Is God's revelation to us complete?
by Richlon Merrill
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“Sola Scriptura” is a term handed down from the reformers meaning Scripture alone. It denotes the sufficiency and authority of scripture as God’s final revelation of himself to man until Christ returns once again for his Church. Some, among Christian circles will argue that God is continuing to add further revelation beyond that previously established in the pages of Scripture. There is danger in entertaining this doctrine. The Lord’s final revelation comes to us in the form of a New Testament book by the same name. Inserted just before this prophetic account of future events is a short letter written by a little known author by the name of Jude. While referring his readers back to quotes from Old Testament scripture as well as references from the Apostles’ letters, Jude has little additional revelation to add. Instead, Jude is a book of warnings. After Jude’s salutation he immediately writes, “… I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Jude 3b. He then goes on to explain that certain individuals were slipping into the fellowship of believers and were distorting the message of the gospel. Jude then reminds his readers of the condemnation of such men from times past. His passionate message is ardent in its warnings to us about altering scripture. In his words “contend for the faith”, he is referring to the gospel message which encompasses the ultimate revelation of God to those who believe. By writing, “once for all entrusted to the saints”, he is referring to this final message as complete and authoritative. We in the Lord’s Church must “contend” for this final, complete, and authoritative revelation from our Lord. That is why I am writing this article.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he writes that the Lord’s Church is built upon the foundation established by the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. (Eph. 2:19-20). “The apostles” is in reference to the New Testament writings which point to Christ our salvation. “The prophets” references the Old Testament prophecies pointing to Christ our salvation. Paul’s passionate plea is for God’s people to grasp the unfathomable riches (Eph. 3:8) found through God’s final message to man wrapped up in Jesus Christ.
Paul ends his letter to the Romans by declaring, “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made know through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him” (Romans 16:25-26). Paul, after presenting what may arguably be the best proclamation of the gospel where he pulls together all the previous mysteries of God into a final conclusion, once again emphasis the fact that God’s revelation has now been made known and complete to accomplish the task God intended, “that all nations might believe and obey.”
In another letter to the Corinthians, Paul urges believers by reminding them; “Do not exceed what is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6) He points out that it is the Church’s task to be stewards of the message already delivered to them.
And yet, we humans still feel there must be more. Paul warned Timothy about such an attitude, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3) Some argue that the words in scripture do not address all the issues mankind faces. In 2 Peter 1:3, we read, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” We already have everything we need. Peter goes on to write, “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:4).
Even so, well meaning Christians continue to believe that God will pour out further revelation through such methods as continued prophecy which usually is uttered through tongues, astounding miracles, or gifted Prophets of God. They justify this belief by citing passages from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthians were, in fact, gifted by God in many respects. God was continuing to bring converts into the Church. His revelation was continuing to be manifested through miracles, prophecies, healings, and speaking in tongues. “For we know in part and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). This suggests, once again, that God was still clarifying his message during this first century Church. The Canon of scripture had yet to be declared. The apostles were continuing to illuminate the message of God: Through Jesus Christ we get God back. All of the Old Testament law and prophets were now summed up in this message fulfilled by Christ. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2a). (emphasis my own)
One would do well to read both of Paul’s letters to Timothy where he emphatically warns those who would want to add or distort the simple, clear, and foundational message of the Gospel. In Galatians he writes, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8-9)
Pride keeps us from being satisfied with God’s final revelation found through the authority of scripture. We would do well to heed the final warning in the Bible found in Revelation 22:18-19, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
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