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When Martin Luther was summoned by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to appear before the imperial diet in Worms, Germany, in April 1521, he was to stand at his own heresy trial in which he would be called upon to recant his writings. Despite the warnings of friends not to appear, Luther nevertheless traveled from Wittenberg to Worms, preaching in the villages and towns along the way, believing that the truth would win the day.

At Worms, the political and ecclesiastical hierarchy gathered with the intent to expose Luther as a heretic. The prosecutor, Johann Eck, representing the Church of Rome, pressed Luther with two questions as the books he had written lay on the table before him. The first question was simple enough: “Martin Luther, are these your books?” Then came the second question that was far more significant: “Will you recant?” Sensing the magnitude of the moment, Luther asked for a recess and retired for the evening. He reappeared the next day and spoke those now-famous words that are a trumpet blast in the ear of every true believer:

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have often contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

Standing for the Truth

That definitive stand for the Word of God proved to be the shot heard around the world. By this bold assertion, Luther declared that the Bible holds the highest authority in the life of the church. He maintained that the Scripture is supreme over popes and councils. This was the public declaration of what would soon become known as sola Scriptura, Latin for “Scripture alone.” The Roman Catholic Church had espoused that the truth lay in the Scripture and tradition, Scripture and ecclesiastical councils, and Scripture and the pope—always Scripture plus something or someone else. But Luther courageously took the contrary stand upon Scripture alone.

At each point of the ensuing controversy, Luther remained unwavering in his commitment to the Scripture alone. He proved to be a modern-day Athanasius, standing contra mundum, “against the world.” This immovable monk stood as one man against the entire religious and political world, with its one thousand years of dead tradition. Luther said, “I bear upon me the malice of the whole world, the hatred of the emperor, of the pope, and of all their retinue. Well, on in God’s name; seeing I am come into the lists, I will fight it out.” Luther was like an ice-breaker ship that plowed the frozen tundra of his generation, allowing the rest of Europe to follow behind him.

Luther maintained a strong stance on the Scripture, even though it meant a death sentence placed upon his head. He courageously declared, “From the year of our Lord 1518 to the present time, every Maundy Thursday at Rome I have been by the pope, excommunicated and cast into hell, and yet I live. This is the honor and crown we must expect and have in this world.” In other words, to stand publicly for the truth of God and suffer for it is a badge of honor in discipleship. Jesus said that a servant is not above his master. If they persecuted the Lord, they will persecute believers who stand up for the truth taught in the Word of God.

The Scripture is an unassailable refuge for all who believe its claim to be the very Word of God.
The Truth Crisis

Like Luther five hundred years ago, we live in a time of crisis over the truth. We are witnessing an aggressive assault on the Scripture on every side as liberal denominations and apostate seminaries are attacking the inerrancy of the Bible. Modernism and ­pragmatism are attacking the sufficiency of Scripture by insisting that human wisdom must supplement divine wisdom. The emerging church assails the perspicuity of Scripture, claiming that the Bible cannot be understood with certainty. Charismatics and noncessationists assault the finality of the Bible by adding supposed mystical revelations to the closed canon of the Scripture. The cults attack the very message of the Word of God, distorting the person and work of Jesus Christ. Rome still attacks the singular authority of the Bible, adding its tradition, ecclesiastical councils, and papal decrees. On and on, the attacks continue to pound like the endless waves of the ocean against the shore, rising up and foaming in their opposition against the singular authority of the Word of God.

Yet despite these aggressive assaults upon the Bible, this book remains an immovable rock of truth. The Scripture is an unassailable refuge for all who believe its claim to be the very Word of God. It is an impenetrable fortress that does not budge under the relentless attacks mounted against it. The Word of God stands as strong today as when it was first written. The man or woman who stands upon it can withstand every deception of the world. The Word of God is so strong that when we build our lives upon it by faith, we, too, cannot be swayed. As we are confronted with the many attacks upon the Bible, we must remain strong in the faith and say as Luther did, “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.”

In this moment of truth, we must embrace and proclaim the reality of truth as recorded in the Word of God. In order to succeed in this endeavor, we must understand two truths: first, where we must stand, and second, why we must stand.

Where We Must Stand

There are six nonnegotiable truths upon which we must stand in regard to the Scripture. These truths are the inspiration, inerrancy, authority, perspicuity, sufficiency, and invincibility of the written Word of God. Herein is found the truth of God. It is in the Bible that we have the record of the special revelation of God, enabling us to be a force for Him in this world. The written Word of God is, the Apostle Paul said, “the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) that contains “the message of truth” (Eph. 1:13, NASB). James affirmed it as “the word of truth” (James 1:18). Jesus stated, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).

