Adam Nesmith

3 Outcomes of Thinking

For difficult passages and theological questions, don’t be afraid to take some time to prayerfully think it through. Be okay with leaving a text saying “I don’t know. I need to think about that more.” Rushing to a conclusion might make you feel better, but you might be missing something that you could have observed if you had taken more time to think or study. As a rule of thumb, the more uncertain a passage or the more viable interpretations of a passage exist, the longer you should take thinking it through.

Although there is almost nothing as basic as thinking, there are always ways to improve your thinking skills. This is especially important for Christians: you and I are called to read, meditate on, accurately interpret and apply Biblical texts that are often complex. Thinking well takes time and effort, but it is natural to try to short circuit the thinking process by moving too fast. One of my favorite secular authors who writes on how to think better is Edward De Bono. In one of his books I have been slowly working through, he helpfully lays out 3 distinct outcomes of thinking. Knowing which outcome you are seeking will keep you from trying to do all three at once and thereby make your thinking rushed or less clear.
There are many possible outcomes of thinking, but we can simply them into three types of outcome:

Better map (exploration)
Pin-pointing needs
Specific answer

Edward De Bono, Teach Your Child How to Think pp 101
Getting to the Desired Answer Takes Time
When you sit down alone or with others to think or study, your ultimate goal is often some specific answer. Whether addressing a theological question or making a family decision, you and I very rarely think for no other purpose than to think. We have problems to solve, answers to discover, arguments to assess, decisions to make. However, when dealing with complicated questions or problems, the desired answer may take a long time to reach. If you spend hours or days thinking carefully through a topic and you haven’t reached a conclusion, is that effort wasted?
De Bono helps us out by giving two other outcomes of thinking beyond simply coming to an answer. Sometimes thinking about a topic gives you a “better map”. This metaphor points to the fact that sometimes you and I need to think about a topic just to understand it better. To make sense of the issues surrounding it. To understand what other people have said about it. By exploring a topic mentally, even if you haven’t come to a conclusion, you should have a better idea of the alternate options (or alternate interpretations in the case of most Bible study) and to simply learn more. Rushing to an answer or conclusion without actually exploring the topic can, in the end, cause you to make a poorly informed decision.
The other outcome of thinking besides getting an answer is “pin-pointing needs”. As you seek to answer complicated questions, oftentimes the process of thinking yields further questions to answer. Additionally, you may find that you don’t actually have the information you need to answer the question at hand. In this way, you can figure out what specific roadblocks exist that hinder you from reaching an answer. The key word here is specific.
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Four Essential Elements of Theology

These four essential elements of theology are at play whenever you do serious theological study. You may think “I have to examine what the text says” (vertical side) or “I need to think about how these texts fit together” (reflective side) or “I need to check my conclusion with the elders at my Church” (corporate side) or “how do my conclusions line up the the historic confessions?” (temporal side). Consciously and explicitly including each of these four aspects into your own theological study will help you come to more robust conclusions and have more confidence that what you are seeing in Scripture is indeed what God intended you to see.

Everyone does systematic theology: you fit together large amounts of Biblical texts in your mind to come to conclusions and you answer tough questions with Scripture. The question is, how do you go about answering these questions? What are the essential elements of theology that you should consider as you come to conclusions from Scripture? I recently started reading through Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology and, in one of the early chapters, he defines what systematic theology is and the different facets of it. Upon my own reflection of Berkhof’s insights, I think there are at least four essential elements of theology that you should think through when doing a topical or systematic Bible study.
1. The Vertical Side: God’s Authoritative Revelation
Fundamentally any attempt to “do theology” must start with God’s authoritative revelation. Your questions, your conclusions, your doubts, your insights, your applications all must be brought before the inerrant, inspired word. As Berkhof helpfully puts it, the Christian doctrine of revelation assumes that

There is a personal God who communicated knowledge
There are truths that cannot be known apart from divine revelation
Humans can understand this revelation

