January 17, 2013
vi. The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.
It is worth noticing here just how the confession fleshes out the notion of sufficiency. It does not say that the Bible speaks of everything. Neither does it say that the Bible gives direction in everything or in every endeavor. What is does affirm is the following:
1. That Scripture gives us all that we need in order to know what salvation is and how it is to be gained.
2. That Scripture gives us all that we need in order to know how to glorify God in every aspect of our lives. We have all that we need, for example, in order to know how to glorify God in our daily lives; no "extra" or "supernatural" word is needed beyond that given to us in Holy Scripture.
3. That those things necessary for glorifying God that are not explicit in Scripture may be deduced by "good and necessary consequence."
Here is where there may be room for discussion and debate, since one man's good and necessary consequence may be another's non sequitur. But what the divines had in mind, at least, is that the consequences of the truth of Scripture, in order to glorify God, must be both good and necessary. If a consequence is only good or only necessary, then it does not qualify as something that will glorify God.
For example, a good consequence of the command to love your neighbor (e.g., Lev 19:18; Matt 5:43) may be that you decide to work weekly at the local mission. That is a good consequence, and you may be glorifying God in doing that, but because it is not something necessary for the Christian, it cannot be added to a list of things that are necessary for glorifying God. It may glorify God, but you may not, with Scriptural authority, command your brothers and sisters to do such a thing.
On the other hand, a necessary consequence of God's choosing His own people before the foundation of the world is that, necessarily, they will be saved. So you may conclude that the preaching of the gospel is only an option for the conversion of the sinner, given God's prior choice of that sinner. But that consequence, though it might follow necessarily from the doctrine of election, is not a good one, primarily since Scripture does not agree with it. So, that, too, cannot be something that glorifies God.