all of Scripture spells out, the message of Christ and of our salvation.
In these verses he speaks of Christ's death, His resurrection on the third day, how these things took place according to the scriptures, how He appeared to Peter, the disciples, the crowds, and finally to Paul. All this took place that we might have Salvation.
This is the Sufficiency of the word of God. This gives us the comfort of Jesus Christ and the Salvation that we have in Him.
As we conclude our look at the scriptures in the Belgic Confession. Hear this beautiful truth once again, that Scripture is sufficient. We need nothing else, nothing more, and nothing less. Take nothing away from these words of life. No matter what the world might say. Add nothing to them. No matter what the world might say.
And above all trust in them. For they bring the comfort of eternal life. They bring the words of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
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