The Inspiration of Scripture

First, we must have confidence in the truth of the divine inspiration of Scripture. Every believer must be firmly ­convinced that the Bible is the inspired Word of the living God. The Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16, NASB). The words “inspired by God” are one word in the ­original Greek (theopneustos), which means “God-breathed.” From Genesis to Revelation, all Scripture is inspired by God, meaning it is breathed out of the mouth of God. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). In the truest sense, the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture is the doctrine of ­expiration. That is to say, Scripture is breathed out by God. With the Bible, there is one primary Author (God) who used many ­secondary authors (men) to record its message. The human authors were simply the instruments in the hand of God to record the Scriptures. But there is only one primary Author, God Himself, who speaks to us through His Word.

The inspiration of Scripture extends down to its minutest detail. Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18). The smallest letter in the Hebrew language is a yod, similar to an apostrophe in the English language. It is like a thin eyelash, almost imperceptible to the naked eye. The smallest stroke in Hebrew is simply a little extension from a letter to distinguish one letter from another. It would be like differentiating a lowercase l from a lowercase t—just one line separates the two letters. Jesus said the Word of God will be accomplished down to the smallest stroke that would distinguish one Hebrew letter from another and to the smallest Hebrew letter in the entire alphabet.

When the Bible speaks, it speaks pure, unadulterated truth without any mixture of error.

As we open the Bible and read its message, it is not the wisdom of man that we are being taught, but the very mind of God being made known to us. The Scripture contains the wisdom of God that is able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). It is truth that has come down from the throne of God.

The Inerrancy of Scripture

Second, we must also uphold the truth of the inerrancy of Scripture. When the Bible speaks, it speaks pure, unadulterated truth without any mixture of error. It is impossible for the Word of God to contain any error or distortion of reality because it has proceeded from God Himself. Titus 1:2 asserts that “God . . . never lies.” Any error or falsehood is impossible for God, who is perfectly holy in His being. Hebrews 6:18 affirms the same when it states, “It is impossible for God to lie.” The Word of God is inseparably connected to His own nature. Simply put, a holy God cannot lie in His Word.

In Psalm 12:6, we see the inerrancy of Scripture confirmed: “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” Precious metals are often found mixed with base metals, and so they were placed in a fiery furnace so that the heat would cause the impurities to separate from the silver or gold. The impurities would rise to the surface and be skimmed off the top, so that what remained was a pure, precious metal. Likewise, in this twelfth psalm, David is saying that the Scripture has been tested by God seven times, which is the number for perfection, so that there are no impurities in the Word of God. God has spoken exactly what is true in His Word. Scripture cannot contradict itself, and the Holy Spirit cannot contradict Himself. The result is the pure, unvarnished truth of Scripture.

The inerrancy of Scripture gives us great confidence that every truth taught in its pages is without any error or human reasoning. It is unmingled with any imperfections, but actually contains the perfect truth of God. Every word contains an accurate representation of reality, as things truly are.

The Authority of Scripture

Third, we must be in submission under the authority of Scripture. Because the Bible is the Word of God Himself, it speaks with the authority of God Himself. The Bible possesses the right to rule over our lives. Scripture is sovereign because God is sovereign. Thus, every knee must bow to the truth that is recorded within its pages. In Psalm 19:7, Scripture is identified as “the law of the Lord.” The Bible is not a collection of suggestions from God; it does not give us options or preferences to consider. Instead, Scripture must be recognized as the authoritative law of God by which every life is directed to live.

In the day of Jesus, the Pharisees elevated their own traditions above the authority of the Word of God. The same thing occurred in the day of Luther, who understood that neither the pronouncements of the pope nor the word of any man could be elevated above the authority of Scripture. God’s Word mediates the rule of God over the life of the church. Luther insisted, “Preachers must prove their claims with the word. When they extol the authority of the fathers and of Augustine, of Gregory and likewise of the councils, our answer is those things have no claim on us, we demand the word.” The German Reformer further noted, “Scripture alone is the true Lord and Master of all writings and doctrine on the earth. God’s word must be supreme or nothing.” In other words, There is no moderating position on the Word of God. It is either sovereign over the life of every believer, or it is to be discarded as ancient myth.

It is the conviction of every believer that the Scripture is authoritative and rules over them with supreme authority. The Bible was not given to us to be interesting or stimulating. Rather, it was given to be arresting, that it would command our lives in order that we might please God.

Taken from The Moment of Truth by Steven J. Lawson, © 2018, pp. 21–29.

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