So theology is not, at its foundation, humanity “figuring out” God. Rather, theology begins when the transcendent God reveals Himself to mankind. The vertical side of theology does not point from earth to heaven, but from heaven to earth. Therefore, your theological investigation will lead to a dead end until you take up the Word and read what it says. Even God’s revelation through His creation won’t be interpreted correctly without the corroborating and explanatory testimony of the Word. The first essential element of theology is God’s authoritative revelation.
2. The Reflective Side: Your Spirit-Empowered Synthesis
However, the Bible itself is not a systematic theology per se. As you read and study, your mind will naturally seek to fit together different texts and synthesize them into conclusions. Understanding what the Bible teaches about the deity and humanity of Jesus, for example, is a large and important theological topic. You cannot hope to understand this topic fully by merely reading one or two texts. Rather, your conclusions will require you to read, study, understand, and synthesize a large quantity of Biblical data from different literary genres.
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Jonathan Edwards and 5 Spiritual Habits for 2023

What spiritual habits are you going to develop in 2023? Each year brings new opportunity to grow to be more like Christ. Thankfully, God has left us many examples of godly men and women throughout history who have pursued Him and His glory. Let us learn from such examples what it means to seek and serve the Lord.

As the year starts, I find it useful to take stock of what spiritual disciplines are consistent in my life and what specific spiritual habits I need to grow in. Thankfully, I was able to open up the year reading an excellent essay/sermon by Donald S. Whitney on the spiritual disciplines of Jonathan Edwards. The essay is entitled “Pursuing a Passion for God Through Spiritual Disciplines” and it is published in the book “A God Entranced Vision of All Things.” If you can, give the essay a read as the year starts to get your mind thinking about developing good spiritual habits for 2023.
Today, I want to share my own takeaways and thoughts from reading this essay. Every time I read about how disciplined Johnathan Edwards was in his pursuit of the Lord and his use of time, I am humbled and motivated to become more disciplined myself. For the remainder of this article, I want to discuss five spiritual habits I want to focus on in 2023 based on reading about Jonathan Edwards.
Habit 1: Remembering it is the Spirit who bears the fruit.
Every time I start thinking about spiritual disciplines, I tend to focus on the disciplines themselves rather than their purpose. It is easy to do: you and I live in a very pragmatic, check-the-box culture. The problem of importing that thinking into spiritual disciplines is you end up, as Whitney says, feeling that you can become automatically godly simply by doing different spiritual disciplines. For example, starting the year with the goal of reading through the entire Bible is a good discipline. However, the end goal should not simply be checking the daily reading boxes. Rather, the discipline is for the greater purpose of knowing God.
Any spiritual habits you and I want to develop in 2023 should all have a Godward focus and goal. The Holy Spirit is the one who bears fruit in our lives. You and I are dependent on God for the growth that can accompany spiritual disciplines and habits. So, resolve this year to not simply “add more boxes to check” in your spiritual disciplines. Resolve also to become more aware and dependent on the Holy Spirit to conform you to Christ.
Spiritual disciplines should grow our dependence on Christ, not make us feel more dependent on ourselves.
Habit 2: Having a Scripture to chew on throughout the day.
If you are like me, there is always about three dozen moments each day when you are waiting on something. You might be in line at a store, stuck in traffic, or waiting for food to cook. The modern tendency (and Christians are far from immune) is to fill those “waiting moments” with entertainment or distraction. It is easier to pull out your phone to fill an empty moment than it is to redeem that time for God’s glory. Whitney makes the point that Edwards spent extensive time throughout the day not just reading Scripture, but meditating on Scripture.
What if after your morning quiet time or Bible reading you chose one verse or sentence to carry with you throughout the day? Instead of pulling out your phone during your quiet moments, you could pull out that verse or sentence and spend time thinking through it. What does it really mean? What are the implications? Are there any other Biblical verses that come to mind? I want to spend more time thinking deeply about Scripture like Edwards did this year, and I think this is a great habit to do just that. Pack a verse with you as you pack your lunch for work. Take a sentence from Jesus or Paul with you on your shopping trip. Let us fill our free moments in 2023 with truth instead of entertainment.
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How To Trim Down a Sermon

If you keep “glorifying God through faithful and clear communication of your text” as the goal of your preaching, then trimming down your sermon can become just another act of faithfulness and worship.

