‘The Bible Is All You Need’

We harm ourselves spiritually by avoiding good Christian literature:

Lots of people can and do say lots of really foolish and unhelpful things. Sadly that is often quite true of Christians as well. And it happens far too often. Indeed, many articles can be found on this website seeking to counter some of the more ridiculous and unhelpful things that various Christians have said.

And because we keep hearing some of these foolish statements over and over, I find the need to keep refuting them from time to time. I have written before about the topic my title refers to. But it keeps cropping up so I have to keep speaking to it. As I said in one such article:

“Jesus-Only Christianity” or “Bible-Only Christianity” sounds so spiritual, but the truth is none of us are lone wolf Christians and all of us depend upon and need others, even when it comes to understanding the Scriptures. The whole body of Christ, both past and present, is needed for our walk with God and following Christ according to his word. It is only pride and self-righteousness which says I can do all this alone and I don’t need or want the rest of Christ’s body, teaching and instruction. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/31/creedless-christianity/

Too often we just have Pharisee-ism and pride lurking behind these sorts of ‘Bible-only’ believers. As I said in another piece concerning one person pushing this silliness:

Yes but…! That is like saying you never go to church to hear a pastor teach the Bible, because you have the Holy Spirit and that is all you need. But we are NOT infallible and we can get things wrong, even when we think we are relying fully on the HS. And God himself gave us pastors and teachers to help expound and comment on the Bible. So to reject those means is to reject what God has designed for us. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/02/21/godly-spirituality-or-fleshly-pride/

The most recent case of this involved a post I had put up on the social media about some of the wonderful and very helpful commentary sets that Martyn Lloyd-Jones has penned. They started off as an expository sermon series and then were put into book form. I mentioned his 14 volumes on Romans, his 8 volumes on Ephesians, and his 2 volumes on the Sermon on the Mount. All terrific and edifying stuff. They will most definitely bless your mind and spirit.

Yet sure enough, I had a fellow come along saying, Just read your Bible – it is all you need’. My response to him was this: “If that were the case, I would need not listen to you or any other Christian or any preacher or any sermon or any teaching – all of which runs completely contrary to the Word of God which clearly says God gave the body of Christ pastors and teachers. So I will heed the commands of Scripture here thanks.”

And I have written elsewhere on why things like commentaries can be such a very real God-send:

What does any decent pastor do on a Sunday morning? He teaches from the Word of God. He tries to explain the Word of God. He tries to exposit and illuminate Scripture. That is part of his job in shepherding the flock. Sound teaching is vitally important in the believer’s life.


Now if you are with me thus far, then you will see that commentaries are simply an extension of all this. God has called some teachers to write commentaries, to help us better understand the Bible. They do not take the place of Bible reading and study, but they supplement these things.


Have you ever used a concordance? Well, that is a teaching aid or supplement to your personal Bible study. Have you ever used a Bible atlas? That is also a tool to help us better understand the Word of God. Commentaries do the same thing.


A good commentary will provide all sorts of helpful background information to help us better understand what the text is saying. It will provide historical information. It will look at the social and cultural setting of the Bible book in question. It will tell us about authorship, dating, the occasion for a letter, or the reason for an epistle. https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/07/14/who-needs-commentaries/

Sure, all Christians know – or should know – that the Bible alone is the inspired, authoritative and inerrant word of God. No other book is. So we hold the Bible (all 66 books of it – 39 in the OT and 27 in the NT) in very high regard and in a very special place. But that does NOT mean we cannot or should not read anything else. That is ludicrous.

The Bible is unlike any other book because of its joint divine and human authorship. We value it above all others. But one can have a high view of Scripture while also thanking God for those he gave to the body of Christ to help us better understand and apply the word.

Whether it is a commentary or devotional literature or Christian biography or works on church history, these are all so very valuable to help us grow as Christians. How can we ignore Augustine’s Confessions, or Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, or Lewis’ Mere Christianity or ten Boom’s The Hiding Place? How can we do without all the great volumes penned over the centuries by such important Christian figures?

It would be spiritual suicide simply to ignore all these or downplay their great value. Sure, if you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one book with you, most Christians would rightly choose the Bible. But guess what? Most Christians are NOT stranded on an island, and so we do not need to have to deal with a false dilemma like this. We can have and read the Bible AND have and read all sorts of other great books.

As I often say, we should aim to begin our day by reading the word of God. Let the Bible be your main go-to book. But also fill your day by reading Christian literature and theological works. We need all the help we can get in our Christian journey, and God has raised up so many incredible Christians whose writings are an inspiration and a help to millions.

