Grace alone by faith alone, Part 4: The effect of the movement on the church

So long as the Scripture was in Latin, and the people spoke English, it was impossible for a peasant to stand up against the authority of the false leaders.  They had no way of knowing what was false because they had no standard of truth.  Not far away in Germany, Martin Luther, who translated the Scripture from Latin to German, would say of God’s Word, “Here I stand.  I can do no other.”

The question became more than about one issue in Scripture.  It became about all issues in Scripture.  That is: Can I, in my philosophies, or any leader I respect, in their philosophies, contradict the clear meaning of the Word of God and be correct?

The reformers answered no.  No person, no matter how learned, or how wise, or how much (s)he claims to have heard from God, can contradict the Word of God and remain in the Truth.  This is based on the very simple theology that God cannot, and does not, contradict Himself.  If God is Truth, He cannot also be lie.  Therefore, nothing within Scripture is contradictory, and nothing outside of Scripture holds the right to contradiction.

This leaves the power right where it should be: in the Word of God.  God does not give spiritual leaders to us to tell us how to think.  He gives leaders to us to shepherd us.  But we are warned in the Scriptures themselves about false leaders.  We are not to trust any leader blindly, and we are not to follow anyone who would give a different message than the Message given in the Word of God.

William Tyndale and Martin Luther are two of the greatest church leaders we have ever known.  But it is not their leadership that made them great church leaders.  It is their recognition that all leadership must fall under the authority of and be tested by the Word of God.

Most employers don’t hire a new employee without a background check.  They certainly don’t hire a new CEO without checking a single reference.  In the same way, we can, we should, and we must check all church leaders, and all Christian writing against the authority of Christ.  His authority is revealed to us in His unchanging, perfect, ever-relevant Word.

And that doesn’t only apply to pastors.  It includes everything you read (like this blog) and everything Christian friends and mentors tell you.  It must all match up with the Word of God.

No one has perfect theology except God, who knows exactly who He is and exactly how everything works.  Not even the best leader in the church will have all his sermons without the flaw of sin.  But for someone to choose to directly contradict Scripture, even when this is pointed out, is a huge warning sign that this person is not diligently following Christ and may actually be working for the enemy.

With that said, we must also be careful not to condemn those who have studied difficult passages of Scripture and with integrity believe something different from what we believe.  If someone justifies something in contrast to Scripture, that person should not be in any form of church leadership.  But if a person has a different view on something that is not as clear, and if that view comes with prayer and examining Scripture, we need to realize that we all fall short of complete understanding and we all need God’s grace to get us through our short time on this earth.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV)

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. (Jesus, quoted in Mark 13:31, HCSB)

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Published in: on July 13, 2013 at 7:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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