For me, the hardest part of preparing a teaching or sermon is figuring out what information to leave out. Cutting down a sermon is incredibly difficult. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that it is very hard to find actual guidance on how to trim down a sermon. There are dozens of great resources for how to write better sermons, how to outline, how to write sermon application. But I have found very little concrete guidance for how to discern what parts of a sermon to keep, and what to edit out.
The Problem of Over-stuffed Sermons
There is an unfortunate tendency to equate a good, Biblical sermon with how many details a preacher or teacher gives. This tendency leads to what I will call “over-stuffed” sermons. These are sermons that are Biblical, sound, but try to communicate too much information in the allotted time slot. Sermons that are over-stuffed end up becoming less clear to the congregation. Listeners spend so much time trying to keep track of the many details you are giving rather than meditating on the main point of the text.
Now, I want to make an important distinction before going on. As a Bible-teacher or preacher, you must go into a great level of detail in your analysis when preparing a sermon. In your Bible study leading up to a preaching or teaching, you must dig into any and all details contained in your text. You must cross-reference, outline, look up the original languages, make observation after observation, and more if you want to get to the meaning of the text you are teaching. However, the art of preaching is in discerning which details to actually present to your congregation in a Sunday morning sermon. In other words, when you go from your study to the pulpit, you must trim down your sermon to only the most important textual details. If you simply go up and preach your detailed Bible study notes, chances are you are preaching and over-stuffed sermon.
The Solution: Trim Down Your Sermon to the Essential Details
In my experience, sermon length is generally driven by how many details you end up communicating in your sermon. How many points and sub-points do you have? How many words do you define from the pulpit? What cross-references do you include? Historical anecdotes? Illustrations? Applications? Therefore, to trim down a sermon, you must discern which of these details are essential to communicate, and which are secondary. The essential details should end up in your final sermon. Secondary details, on the other hand, you can trim out of your sermon to fit your allotted time and to ensure your congregation does not get lost in an over-stuffed teaching.
This seems obvious so far. But the question is how do you trim down a sermon? How can you discern which details are essential and which are secondary? Most of the time when I have asked for guidance on trimming down a sermon, I have gotten some form of “there is an art to it” or “I’m not that great at it myself, so I’m a bad example.” While it is certainly difficult to make universal rules, there is a helpful process you can go through to at least help you discern what details are essential and which are not. The process is simple: go through each section, point, detail, or cross reference in the first draft of your manuscript, and ask the following four questions (in order):
1. Does this detail give information that is mostly repeated elsewhere in the sermon?
I call this the “redundancy” test. Repetition is important in communication, but if you go to 10 cross-references in a sermon which all make the same point, maybe you can cut 8-9 of those cross-references and save yourself (and your listeners) some time. If a sermon point, observation, or application is too similar to information previously given in your sermon, you should probably cut it. Redundant details are by definition secondary and non-essential.
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3 Marks of Christian Ministry

True Christian ministry is affectionate affliction for another’s sanctification. You need all three pieces. You must have a genuine love for the person you are serving, not just a “I love them for what they can do for me” mentality. You must be committed to laboring on through suffering and difficulty. True Christian ministry fights against the world, the flesh, and the devil, so you should expect and prepare for strong resistance. And finally, your goal should always be that whoever you are ministering to becomes more like Jesus.

