Dear Saints of Grace congregation,
The plan to deliver statements from confessional Lutherans that exhort and encourage us to "Hold fast the confession of our faith, without wavering." (Heb. 10:23) continues. In hornor of the Reformation of the Church being celebrated in October, the inspiring words that follow come from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther. These words of encouragement were printed in a publication known as Der Lutheraner (the mid-1800's version of what is now called The Reporter). What a great example as to how our current publications should be so bold as to spur on a firmer confession of faith.
"Whoever holds his doctrine, faith, and confession to be true, correct, and certain, CANNOT stand in the same pew with others, who hold to false doctrine or have a strong liking for it, NOR can he continue to speak kindly to the devil and his minion.
A teacher who claims to be a true teacher, but who keeps silent when confronted with error, is WORSE than an open and declared fanatic. By his hypocrisy he does MORE harm than a heretic and is not to be trusted. He is a wolf and fox, a hireling and belly server, and is liable to despise and give up doctrine, Word, faith, sacrament, churches, and schools.
Either he is secretly in league with the enemies, or he is a doubter, or an opportunist - one who first sees how the wind blows and how things may turn out, whether Christ or devil will carry the victory. Or he is absolutely uncertain himeself, not worthy to be called a student, much less a teacher. He wants to make no one angry, nor in any way offend the devil and the world, and he will not let Christ speak His Word."
~The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
May Luther's words encourage us to be true to God's Word. Or, as Luther penned, "Lord, Keep us steadfast in Thy Word."
With you IN Christ Jesus,
"The Inspired and Inerrant Word of God in
the English Language"
Martin Luther was held captive (for his own safety) by Frederick the Wise of Saxony from May 1521-April 1522. During four months of his captivity at the Wartburg Castle, (November 1521-March 1522), Luther completed a translation of the New Testament from the original Greek.
After his release, Luther consulted with Philip Melanchthon, a noted Greek scholar, friend and co-worker. Luther's New Testament was released on September 21, 1522. Written in the "language of the people", it quickly outsold the German Bibles which had been translated from the Latin Vulgate. Luther's Bible was translated from the original Hebrew and Greek and considered so superior to the other translations that the other versions disappeared entirely.
A reliable German Bible was put into the hands of the Church and people thanks to Luther's genius with the German language, Melanchthon's knowledge of Greek, and Caspar Cruciger's fluency in Hebrew and Chaldee. This would be a Holy Bible that could be read by the mother at home, the children in the street, men and women at the market, tradesmen and clergy alike.
Luther did not have to ask permission from a heterodox church body to print his German Bible. He condemned the Pope and the Roman church for their errant doctrines and practices, the most well-known of which was the selling of indulgences. He spurned his spiritual enemies and rightly marked and avoided them.
Today, the opposite has take place. One heterodox church body is the National Council of Churches (NCC), a mix of varying confessions ranging from the Roman Catholic Church, USA to the United Church of Christ. Known for their zealous commitment to ecumenism, 37 different "faith groups" belong to this organization. Many major doctrines which Missouri confesses as God's Truth, are questioned or ridiculed by various members of this group. The National Council of Churches is the Copyright Holder for the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) from which most (if not all) new Bible translations are taken. All of these translations, including the English Standard Version (ESV), must have permission from the NCC to publish commercially. The NCC fostered the multi-denominational research effort that produced the initial two versions.
The English Standard Version is taken from the RSV. It must be noted that experts in the Bible publishing business report that the English Standard Version contains 92% of the RSV. While many upgrades have been made to the ESV by Lutheran scholars (to correct errors in the original RSV), is the NCC and organization that with which we should be cooperating? Was any money spent? To be sure, the LCMS is not a member of such as a boldy; however, they do participate in certain NCC and World Council of Churches (WCC) activities as a nonmember observer. The WCC is the international version of the NCC. Does "mark and avoid" in Romans 16:17 apply? The verb for "mark" in the Greek was also used by our Lord in "nothing" those who chose the chief seats. (Luke 14:7) In the 1991 "Explanation" section of Luther's Small Catechism, the following is written:
- Question 179: What do the Scriptures teach about our life in the church? Answer: We should avoid false teachers, false churches, and all organizations that promote a religion that is contrary to God's Word.
Putting the Bible in the hands of the people was what also motivated the English translators. The very first English translation, the Wycliffe Bible, was completed in 1382, and is attributed to the followers of John Wycliffe, theologian, teacher at Oxford, and a religious reformer who was called the "Morning Star of the Reformation". There is no evidence that Wycliffe did any translating at all, yet it is clear that he encouraged many translations by his followers who also believed that the Scriptures are the only reliable guide to the truth about God. Wycliffe maintained that all Christians should rely on the Bible rather that the teaching of the pope and clerics. He said that there was no scriptural justification for the papacy and was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority over secular power.
Due to the fact that the Bible was translated from the Latin Vulgate and not the original Greek and Hebrew texts, his critics were harsh and the Wycliffe Bible was not well received. Wycliffe continued to demand reforms in the church, writing tracts against the papacy until his death at the end of 1384. In 1408, the "Constitutions of Oxford" specifically named John Wycliffe as it banned certain writings, and noted that "translation of Scripture into English by unlicensed laity" is a crime punishable by charges of heresy. The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a heretic on May 4th, 1415, banned his writings, and ordered that his works be burned and that his remains be removed from consecrated ground. This order was carried out by Pope Martin V in 1428. His body was exhumed, burned and his ashes were thrown into the River Swift.
Submitted by George B. Melke, lay member of Grace Lutheran Church, San Mateo, CA