Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 8, 1962
NUMBER 27, PAGE 4,8-9,12-13a

The Bible - A Complete And Perfect Guide From Earth To Heaven

Roy E. Cogdill

(Editor's note: This fine article constitutes the second in our unique "Tract-of-the-Month" series, and is typical of the material being produced. We urge all readers to call attention of this article to the elders where you worship. See further information concerning the "Tract-of-the-Month" service elsewhere in this Issue.)

Do you believe the Bible to be the inerrantly inspired Word of God? If not, then this study will not mean much to you. But if you are committed in your faith to the proposition that the Holy Spirit has revealed the mind of God in words of God's own choosing in the scriptures, and that the scriptures therefore are an inerrantly inspired revelation of the will of God and the duty of man, then this study proposes to raise with you the question, "Are you willing to accept the Bible as a perfect, complete, absolute and final guide in the realm of spiritual duty and activity?" This is the inevitable and unavoidable obligation of all who believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

The proposition of our study then is this: Either the Bible is a complete and perfect guide in religion or it is insufficient and incapable of fully directing man in his efforts to please God and reach Heaven eventually! Which represents the truth and to which should one commit himself? What is involved in such a commitment?

I. The Claims Of The Bible For Such Recognition

In one of the many instances of the unfaithfulness of God's people In the Old Testament period when God's offer of mercy and grace had been rejected and spurned, God through his prophet said, "I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing." Hosea 8:12. The wrong attitude toward God's Word is a tragic and vital mistake. Jesus emphasized this in the parable or the sower. The seed of the kingdom is the word. The soil is the human heart into which the word falls. All of the seed that fell into the wrong kind of hearts was lost. None of it produced any fruit. But all of the seed that fell into hearts with the right attitude brought forth fruit. Mathew 13:1-23. The word preached and revealed does not always profit them that hear it because it is not mixed with faith. Hebrews 4:2.

Jesus Christ promised to the apostles the guiding power of the Holy Spirit in revealing the Gospel. He further promised that the Spirit would guide them into all truth. "Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." John 16:13. In this same connection Paul declared, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that tire freely given to us of God." 1 Cor. 2:12. When the Holy Spirit brought to a conclusion His work through the apostles of our Lord and the sacred canon of the scriptures was closed, the work of revealing the mind of God and the duty of man was finished. All truth had been revealed that has to do with man's salvation. Either this is true or the Holy Spirit did not do for the apostles, and through them for humanity, what Christ promised!

Peter makes another claim for the completeness of the Gospel revealed by the Spirit through the apostles when he said, "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." 2 Peter 1:2-3. Through the knowledge of Christ, in the inspired Gospel preached by the apostles, we have access unto all things that pertain to life and godliness. This means that revelation is complete and sufficient in matters pertaining to spiritual life and godliness!

Perhaps no passage of scripture sets forth the claims for the sufficiency of God's Word as completely and distinctly as 2 Timothy 3:16-17. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." This passage affirms that God's revealed word is sufficient for man's every spiritual need. Let us examine it carefully.

The scriptures, "given by inspiration of God," are profitable for "doctrine." Nothing should be taught as "doctrine" that is not given by inspiration of God When men write creeds, church manuals or catechisms and teach therein, as they all do, doctrine that is not in the Word of God, they thereby deny the sufficiency of the scriptures for "doctrine" or admit the error of what they teach. Jesus said, "Thy word is truth " John 17:17.

Doctrine is "that which is taught." Jesus gave at great deal of emphasis to teaching and to the thing that is taught. In Matthew's record of the Great Commission, He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Matt. 28:18-20. The word "teaching" in "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" is the same word translated "doctrine" in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 — didasko.

Again in Matt. 15:9, Jesus said, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Paul said, 1 Timothy 1:3-4, "As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do."

Elders in the Lord's Church are charged with the obligation of protecting the "flock" over which they watch against false teaching (Acts 20:28-32) and in order to do this are required to be "able to exhort and convince the gainsayers by sound doctrine." Titus 1:9. Sound doctrine is the doctrine which comes from Christ. When we go beyond the "doctrine of Christ" we have neither God nor Christ. 2 John 9-11.

