The Scripture warns us not to take away from the Word of God (Revelation 22:19).
In the last issue we saw how the authority of Scripture is undermined by the existential idea that the Bible becomes the Word of God when and if God chooses to speak through it. We arrived at the sound conclusion that the Bible does not merely contain truth but that it is truth—the entire Bible is true.
The Bible also warns us not to add to the Word of God (Revelation 22:18). Here we will look at one subtle way of adding to the Word of God and thus undermining the Scriptures. I have called this the “Jesus plus” attack on the authority of Scripture.
Let me begin by giving some context to my term “Jesus plus.” Martin Luther is famous for his five solas. I am focusing on two of them. Sola Scriptura says the Bible is the only authority for Christians’ faith and practice. Solo Christo refers to Christ as the only way of salvation. For our purpose the name Jesus stands for both His person and the whole body of truth He has revealed to us in Scripture. He is, after all, the living Word.
The Bible is completely true, and the Jesus it reveals is the exclusive—the only—Savior. In a “tolerance”-oriented culture this statement is sodium in water—it’s explosive.
Today it is all too common for people to say that they honor the Bible but in practice assume that equal truth about Jesus and how He wants us to live can come from other sources.
But the Bible says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, emphasis added). This means the man of God needs no outside help to mature. The Bible alone is sufficient for faith and practice. By it alone we can know what Jesus desires of us.
I once had a long discussion with a man about a Scripture text dealing with a practical application within the church. After several hours of looking at what the Bible taught, he looked at me and said, “Yes, that is what the Bible teaches, but there are other ways to do it too!”
He confirmed that he agreed with my interpretation, but went on to say that there was alternative truth outside the Bible—other ways of doing something despite the way God said to do it!
But if the Bible tells us what Jesus wants from us, are there legitimate alternatives? Can we choose from other options?
Sometimes people can hold to two opposite views simply because they have not taken the time to think a matter through, but this inconsistency is common today for another reason. Postmodernist thinking allows people to hold two opposing views at the same time, since after all, they personally determine what is “true” simply by their own choosing.
This postmodern thinking allows a believer to go to church on Sunday and say amen to truth as it is presented from the Scriptures, and yet walk out of the church into the secular world Monday through Saturday and live by a different standard of truth. He doesn’t even notice that his lifestyle contradicts what he subscribes to on Sunday, since it is “normal” to hold two opposite views at the same time! He is able to do this since he chooses one truth for his “spiritual” life and one for the “real” world. This is why we see such inconsistent Christians as those who claim the Bible is God’s Word and simultaneously hold secular views concerning evolution and other beliefs that contradict Scripture.
Many modern Christians hold orthodox views about Christ’s work on the Cross, including the fact that the Last Adam’s sacrifice redeemed man from the sin and death caused by the first Adam. Yet these same Christians hold to an old-earth view of creation, in which death and decay existed millions of years before Adam and Eve sinned.
It is not millions of years plus the Bible. It is not the 66 books of the Bible plus the book of nature.
We also see this “Jesus plus” thinking in a currently popular view that nature is the 67th book of the Bible. In that view, nature is equal to the words of Scripture.
It is not millions of years plus the Bible. It is not the 66 books of the Bible plus the book of nature. It is not, “Yes, that is what the Bible (Jesus) teaches, but there are other ways of doing it.”
All other ideas, philosophies, theories, opinions, and worldviews must be evaluated in the light of Scripture to verify whether they are true.
It is not the “Bible plus” but the Bible alone. It is not “Jesus plus”—it is Jesus alone.
- Read Acts 4:12 and John 14:6. In light of these clear statements, if a person says he trusts Jesus but thinks he must add something else, is he relying on the true Jesus for his salvation or on an artificial god that merely resembles Jesus?
- Read Colossians 1:15–18. If Christ, the Word, is “before all things” and “preeminent,” how reasonable is it to reinterpret what He has said just because other evidence seemingly contradicts His words? Why don’t we reinterpret the other way around?
- Should the “evidence” from nature or other extrabiblical sources have any effect on your faith? That is, if you believe in Jesus Christ on the basis of evidence from outside the Bible, how will your faith be affected if it later appears that the evidence was misinterpreted?
- What does it mean to “add to” or “subtract from” the Bible (see Revelation 22:18–19)? For example, is a preacher violating God’s command when he explains a text using words or phrases other than those written in the Bible? What is the proper role of commentaries or other expositional books? (See Nehemiah 8:7–8.)
- Look at Acts 17:10–12. How does this passage shed light on the previous question? What does this passage imply about your responsibilities as a Christian?
- Do you hold views or act in ways contrary to what you know the Bible says to believe or do? Have you thought through how well your views go together? Why is it so difficult to give up a belief, even if it is in opposition to another belief?