During this week, which marks the 496th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I’ve been reading about the man credited with its beginning. It was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It was there that he took his stand for the authority of the Scriptures instead of Church, Pope, or Councils.
There were five distinguishing beliefs that marked Luther’s commitment to Scripture, its Verbal Inspiration, its Divine Inerrancy, its Supreme Authority, its Intrinsic Clarity, and its Complete Sufficiency. Let’s take a brief look at each one of these distinguishing characteristics of the Scripture.
VERBAL ISPIRATION. Luther believed that the Bible is divinely inspired or “God breathed” (II Timothy 3:16). Luther firmly believed that when the Bible speaks, God speaks. The Author of the Bible? God Himself. Therefore, Luther did not believe in private revelations to men. He said, “Whenever you hear anyone boast that he has a special revelation from the Holy Spirit and it has no basis in God’s Word, the Bible, it is the work of the devil.” Luther believed that only the Bible, not mystical instructions of men, is to be preached.
DIVINE INERRANCY. Luther maintained and taught that God’s Word is absolutely pure and infallibly true. Luther believed that God cannot lie. Therefore, all Scripture will come to pass, every promise will be realized, every prophecy fulfilled, and every judgment carried out. He said, “If Gold has said it, it must also come to pass. For no one should ask whether it is possible but should only determine whether God has said it.” As Scripture says, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).
SUPREME AUTHORITY. Luther was convinced that Scripture alone, not Scripture and the Roman Catholic Church, is the supreme authority for believers. In a day when the pope, the church councils, dogma, and religious tradition reigned, Luther taught that all things must be measured against the unchangeable plumb line of biblical truth. Luther insisted that the Word of God must rule and reign in the heart of preachers. Luther said, “He (the preacher) must be subject to no one and have no master except the Word of God. God does not want anything at all on your own initiative without His Word.”
INTRINSIC CLARITY. The Roman Catholic Church withheld the Bible from the common people, claiming that they could not understand it. Rome said that the pope must interpret it for the laity. Luther said, “No clearer book has been written on earth than the Holy Scripture. There is not on earth a book more lucidly written than the Holy Scripture. Luther believed that the Word is crystal clear, plainly understandable for ordinary Christians, thus, one of his great works was to translate the Bible into the common everyday language of his people.
COMPLETE SUFFICIENCY. Luther affirmed that Scripture lacks nothing that God desires for He people to know and to accomplish. “My word 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 55:11). Luther believe that Scripture is fully capable of producing God’s intended results on the earth, in the church as well as in the life of the individual believer.
Luther was a Word-driven preacher. In the pulpit He was committed to the exposition of Scripture. It was the supreme authority of Scripture which drove him to proclaim God’s Word in his day. Asked to explain the success of the Reformation, Luther said, “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing.”
If you would like to know more about this brave father of the Reformation, let me recommend The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther by Steven J. Lawson. It is a short and concise book about the great reformers life.