part of the what is truth? series

Whether or not the Bible is the complete revelation of God has profound implications on Christianity today. If the Bible isn’t the complete revelation of God, then the door remains open to “other” revelation.

“Other” could be other scriptural authority such as the Quran or the Book of Mormon. Or, evangelists claiming to speak for God or church leaders holding a title of apostle or prophet. It gives license for individuals to dream their own interaction with God and His special revelation just to/for them. In fact, all of these exist today. They are often justified as an activity through/by the Holy Spirit or simply “hearing the voice of God”.

So what does Scripture say about if the Bible is the complete revelation of God?

Regarding his chief theological work, ‘Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche’: Its fundamental principle is that the source and the basis of dogmatic theology are the religious feeling, the sense of absolute dependence on God as communicated by Jesus through the church, not the creeds or the letter of Scripture or the rationalistic understanding.
Friedrich SchleiermacherFriedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), German theologian, philosopher, Wikipedia

How Scripture answers "Is the Bible the complete revelation of God?"

The Bible is the complete revelation of God1,2,6,7,9,10,11,12,13. While there was a time God spoke to man through prophets5,8, that time was replaced by the gospel revelation through His son, Jesus Christ and His time on earth5,9,10 and His appointed apostles9,10,11,13.

As of the first century, God’s word had been proclaimed throughout the whole world4,6,8. If the word was sufficiently complete in the first century to save individuals1,3,4,6,8,9,10,11,12, how is it any less complete now and why would it be necessary for God to reveal more? The foundation9,12 would not still be being laid some 2,000 years later.

Yes
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No

1

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Anyone that looks into the perfect (or complete) law of liberty and stands firm in it – not just hearing it but doing it – will be blessed.

James is writing to the dispersed Christians and encouraging them to act out their faith, because faith that is not acted out is dead.

How does it apply here?

The law of liberty (e.g. the gospel of Christ) is complete (“perfect”). It includes all that someone needs to act out their belief in Christ.

2

As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

[Unlike love], prophecies, tongues and knowledge [certain miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit] will all come to an end. Our knowledge and prophesying is only partial right now, so when it’s complete that which is partial will no longer be needed.

Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.  He has just expounded on what Godly love and acts like making the final point that love as he’s defined it (e.g. Godly) never ends. In the immediate context, Paul is clearly speaking of those miraculous gifts from God (prophecies, tongues and [special] knowledge) that are “partial” and “will pass away” when “the perfect [complete] comes.”  He goes on to invoke the logic of a man that gives up childish things as he grows up and matures (vs 11).  He also illustrates with the analogy of looking into a mirror that is currently only dimly lit as opposed to seeing something “face to face” or eye to eye (vs 12).

How does it apply here?

Paul doesn’t explicitly say what the “the perfect” is here but it is juxtaposed with all of the spiritual gifts involving God’s word and how it was conveyed at that time (through prophecies, speaking in tongues, and knowledge). It’s written at a time, maybe around 55BC, before all of the New Testament as we know it had been written.

3

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Souls that have been purified by obeying the truth should earnestly and sincerely love one another from a pure heart.  They should be doing this since they were born again of an imperishable seed through the enduring word of God. Unlike grass which grows, blooms and dies, God’s word remains forever and it’s this same word that was preached to them.
Peter is writing to the “elect” of the “dispersion” – Christians that have been scattered throughout Galatia and Asia Minor.  He is encouraging them to stand firm in the face of current persecution and reminding them of the promise they have in and through Christ.

A portion of this passage is quoted from

Isaiah 40:6-8
.
How does it apply here?

These first century Christians were saved (“born again”) through the word of God.

4

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
You were once apart from and even opposed [to God] in both thought and action. But now He [Jesus] has restored you [to God] through His bodily death so that can be presented holy and sinless and without stain before Him. But only if you continue in the faith being stable and committed without wavering from the hope presented in the gospel that you heard and which as been preached in all the earth, and which I, Paul, am a preacher.

Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae confronting false teaching in the form of “human philosophies and traditions”.  Earlier in this chapter he references “the word of the truth, the gospel” which came to them and “indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing” (vs 6).

How does it apply here?

The gospel had been spread throughout the whole world in the first century.

5

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

In a previous time God spoke to man through the prophets, but now (“these last days”) He has spoken through His son, Jesus Christ. Additionally, God appointed Him heir of all things and through Him created the world.

Opening to the letter of Hebrews, written to Jews that had believed and obeyed the gospel.  The writer is beginning his argument and evidence for why everything is better in Jesus by pointing to the prophets (and angels) that had, in times past, delivered God’s message.

How does it apply here?

There was a time that God revealed Himself to man through the prophets. But these last days He “has spoken” (past tense) through Jesus Christ.

6

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Brethren, I was anxious to write about the salvation we share, but instead need to appeal to you to fight for the faith that has been fully delivered to all the saints.

Jude, the brother of James, is writing to Christians to warn them about false teachers.  He encourages them to be “building” themselves up (vs 20) and “keep” in the love of God (vs 21).
How does it apply here?

Jude, written very late in the first century, possibly after Revelation, confirms that they need to fight for their common belief in Jesus (i.e. the gospel, the truth, “the faith”) that was (past tense) given “once for all” (complete).