To cut ourselves off from all these riches is not an indication of great spirituality but quite the opposite: it is an indication of immaturity and spiritual pride. This idea that we need no one else, and that we can get along as lone wolf Christians (‘Just me and my Bible’) is not a mark of godliness but of foolishness and arrogance.

So let us put away all this ‘Bible-only’ nonsense and embrace the many good gifts that God has given to his people. And that includes a vast world of Christian writings, teachings, books, sermon, podcasts and videos. They are blessings sent by God and we should not spurn them.

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10 Replies to “‘The Bible Is All You Need’”

  1. Good post. It’s about authority. The Bible has final authority, the final say, on faith and practice. But it is a fine line between the Catholic magisterium/curia whose claim to having sole authority over interpretation, and the Protestant ethic as you described above.
    We ought to be as the Bereans. Listen to our teachers, hear their messages and counsel, and obey that counsel so long as it agrees with scripture. There is the tendency with some to take the teachings of some pastors at have value. I have heard sermons from some information pastors that have not one scripture reference in the entire message… And the congregation were saying ‘amen, hallelujah ‘, not knowing that they’re response was purely on an emotional level and not based on truth.
    There are ditches and sand traps everywhere.

  2. Thanks Brendan. Yes quite right.

    As Francis Schaeffer (a Protestant) once said: “In this fallen world, things constantly swing like a pendulum, from being wrong in one extreme way to being wrong in another extreme. The devil never gives us the luxury of fighting on only one front, and this will always be the case. ”

    Or as G K Chesterton (a Catholic) once said: “It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands.”

    Seeking to get the biblical balance on so many issues is an ongoing task.

  3. May I use a Toyota in missions? I couldn’t find a scripture telling me that Toyotas are OK. But I do know a family who were looking to buy a beige and brown Toyota but had no peace about it until their bible study. The study was on revelations and discussed a red, black and a white horse. With it came peace about buying the Toyota. You probably guessed it: The car had been sold, all that remained was a white one with red upholstery and black trim! That car served exceptionally for several 100,000 kms.

  4. Brilliant Bill – how we love our Commentaries (Culture Watch)
    Our Devotional Literature (currently Selwyn Hughes – Every day with Jesus).
    Christian Biography (Dietrich BonHoffer) and Church History (hmm – fall sadly short here I think) Must pick up my game….

    BTW do Brendan James & Antoon Morreau publish any volumes?

  5. Many pastors adopt a social position on a particular issue and find a biblical reference to support their position. You can usually find a biblical quotation to support any position on any issue. This is a problem, and the discerning Christian needs critical thinking skills in order to assess what is being preached and determine whether the message is just a subjective opinion that is using the Bible for support. Of course we all have out own biases so we need to beware of injecting our own subjective position. Sometimes I wish that pastors would allow discussion rather than giving sermons, but that could easily turn into bedlam.

    It’s hard work being an active Christian.

  6. Seems to me that the Old Testsment is Jewish scripture (“old law”) and the New Testament is Christian. Yet many pastors focus on Old Testament readings. I’ve never understood this, as the stories about ancient Jewish tribes and kings seem rather irrelevant to today. The New Testament portrays a much kinder and tolerant approach to others, except for Paul who seemed to despise women.

    The Old Testament seems to appeal to extreme conservatives, because it has many passages that can be used to preach hatred and intolerance.

  7. Thanks Don, but I of course must call your bluff here. Either you have never actually read both Testaments (at least not carefully), or you are here just to push an unbiblical agenda. The truth is you could not be more wrong. Just a few quick points:

    -When the Apostle Paul told us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) he of course was referring to what we now call the Old Testament. The New was not yet complete. When Jesus said “your word is truth” (John 17:17) he was doing the same thing: referring to the existing Hebrew Scriptures, with the Greek New Testament yet to come.

    -There are of course no contradictions between the Testaments. While some OT Jewish practices such as the temple sacrifices find their fulfilment in the perfect sacrifice of Christ and therefore no longer carry through, the continuity between the Testament remains.

    -The God of the Old is the same as the God of the New. He never changes. There is as much grace and mercy found in the OT as there is wrath and judgement in the NT. The one who spoke the most about hell and judgment to come was of course Jesus. And anyone who actually has read what Jesus said will see he was hardly “tolerant” and nice to everyone.

    -The early church rightly condemned the heresy of Marcionism, which was basically the error you are seeking to push here.

    But those who are interested in these matters, and not just in pushing agendas, will find much more detail in articles like this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/05/12/one-bible-two-testaments/

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