Search this blog

The big idea in Hebrews 1 is the point of all of Hebrews: The Son is superior to all others because in him we have the fullness and finality of God’s redemption and revelation.

We do pretty well understanding the fullness piece. Everything in the days “long ago” was pointing to Christ, and everything was completed in Christ. He is the fulfillment of centuries of predications, prophecies, and types. That’s the fullness part of the equation.

But just as important is the finality of Christ’s work. God has definitively made himself known. Christ has once for all paid for our sins. He came to earth, lived among us, died on the cross, and cried out in the dying moments, “It is finished!” We are awaiting no other king to rule over us. We need no other prophet like Mohammed. There can be no further priest to atone for our sins. The work of redemption has been completed.

And we must not separate redemption from revelation. Both were finished and fulfilled in the Son. The word of God versus the Word of God, the Bible versus Jesus, the Scriptures versus the Son—Hebrews gives no room for these diabolical antitheses. True, the Bible is not Jesus; the Scripture is not the Son. The words of the Bible and the Word made flesh are distinct, but they are also inseparable. Every act of redemption—from the Exodus, to the return from exile, to the cross itself—is also a revelation. They tell us something about the nature of sin, the way of salvation, and the character of God. Likewise, the point of revelation is always to redeem. The words of the prophets and the apostles are not meant to make us smart, but to get us saved. Redemption reveals. Revelation redeems.

And Christ is both. He is God’s full and final act of redemption and God’s full and final revelation of himself. Even the later teachings of the apostles were simply the remembrances of what Christ said (John 14:26) and the further Spirit-wrought explanation of all that he was and all that he accomplished (John 16:13-15). “Nothing can be added to his redemptive work,” Frame argues, “and nothing can be added to the revelation of that redemptive work.”[1] If we say revelation is not complete, we must admit that somehow the work of redemption also remains unfinished.

A Silent God?

Does this mean God no longer speaks? Not all. But we must think carefully about how he speaks in these last days. God now speaks through his Son. Think about the three offices of Christ—prophet, priest, and king. In the tension of the already and not yet, Christ has finished his work in each office. And yet, he continues to work through that finished work.

As a king, Christ is already seated on the throne and already reigns from heaven, but the inauguration of his kingdom is not the same as the consummation of it. There are still enemies to subdue under his feet (Heb. 2:8).

As a priest, Christ has fully paid for all our sins with precious blood, once for all, never to be repeated again. And yet, this great salvation must still be freely offered and Christ must keep us in it (Heb. 2:3).

Finally, as a prophet, God has decisively spoken in his Son. He has shown us all we need to know, believe, and do. There is nothing more to say. And yet, God keeps speaking through what he has already said. The word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12), and when the Scriptures are read the Holy Spirit still speaks (Heb. 3:7).

So, yes, God still speaks. He is not silent. He communicates with us personally and directly. But this ongoing speech is not ongoing revelation. “The Holy Spirit no longer reveals any new doctrines but takes everything from Christ (John 16:14),” Bavinck writes. “In Christ God’s revelation has been completed.”[2] In these last days, God speaks to us not by many and various ways, but in one way, through his Son. And he speaks through his Son by the revelation of the Son’s redeeming work that we find first predicted and prefigured in the Old Testament, then recorded in the gospels, and finally unpacked by the Spirit through the apostles in the rest of the New Testament.

Scripture is enough because the work of Christ is enough. They stand or fall together. The Son’s redemption and the Son’s revelation must both be sufficient. And as such, there is nothing more to be done and nothing more to be known for our salvation and for our Christian walk than what we see and know about Christ and through Christ in his Spirit’s book. Frame is right: “Scripture is God’s testimony to the redemption he has accomplished for us. Once that redemption is finished, and the apostolic testimony to it is finished, the Scriptures are complete, and we should expect no more additions to them.”[3] While God certainly illumines his word and may impress upon us direct applications from his word, he does not speak apart from the word. Or as Packer puts it, more tersely but no less truly, “There are no words of God spoken to us at all today except the words of Scripture.”[4]

[2] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena, gen ed. John Bolt, tr. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 491.

