“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Mark 7:8
It’s true what they say, that history repeats itself. When Jesus came, he was hated by the religious authority of the day because he was calling them out on their empty and vain worship. Worship had become more about traditions and less about God. Traditions set these leaders high on a pedestal of self-made importance that they certainly didn’t want to see toppled.
Fifteen hundred years later, the church—originally formed in response to the Holy Spirit moving to bring the saving grace of Jesus Christ to all people—had again turned to man-made traditions. And, once again, people were honoring God with their lips, though their hearts were far from him. They were worshiping in vain, following teachings that were merely rules taught by men.
Scripture was all but forgotten. God’s authority was unceremoniously stolen from him and doled out to the leaders of the church who—once again—sat high on self-made pedestals. According to these leaders, salvation came—not through faith in Christ alone—but instead through works and the unearned favor of purchased good merits. Merits that had supposedly been performed in abundance by Jesus, the apostles and the church-recognized saints, and which were held in reserve—to be distributed by the self-claimed authority of the church…for the right price. These merits (called indulgences), once purchased, gave people the unfounded security of their salvation and the salvation of their departed loved ones. How tragic!
But—where a hedge of tradition had grown up to block the path of truth—God found someone with an axe to chop it down and reveal his way once again, with Jesus always being the ultimate example. In the sixteenth century, it was Martin Luther, through whom God chose to reveal his narrow path once again.
Luther fully gave himself over to the authority of God and his Word, and came to this revelatory conclusion: “Without faith, the sacraments and the church were empty and must no longer pretend otherwise. It was faith in Christ that was the foundation for the church, and this faith did not come from us, who were all broken sinners, but was a free gift from God” *
Using Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) he hacked his way through the bramble of man-made tradition and was able to rediscover the heart of God and his will for men.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”
2 Timothy 3:16
Jesus was the ultimate example of pointing to scripture to reveal God’s desire for man. When he taught with his own authority, and not the authority of previous rabbis, he was in essence kicking aside the stumbling blocks of man-made traditions to stand on God’s word alone. And, “just as Jesus had called upon the Pharisees to stop their outward obedience to God and go far deeper, to inward obedience, so Luther called upon every Christian to cease the petty obedience to church that was nothing when compared to the freedom and joy of actually obeying God.”*
Let us thank God for the provision of his word, and test everything against it, for it is a sure foundation.
“Test everything. Hold on to the good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14
by Siara Borning
by Eric Metaxas