I have noticed that articles on Facebook are often headlined: “Three reasons why…..” or “Four ways to …. “ or 5 key thoughts on ….”.
So I thought I would finish this year in that vein: Two big issues… A one word answer?
Having now been back in parish/pastoral work for four years, I find that there are two issues that often crop up and they are each answered by one truth.
The first is the issue as to whether Jesus’ life and work is enough to make us right with God, or, that His work needs to be supplemented by our good works. The issue sometimes expresses itself as, are we saved through faith in Jesus’ work plus nothing or faith in Jesus’ work plus our faithfulness?
The one truth that answers this dilemma is the truth of the sufficiency of all that Christ is, and does. Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30) from the cross, he did not partially bridge the gap between God and humankind, then he would have said “I have done my part, now it’s over to you to add the essential extra!”
Paul said that we are reconciled to God, through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18) who was “made sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The work of Christ sets us right with God (Romans 4:25), our good works are the fruit of that right relationship, but sadly they are patchy at best, and if our relationship with God was based on them, it would be fragile indeed.
Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection are sufficient to rescue us from the penalty and power of sin. “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” (Edward Mote).
The second issue, in my opinion, even more common in evangelical circles than the above, is the expectation that God still has more to say than He has said in the Bible.
The normal Christian experience thus becomes listening for God in the silence, expecting dream revelation or visions. The popularity of the “Jesus calling” book is a sad indictment of the age, indicating that Christians have lost their trust in the sufficiency of God’s word.
The apostle Peter assures us that the Word which saves (1 Peter 1:23) is the same word through which we receive everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3 – 4). Paul says it is through Scripture that we are taught, rebuked, corrected, trained and thoroughly equipped (2 Timothy 3:16 -17).
Sufficient is an inadequate word. If my wife asks me am I happy with her or something she has done and I say “it is sufficient”, it really is a back handed compliment.
God’s love sees that God’s justice, the highest standard of justice, is completely, eternally satisfied through the work of His Son! The Bible gives us everything, everything we need for Christian maturity, we have the special revelation of the mind of God , why look around for what is, at best, a hunch. “Sufficient” is hardly adequate to describe these realities.
A lack of contentment with these two sufficiencies will lead to a lack of assurance.
Firstly we will never be sure that we have done enough to please God and secondly, we will never have the certainty that what we think God said, He actually said. There is no substitute for the apostolic certainty “Christ died for our sins” and no substitute for the prophetic certainty “it is written”.
Sufficiency is the one word lying as the basis of all Christian maturing and growth.
Because God is entirely consistent we would expect that what He says is entirely consistent with what He does. His all sufficient Word focuses on His all sufficient work, so the Bible is about redemption in Christ, and his all sufficient work, reveals God’s redemptive character and thus upholds the all sufficiency of his Word.
Rt Rev David Cook
Posted 23 November 2015