Article VI: Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation

This post is part of a Lenten series on the 39 Articles.

Article VI. Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation
Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Of the names and number of the Canonical Books. [Here follows a list of the books of the Old Testament.]
And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following: [Here follows a list of the Apocryphal books.]
All the books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them canonical.

There is so much to say, and so little space to say it! I am speaking not of the Bible, but of any attempts to write about it. It’s easy to say the “Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation” but what exactly does that mean? How are we to read the Bible?

Plenty of ink has been spilled over the proper way to read and interpret the Bible. I won’t go down those well-trodden paths here, except to say that I think many of us have made a grave error in our reading of the Bible: too often we go to the Bible seeking justification for what we’ve decided we believe or for what we’ve decided we want to do. Not often enough do we open God’s word and seek guidance. This affliction ails right and left.

On that note, I agree with Tamie Harkins, who urges us to do two things: “Stop looking for the ‘objective truth’ in Scripture. Start looking for the beautiful truth in Scripture.” Notice that we should look for truth, but perhaps that truth will take different forms from our 21st century scientific Western worldview. It is (beautifully) true that God spoke to Moses in the burning bush. We need not sort out what kind of bush it was or exactly how that happened.

What especially interests me in this Article is the claim — to which all ordained clergy in the US (and in England) have subscribed — that the scriptures contain all things necessary for salvation. As more than one person has pointed out, this does not mean that everything in the scriptures is necessary for our salvation, but rather that we find in the scriptures everything we need to know God’s salvation.

The Article goes on to say, “whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” We would do well to attend to this principle, though it is more complicated than it first appears. One must look at the fullness of scripture to read it well. The point here, with which I agree, is that the Church has no business requiring us to believe things which cannot be found in scripture. Notice this does not say that we may ONLY believe those things found in scripture, but rather our core articles of faith should be derived from scripture. So, for example, the Episcopal Church can require its clergy to follow the rubrics, though no one would say that adherence to rubrics is necessary to salvation.

In the parish where I serve, we’ve been reading the whole Bible this year. Opening God’s word has opened lots of lives and hearts in powerful ways. If nothing else, Article VI reminds us that everyone — not just clergy or professors — should be reading God’s word so that we might experience the fullness of our salvation. When you finish reading your blogs today, why not go read some of the Bible? You’ll be glad you did.

Here are some questions on which you might meditate:

  • How might our lives be different if we turned to the Bible to form our lives, rather than having our lives formed and then turning to the scriptures to justify our lives?
  • Ponder the notion that everything we need for our salvation is found in the Bible. Do you find salvation in the words themselves? In the encounter with God’s Word as you read the Bible?
  • Do you think the Church adequately attends to the scriptures today? How might we deepen our knowledge and life in the scriptures?
  • Is it adequate in the 21st century to say that nothing “requisite or necessary to salvation” is found outside scripture?
  • How have you known the power of God’s Word in reading the Bible?

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Previous: Article V: Of the Holy Ghost
Next: Article VII: Of the Old Testament

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1 Response

  1. Bob Chapman says:

    I think the important thing is the “proving” aspect of Scripture. It isn’t these exact words that are necessary. The words alone don’t do it, requiring life from the Spirit. But, these words give us something objective to attempt to qualify what we see, hear, and sense as we walk on the Way.