Almost 500 years ago, a pugnacious Augustinian Monk named Martin Luther tacked a document to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany as a protest against the sale of indulgences by the papacy. It turned out to be the spark that ignited what history has called the Protestant Reformation.
After earning his doctorate in theology, Luther was assigned to teach at the new university at Wittenberg. As an academic professor, one of Luther's assignments was to teach the book of Romans. It had a profound affect upon him. Romans 1:16-17 stabbed at his heart and conscience:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and aso to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."/ (Romans 1:16-17, NASB95)
Luther wrestled with the passage because it was just the opposite of what he had been taught by the Roman Catholic Church. One day while in his room, Luther was agonizing over Paul's phrase, the righteousness of God. What did Paul mean? He looked at his bookshelf and saw all the important manuscripts of the Fathers of the Catholic Church—the great theologians of days past—but they were of no avail. He cried out to the departed saints, but they gave no answer. Luther again read through the Book of Romans. Suddenly, his spiritual vision cleared; he felt as if a veil had been taken away. He could see what Paul meant. The righteousness of which Paul spoke was not a righteousness God seeking retribution, but a righteousness which was imputed to the believer by a gracious God when they put their faith in Christ. It was at that moment that Luther was delivered. Luther would write of that event:-"It seemed to me as if I had been born again and as if I had entered paradise through newly opened doors." Luther discovered in a practical way what Isaiah here says: “ ... so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
From that moment on, Luther rejected the Creeds of the Ecumenical Councils, the Traditions of the Church, and the Authority of the Pope, and proclaimed that Scripture alone should define the faith and practice for the Body of Christ. He adopted the motto, Sola Scriptura—that is "Scriptures alone!" Luther would have made a good Baptist at this point.
One of the reasons we as Baptists have such a high view of Scriptures, is because the Scriptures have a high view of themselves. In this passage, the Prophet Isaiah tells us that the Word of God is similar to the rain and snow that water the earth making it bud and flourish. His Word produces exactly what God desires. It is fruitful and will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
We believe that the message of the bible is the only hope for lost men. We believe the bible is the only source for faith and practice. We believe that the bible is truth without any mixture of error.
Luther's motto is has become our motto: So/a Scriptura—Scriptures alone. God's Word will always guide us correctly and it will never return to Him empty!
ILLUS. Some years ago, Linda and I went skiing out at Winter Park, Colorado. Besides being a beautiful place to ski, Winter Park is a center for handicapped skiers. One the slopes you'll see skiers with only one leg. Some have no arms. Others are paraplegics and ski in a sled-like device. The most amazing people are the blind skiers, impossible as that sounds. Paired with sighted skiers, the blind skiers are taught on the flats how to make right and left turns. When they master that, they are taken to the slalom slope, where their sighted partners ski beside them shouting 'Left.'" and "Right!"
As they obey the commands, they are able to negotiate the course and descend the mountain. They depend solely on the sighted skier's word. It's either complete trust or catastrophe.
What a vivid picture of the Christian life. In this world, we are often blind as to what course in life to take. We must rely solely on the Word of our Lord in the Scriptures about what course to take. His Word gives us the direction we need to finish the course.