But the "scriptures given by inspiration of God" are also profitable for "reproof." This is translated from elegchos which means "to convict." The scriptures given by inspiration are all that is needed to convict men of sin. God's Word deals with every moral situation that exists among human beings without exception. Every sin that man has ever committed or that he commits today has been condemned thereinThe terrible consequences of sin and its exceeding sinfulness is shown over and over in the clear light of its destructiveness to man and the way out of its depths is pointed out again and again. All the spiritual help that men need to overcome any mistake that they have made or to overcome any weakness they have in character is furnished in the Word of God. Physicians in this world may successfully treat our bodies but the treatment of the soul of man can be done only by the "balm" of divine truth and administered under the direction of the great physician Jesus Christ and it is entirely adequate and complete.

2 Tim. 3:16-17 further affirms that "the scriptures given by inspiration of God" are profitable for correction (epanorthosis). This means to "make straight again."

There must be a standard of authority by which every error can be determined and corrected. In matters of divine truth this standard is the Word of God — "the scriptures given by inspiration of God." It is remarkable that there is no doctrine which man has ever conceived and invented in his own mind that is not disproved and condemned as erroneous by the Bible. God couched in His Word sufficient truth to expose as false every teaching in religion which comes from the wisdom of the world. Man has originated no religious teaching that does not conflict with something God has said in the scriptures. Truth and right have been settled in heaven forever by the will of God (Psalms 119:89) and have been revealed in the Word of God.

"The way of man is not in himself. It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Jer. 10:23.

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Prov. 16:25.

"It is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.' 1 Cor. 1:19-21.

Paul admonished the Colossians, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him; rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him" Col. 2:6-10.

We must not put our faith in the "wisdom of man, but in the power of God." 1 Cor. 2:5. This means the rejection of everything from our faith that originates with man and confining ourselves to believing that alone which has come by "inspiration of God." This is all we need, the "scriptures inspired of God," to guard our own faith against error and to disprove and avoid every erroneous teaching and practice in religion. We may not be familiar with the passage, but somewhere in His Word, God has given a statement of His will that meets head on and denies every human doctrine. We have but to study and search "the scriptures" until we find it.

But in this same meaningful passage, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Paul declared by the Holy Spirit that "The scriptures given by inspiration of God" are profitable for "Instruction in righteousness." This word instruction (paideia) is translated nurture in Ephesians 6:4. It has to do with "training by act and discipline" and sets forth that God seeks to train his children in the way he would have them go, educate and mature them, by the principles of his righteousness set forth in the demonstrations (examples) illustrating those principles recorded in the scriptures (Heb. 12: 1-2) and by the law and government in His kingdom appointed for us under the authority of Christ. We are to mature and grow into well rounded Christians trained and disciplined by his righteousness revealed in His word.

Paul prayed that he might "be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith," Phil. 3:9. Man's own righteousness will not save. It accomplishes nothing!

We must remember though that God's righteousness is revealed in the Gospel. "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith unto faith." Rom. 1:17. If it is not revealed in the "scriptures given by inspiration of God," it is not God's righteousness but man's righteousness and in God's sight man's righteousness is filthy rags. God's righteousness, "from faith unto faith" — from the faith in order to faith in our hearts — all along the way that we must walk by faith and not by sight, must come from "the scriptures inspired of God" and only therefrom!

This passage (2 Tim. 3:18-17) also affirms the purpose for which God gave these scriptures by inspiration, "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." God intended in these "scriptures given by inspiration" to reveal unto the "man of God" every thing needed to make him perfect. An imperfect and incomplete revelation could not do this Therefore either the scriptures constitute a perfect revelation or they fail to accomplish what God intended.

If inspired scriptures are not a perfect revelation of the will of God and the duty of man, then they do not accomplish what God intended. If they do not accomplish what God intended, then either God could not do what he intended to do or did not do it. In either event the scriptures would be a failure in accomplishing what God intended for them to do and the failure would be upon God's part. This we cannot believe!

Paul further declares that these scriptures "thoroughly (completely) furnish the man of God unto every good work." The scriptures furnish (reveal) all that God would have men to know, all that God would have men to believe, all that God would have men to teach, all that God would have men to do, and all that God would have men to be in order to be perfect in his sight.

