Sermon: The Surety and Sufficiency of Scripture

Yesterday I gave a message, the last in a four-part series at our church on “Loving God’s Word”. My message was titled “The Surety and Sufficiency of Scripture”. The main topic is the founding protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

You can listen to the message at Stonebrook’s Web site. What follows is my manuscript.

Learning to Love God’s Word – The Surety and Sufficiency of Scripture

on Sola Scriptura by Matt Heerema

Matthew 3:16–17 (ESV); Matthew 17:1–6 (ESV)


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if right now the skies parted for us, and we heard a voice booming from the heavens to tell us exactly what we were supposed to hear from God this AM? Or maybe wouldn’t it be great if out of those parted skies, a book floated down and landed right in front of you and the voice said “This is everything I want you to know about me.” What would you do with that book!?

What I want to show you this morning is that the present situation we are in, with the book we have, is an even better situation than that. I want to show you that The Bible is that voice from Heaven, that because it is the record of the times that God has spoken directly to and through men, that it is the sure and sufficient revelation from God, about everything he wants us to know about our faith and daily practice.

The scriptures are a sure source, and they are a sufficient source, of God’s revelation to us. That is, we have everything we need in order to know God and His will for us in The Bible.

Please turn to 2nd Peter, chapter 1.

Some Caveats for the Morning

I might be accused of being incomplete this morning, and potentially downplaying the role of the Holy Spirit in our life. I hope to clear some of this up at the end of the sermon, and if you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to write them down and ask me after the service.

This also speaks to the critical importance of coming to the entire service. We carefully plan and pick the rest of the elements of the service to also proclaim a message. And we started off with what I believe to be a very powerful song that models reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Concept Introduction

What would it have been like to hear God’s voice booming out of the heavens? How cool would that have been!? The Apostle Peter was there when it happened, and it impacted him deeply. But here’s what’s interesting: it served to confirm for him the importance, significance, and surety of the scriptures! Over and against personal pursuit of this spiritual experience, in light of hearing God’s voice booming from the heavens, Peter urges us to pay attention to the Scriptures.

2 Peter 1:16–21 (ESV)

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Surety of Scripture

The Old Testament Prophets

In the first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, we find God dictating history and the His law to Moses. Moses wrote these things in a book (the Pentateuch), and taught these things to the people. At the end of the Pentateuch, Moses says this:

Deuteronomy 32:45–47 (ESV)
45 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

Moses, who was the high prophet of God’s people, who spoke to God face to face, unlike anyone in history since Adam, or until Jesus, pointed to the Scripture, the written words of God, and said “These are your very life.”

The Apostles

The Apostles pointed to this same scripture, over and above their revelations and experiences.


The Apostle Paul, who heard Jesus speak to him from out of the sky, and who had many miraculous, revelation experiences tells Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:14–17 (ESV)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

What revelation and teaching is necessary to be complete in the faith? The scripture contains it. Paul didn’t train his top disciple in how to listen for spiritual revelation, he taught him to cling to, become skilled at handling, and to preach the scriptures.


As we already mentioned, the Apostle Peter, who heard God speak from the heavens says about that experience:

2 Peter 1:18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,

He urges us, in light of what he experienced, to pay attention to the prophetic word, the scriptures. The experience of hearing a voice from heaven only services to cause Peter’s confidence in and reliance on the scriptures to increase.

The Ancient Church

Augustine, the greatest teacher of the ancient church taught the church to look to the scriptures for all the teaching about living the faith.

Among those things which are said openly in Scripture are to be found all those teachings which involve faith, the mores of living, and the hope and charity (love) which we have discussed.” (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine)

His statement is typical of the mainstream teaching of the Christian church of the first several centuries. they looked to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, along with the Hebrew Bible, as their sufficient source of truth for faith and practice. They needed no other source, no other revelation.

This utter dependance on the scriptures as the repository of all of God’s revelation to the church shouldn’t surprise us, because The Gospels show us that Jesus himself taught us to rely on the scriptures as our authority.

Jesus Himself

Matthew 4:1–11 (ESV)

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“ ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written [or, “it is also written”], ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’ ”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

In the middle of intense spiritual war, when being directly attacked by Satan, Jesus, who is God, relied on the Scriptures for His defense.

When Satan twisted Scripture, (proving that you can hear “voices” that “line up with scripture”), Jesus clarified with Scripture.

“When the Evil One or his representatives misuse the Bible, or imply that it is unclear, Jesus teaches us that we must look more deeply into the written Word, not away from it.”
– W. Robert Godfrey

God’s prophets, apostles, teachers, and Jesus Himself taught us to be tuned in to the Scriptures as the only sure source of truth for life and godliness.

It is because of the Bible’s clear teaching on the surety of scripture, that the Protestant Reformers articulated the primary force of the entire reformation: Sola Scriptura, or “Scripture Alone”

  • Scripture is the highest court of authority
  • Scripture interprets scripture
  • Scripture corrects all our teaching of scripture (tradition, sermons, books, etc)
  • Bereans (Acts 17:11) – examined the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. “They were more noble”

The Sufficiency of Scripture

However, James Montgomery Boice, a great pastor, teacher, and commentator said that the real battle in our times would not be surety of Scripture, most of us hold that the Bible is the authority, but its sufficiency—are we going to believe that the Bible is all we need to know God’s will, or will we continually look for another source of revelation?

My main point here is this: personal divine, special revelation is not to be expected. And if it contradicts the scriptures, it is to be rejected.

Still small voices

We Christians have this thing about listening for the still-small voice of God. But this is nowhere to be found in the scriptures. The concept comes from a misunderstanding and gross misapplication of

1 Kings 19:11–13 (NIV84)

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

“Gentle whisper” is famously translated in the KJV as the ever-popular “still small voice”, but is best translated by the NASB “the sound of a gentle blowing”. And it is critical to note that the Lord is not in that whisper either. God was speaking to Elijah before all that, and didn’t speak again until after all that. “THEN a voice said to him…”

When God wants his people to hear, He makes his voice unmistakable.

2 Peter 1:20-21-
20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The apostles and prophets did not get “impressions” of what “they thought God might be telling them”. God unmistakably, clearly, and in no uncertain terms “carried them along” to say exactly what God intended them to say.

For the apostle John, Jesus, blazing in glory, showed up and spoke directly to him on the island of Patmos. The apostle Paul was stopped in his tracks on the road to Damascus and struck blind by Jesus. Peter, as we’ve been discussing, witnessed Jesus transfigured into His glorified state on the top of the mountain. The apostles heard directly from God, and witnessed miraculous events. This has not ever happened to any other person since.

And Paul teaches us that if this does happen, and any other message than what is recorded in Scripture is given, whatever it is that shows up is to be cursed and rejected.

Galatians 1:6–9 (ESV)
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, claims to have encountered “God the Father and Jesus the Son” in a forest, and later an angel named Moroni. They gave him another “gospel”. Joseph should have cursed whatever was pretending to be God and that angel, and rejected their message.

Mohammed claimed to have received his message from the angel Gabriel. It was a different message. Mohammed should have cursed whatever was pretending to be Gabriel and rejected the message.

We are not instructed to listen for voices. We are not taught how to grow in our perception of “the voice of God” in our head. We are taught to look deeply into, to become skilled at handling, to cling tightly to, and to proclaim the message contained in the scriptures: the written record of God’s revelation about Himself to His people.

How this grows us in our love for God’s Word

Now, when I was bouncing this all off my wife, she nodded, helped me clarify a few points, helped me reword some things. But then she asked me “Matt, how is this all supposed to help us grow in our love for God’s Word.” And I was like, oh yah… the series…

Here’s what I’m on about. There is a cultural wind prevalent in evangelical Christianity right now that is all about these voices. All about hearing “what God spoke to me” all about a longing for something more than the clear voice of God in the scriptures.

Sarah Young, the author of a runaway Christian Bestselling book “Jesus Calling” typifies this desire:

“I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.”

And I think a lot of us hear that and might resonate with it. But because The Holy Spirit of God dwells inside believers in Christ, and powerfully works in us to call to mind the things we were taught concerning Jesus, and guides us into all truth, and because God’s Word is truth, God speaks directly and personally to us in the Scriptures.

I believe that this desire for something “more”, for this false idea of a “still small voice”, drains our love for God’s Word!

But how am I supposed to know what he wants me to do in a specific situation? This sounds really dry and impersonal! Seems cold, and un-relational. I thought we were supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus. And you’re saying it’s all about this book? Aren’t you are putting God in a box here? He wants to be out of the box.

No. I am doing just the opposite.

Hebrews 4:12–13 (ESV)
12 For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The accusation that this is a cold and mechanical approach to the Christian life is a lie from the pit of Hell. It is the oldest lie of Satan. “What God told you isn’t enough. You need more.” He has tricked us into only seeing a book, words on a page, a duty, something we’re failing at.

We have lost sight that what we hold in our hands is a record of God’s very voice, His very word. The old saying goes: “When you hear the Word of God read, you are hearing God speak!”

I LOVE THIS SITUATION! Isn’t this great!?

How merciful of Him to give us such an objective source of revelation, such a sure, clear, black-and-white repository of His entire council on faith and practice to us. This is in no way limiting God, this is in no way making a dynamic relationship cold and mechanical.

Is it not amazing that He has revealed Himself to us in a way that is directly applicable to every single distinct situation we can possibly face?

There is safety in this surety. He gave us this revelation in this form for a reason. Can you imagine a reality where you had to constantly wring your hands wondering if the “voice” you heard was from God or not? Because the fact is we usually hear a dozen, or zero voices, don’t we?! How are we supposed to know which one is “from The Lord”?

Why do we feel compelled to have a special “Word from the Lord”? You already have a Word from the Lord ready, in season and out, all the time. You have over 1000 pages full of them. Properly understood in their appropriate context, and accurately applied with the Holy Spirit’s powerful and promised help, these words are extremely powerful!


Brothers and sisters, I release you from the false expectation of hearing a special, personal, still-small voice in your head, that none of us are actually any good at in the first place!

And I urge you to pursue a deeper, richer, fuller understanding of God’s personal, clear, precise, effective voice that He so graciously gives us in the scriptures!

Some Questions for Discussion

I wrote the following discussion guide for our small groups to use with the sermon.

Loving God’s Word – Week 4
The Surety and Sufficiency of Scripture

The prophets of the Old Testament, the Apostles of the New Testament, the Early Church Fathers, and our Lord Jesus himself relied upon the scriptures as the sure and sufficient source of everything God wants us to know about our faith and daily practice of our faith.  Their testimony and instruction to us teach us to rely on the scriptures, which are able to make us complete in our faith and fully equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17).  The apostles instructed us to not go beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6), and warned that false teachers abound who encourage us to turn away from the sufficiency of God’s word (the scriptures) and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:4).

The sufficiency of the scriptures is under heavy attack in our day, with popular Christian literature and music all encouraging us to seek further revelation apart from the scriptures. This undermines our confidence in its surety and saps our love for God’s Word.


Surety of the Scriptures  (Authority and trustworthiness of the scriptures)

How do we know that we can trust that the Scriptures are the authoritative Word of God?  (Hint: how were they treated by the prophets, the apostles, the early church fathers, the protestant reformers, and by Jesus himself?)

Sufficiency of the Scriptures  (Completeness and comprehensiveness of God’s revelation)

Ready 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

How do these verses relate to the popular, but errant, idea of seeking God’s “still small voice?”

The Bible teaches that The Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, leads us, and we have a personal, intimate, relationship with Him. The Bible also teaches that it is the complete revelation of God to His people. How do these teachings clarify each other.  (See Ephesians 6:17)

Does this challenge ideas you have held on to, or perhaps have grown up with?  How does/should this change things for you?


Pray for each other in this area, that we will continue to grow in our love for and understanding of, and obedience to, God’s Word.


3 responses to “Sermon: The Surety and Sufficiency of Scripture”

  1. Link Schwartz

    Sermon: The Surety and Sufficiency of Scripture – Matt Heerema

  2. doug pitassi

    Sermon: The Surety and Sufficiency of Scripture – Matt Heerema

  3. Peter Coleman Avatar
    Peter Coleman

    Thank you!

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