The reformation, as a movement, is all about the Word of God. Too often people divert the discussion to a lesser thing, thus ignoring the big thing. What a person chooses to focus on will become the center of the discussion. This focus on the wrong issue is where things go bad quickly. Some will say the main issue of the church during the time of reformation, and today, was and is good works and indulgences. Others will say, the order of the worship service and the use of music was the sole issue. Still others will focus on ceremony such as incense and the use of robes. Yet again others will say the reformation was all about power, the papacy or, the congregation, the Priesthood of Believers. Certainly, all of these things are important, but in most cases they are either a symptom of a bigger problem, or an adiaphoran (something neither commanded nor forbidden by God) for which there is simply a lack of order or an insult to some brother or sister’s sensitivities.
When our focus is on the wrong thing, our understanding of the issue can be wrong, or we can seek to solve something that is only a symptom of the core issue. For example, people say things such as, “we are more like that Catholics than the non-denominational Baptists because the ceremony and order of the service seems more similar”. That is not a true statement. Others will say when addressing the LCMS, LCMC, ELCA, and WELS, “there is not that much difference, we all have the title LUTHERAN, it is just an issue of how old fashioned or STRICT the denomination might be, or what our national background was (Swedish, German, Norwegian, etc.)”. This too is not a true statement.
The real issue at hand is the Word of God. To lose the Word is to lose Jesus. To lose the Word is to lose salvation in Christ alone. To lose Scripture is to be tossed back and forth like a boat on the sea with no certainty.
The issue is the WORD of God. How is it that the Roman Catholics could teach that man contributes to salvation through good works and indulgences, or pray to saints for help? A turning from and denial of the Word of God. How is it that the ELCA can pass in convention that there can be no certainty of knowledge thus all religions lead to God, or that homosexuality is not a sin? A turning from and denial of the Word of God.
How is it that the LCMC can claim to stand upon the scripture and confessions yet support women pastors and open communion? A turning from and denial of the Word of God.
How is it that churches can deny Baptism of infants, the real presence in the Lord’s Supper, teach that a believer has a requirement of acceptance of Jesus of their own will, or . . . the list could go on and on. A turning from and denial of the Word of God.
Luther would never judge the people of the church. He would, however, judge the teachings of the church, diverted from the Word of God. The truth always rests on the Word of God and its judgment of our teaching not the other way around. We do not judge scripture as true based on the time of their writing, or their authors, or the situations to which they were written. God does not change thus His Word does not change. How can we be certain the Bible is the Word of God? I answer with catechism answers to question # 8. In the Gospel, the central message of the Bible, God promises us new life based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. God’s promises alone create faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself, who we trust, declares that all scriptures are God’s own words, completely dependable in all they teach and without error.
A: Jesus uses the OT scriptures as God’s Word. HE continually affirms scripture as authoritative with phrases such as “It is written” and “Have you not read?” (Matthew 4:4,7,10; 19:4). He assures us that “Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).
B: Jesus claims the same authority for himself saying, for example, “I say to you” or “truly truly I say to you” or explicitly claiming His words to be “spirit and life”.
C: Just as God called and authorized prophets in the OT, put His words in their mouths, and fulfilled their prophecies, so also Jesus called and authorized His apostolic witness to speak His Word, guided by His Spirit.
We believe the Word of God has the power in itself to convince the reader or hearer of its authority. Because is it God’s Word, it is self-authenticating. The Word of God does what it says.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55: 10-11
So, as we enter the celebration of the Reformation in the Lutheran Church we focus on Jesus; the Word of God. Yes, we appreciate Martin Luther and all that he did. Yes, we love the hymns of the era. Yes, we reject indulgences and remember the nailing of the 95 theses. Yes, we remember the 3 solas; scripture, faith, grace. But the main thing taught by the Word of God remains the main thing – we are justified by grace through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Lord keep us steadfast in Your word, curb those who by deceit or sword, would wrest the kingdom from thy Son, and bring to naught all He has done.
Indeed, it is all about Jesus, The Word of God made flesh.