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What Luther Says

Scripture Is Divinely Authoritative

You know, it's like some sick joke when I think about how I went through 10 years of my life being a champion of "Sola Scriptura" ("Scripture Alone") without ever really submitting to what that meant.

I let that battle cry lead me to places of despair and hopelessness where only the Law fully reigned and where the Gospel was like an uninvited guest who showed up late to the party and was let in at the very end since everyone had pity on him.

Looking back, me and my pseudo-Christian cohorts thought we were "doing God's work" by being what we thought were champions of Sola Scriptura and confessors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but we weren't. Not really.

Of course, the end result is that such distorted thinking only led me to places where a perverted Gospel eventually grew into pietism and then pietism led me by the head and heart down a path of pride and sin.

I soon discovered that such an experience is not all that uncommon and so my visits to all the American Evangelical, Calvinist, and Reformed circles within Christianity were accepted as "natural" for an "influential" Christian like me.

Ironically, I never even considered Sola Scriptura's application to the Lutheran Church despite the fact that I was raised a Lutheran (albeit a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only") and that it was Lutherans who first popularized the Biblical reality nearly 500 years ago. Imagine that!

I was a guy who shouted "Sola Scriptura!" from the rooftops to anyone and everyone who would listen, but I myself didn't really have the slightest clue about what that meant and how, if I did, then Sola Scriptura would instantly obliterate many of the long-held and entrenched doctrinal positions I held tightly to at the time.

John 17:17 (ESV) Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Sure, I fully believed that I had understood what these words were saying, because "I already possessed the full truth of Scripture!" thanks to my insatiable desire to learn from guys like Pastor John "Johnny Mac" MacArthur, Francis Chan, David Platt, et al.

For your prayerful consideration...

Scripture Is Divinely Authoritative 
The average Lutheran layman today may not know any Latin, but he probably knows what the phrase sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means. It means that we Lutherans base our theology solely on the Scriptures of God and nothing else, not tradition, not human speculation, not modern scholarship, not our experiences or feelings or anything else. Sola Scriptura is a watchword, a guide for action, for every true Lutheran, pastor or layman. 
This was the position and practice of Luther and our Lutheran Confessions. "The Word of God is and should remain the sole rule and norm of all doctrine" (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 9). "We pledge ourselves to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments as the pure and clear fountain of Israel, which is the only true norm according to which all teachers and teachings are to be judged" (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 3). This is the spirit in which our great Lutheran Confessions speak. Everything we need to believe and do as Christians is told us in the Scriptures. Just as our Lord Jesus was a man of one Book and drew all His teaching from that one divine source and submitted Himself to it utterly in all He said and did, so we too who are His disciples today place ourselves joyfully under that prophetic and apostolic Word. And with our Lutheran Confessions we say: "No human being's writings dare be put on a par with it, but ... everything must be subjected to it" (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 9). 
What persuades us as Christians to render such an exalted place to the Scriptures in our lives and teachings? It is the marvelous content of Scripture, which is the Gospel-as Luther said, "Christ is involved in Scripture through and through, like the body in its clothes" (WA, 12, 418). And it is the Spirit of Christ who witnesses in our hearts that as Scripture speaks judgment and grace it proclaims God's judgment and grace to all men. We believe in the absolute authority of Scripture because Christ accepted the absolute authority of the prophetic Word of the Old Testament and because He guaranteed the absolute authority of the apostolic Word of the New Testament by His promise of the Holy Spirit to His apostles. 
Why is Scripture authoritative? Edmund Schlink of Heidelberg answers: "Because God saves through the Word proclaimed by it." But this is no answer to the question and confuses the issue. God saves also through the Word proclaimed in hymns and sermons and Christian literature. No, Scripture is authoritative because it is God's Word. How often do our Confessions contrast God's Word in Scripture to any human being's writings and insist that all our doctrine be drawn "out of God's Word" (FC SD, Rule and Norm, 3,4,5,9, 10, 16; Ep, 1, 7, 8)! And Luther says: "The Word of God shall establish articles of faith and no one else, not even an angel" (SA, II, ii, 15). In contrast to all other writings and human authorities, God's Word carries with it God's authority. 
And this authority is absolute and final. What Scripture asserts God asserts, what it commands He commands, what it promises God promises! Because our Lutheran Confessions believe in such infallible authority, they cite the Scriptures hundreds of times and regard Scripture's answers to the great problems and issues of their day as God's answers. 
Today such a conviction regarding Biblical authority is rejected by many theologians. The Bible cannot carry divine authority with it, because it is not the very Word of God, they say. Although it may somehow "convey" or "contain" or "become" the Word of God, it must be read like any other human book. This is exactly the posture taken by many who use the "historical-critical method" (also called "higher criticism"), employed within the church by some scholars for about 200 years, since the time of Rationalism and the Enlightenment in Europe. 
It is quite clear that such modern views-which were shared by unbelievers in the early centuries of church history-are not compatible with the position of Luther and our Confessions. The approach of higher criticism is likely to result in questioning, again and again, the evangelical doctrine which is drawn from the right reading of the Sacred Scriptures. Today, after 400 years, we need have no doubt concerning the divine authority of Scripture and therefore of our Gospel message drawn from it. And today Scripture still authenticates itself as the only source of our knowledge of God and of His grace. 

Friends, I encourage you to examine your entrenched positions on each and every doctrine you hold to, especially if you're already someone who at least recognizes that Sola Scriptura is important and/or that the whole "Deeds Not Creeds!" mantra is garbage.

The Lord has at least given you enough spiritual discernment to understand why this topic is essential to accurately understand for any Bible-believing Christian (Jude 1:3), but pray that He would guide you to the truth about His Word and Sacraments.

Don't be like I was and completely ignore the possibility that you could quite possibly be entirely wrong about some things. I was.

To this day, I still don't understand how I could go on thinking I was so right for so long, only to discover that I was actually so wrong about so much!

It's only by the grace of God that I can even write a post like this for you today.

It's true that Sola Scripture is every Christian's defense against false teachers and their false teachings but you have to be willing to use it even when the false teacher is you yourself.

Yes, Sola Scriptura is every Christian's defense against the false teachers and their destructive doctrines of demons. That's not an entirely complete definition though.

See, you can defend yourself from false teachers and their false teachings using the Word of God, but guess what? God's Word was meant to be an offensive weapon too as opposed to only a defensive one!

Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, every Christian's best defense and offense against false teachers and their false teaching is to be firmly rooted in Christ, or in Sola Scriptura, since Jesus is "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14).

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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