The Joy of Being Reformed (7): Do Charismatics Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture? The Reformed Do!

As Christians, we love God, and we want to hear from Him, to know His will, and to know that He loves us, is with us, and is guiding us through this difficult journey of life. We want His reassurance. Communication with God is essential to our confidence and comfort. And Christians are divided on how we hear from God today.

Some Christians believe that God gives new and direct revelation to believers today. They believe God speaks directly to believers and reveals new things that the Bible doesn’t reveal. We call these Christians continuationists or charismatics.  

Conversely, other Christians believe that new and direct revelation from God to believers has ceased since the days of the Apostles. They believe God has revealed all He’s going to reveal in sacred Scripture and that all we need for faith and life is found in Scripture alone. We call these Christians cessationists.

Now, there’s certainly much more to be said about continuationists and cessationists and their ongoing disagreement, which I will not do in this episode, but it is evident that there is division in the church of Christ over prophecy or ongoing divine revelation. If you’d like a more extensive podcast on this topic, I recommend Dr. R. Scott Clark’s recent Heidelcast series titled “Feathers and All: The Scriptures Are Enough.”

The argument between continuationists and cessationists is complicated and relates directly to how we should interpret Scripture. But I think one massive issue at the center of this discussion is the issue of the sufficiency of Scripture. Would you think a bit about the sufficiency of God’s Word? Is God’s Word enough for us today or should we expect new and additional revelation from God? It’s an important question.

When something is sufficient, it is enough, it is all you need, it possesses the ability to satisfy. If you have a sufficient amount of food for dinner, it means you have enough food to feed everyone at the table. No one will go away hungry. No one needs to stop at McDonald’s on the way home. However, if there was an insufficient amount of food, at least one person would still be hungry after the meal. Under those circumstances, hitting McDonald’s on the way home might not be a bad idea.

The question is, does God intend the Bible to be sufficient revelation for our lives today or does God reveal new and additional revelation to give us what Scripture can’t? Is the Bible enough? I don’t think continuationists can convincingly argue that Scripture is sufficient as our only rule for faith and life today when they argue that God continues to breathe out new and private revelations that supplement or enhance Scripture. Either Scripture is enough for our faith and life today or it is not.

The confessionally Reformed voice of history maintains that Scripture is indeed sufficient, it’s enough, and that we don’t need new and additional revelation from God to fill in any supposed gaps. In other words, all that is necessary for our faith, justification, salvation, sanctification, encouragement, etc. is revealed in Scripture alone. Even more, sola scriptura is a hill Protestantism is historically willing to die on.

Jesus told his chosen apostles something significant in John 14. In the Upper Room the night before his crucifixion, he promised them, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (v. 26). That was a unique promise to his apostles. See, the apostles, who oversaw the completion of the New Testament, were personally chosen, discipled, taught, and trained by Jesus Christ. They heard his discourses. They heard his expositions. In the Upper Room, Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit, the divine Spirit who would supernaturally teach them and bring to their memories the content of Jesus’ ministry. Therefore, the apostles were in a unique position to manage the writing and compilation of the New Testament which was divinely added through the apostles to the testimony of the Old Testament. The completion of Scripture was even accompanied by the apostles’ miracles. Is Scripture sufficient or should we expect God to speak to us outside of Scripture? Is the Scripture sufficient or are their helpful and necessary truths for our faith and life that God has yet to reveal to us?

Guido de Brès’ Belgic Confession speaks to this important issue. Article Seven, which is titled “The Sufficiency of Holy Scripture,” says this, and listen carefully:

We believe that this Holy Scripture fully contains the will of God and that all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein. The whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in it at length. It is therefore unlawful for anyone, even for an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in Holy Scripture: yes, even if it be an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says (Gal. 1:8). Since it is forbidden to add to or take away anything from the Word of God (Deut. 12:32), it is evident that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. [1]

Let’s pause there. The Bible fully contains God’s will. The Bible contains all that we need to believe. There’s nothing missing, nothing to be added, and certainly nothing should be subtracted. How should we worship, serve, praise, love, and live? Well, the Bible tells us everything we need to know. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul argues that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Scripture even warns against adding to Scripture (Deut. 12:32; Gal. 1:8; Rev. 22:18). And since Scripture alone is sufficient to equip Christ’s church for every good work, what good will any so-called continued revelation do for us? To whatever extent so-called new revelations would serve the church today is the extent to which the Scriptures are insufficient.  

Belgic Confession Article Seven says, “it is evident that the doctrine [of God’s holy Scripture] . . . is most perfect and complete in all respects.” It would seem continuationists cannot truly affirm that Scripture is “most perfect and complete in all respects” when they argue that new revelation is breathed out by God and authoritative. And it’s very odd that despite what Scripture says about prophets in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:20, some continuationists argue that prophets today can speak a divine message from God and that that divine message can be mixed with error. So, though prophets of old should’ve been executed for error, prophets of today who speak error get a pass. Strange. Continuationism seems to me to significantly undermine the sufficiency of Scripture.

Article Seven continues:

We may not consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with the divine Scriptures; nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees, or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars and are lighter than a breath (Ps. 62:9). We therefore reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us: Test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Likewise: If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting (2 John 1:10). [2]

There is a hill worth dying on and it’s the hill of sola scriptura. As I see it, continuationism inherently argues for the insufficiency of Scripture and encourages people toward credulity, foolishness, disappointment, and the loss of confidence and comfort in God’s Word.

How can you hear God’s voice today? I suggest to you that God is powerfully speaking through the public reading and preaching of His Word all around the world today, and when you gather with the saints on the Lord’s Day, you gather with God to receive His divine and powerful gospel for your salvation. Scripture is more than enough; it is God’s Word to you to strengthen and sustain you.


[2] Ibid.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one-half of any book of the ESV Bible.

About the author

Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

View all posts