I recently was teaching a Sunday School at my local Church on Galatians 4:12-21. It occurred to me as I was studying that Galatians 4:19 gives a wonderful summary of 3 marks of Christian ministry:
My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
Galatians 4:19, ESV
In one little verse, Paul lays out the affection inherent to Christian ministry, the suffering that accompanies Christian ministry, and the goal of Christian ministry. I wonder if much of what bears the title of “Christian ministry” actually reflects what Paul describes in Galatians 4:19. I know in my own life, I have found myself involved in “ministry activities” with the wrong heart attitude or the wrong focus. Today, I want to think through what Paul says in this single verse and it’s implications for how you and I “do ministry” in the local Church.
Paul’s words in Galatians 4:19 appear in a unique section of Galatians. Up until this point, Paul has directly addressed the Galatians leaving the true gospel of “justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone” to follow a false gospel of “Jesus and circumcision saves.” Paul defended his apostleship to the Church and laid out in chapter 3 that the Old Testament does not teach a salvation by works. Throughout the first three chapters of Galatians, Paul has expressed his astonishment that the “foolish Galatians” could be led astray so quickly from the true Gospel into error.
In chapter 4:12-19, however, Paul’s tone changes. His tone is less harsh and he addresses the Church more personally. I think in these verses you see Paul’s heart towards the Galatian Church which puts the rest of what Paul says in the letter into perspective. It is in this personal section that Paul gives that great summary of the marks of Christian ministry in 4:19. Paul is sharing with the Galatians both the love he has for the Church and the pain he feels that they are listening to false teachers. So, with that context in mind, how does Paul describe his ministry to the Galatians and what the the implications for Christian ministry in general?
First Mark of Christian Ministry: Genuine affection for those you serve
The first statement Paul makes in Galatians 4:19 is “my little children.” This is the only time in the letter that Paul uses this phrase to refer to the Galatian Church. Contained in this little phrase is a profound metaphor for the affection Paul has for the Church. If you are a parent, then you know the unique, special love a father or mother has for his or her child. Even when your child is misbehaving and needs correction and discipline, as a parent you still love them genuinely and deeply. In fact, even your correction is an externalization of the affection you have for your child.
Paul is saying the same thing here. At the time, the Galatians were listening to false teachers that were making Paul out to be their enemy. Yet even then, Paul still views these believers with a deep love. Even though Paul has been correcting the Galatian Church throughout the letter to the Galatians, this verse makes it clear that this correction came from a place of affection, not anger. Just as a parent genuinely wants the best for his or her child, Paul truly cares for the Galatian’s souls and wants the best for them on a spiritual level.
Implication: Do you serve out of a love for others? or do you serve to “get something out of it” for yourself?
What is the implication for you and I? One of the marks of Christian ministry is a true care and genuine affection for the souls of those you serve. True Christian ministry flows out of a love for others. If you serve in ministry, whether that is at Church or in the home or when you parent or when you disciple or when you teach with an attitude of “I am doing this so I can get something out of it” then you are not involved in Christian ministry. Christian ministry is about serving the other person, not so that you can “get something in return.”
Now, certainly as you pour yourself out for others, you will receive spiritual blessings yourself. However, the starting point of Christian ministry is not you wanting or needing something from those you serve. Rather, you start with a genuine love and affection for the other person. And this love, like it did in Paul’s case, can lead to correction and direct conversation that might not be pleasant. But for the one involved in true Christian ministry, love of others, not of self, will dominate all you do.
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Freedom from Felt Needs

“Jesus smashes the empty cup of your felt needs”, but it is freedom! Freedom from constantly needing God and other people to satisfying every desire you have. Freedom from feeling angry or depressed when your felt needs aren’t met. And freedom to prioritize God over self and others over self, as Jesus laid out clearly when asked what the two greatest commandments were.

What do you need? Such a broad question has a number of answers. You might think “I need food to live.” Or perhaps you need respect from your spouse. Biblically, you need the Lord’s forgiveness in Christ. While some “needs” are legitimate biological needs (like food and water) or biblically-defined spiritual needs (like peace with God), a lot of “needs” you and I have on a given day could be put into a category of “felt needs.” They aren’t needs that come from explicit Scripture and they aren’t literally needed to keep us breathing.
How you and I think about felt needs has vast theological implications. It is very easy to assume that when the Bible talks about joy and satisfaction in Christ it means Jesus will provide for all of our felt needs. For example, perhaps you have a felt need of a romantic relationship. Did Jesus promise to satisfy that desire? When does that desire, even if it isn’t inherently sinful, become a sinful lust? I am currently reading through “When People are Big and God is Small” and a quote from the book helped me immensely when thinking through these questions.
“If I stand before (Jesus) as a cup waiting to be filled with psychological satisfaction, I will never feel quite full. Why? First, because my lusts are boundless; by their very nature they can’t be filled.
Second, because Jesus does not intend to satisfy my selfish desires. Instead, he intends to break the cup of psychological need (lusts), and not fill it.
“When People Are Big and God is Small” by Edward Welch
Most of our “needs” are really lusts in disguise.
This quote comes from an entire chapter where Welch seeks to distinguish between different types of “needs”. According to Welch, there are biological needs, spiritual needs, and what he calls “psychological needs”. The first two are self-explanatory but Welch spends a significant amount of time discussing psychological needs. Essentially, Welch makes the case that the prevailing view of humanity in the modern day it that we are empty cups that need to be filled. Humans have extensive longings that can either be fulfilled by sin or by God.
The problem with this model, according to Welch, is that oftentimes “longings” or “needs” are really just sinful lusts in disguise. They become idolatrous desires that you and I expect God to meet. You and I can desire even good things more than we desire God’s glory. Or you can desire the right thing for sinful reasons. For example, I was reflecting after reading this chapter that a “psychological need” I find within my own heart is a need to be respected by others. When people give me the respect I feel I need, I end up feeling pretty good about myself.
But what happens when my felt needs of respect and approval from others are not met? I end up either angry or depressed. Now, at this point I could address these felt needs by saying to myself “God has given me all the approval and acceptance I need in Christ.”
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The Christian’s Biggest Dream

A life lived for yourself or for a created thing will never satisfy because you are finite. But if you live for an infinite God, your cup will never run dry and daily you will find new opportunities to delight in and display that infinitely glorious God.

