Commonly there are four attributes described about special revelation. I always remembered them by the helpful acronym NAPS. We say Scripture is necessary, authoritative, perspicuous and sufficient.
Necessary: If we are going to know anything about God, He must reveal Himself to us. Calvin famously remarked that when God speaks, he condescends to us and lisps baby talk. For me to know anything about God, He must speak to me. Therefore we say that the Bible is necessary.
Authoritative: Because God is the ultimate author of Scripture, the Word of God is 'God-breathed'. Because it is God's Word, it is authoritative. He bears the authority of the author because He is the one who has spoken it, ordaining that it should be our guide and authority in all matters of faith and practice. As authoritative, it is our ground because God is revealing to us what He wants us to know.
Perspicuous: This means that the basic doctrines and teachings of Scripture are clearly expressed. This is not to deny that certain passages are hard (2 Peter 3:15-16). Neither does this mean that we will necessarily come to understand all the things in Scripture. But what it does mean is that the basic message is easily discernible. It is true that we cannot discern it without the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). Because of our hardness of heart, we suppress the truth of God when we encounter it. But despite the problem that resides in us, the basic message in and of itself is sufficiently clear. God spoke in plain language. There are not tricks or confusion, nor do we need a magisterium, committee, or publication to understand what is in the Word of God.
Perspicuity is a sometimes a forgotten doctrine, especially when we consider the issues of hermeneutics and post-modern literary theory. Nevertheless the Word of God is basically clear in the core things we need to know. Thus it is sufficient and clear enough to hold us accountable if we reject it. A person will not be able to stand before God at the judgment and claim 'I read it but I couldn't see it was from you.' The reality the person say and had all the evidence and clarity in front of them, their heart suppressed the truth and rejected it.
Sufficiency: The Scriptures are sufficient. God has given us what we need to know and all we need to know in and for this life. The sufficiency relates to the doctrines and teachings in the Word of God. It does not mean Scripture tells us everything. For example, Scripture does not tell me how to repair my car. But Scripture is sufficient to make we wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).
This also means that our doctrine can be derived from Scripture. We do not need philosophy to come to the aid of our theology. This is not to denigrate philosophy but it is to say that a Christian does not need to be a philosopher to understand the things of God (one potential danger of philosophy is the use of human wisdom to get to God or to understand God's revelation--and to the extent that this detracts from God's wisdom in the cross the two agendas can be antithetical-1 Cor. 1:18-31).
Sufficiency is another doctrine that gets short shrift. Today the church often lacks a practical reliance on the Word of God as sufficient for ministry and transformation. The reality is that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God as His Sword. How often do we run the risk of trying to do things under our own strength and our own ability rather than letting the Word of God lose and trusting its sufficiency.
So next time you are thinking about the attributes of Scripture think about NAPS. We are grateful for the Word of God that God has blessed the church with so that we might know him. He has given us revelation in His Word. It truly is a precious treasure.
Hopefully in follow up post will talk about how God's two other means of revealing Himself (general revelation and Christ the Logos) also share these characteristics of necessary, authoritative, perspicuous and sufficient.