Vol. 5, No. 7
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It was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his famous petition containing ninety theses to the door of the Catholic Church building in Whittenburg, Germany. This action is looked upon by many as the beginning of the great Protestant Reformation. Of course, there were other men like John Huss and John Wycliffe who helped to lay the foundation for the outstanding work of Martin Luther. Luther was a monk in the Catholic Church who desired to reform some of the corrupt practices of his religious affiliation. There is no real evidence to suggest that he ever desired to leave the Catholic Church. His primary objective was to point out doctrinal and moral corruptions and to reform such. Luther contended for the supremacy of the Word of God over the writings of mortal man. We owe this man and others of his day a great deal of gratitude for the contributions they made in pointing out the weaknesses of the apostate church and encouraging a greater respect for biblical authority.
There was a contemporary of Luther by the name of Ulrich Zwingli from Zurich, Switzerland. He was the lesser in influence of the two men. Perhaps the personality, his location and the position of Luther contributed to this fact. There existed two differing attitudes in determining doctrinal matters in these two men. Luther possessed the attitude that all that was not expressly forbidden in the Holy Scriptures could be retained in the church. Zwingli held the view that all was to be forbidden in the church unless the Holy Scriptures authorized it. To illustrate the difference existing between the attitudes of Luther and Zwingli, it would be something like the following. If religious zealots entered the Catholic Church building in Whittenburg, Germany, and began to tear down the images, Luther would have objected to such actions on the ground that the Bible does not expressly condemn having images in the worship of the church. On the other hand, Zwingli would have commended, if not the destruction, certainly the action to remove the images since there was found no authority for such in the Holy Scriptures for images in the place of worship.
The difference in attitudes is still prominent today in the religious world. Often we hear people say, "Well, the Bible doesn't say that we should not have this or that in our worship." True. But would it always make a difference if the Bible did specifically condemn a widely accepted practice? Jesus clearly taught that we should "call no man your father on earth" (Matthew 23:9), but look at the millions of people who refer to their religious leaders as "Father." The New Testament authorizes singing in worship (See Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), but where does it condone the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship? We also have the authority to immerse believers into Christ (Mark 16:16; Galatians 3:26-27). The Bible on the other hand does not address the subject of sprinkling non-believers (infants). We can safely use unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine as elements of the Lord's Supper (See Exodus 12:15-20; Matthew 26:17,26-29), but the Bible says nothing about using orange juice and hot dog buns as elements for the Supper. We read where the early church partook of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week (See 1 Corinthians 11:20, 23-29; 16:1-2; Acts 20:7), but where is the authority to partake of the Lord's Supper on another day of the week? These are but a very few of the contrasts found in differing attitudes toward what constitute authority in religious matters.
Your attitude toward the Holy Scriptures will determine what you do in religious matters. Were it to God that we all might heed the exhortation given by the apostle Paul when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:6, "Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written..." (Emphasis mine, RE).