You have probably at one point or another heard phrases like “dream big”. “Don’t settle.” “Everyone has their own mountain to climb.” “Believe in yourself.” And so on. This type of advice can be summarized as “find out what you want or value most inside yourself. Then spend your whole life chasing that thing. Make it your biggest dream, the mountain you spend your life trying to climb.” This is the wisdom the world has to offer. But what about the Christian? What is the Christian’s biggest dream? What mountain should a Christian dedicate their life to climbing?
Glorifying God with Your Life Is the Mountain You Must Climb
Reformed Christians throughout the ages have argued convincingly from Scripture that glorifying God is the reason you and I exist. The famous first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism says that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Jonathan Edwards in his famous treatise “The End for Which God Created the World” argued from reason and from Scripture that God created all things to display His glory and so that His glory could be delighted in.
What is “God’s glory”? I wrote a longer post detailing what “God’s glory” means in Scripture. Simply put, God’s glory is his inherent value, greatness, and importance. You glorify God when you respond to His value, greatness, and importance in thought, feeling, or deed. The Bible is full of references to the fact that you and I exist to know God’s infinite greatness, value Him most highly, and live in a way that draws attention to His significance and majesty.
Therefore, the Christian’s biggest dream is nothing less than glorifying God with his or her life. That is the mountain you must daily climb: how can you live in a way that draws attention to the infinite value and beauty and greatness of God? Christians do not look to their own personal desires or dreams or goals to determine what they should life for. Rather, when the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, He supernaturally allows them to value the Triune God more than anything else. The lifelong goal of a Christian becomes understanding more deeply God’s value and inviting those around them value God in proportion to His holiness and greatness.
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Family Worship is Incremental and Iterative

God can use the small act of faithfulness in gathering your family together to pray or sing or read His Word for His great ends. There will always be more that you want to do with your family worship time. But by starting small and incrementally building and by adjusting your plans as needed you can ensure that your family keeps up the habit of growing in the knowledge and love of the Lord together.

When I was a single college student, I operated under the assumption that family worship is simple to implement and execute. I expected to find the “perfect formula” soon after I was married and then spend the rest of my life executing that perfect plan. How wrong I was. I am sure for some people, implementing family worship is easy and straightforward. But I would wager for most people, even though you have a desire to start and continue regular family worship, you find that it is easier said than done. This can quickly become discouraging if you don’t remember that family worship is typically incremental and iterative.
Incremental: Little Victories Build to Bigger Victories
What do I mean by incremental? Oftentimes, your family worship will not start with a long, complicated liturgy right off the bat. There are a dozen different things you can do with your time: Bible reading, catechism memorization, hymn singing, prayer for your local Church, and on and on the list goes. If you try to do too much all at once, the habit of worshiping together as a family each day actually becomes more difficult to nurture. There is a lot you could do with your family worship time. The question is what is most realistic, spiritually edifying, and glorifying to God way to spend the time that you have.
If you want to start worshiping God together as a family on a consistent basis, start small. Focus on one or two activities primarily, like reading a chapter of the Bible together and then singing a hymn. Your family worship time does not need to become a daily mini-Church service right away. In fact, biting off more than you can chew with family worship is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons so many families with good intentions end up giving up on it. Start small and build up as you go.
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How do You Know if You Love Jesus?

Religious activity can make you feel “Christian”, at least for a little while. But if your Christianity is founded on you doing something for God, it has no root and will die in due time. A true, deeply rooted faith is founded in love for a person: Jesus. Anything less and you will either abandon the faith when trials or persecution comes or other desires will end up choking your faith. Don’t become distracted from the main thing: before you go “do something big for Jesus” or “go to Church” or “live for Jesus” start your day by simply asking “Do I love Jesus? Has my love grown cold for Jesus? Have I spent time with Jesus?”

