I have been thinking a lot lately about sufficiency. In particular, I've been pondering the sufficiency of scripture as it relates to the church.
One of the primary verses that speaks to sufficiency is II Peter 1:3. This verse says:
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence." (ESV)
"as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." (NJKV)
Peter tells us that God has given us everything we need to live lives of godliness. Where do we find what we need? I believe we find it in the pages of scripture as the Holy Spirit testifies to the truth presented there.
If we look other places than scripture, such as nature, reason, or experience, we run the danger of falling into complete subjectivity. Additionally, God has not inspired our reason or experience. Nature tells us enough to know that there is a Creator God, but not enough to know how to be right with Him.
Back to II Peter 1:3. God has provided for us what we need to live godly lives. He has done so through the pages of scripture. How, then, does this relate to the life of the church?
God intends for the church to be, among other things, a body of believers who exhort and encourage one another to live godly lives and perform good works. We do this not to earn anything from God, but rather to live in joyful obedience to Him.
Based on the the numerous "one anothers" in scripture that refer to the workings of the church, it should be obvious that God intends for His church to encourage the godliness that we see Peter write about in II Peter 1:3.
If scripture is sufficient for godliness and God intends the church to help bring about godliness, then this means the bible has told us all we need to know about the church's role in this. To put it another way, God has told us all we need to know about the church in the pages of the bible.
Here is the ironic aspect of all this: as Christians we often act as if the bible is NOT sufficient in its description of how the church is to encourage godliness. We show this when we engage in practices that do not exist in scripture.
I hear much talk about how we have a great deal of freedom in the life of the church to do things that are not seen in the bible. I understand the arguments for these. However, when we engage in these activities, we are in effect saying that we need to add to what the scriptures show us in order to accomplish what the church is trying to accomplish.
Let's take a concrete example (literally and figuratively): the church building as we see it in the modern West. The building is almost assumed today. We see them all over the place. However, we do not see these in scripture. As we get outside of Jerusalem in the book of Acts and then into the epistles, we see churches gathering in homes.
If we meet in buildings today we must assume that this is a good thing. Why do we assume this? It cannot be because we see it in scripture when in fact we do not. It must be that we believe we are free to add a significant change in practice to what we see modeled in the bible. This addition shows that we do not believe scripture is sufficient in what it shows us about the life of the church.
If scripture is sufficient then it will tell us all we need to know about both the belief and practice of the church. If it is sufficient, then we won't need to add anything to what we see there in the life of the church.
We should ask ourselves some tough questions about our church lives (if we dare). For example, what church practices have we added/take part in that are no where in scripture? How is our church structured differently that those in the bible? How does our church spend money differently than those in the bible? How does our church encourage the body to use its spiritual gifts like those in the bible? How does it differ in this? What are we missing as a church that we do see in scripture?
Where we differ because we have added to what is seen in the bible, we need to ask ourselves "Why?" Do our additions really lead to increased godliness? Or, has God already given us all we need in the pages of scripture to bring about the godliness of His church that He desires?