echoes of thought in love with God through Christ crucified

The Word of God cannot be received and cherished by any works whatever but only by faith. Therefore it is clear that, as the soul needs only the Word of God for its life and righteousness, so it is justified by faith alone and not any works; for if it could be justified by anything else, it would not need the Word, and consequently it would not need faith.

This faith cannot exist in connection with works—that is to say, if you at the same time claim to be justified by works, whatever their character—for that would be the same as “limping with two different opinions” [I Kings 18:21], as worshiping Baal and kissing one’s own hand [Job 31:27–28], which, as Job says, is a very great iniquity. Therefore the moment you begin to have faith you learn that all things in you are altogether blameworthy, sinful, and damnable, as the Apostle says in Rom. 3[:23], “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and, “None is righteous, no, not one; … all have turned aside, together they have gone wrong” (Rom. 3:10–12). When you have learned this you will know that you need Christ, who suffered and rose again for you so that, if you believe in him, you may through this faith become a new man in so far as your sins are forgiven and you are justified by the merits of another, namely, of Christ alone.

Since, therefore, this faith can rule only in the inner man, as Rom. 10[:10] says, “For man believes with his heart and so is justified,” and since faith alone justifies, it is clear that the inner man cannot be justified, freed, or saved by any outer work or action at all, and that these works, whatever their character, have nothing to do with this inner man. On the other hand, only ungodliness and unbelief of heart, and no outer work, make him guilty and a damnable servant of sin. Wherefore it ought to be the first concern of every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and increasingly to strengthen faith alone and through faith to grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him, as Peter teaches in the last chapter of his first Epistle (I Pet. 5:10). No other work makes a Christian. Thus when the Jews asked Christ, as related in John 6[:28], what they must do “to be doing the work of God,” he brushed aside the multitude of works which he saw they did in great profusion and suggested one work, saying, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” [John 6:29].

—Martin Luther
“Freedom of a Christian,” Works, 31:346–347.

Since the fathers have often erred, as you yourself confess, who will make us certain as to wherein they have not erred, assuming their reputation is sufficient and should not be weighed and judged according to the divine Scriptures? … What if they erred in their interpretation, as well as in their life and writings? In that way you make gods of all that is human in us, and of men themselves; and the word of men you make equal to the Word of God. … The saints could err in their writings and sin in their lives, but the Scriptures cannot err.

—Martin Luther
Luther’s Works, 36:136.

So now thou seest that in the kingdom of Christ [Scripture is the chiefest of the apostles], and in his church or congregation, and in his councils, the ruler is the scripture, approved through the miracles of the Holy Ghost, and men be servants only; and Christ is the head, and we all brethren. And when we call men our heads [we give the ministers reverence, not for themselves, but because of the word that they minister], that we do not because they be shorn or shaven, or because of their names, parson, vicar, bishop, pope; but only because of the word which they preach. If they err from the word, then may whomsoever God moveth his heart, play Paul, and correct him (cf. Galatians 2:11). If he will not obey the scripture, then have his brethren authority by the scripture to put him down, and to send him out of Christ’s church among the heretics, which prefer their false doctrine above the true word of Christ.

—William Tyndale
The Works of William Tyndale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1849), 1:251.

The Word of God is certain and can never fail. It is clear, and will never leave us in darkness. It teaches its own truth. It arises and irradiates the soul of man with full salvation and grace. It gives the soul sure comfort in God. It humbles it, so that it loses and indeed condemns itself and lays hold of God.

—Ulrich Zwingli
Huldrych Zwingli, “Of the Clarity and Certainty of the Word of God,” in Zwingli and Bullinger, 93.

Scripture has its authority from God, not from the church

Before I go any farther, it is worth-while to say something about the authority of Scripture, not only to prepare our hearts to reverence it, but to banish all doubt. When that which is set forth is acknowledged to be the Word of God, there is no one so deplorably insolent—unless devoid also both of common sense and of humanity itself—as to dare impugn the credibility of Him who speaks. Now daily oracles are not sent from heaven, for it pleased the Lord to hallow his truth to everlasting remembrance in the Scriptures alone [cf. John 5:39]. Hence the Scriptures obtain full authority among believers only when men regard them as having sprung from heaven, as if there the living words of God were heard. This matter is very well worth treating more fully and weighing more carefully. But my readers will pardon me if I regard more what the plan of the present work demands than what the greatness of this matter requires.

But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men! For they mock the Holy Spirit when they ask: Who can convince us that these writings came from God? Who can assure us that Scripture has come down whole and intact even to our very day? Who can persuade us to receive one book in reverence but to exclude another, unless the church prescribe a sure rule for all these matters? What reverence is due Scripture and what books ought to be reckoned within its canon depend, they say, upon the determination of the church. Thus these sacrilegious men, wishing to impose an unbridled tyranny under the cover of the church, do not care with what absurdities they ensnare themselves and others, provided they can force this one idea upon the simple-minded: that the church has authority in all things. Yet, if this is so, what will happen to miserable consciences seeking firm assurance of eternal life if all promises of it consist in and depend solely upon the judgment of men? Will they cease to vacillate and tremble when they receive such an answer? Again, to what mockeries of the impious is our faith subjected, into what suspicion has it fallen among all men, if we believe that it has a precarious authority dependent solely upon the good pleasure of men!

—John Calvin
Institutes, 1.7.1.

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