What the scriptures do not furnish then is not a part of "every good work" and therefore cannot contribute to man's perfection before God. Whatever the wisdom of man invents and supplies in religion is not a "good work" in the sight of God. If it were, it would be furnished in the scriptures. This is not an affirmation only of the sufficiency of divine revelation, but it amounts to a complete rejection of every human way in religion.

II. The Scriptures Forbid Our Going Beyond

The completeness and sufficiency of God's revelation in his word is abundantly evidenced by the many prohibitions in the scriptures themselves against going beyond what God has revealed in his word either in faith, doctrine, or practice.

This principle was laid down in the Old Testament and emphasized over and over in God's dealings with Israel. He demanded of them that they keep his statutes and ordinances and that they add not to nor diminish from the law which he had given to them. On this point consider the following passages from Old Testament scriptures:

"Now therefore hearken, 0 Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that he may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the Lord did because of Baalpeor for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the Lord thy God hath destroyed them from among you. But ye that did cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day." Deuteronomy 4:1-4. This incident referred to is found in Numbers 25:1-9. God slew twenty four thousand of Israel for departing from his commandments to bow down to Baalpeor. It is an object lesson for us!

'What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it Deut. 12:32.

"Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest." Jos. 1:7.

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

In the New Testament scriptures the same emphasis is placed upon having sufficient reverence for God's word to be satisfied with it as it is given and to abide in it without going beyond.

Paul tells us that the very spirit of faith is demonstrated by our willingness to both believe and speak in accordance with that which is written. "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak." 2 Cor. 4:13.

"And these things brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written." 1 Cor. 4:8.

In his letter to the Galatian Christians Paul laid down the same principle. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Gal. 1:8. This anathema rests upon every doctrine that has been taught by anyone, and upon him who has taught it, from the beginning of the Gospel until now, which cannot be found in the Gospel preached by Paul and the apostles. He certified that the gospel which he preached came not from man but by the revelation of Christ. Gal. 1:11-12. Who dares to augment or change such a Gospel?

Then again, the disciple whom Jesus loved and who wrote so much on love, the apostle John, exalts Christ and his doctrine and demands that we shall love and respect it enough to be content to abide in it without going beyond. "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." 2 John 9-11.

The scriptures not only prohibit our going beyond what they reveal by "inspiration of God" but they also claim to be God's final revelation to man. If, therefore, revelation has continued to be given, then all of the claims for the completeness, sufficiency, and finality of the scriptures that make up our Bible are false and every prohibition against going beyond the Gospel already made known is unjust and any anathema or condemnation pronounced upon those who do go beyond is unrighteous. Are we ready for this conclusion concerning the Holy Scriptures?

Jude said, "It was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." Jude 3. This affirms the finality of "the faith" in the same terms in which God affirms the finality of the sacrifice made by Christ for sin.

"Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins and then for the people's: for this he did once when he offered up himself " Hebrews 7:27.

"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." Heb. 9:28.

"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:10.

Hence Paul says that, "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" Hebrews 10:28.

Even so, "the faith" has been "once" (one time for all time to come) delivered unto the saints. Divine revelation is not continuous in its nature in spite of the claims of Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Christian Science, Adventists or those styled as "called and sent and spirit guided" preachers of today!

If the Holy Spirit is continuing to give divine revelation, through which one of these sectarian or denominational mediums is it being given? If through all of them, then the Spirit is delivering contradictory messages, not only contradictory with each other but contradictory to what the Spirit has already revealed in the Bible! This leaves us in a dilemma! If revelation is continuing through only one of these agencies, then how are we to determine which one of them is revealing the truth? They all make the same claims! All of them are in direct conflict with what the Spirit has already made known in the Scriptures!

When the Apostle John laid down the pen of inspiration as the last of the ambassadors of our Lord on earth; when he had written "finis" to the Revelation which closes the sacred canon of the scriptures in our Bible, he delivered a divine injunction against any tampering with God's Holy Word thus revealed either by adding thereto or subtracting therefrom.

"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Rev. 22:18-19.

It should be apparent that God is no more jealous of the message of The Revelation than of the rest of the Bible. It is all the inspired Word of God and this divine injunction against men adding or subtracting applies to the whole of divine revelation. Every doctrine or practice, therefore, that originated after the completion of the New Testament scriptures is false and is therefore condemned. This must be our conclusion!