“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Jesus after He rose from the dead asked Peter three times in John 21 “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” These are heart-searching and serious verses. Loving Christ is not an optional part of Christianity. Therefore, there is no better question to examine the state of your heart than simply asking “do I love Jesus or not?” Yet I have often found in my own life that this question can quickly become very abstract. How do you know if you love Jesus? Are there any objective tests to help you assess the state of your soul?
As is so often the case, J.C. Ryle in his book “Holiness” gives a clear and helpful answer on how you can know if you love Jesus or not. His words are worth your time and represent an excellent set of ways to examine yourself to determine if your love for Christ has gone cold. I quote his 8 marks of love below and for the rest of this post, I want to think through how these marks can help you know if you love Jesus. In fact, what Ryle gives below summarizes the Christian life itself powerfully and concisely.
If we love a person, we like to think about him.
If we love a person, we like to hear about him.
If we love a person, we like to read about him.
If we love a person, we like to please him.
If we love a person, we like his friends.
If we love a person, we are jealous about his name and honor.
If we love a person, we like to be always with him.
From “Lovest Thou me?” in Holiness by J.C. Ryle
You know what love looks like on a human level.
Ryle’s goal in this section of “Holiness” is simple: if you know what love looks like at a human level, then you already know what it looks like to love Jesus. Each of the 8 marks Ryle gives are based on the simple fact that if you love a person, you behave a certain way towards them. Likewise, if you don’t behave a certain way towards a person, chances are you don’t truly love them. If you love a person, you think about them, talk with them, want to be with them. You are concerned to please that person, you care about that person’s reputation. In short, your love for that person is demonstrated in visible outward behaviors.
Therefore, Ryle in these 8 marks wants you to simply ask “are these things true of me with regards to Jesus?” Do you think about Jesus? Do you long to hear from Him through daily Bible reading and the preached word? Are you concerned with pleasing Him and His opinion of you? Do you love the people He loves and died to redeem? When others speak poorly of Jesus, are you bold enough in your love for Him to defend His reputation? If the answer to these questions is “no” then perhaps your love for Christ has grown cold. You might say “of course I love Jesus!” but if that love is not seen in any of the ways Ryle lists, perhaps you love Jesus in word only.
How do you know if you love Jesus? Examine your life.
Asking whether you love Jesus isn’t a trick question or an impossibly abstract inquiry. Love for a person shows itself in inward delight and external expressions.
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Scripture Is the Sufficient Standard (1689 1:1)

Everyone wants to hear directly from God. Everyone wants the comfort of having a message from the all-powerful creator of the universe. The good news is that God’s words have been preserved for you. God has committed His words “wholly into writing.”

“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience…” The 1689 Confession of Faith opens with this unambiguous declaration that Scripture is the only sufficient standard of truth. All things pertaining to the Christian faith are found in the canon of Scripture. No where else. The modern world has no objective standard or rule by which to live. Everyone defines their own truth, decides who they are and want to be, and have completely abandoned the idea that there is a God who defines morality and reality. In contrast to this fallen worldview, the 1689 confession summarizes clearly and concisely what Scripture teaches about itself:
The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Section 1:1
Two Sources of Revelation…One Sufficient for Salvation
Notice first that the authors of the confession call out two ways God communicates who He is to humans: the Scripture and the “works of creation and providence.” In doing so, the authors are keeping with Psalm 19 and Romans 1 where the Bible says that God has revealed part of His glory and character through creation. When humans look out at the world around them, they should be able to deduce that there is a powerful, wise, and good ultimate Being who created the universe.
However, the authors are careful to distinguish between Scripture and natural revelation. The former they explicitly say is sufficient, while the latter is explicitly called out as not sufficient. In both cases, the sufficiency in view is “sufficient for salvation.” In other words, Scripture is the only sufficient standard in which you can find how to be reconciled to God. Natural revelation at the best only reveals that there is a God and He must have certain attributes.
Now, what does “sufficient” mean? It means that Scripture has in itself everything you need to be saved from your sins. It exhaustively contains the doctrines needed for being reconciled to God and then living in obedience to Him after you are reconciled. In using the word “sufficient”, the authors are making it clear that the canon of Scripture is all you need for salvation. You don’t need any supplementary or external material in order to understand and believe the Gospel. Not only that, Scripture is the sufficient standard for how Christians are to live in the world.

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