Reformer’s Duty

(This is the start of the required essay I’m supposed to submit to Covenant.  I figured I’d just piece it out in posts)

The “Reformer’s” Duty

On October 31, 1571, Marten Luther posted His 95 thesis on the door to the Wittenburg Chapel. Unbeknown to Luther at the time, this simple act would lead to the revolution of western culture. But was Luther right to post His thesis? Is a “reformer” in the right to question established authority? Under the authority of scripture, and out of concern for others, it is not only the right, but the responsibility of every believer to search the scriptures and question the “establishment”.

The question of authority:

From the outset a Biblical understanding of authority and submission is needed in understanding the responsibility of the reformer. Without a clear view of Biblical authority, views on authority can swing between being authoritarian and autonomous, to being non-existent and ineffective. Without a clear view of submission those who are led can swing between blind subservience leading to victim hood, or independence leading to anarchy. The Bible provides a unique perspective on authority. In Luke 7:8 the Centurion curiously identifies himself with Jesus in this way, “For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me:” Jesus marveled at this man’s faith because it appeared that the Centurion took as a matter of fact something that Jesus constantly repeated to His disciples. All throughout the gospels Jesus consistently validated His personhood, authority, mission and ministry by stating that He was submitted to the Father. By time and again stating that He was not acting on His own authority but rather was submitted to the one who gave that authority, Jesus placed the primary emphasis for those in authority or leadership on their submission to the will of the giver of authority not on their relationship with those that follow them. This model of “submitted authority” affects those in submission as well because submission to an authority where that authority is submitted to the will of God is ultimately obedience to God. This is why Paul in Romans 13 exhorts Christians to submit to even secular authorities when they punish evil and promote civil order because God has appointed them to do so. Even unwittingly in these cases civil authorities are “servants of God”.

Christ and His word the ultimate authority:

Both those that submit and those that are in authority ultimately are under the authority of Christ. It is to Jesus Christ that eventually every authority will bow, individual, pastoral, ecclesiastical, institutional, and governmental. But what does it mean to be “submitted to Christ”? On the one hand all authority is “submitted” to Jesus Christ because, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (Matt. 28:18) But for an authority to claim submission on this fact alone is kind of circular. (“I’m submitted to Christ because I’m in authority, and I’m in authority because I’m submitted to Christ.”) Evidence abounds that an authority may be in the sovereign will of Christ yet not in the expressed will of Christ.

In John chapter 1 John describes Jesus as the WORD made flesh. (John 1:14) In Revelation John’s vision of the glorified “son of man” describes a sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus paralleling Heb.4:12. In the Bible Jesus isn’t just the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), He is the incarnation of the WORD of God, the scriptures. The personhood of Jesus Christ and the Word of God are one and the same. The scriptures reveal the nature of the personhood of the image of the invisible God, and Jesus in His personhood gives scripture eternal authority and power. Terrestrially and practically any authority if valid, or claiming to be “submitted to Christ”, must be submitted to His word because on earth His word is the greatest authority.

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