[3] Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, 227.

View Comments


14 thoughts on “The Sufficiency of Christ and the Sufficiency of Scripture”

  1. QWhitford says:

    Good post Kevin but would you clarify this statement, “So, yes, God still speaks. He is not silent. He communicates with us personally and directly. But this ongoing speech is not ongoing revelation.” Maybe I am not understanding exactly what you are referring to as God still speaking. What is this “ongoing speech” that is not ongoing revelation? Interpretation? Significance? Impressions? Just looking for clarity.

  2. taco says:

    Kevin, I very much appreciate this post. Thank you.

  3. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    The Sufficiency of Christ and the Sufficiency of Scripture

    is the gentle whisper of some/many cessationists.

  4. Kent says:

    Great article. We should clarify, however, that not all of God’s speech is “revelation” as we like to define it. That is, when you look at everything that God says in the OT, and particularly that the Spirit speaks in Acts, a large portion of it is not revelation, but specific, circumstantial instruction given to specific people/groups.

  5. HenryW says:

    I accept that there is no further public revelation once Jesus returned to heaven, but I struggle with the concept of scripture alone being sufficient, in large part because I don’t see how we can accept the canonicity of scripture without submitting to extra-scriptural authority, if that makes any sense. Any thoughts on this topic, Kevin (or anyone else)?

  6. Ken says:

    Henry, I can’t speak for Kevin or anyone else, but I believe in the
    sufficiency of scripture alone, because I’ve been convicted by the
    scripture that it is sufficient… It’s good to hear what others
    have to say, but in the end, we need to return to the sure thing…
    (God’s Word)

  7. Kent says:

    In what way is or isn’t Scripture sufficient? That, I think, is the question. If we mean sufficiency of doctrine, I’d say absolutely. Scripture is certainly sufficient. In it is contained every truth we need to gain wisdom. but, if we mean sufficiency of guidance, then I’d take a step back and say that the reason we have teaching is because the written word by itself is not sufficient. That is, Scripture must be applied. And that application is not self-generating. Rather, the Holy Spirit works through teaching so that we might be able to live and act upon Scripture properly, as befits out setting and circumstance.

  8. Henry@ says:

    Kent- Let’s assume that we mean sufficiency of doctrine. We accept that our canon of New Testament books, and only those books, are divinely inspired and thus sufficient. How do we know that these are the books which are sufficient, however? Why do we accept this canon and reject the Gnostic gospels or the Shepherd of Hermas or the infancy gospels? You can say you’ve been convicted of it, but what if I’ve been convicted that the gospel of Thomas is divinely inspired? Can I include that as part of the scriptures which I find to be sufficient? If not, why not?

    I guess my question and difficulty isn’t so much about sufficiency of scripture as it is taking it back a few steps and asking how and why we accept the canon of books that we are talking about. At some point we have accepted the extra-scriptural authority of others (who? a council? a body of Christians?) to determine which books are, in fact, scriptural in the first place.

  9. Kenton says:

    Well, yes, as the church moved further and further away from the time of the apostles, it became necessary to know which texts were authentic. So I believe the criteria by which such was decided in the councils was valid criteria.

    But I think that’s actually a different issue than what we are talking about. I don’t think anyone denies that, when speaking of ecclesiastical authority, obvious the Bible can’t make decisions on its own. It’s a book. People make decisions. But, the difference looks like this:

    The Church didn’t affirm the books of the Bible because they lined up with Church doctrine. The Church affirmed the books of the Bible because Church doctrine lined up with them.

