“Who says?” Was a common legal query heard in my home of 4 siblings growing up. I rightfully appealed to authority when my sister told me I needed to clean up my room. I certainly wasn’t going to take her word for it.
Well, that was the question of Martin Luther by Johann Eck in 1519 in order to destroy Luther’s (and the historic Church’s) contention that sinners are saved completely by grace through faith in Christ.
“Who says?” Eck inquired, hoping that Luther would reject the Pope and councils thereby placing him in the company of other wieners the Church had gleefully roasted.
Luther didn’t take it lightly. But it was increasingly obvious. The Pope and councils had erred in the past. Why would we equate their words with the words of the real head of the Church, Jesus? Who can we trust when it comes to how a sinner is saved? The Pope or Jesus, Paul, all the apostles, and all of the prophets? Luther contended rightfully that it’s all over scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Eck promoted the then accepted idea that the Pope and councils are the right interpreter of the Scriptures and therefore have equal weight.
Nothing wrong with having a Pope, a president, a pastor. But when the Pope, president, pastor or church body disagrees with Jesus and the apostles, it seems sensible to go with Jesus and co.
Basically Martin Luther and company agree with the Church Fathers and the apostles and Jesus. The ultimate source of authority is Jesus. He is the head of the Church. He speaks through the Holy Scriptures. If there is a disagreement between a pastor and Paul’s letter to the Romans, you go with Paul’s letter. Frankly, this is just common sense let alone the faithful way to determine what is taught in Christ’s Church. Christ’s words!
While 16th century Christians debated over whether to listen to the Pope’s words or Jesus,’ don’t divorce yourself from this conflict too quickly. You 21st-century Americans are in the ring! Let’s be honest, whose words have authority in your life? Yes, you know the right answer, but do you? Often times we like to be the head of our own little churches. Maybe we literally pick and choose what we like from God’s words thus inventing our own religion. Or maybe we say we believe everything God says, but we don’t look like it! We are all little popes of our self-invented religion.
We, too, need to be reminded that Jesus is the head of our little church too! God’s clear words of right and wrong are greater than the world’s, your feelings, your passions, and yes even your reason. Yet also God’s clear words of forgiveness and mercy written in the blood of His Son are greater than your lack of love, guilt or shame.
Satan often tempts us to replace God with ourselves as the head of our church. You will be like God, he told Eve. It seems good for sure – Hey I can do and have whatever I want. I’ll be free! However, just like when Rome replaced Jesus’ words with its own, when we do the same we actually create a religion and a world where there is less forgiveness and more judging. Outside of Jesus and His words, all other religions, including your own strange contortions, don’t have God on a cross dying for sinners. Instead of a cross they have a ladder with rungs increasingly separated and an altar that never gets enough of your blood.
All other gods, including yourself, are tireless tyrants. All other sources of authority have no words for total and complete forgiveness. Sola Scriptura doesn’t constrict you, it frees you, more than you could ever imagine.
Jesus who died and rose for you and gives you forgiveness and eternal life for free!