7

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
All of your word is truth, and all of your commands endure forever.

A great Psalm (119) dedicated to the merit and beauty of God’s word.

How does it apply here?

All of God’s word is truth, not just portions. Or, said another way, truth isn’t possible with only parts of God’s word.

8

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Therefore, to the one that can give strength according to the Word and preaching of Jesus Christ — the revealing of the mystery that was concealed for past ages but now is disclosed and through the prophetic writings made known to all people by the command of God — that which brings about the obedience of faith. To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ, amen.
A prayer to God that serves as Paul’s closing to his letter to the Christians in Rome. This close to the Roman letter notably bookends the phrase “the obedience of faith” that Paul opened the letter with (1:5).
How does it apply here?

Paul makes it clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ, while once incomplete (e.g. a “mystery”), is now fully revealed to all people – Jew and Gentile (e.g. “nations”).

9

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
You are no longer set apart, but now are fellow citizens with the saints of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus, Himself is the chief cornerstone, in whom the entire building joins together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In Christ, you also are adding together to form a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Paul is pointing out to the Ephesians and Gentile Christians, that though they were at one time “called the uncircumcision by the circumcised” (vs 11), they are now part of the inheritance in Christ as a result of the “peace” that has been preached (vs 18).

How does it apply here?

The preaching of “peace” (vs 18) was a foundation that consisted of Jesus (the “cornerstone”) and the apostles and prophets. A foundation is laid once.

10

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The word of life was from the beginning, what we heard, what we saw with our own eyes, what we comprehended and touched with our hands – that life was revealed to us.  We saw it, testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life that the Father revealed to us.  It’s what we have seen and heard and proclaim to you in order that you may have fellowship with us – a fellowship that includes the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John’s opening in a letter written to Christians encouraging them to love each other (as God loves) and resist false teaching.  His instruction appears to be to individual Christians (not a particular church).
How does it apply here?

John makes it clear that the “word of life” came (past tense) and was proclaimed by him (et al apostles) for, or “to eternal life.”

11

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

Therefore brethren, remember and continue in the traditions (teachings) of the apostles (“us”), whether what we spoke or sent by letter.

Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica where he is warning them about coming destructive forces to the faithful and letters that even seem like they may have come from the apostles (vs 2).  At issue here is the false teaching that Jesus has already come (vs 2).  Those that succumb to such teaching are possibly even helped by God who “sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false,” (vs 11) because they take “pleasure in unrighteousness” (vs 13).

How does it apply here?

Paul urges brethen to hold only to the words and writings of the apostles that were taught (past tense) and reject anything new or different.

12

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

Continue in what you heard.  If you do that, you will abide in the Son and in the Father and His promise of eternal life.

John, in his letter to brethren, makes refrain after refrain for them to continue to “walk in the light”.  In the first chapter he states it as, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1:6)

How does it apply here?

The apostle John instructs Christians to abide in what they had heard “from the beginning” (and in context, to reject anything else they hear).

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  1. Rick letourneau at - Reply

    In John 14:12-14; Jesus says that”whoever” believes in him will do the work that he has done, even greater works because he is going to the father; the “whoever” language seems to encompass a much larger audience than the remaining disciples in the upper room after Judas had left Doesn’t it?

    • Thanks for the new comment, Rick. Were you asking it connected to this question (Is the Bible the complete revelation of God?) or possibly another one on the site?

  2. Rick letourneau at - Reply

    Is the Apocrypha included in the “word” ?The book of Jude quotes from the book of Enoch. Also, has knowledge also ceased,? First Corinthians 13 eight through 10.

    • Thanks for your comment and questions. There’s much to say about why the Apocrypha is not part of God’s inspired word; maybe it’s even a question we address in the future on this site. If we did, we would add the Jude 14 verse to which you refer. It says, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,” (Jude 1:14). Following the BSF, the first thing we would do with this verse is answer the question, “What does it say?”. So, what does it say? It says he is quoting “Enoch, the seventh of Adam”; it doesn’t say, “It was also about these that the Book of Enoch says,…”. Enoch was a historical figure (Gen 5:18) and what we learn from this verse is that he apparently was a prophet of God but that’s as far as we can take it. Anything more is saying what it doesn’t say, correct? BTW, if Jude did say “It was also about these that the Book of Enoch says,…” and as a result could confidently conclude that Jude is quoting the Book of Enoch, it would not require us to conclude all the Book of Enoch inspired (and further still, the Apocrypha) any more than Paul quoting Aratus’s poem in his sermon to the Athenians (Acts 17:28) makes the poem inspired.

      Your second question is also a good one. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 is passage #2 in our Scriptures pertaining to this question of “Is the Bible the complete revelation of God?” This passage clearly says that knowledge will pass away (along with prophecies and tongues). The immediate context of 1 Corinthians 13 points to “knowledge” being special knowledge or knowledge from God given its positioning alongside prophecies and tongues – all special gifts from God (or “gifts of the Holy Spirit”). Maybe your question is more “has it yet ceased?” If we interpret this passage to mean “special” knowledge hasn’t yet (today) passed, what is it that God still needs to impart for salvation? And how would that harmonize with the other passages listed that show, among other things, the completeness of the Gospel (or God’s word more generally) in the first century (e.g. passage #4 or #5)?