OSP Churches and the Sufficiency of Scripture

When I think about Old School Presbyterianism, one of the main things that comes to mind is the sufficiency of Scripture.  Other voices are often heard speaking of scripture’s inerrancy (and the Bible is inerrant), its authority (the Bible most definitely is authoritative), and its inspiration (the Bible is absolutely inspired by God).  But I do not find nearly enough talk about its sufficiency.  Not just sufficiency in the abstract, but sufficiency believed and applied.  Do we really believe that the Word of God is sufficient to provide us with ALL things NECESSARY for God’s own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life?  Is the Bible sufficient to tell us not only “who” to worship, but “how” to worship?  Is God’s Word some how deficient in areas and we are left to our own “sanctified” reason, or is it completely sufficient to direct us in all things?  I believe that the scriptures are sufficient and that is why I am an OSP.  And rather than ramble on in my own hap-hazard way, I want to quote at some length from an article written by John Murray entitled “The Finality and Sufficiency of Scripture”.  He says it far better than I could anyway.

 “Our dependence upon Scripture is total.  Without it we are bereft of revelatory Word from God, from the counsel of God ‘respecting all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life.’ Thus when the church or any of its spokesmen fails to accord to Scripture this eminence, and fails to make it the only rule of faith and life, then the kind of affront offered to Father, Son and Holy Spirit is that of substituting the wisdom of man for the wisdom of God, and human invention for divine institution. …

The finality of Scripture, if it has any meaning, demands that those who profess commitment ot Christ and the church in its collective capacity, direct all thought, activity, and objective by  this Word as the revelation to us of God’s mind and will. …

Here, I believe, we have too often made the mistake of not taking seriously the doctrine we profess.  If Scripture is the inscripturated revelation of the gospel and of God’s mind and will, if it is the only revelation of this character that we possess, then it is this revelation in all its fulness, richness, wisdom, and power that must be applied to man in whatever religious, moral, mental situation he is to be found.  It is because we have not esteemed and prized the perfection of Scripture and its finality, that we have resorted to other techniques, expedients, and methods of dealing with the dilemma that confronts us all if we are alive to the needs of this hour.  …  Let us learn from our tradition, let us prize our heritage, let us enter into other men’s labours; but let us also know that it is not the tradition of the past, not a precious heritage, and not the labours of the fathers, that are to serve this generation and this hour, but the Word of the living and abiding God deposited for us in Holy Scripture, and this Word as ministered by the church.  And we must bring forth from its inexhaustible treasures, in exposition, proclamation, and application what is the wisdom and power of God for man in this age in all the particularity of his need… . There will then be commanding relevance, for it will be the message from God in the unction and power of the Spirit, not derived from the modern mentality, but declared to the modern mentality in all the desperateness of its anxiety and misery.

… let us beware of the controlling framework of modern thinking lest its patterns and presuppositions become our own, and then, before we know it, we are carried away by a current of thought and attitude that makes the sufficiency and finality of Scripture not only extraneous but alien to our way of thinking.  Sadly enough this is what has taken place so often, and there comes to be no basic affinity between the faith entertained and proclaimed, on the one hand, and that which the implications of the sufficiency and finality of Scripture demand and constrain, on the other.

Let us reassess the significance of Scripture as the Word of God and let us come to a deeper appreciation of the deposit of revelation God in his grace and wisdom has given unto us as the living Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword, and let us know and experience its power in its sufficiency for every exigency of our individual and collective need, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts.  ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for the instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:16).”

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4 Responses to OSP Churches and the Sufficiency of Scripture

  1. Andrew Webb says:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for posting this and a hearty AMEN to Murray’s warning: “let us beware of the controlling framework of modern thinking lest its patterns and presuppositions become our own, and then, before we know it, we are carried away by a current of thought and attitude that makes the sufficiency and finality of Scripture not only extraneous but alien to our way of thinking.”

    BTW – I don’t have his collected works here at home, which volume is this from?

  2. Mark says:


    The article is in volume One of his collected works. Sorry that I didn’t include that. If you can get your hands on it, you should read the whole thing. It is well written and greatly encouraging.

  3. Mark says:

    This is my first time looking through your web site and I appreciate much of what I read. And this article in particular.

    But it also raises question. Old Schoolers value the WCF and in it the divines make much of what they call “the light of nature.”

    For instance, while the Bible is clear that worship should exhibit certain qualities such as reverence and awe, order and excellence; it does not define these qualities. It is not possible to prescribe all matters of worship straight out of the Bible. How we are to display reverence and seriousness is never clear, but we intuitively know what it means to be irreverent, flippant and insolence.

    The Bible doesn’t define those elements in Philippians 4:8 — whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, yet “the light of nature” is a guide.

    Our culture no longer values the “light of nature” or for that matter that nature has any light at all! And I think if we are not careful, we come across communicating the same.

  4. Idetrorce says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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