III. The Implications Of Such A Commitment

If one fully believes that the Bible is the inerrantly inspired Word of God; the mind of God revealed in words of God's own choosing under the direction of the Holy Spirit; and consequently is willing to accept the conclusion that such a faith demands, viz., that the Bible is a complete and perfect guide in religion; what are the obligations that such a commitment involves? This question brings us to the searching of our own hearts and minds and to the practical testing of our attitudes toward what we actually believe to be the truth; what we are willing to teach as the truth of God and whether or not we are willing to be governed by that which is the truth of God in our living and in our effort to worship and serve him. We propose such a testing of our hearts in the four questions with which we bring this study to a close.

No. 1. Are we willing to make a part of our faith only that which we are able to read in our Bible in language plain enough for us to understand? This obligation necessarily follows. If we are not willing for the Bible to answer every question, solve every problem, resolve every issue, and settle every doubt, then we do not have enough faith to accept it as the inspired Word of God and a perfect revelation of God's will, therefore as a sufficient guide to heaven eventually. If we are not willing to eliminate from our faith everything which the Bible does not teach, without any consideration as to where it comes from, or what we have to surrender, or how we may have to change, then we are not willing to recognize that the Bible is what it claims to be! We do not therefore believe it! Many, who think they believe the Bible, when they find their teaching or practice or their own persuasion in conflict with some plain passage of scripture given by inspiration of God are unwilling to discard what they have accepted and let their faith come by hearing, the word of God. Rom. 10:17. We often go to the Bible to prove our own theories and justify our idols rather than to learn what God has said.

No. 2. Are we willing to rule out of our teaching every human doctrine, our own wisdom and judgment, and confine ourselves in our teaching to just what we are able to find plainly taught in the word of God? We must remember that Jesus said that to teach for doctrine the commandments of men is to make our religion vain! We should, in fact, we must, if we have the proper attitude toward the Word of God, be able to give a scriptural reason for everything we teach, that is, we must be able to produce chapter and verse for it In the scriptures, for this is the only reason for believing anything, because God said it!

"Say not in thine hear...But what saith it? The word is nigh thee... that is, the word of faith which we preach." Rom. 10:6-8

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:15.

"As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." 1 Peter 4:11.

"If any men teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing." 1 Tim. 6:3-4.

No. 3. Are we willing to respect the authority of Christ in the scriptures and keep our worship and service to him uncorrupted and unadulterated by the innovations men have introduced without his authority?

The sum total of what the scriptures teach is the pattern of the Lord's will in any matter. When we go beyond what the scriptures teach in worship or n our efforts to serve God's purposes, we depart from the pattern, disrespect his authority, invade the sacred realm of God's silence, and become guilty of the sin of presumption. This sin has always been condemned by God. We cannot bring into divine worship and service those things which men invent. They are profane and unholy in the service of God. VC e must determine whether a practice comes from God or man! Matt. 21:23-27. If it comes from man we cannot do it in the name of the Lord!

No. 4. Are we willing to exclude from our efforts to serve God's purposes and glorify him all human organizations built by men, products of their own will and wisdom, and all of which are subversive to the church which God designed and which Jesus built?

God planned the church from eternity. Eph. 3:10-11. He gave the pattern of the church just as he gave the pattern for the tabernacle to Moses, (Heb. 8:1-5, Exodus 25:1-9) and the pattern of the temple to be built by Solomon to David, his father. 1 Chron. 28:11-13, 19. Men cannot improve upon it! Neither do men have the right to alter God's arrangements. God designed the organization of the church. Acts 14:23, Phil 1:1. Men do not have the right to try to improve upon it or to lay their unholy hands on It to change it. The church is just as sufficient through which to serve God's purposes, and glorify him as the Word of God is perfect. Paul warns that we must "take heed how we build." 1 Cor. 3:10.

Just as human creeds impeach the sufficiency of divine revelation, so do human societies and organizations impeach the wisdom of God in his divine organization, the local church. To build an ante-room in the form of a human society on to the church to do its work is equivalent to writing a chapter and adding it to the word of God.

We must be satisfied with God's word and God's ways and content to walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) in them. The revelation of the scriptures is either sufficient to guide us unto everlasting life in the presence of God or Paul was mistaken. We cannot believe that he was! Acts 20:32: "And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified."