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At the beginning of 2020, we began a new series in adult Sunday school on the attributes of God. I am looking forward to this series as each week we consider an aspect of God’s being and how it should affect our faith and our lives. The word “attributes,” however, got me thinking about the attributes of Scripture, and since many of us have begun Bible reading plans at the start of the New Year, it will benefit us to consider the four main attributes of Scripture. They can easily be remembered using the acronym: SCAN.

First, the Bible is Sufficient. This means that the Bible reveals all that we need to know in order to be saved and to live in a way that pleases God. We don’t need new or ongoing revelation because the Bible is enough. Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6 explains: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory and man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly stated in Scripture or by good and necessary inference may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or by traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the inward illumination of the Spirit of God is necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.”

Second, the Bible is Clear. This is sometimes called the perspicuity of Scripture. Louis Berkhof, in his Systematic Theology, explains how this differs from Roman Catholic teaching on the obscurity and complexity of Scripture, which requires an infallible interpretation to be provided by the Church. Berkhof explains that in contrast to this, the Reformers sought to get the Bible translated and copied and put into the hands of the people so that they could read and learn. Berkhof writes, “The [Reformers’] contention was simply that the knowledge necessary unto salvation, though not equally clear on every page of Scripture, is yet conveyed to man throughout the Bible in such a simple and comprehensible form that one who is earnestly seeking salvation can, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by reading and studying the Bible, easily obtain for himself the necessary knowledge, and does not need the aid and guidance of the Church and of a separate priesthood.” This does not negate the importance of our creeds and confessions, of Lord’s Day worship, and of the preaching of the Word, but it does remind us that as we read the Bible daily, we can learn and be edified because it is understandable.

Third, the Bible is Authoritative. What higher authority is there in the universe than God himself? So naturally, when this God speaks, his Word is authoritative. Westminster Confession of Faith 1.4-5 explains: “The authority of the Holy Scripture, because of which it ought to be believed and obeyed, does not depend upon the testimony of any man or church, but entirely upon God, its author (who is truth itself); therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”

The way we demonstrate Scripture’s authority is by living according to what it teaches. Some people pride themselves on rejecting authority, whether it’s the authority of parents, of the government, and sometimes even the authority of God’s Word. This will always lead to spiritual ruin. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Fourth, the Bible is Necessary. Today, God reveals himself in two ways: in nature and in Scripture. Sometimes we say that God has written two books: the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture. Nature refers to general revelation and Scripture refers to special revelation. General revelation, though it reveals certain attributes of God, is not sufficient in and of itself to lead a person to the way of salvation. Special revelation is necessary. The Westminster Confession of Faith 1.1 explains:

Although the light of nature and the works of creation and providence manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, to such an extent that men are without excuse, yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of his will which is necessary for salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at various times and in diverse ways, to reveal himself and to declare his will to 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 this revelation wholly to writing. Therefore the Holy Scripture is most necessary, God’s former ways of revealing his will to his people having ceased.