From the Word
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:15, RSV
We should well consider this passage, for Christ our Lord here commands and gives all Christians the power to be judges of all doctrine, and he gives them power to judge what is right and what is not. It is now well on a thousand years that this passage has been perverted by false Christians, that we have had no power to judge, but had to accept what the pope and the councils determined without any judgment of our own. Either the gospel lies or the pope and the councils do. Christ says, we have the right to judge all doctrines, and whatever is proposed for us to keep or reject. The Lord does not speak to the pope here, but to all Christians. As the doctrine, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” is proclaimed to all; so likewise the words, “Beware of false prophets,” exclude no one.
Hence I say, Pope, you and the councils have resolved, and now I have to decide whether I may accept it or not, because you will not stand and answer for me when I die, but I must see to it myself how I stand before God, so that I may be certain of my fate. You must be certain in regard to this matter, that it is God’s Word, as certain and more so than you are that you are living, for on this alone your conscience must rest. God commands his Word to be told you through men, and especially has he permitted it to be proclaimed and written for you by the apostles, who did not preach their own word, but God’s Word. Surely a person can preach the Word to me, but no one is able to put it into my heart except God alone, who must speak to the heart, or all is in vain; when he is silent the Word is not spoken. Hence no one shall draw me from the Word which God teaches me.
All this you must now believe, not as a word that Peter preached, but the Word that God has commanded you to believe. You must return to the gospel and observe where the foundation has its source; you must be judges and have the power to judge over all things that are offered you. But no one can judge false doctrine, except the man who is spiritual.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 305–06.