God’s Sufficient Word – Part 1
Friday, September 12, 2014
by John MacArthur
It is significant that one of the biblical names of Christ is Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). He is the highest and ultimate One to whom we may turn for counsel, and His Word is the well from which we may draw divine wisdom. What could be more wonderful than that?
In fact, one of the most glorious aspects of Christ’s perfect sufficiency is the wonderful counsel and great wisdom He supplies in our times of despair, confusion, fear, anxiety, and sorrow. He is the quintessential Counselor.
Now that is not to denigrate the importance of Christians counseling each other. There certainly is a crucial need for biblically sound counseling within the body of Christ. I would not for a moment dispute the important role of those who are spiritually gifted to offer encouragement, discernment, comfort, advice, compassion, and help to others.
In fact, one of the very problems that has led to the current plague of bad counsel is that churches have not done as well as they could in enabling people with those kinds of spiritual gifts to minister excellently. The complexities of this modern age make it more difficult than ever to take the time necessary to listen well, serve others through compassionate personal involvement, and otherwise provide the close fellowship necessary for the church body to enjoy health and vitality.
Churches have looked to psychology to fill the gap, but it isn’t going to work. Professional psychologists are no substitute for spiritually gifted people, and the counsel psychology offers cannot replace biblical wisdom and divine power. Moreover, psychology tends to make people dependent on a therapist, whereas those exercising true spiritual gifts always turn people back to an all-sufficient Savior and His all-sufficient Word.
A Psalm on the Sufficiency of God’s Word
King David was an example of someone who occasionally sought advice from human counselors, but always ultimately turned to God for answers. As many of the psalms reveal, he was especially dependent on God alone when he struggled with personal problems or emotions (Psalm 18). When hit with depression or inner turmoil, he turned to God and wrestled in prayer (Psalm 73). When the problem was his own sin, he was repentant, broken, and contrite (Psalm 51). The spiritually mature always turn to God for help in times of anxiety, distress, confusion, or unrest in the soul—and they are assured of wise counsel and deliverance.
That’s because every need of the human soul is ultimately spiritual. There is no such thing as a “psychological problem” unrelated to spiritual or physical causes. God supplies divine resources sufficient to meet all those needs completely. David understood that.
His writings reflect the depth of human experience, emotion, and spiritual insight of one who had fully experienced the extremities of life. He knew the exhilaration of going from shepherd to king. He wrote of everything from absolute triumph to bitter discouragement. He wrestled with pain so deep he could hardly bear to live.
His own son Absalom tried to kill him and was then killed. He suffered from horrible guilt because of immorality and murder. His children brought him constant grief. He struggled to understand both the nature of God and his own heart. Of God he said, “Great is the Lord” (Psalm 145:3), while of himself he said, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, / And cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). He told God what he felt and cried out for relief—though he admitted God had every right to punish him.
At the end of some of David’s psalms he looked out a window of hope, and sometimes he didn’t. But David always went to God because he understood God’s sovereignty and his own depravity. He knew that his all-sufficient Savior alone had the answers to his needs and the power to apply those answers. And he knew that those answers were to be found in the truth about God revealed in His Word, which is itself perfectly sufficient. The sufficient God revealed Himself in His sufficient Word.
Psalm 19:7–14 is the most monumental statement on the sufficiency of Scripture ever made in concise terms. Penned by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it offers an unwavering testimony from God Himself about the sufficiency of His Word for every situation. It counters the teaching of those who believe we must augment God’s Word with truth gleaned from modern psychology.
In verses 7–9 David makes six statements about Scripture.Each of the six statements highlights a characteristic of God’s Word and describes its effect in the life of one who embraces it.
Scripture Is Perfect, Restoring the Soul.
In the first statement (v. 7), he says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.” The Hebrew word translated “law” is torah, which emphasizes the didactic nature of Scripture. Here David uses it to refer to Scripture as the sum of what God has revealed for our instruction, whether it be creed (what we believe), character (what we are), or conduct (what we do).
“Perfect” is the translation of a common Hebrew word meaning “whole,” “complete,” or “sufficient.” It conveys the idea of something that is comprehensive, so as to cover all aspects of an issue. Scripture is comprehensive, embodying all that is necessary to one’s spiritual life. David’s implied contrast is with the imperfect, insufficient, flawed reasoning of men.
God’s perfect law, David said, affects people by “restoring the soul” (v. 7). The Hebrew word translated “restoring” can mean “converting,” “reviving,” or “refreshing,” but my favorite synonym is “transforming.” The word “soul” (in Hebrew, nephesh) refers to one’s person, self, or heart. It is translated all those ways (and many more) in the Old Testament. The essence of it is the inner person, the whole person, the real you.
To paraphrase David’s words, Scripture is so powerful and comprehensive that it can convert or transform the entire person, changing someone into precisely the person God wants him to be. God’s Word is sufficient to restore through salvation even the most broken life—a fact to which David himself gave abundant testimony.
Scripture Is Trustworthy, Imparting Wisdom.
David further expands the sweep of scriptural sufficiency in Psalm 19:7, “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” “Testimony” speaks of Scripture as a divine witness. Scripture is God’s sure testimony to who He is and what He requires of us. “Sure” means His testimony is unwavering, immovable, unmistakable, reliable, and worthy to be trusted. It provides a foundation on which to build our lives and eternal destinies.
God’s sure Word makes the simple wise (v. 7). The Hebrew word translated “simple” comes from an expression meaning “an open door.” It evokes the image of a naive person who doesn’t know when to shut his mind to false or impure teaching. He is undiscerning, ignorant, and gullible. But God’s Word makes him wise. “Wise” speaks not of one who merely knows some fact, but of one who is skilled in the art of godly living. He submits to Scripture and knows how to apply it to his circumstances. The Word of God thus takes a simple mind with no discernment and makes it skilled in all the issues of life. This, too, is in contrast to the wisdom of men, which in reality is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Scripture Is Right, Causing Joy.
David adds a third statement about Scripture’s sufficiency. He writes, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” Precepts are divine principles and guidelines for character and conduct. Since God created us and knows how we must live to be productive for His glory, He has placed in Scripture every principle we need for godly living.
God’s precepts, David said, are “right.” Rather than simply indicating what is right as opposed to wrong, that word has the sense of showing someone the true path. The truths of Scripture lay out the proper path through the difficult maze of life. That’s a wonderful confidence. So many people today are distressed or despondent because they lack direction and purpose. Most seek answers from the wrong sources. God’s Word not only provides the light to our path (Psalm 119:105), but also sets the route before us.
Because it steers us through the right course of life, God’s Word brings great joy. If you’re depressed, anxious, fearful, or doubting, learn to obey God’s counsel and share in the resulting delight. Don’t turn to self-indulgent pursuits like self-esteem and self-fulfillment. Focus on divine truth. Therein you will find true and lasting joy. All other sources are shallow and fleeting.
Isn’t God’s Word amazing in its sufficiency? It is perfect, lacking in nothing, trustworthy, and sets the course for a productive life. As such, it transforms us to the image of Christ, grants us wisdom for every moment, and fills us with eternal joy. How tragic it is when we set aside the source of divine wisdom in favor of man’s wisdom, which is impotent and insufficient.
Next time we’ll look at the next three statements of Scripture’s sufficiency, and relish in the sweetness of God’s Word.
Join the Conversation
What Scriptures have had a profound impact in your life during times of struggles with sin or suffering?
(Adapted from Our Sufficiency in Christ)