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Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum (The Word of the Lord Endures Forever) was the motto of the Reformation. Based upon 1 Peter 1:24-25, this motto encapsulates the eternal, unchanging truth and authority of God’s Word, the Holy Scripture, which alone is the foundation, rule and norm of the Church’s teaching and confession. The Reformation was necessary because God’s Word, particularly the Gospel, had become obscured and buried under the doctrines and traditions of men. The Reformation continues because many today have little regard for the truth and authority of the Holy Scriptures at all.

Article II of the Constitution of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LC-MS) demands this confession of its members (pastors and congregations) stating: The Synod, and every member of the Synod, accepts without reservation: 1. The Scriptures of the old and the New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice; 2. All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God [titles of Symbolical Books omitted].

In the early 1970’s, however, the so-called “Battle for the Bible” occurred among Lutherans in North America in which it became clear that the majority of faculty at the prestigious Concordia Seminary in St. Louis no longer agreed with the confessional article of the synod’s constitution, particularly as it pertained to the authority of the canonical Scriptures. When the seminary’s president, John Tietjen, was suspended, the majority of the theological faculty (45 out of 50) and students (274 out of 381) walked out, an event that lead to the forming of “Seminex” (seminary in exile) and a new church body, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC). Then, in 1988 the AELC and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (hereafter ELCA), which continues to reject the confessional article concerning the authority of the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.

Sadly, from its inception the ELCA has been consistent in its denial of the authority of God’s Word in the Holy Scriptures, believing, teaching and confessing such contradictory doctrines as the ordination of women pastors; Darwinist evolution; denial of many biblical miracles; promotion of abortion rights; blessing of homosexual acts, same-sex marriages and of pastors in same-sex relationships and marriages, etc. Just last month in Synod Assembly the ELCA passed a policy statement concerning other religions which states that “we cannot know the inner workings of God” and that “we must be careful about claiming to know God’s judgments regarding another religion.” A pastor from northwest Minnesota challenged that statement with the clear teaching of Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” The pastor’s proposed amendment was defeated and the original policy statement passed with 97.48% of the assembly voting in favor.

Now, I know that some readers will think that I am being mean or uncharitable or even unchristian in writing these things. Some will question my motives. It is not my intention to be mean or uncharitable. On the contrary, it is out of love for the Lord and for His Word, and for the people He loves so much that He gave His Son Jesus unto death that they might live that I recount this historical truth in the hope and prayer that some might be peaked to consider the teachings they hear in the light of the authoritative Word of the Lord in the Holy Scriptures.

The Reformation motto the Word of the Lord Endures Forever was a source of assurance and comfort encouraging the Reformers that their battle was righteous and that their suffering was for good cause, giving them hope in the face of adversity. During the Reformation, the Word of the Lord had been obscured and buried under the doctrines and traditions of men. While the challenge of today is that men have little regard for the truth and authority of the Holy Scriptures at all, the Reformation motto remains a source of encouragement and hope for people of the faith. “The Word they still shall let remain, nor any thanks have for it,” penned Martin Luther in his hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is our God,” with the promise that, “He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, though these all be gone, our victory has been won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.”

I’m all for unity in the Church. To achieve that unity we have to begin and end with the Word of God. “Did God really say?” There is a clear, unambiguous answer to that question. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (John 14:23-24). Uncertainty is not humility. It is not arrogant to be sure of the things that God has told us. Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word.

The Rev. Jon Ellingworth is the pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, in Waverly.