    Do you see the difference? It may seem like a minor one, but it makes all the difference in the world when addressing traditions and doctrines that run counter to Scripture. The reason why texts such as the Gospel of Thomas were not included is because those texts represented a large departure from Church doctrine, and they contradicted the other texts which were proven to have been widely circulated within mainstream Christian circles. The reason why texts such as Shepherd of Hermas were not included is simply because there was not a strong apostolic witness attached to them. Same with the Didache. They line up with the books that were known to be authentic, but they weren’t composed within the time of the apostles, and therefore were secondary.

    That is not at all saying that Church doctrine exists apart from Scripture. Obviously the books of the Bible don’t all refer to one another. But, I think a clear test is that if you look at the Old Testament and the New Testament, all of the books of the Old Testament have a remarkable agreement, and all of the books of the New Testament have a remarkable agreement. Furthermore, the theology and doctrine and practice contained within the New Testament is surprisingly “Jewish”, even if it is not characterized by specific Jewish customs. That is, it isn’t Hellenistic, it isn’t Eastern, it isn’t Gnostic. The fact that the Gnostic texts differ so much from these 27 texts only indicates that they are not part of the same “tradition”. They aren’t in the same group. The infancy gospels were written much later, and are clearly spurious, bearing significant anachronisms and portraying a lack of understanding of the first century environment.

    There are logical ways in which to evaluate these things, but relying on extrabiblical means to verify what belongs in the canon is not the same as relying on extrabiblical doctrine to determine truth. Part of the former is in fact verifying what is legitimate tradition as espoused by credible authorities (the apostles); it subjects doctrine and practice to apostolic doctrine and instruction. The second implies that whatever tradition the Church develops is legitimate because the Church has the authority to develop doctrine and practice.

    That’s the difference. And it isn’t as though the churches were without Scripture at one point, and then composed them later for their own benefit. The texts were always circulated within their circles, ever since they were written and copied. It’s just that not every church had all of the texts. So some churches might not have had Hebrews. Or some might not have had James. Or Revelation. And some might have had Shepherd of Hermas. But James and Revelation and Hebrews were widely circulated enough, and held a strong enough apostolic connection, that they were recognized by the councils. It doesn’t seem that the Gnostic texts or Infancy gospels were ever considered, mostly because they existed outside of the mainstream.

  10. Don Sartain says:

    Henry, there is a range of confession when it comes to “Sola Scriptura.”

    There are some who believe that any form of prophecy and teaching that does not come from Scripture directly is unhelpful and invalid. I don’t really subscribe to that confession.

    There are others who believe this means that though there is a form of prophecy still in existence, that said prophecy is in glad submission to the Scriptures. So, Scripture is the highest authority in determining what God approves or disapproves, but is not necessarily the only medium by which God chooses to communicate Truth. However, any truth claim that does not line up with Scripture is in fact false and not of God. This is more where I land.

    Part of the importance of recognizing the sufficiency and authority of Scripture comes when dealing with postmodernism and relativism. When someone challenges a clear command because it is “antiquated” or doesn’t conform to our “enlightened” standards of political correctness, we must remember that Scripture testifies of Christ and that the Holy Spirit inspired the text and as such carries the authority of God in its words, much like a letter from a king would carry the authority of the king who wrote the letter.

    So, the challenge comes in being winsome while still standing firm in the truths set forth in Scripture. The challenge comes in realizing that though we should show honor to the secular government and its leaders, our true citizenship is in the kingdom of God and Scripture is the authority we must follow first and foremost.

  11. HenryW says:

    If we base our criteria for books’ inclusion on their conformity to known (at the time) apostolic witness and Church doctrine, as you say, isn’t that essentially saying that God has revealed Himself through sacred tradition? And if the apostolic tradition and professed Church doctrine of the time were enough to offer the Church confidence in the veracity of the New Testament scriptures, why isn’t that same apostolic tradition similarly useful for evaluating other, extrabiblical practices/beliefs? I am not trying to be belligerent, just seeking consistency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Search this blog


Kevin DeYoung photo

Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

Kevin DeYoung's Books