Martin Luther — A True Born Again Believer or a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
Updated: May 13
It is a genuine question and one professing believers should sincerely be interested in, considering his popularity among Christiandom. We are indeed to judge a man’s fruit, doctrine and testimony (e.g., Mt 7:15-20; Rom 16:17-18; 3 Jn 1:9-11; Ju 1:3-16; 2 Pet 2:1-22; entire Epistle of 1 John; etc). The Biblical test will either (majority of the time) conclusively point to genuine conversion and thus a true fruitful Christian life, or feigned testimony and false Christian life. Even worse, some of these false believers are in fact wolves in sheep’s clothing of which we are warned.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German theologian and considered a major leader of the Protestant Reformation. He is even sometimes called the father of Protestantism, and one of the major branches of ‘main-line’ Protestantism (Lutheranism) is named after him. Luther was the son of a Saxon miner. He entered the University of Erfurt when he was 18 years of age, and after graduating began to study law in 1505. In July of that year, however, he narrowly escaped death in a thunderstorm and vowed to become a monk. He entered the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits at Erfurt, where he was ordained in 1507. The following year he was sent to Wittenberg, where he continued his studies and lectured in moral philosophy. In 1511, he received his doctorate in theology and an appointment as professor of Scripture, which he held for the rest of his life. Luther visited Rome in 1510 on business for his order and was shocked to find corruption in high ecclesiastical places in the Roman Catholic Church. The doctrine of Indulgences, with its worldly view of sin and repentance, became the specific focus of Luther’s indignation. Luther posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg on Oct 31, 1517.
Many people are shocked by the actual facts and evidence of the man Martin Luthers, of his beliefs, practices and attitude, even what was contained in the 95 Theses, which were laden with error and false doctrine and Catholic dogma. Reformers, especially Calvinists, have done a stellar job of painting Luther in a very positive light and as an untouchable man of God. If you are a Mennonite reading here, you should have even a greater vested interest in the answer to this question. Why? Luther despised the Anabaptists, our forefathers, and actively persecuted them. He betrayed many Bible believing Christians even to their death (I.e. War of the Peasants), in very similar circumstances we see unfolding today.
Let's consider now some of the beliefs and practises of Luther, that not only make it clear he was unsaved, but also that he was an ungodly and blasphemous heretic and wolf in sheep's clothing.
1. Firstly, Martin Luther embraced and taught a false gospel of works.
The Reformed Calvinist John MacArthur exalts Luther:
"Pick one shining light in the history of the Christian church by the name of Martin Luther. Now Martin Luther, coming out of Roman Catholicism, fought more than anyone for the truth that man is saved by faith and not by works." (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-21/asdf).
John Piper likewise heavily promotes Luther.
The ongoing cliche of reformed Calvinists the world over is that Luther believed in "justification by faith alone" and that he rescued the gospel from the clutches of Rome.
But is this actually true? According to his own words, Luther embraced the heresy of baptismal regeneration, a false gospel that has likely sent more people to Hell than any other false doctrine, the same false gospel that he embraced under Roman Catholicism.
Consider some quotes by Luther himself on salvation by baptism (CAPS emphasis mine):
Luther called “[baptism] a new birth by which we are . . . loosed from sin, death, and hell, and become children of life, heirs of all the gifts of God, God’s own children, and brethren of Christ.” (Luther, Works, 53:103).
“I call to You for this CHILD, Your servant, who prays for the gift of Your baptism and desires Your eternal grace through spiritual regeneration:" … "The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given birth to you a second time through water and the Holy Spirit and has forgiven you all Your sin,…” ( Luther's Baptismal Booklet, 1523)
“To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and PURPOSE OF BAPTISM IS TO SAVE. NO IS BAPTIZED IN ORDER TO BECOME A PRINCE, BUT AS THE WORDS SAY, ‘TO BE SAVED’. To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever." (Luther's Larger Catechism, 1529).
"Therefore every Christian has enough in Baptism to learn and to practice all his life; for he has always enough to do to believe firmly what it promises and brings: victory over death and the devil, forgiveness of sin, the grace of God, the entire Christ, and the Holy Ghost with His gifts.” (ibid).
“Now here in Baptism there is brought free to every man's door just such a priceless medicine which SWALLOWS UP DEATH AND SAVES THE LIVES OF ALL MEN. . . . AND IF I AM BAPTIZED, I HAVE THE PROMISE THAT I SHALL BE SAVED AND HAVE ETERNAL LIFE, both in soul and body. . . . NO GREATER JEWEL, THEREFORE, CAN ADORN OUR BODY AND SOUL THAN BAPTISM, FOR THROUGH IT WE OBTAIN PERFECT HOLINESS AND SALVATION, which no other kind of life and no work on earth can acquire.” (ibid, pp. 85-86).
“Moreover, it is solemnly and strictly commanded that WE MUST BE BAPTIZED OR WE SHALL NOT BE SAVED.” (ibid, pp. 80-81).
"Thus we see what a great and excellent thing Baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil and makes God our own, overcomes and takes away sin and daily strengthens the new man, always remains until we pass from this present misery to eternal glory. … As we have once obtained forgiveness of sins in Baptism" (ibid, p. 90).
“WHAT DOES BAPTISM GIVE OR PROFIT? IT WORKS FORGIVENESS OF SINS, DELIVERS FROM DEATH AND THE DEVIL, AND GIVES ETERNAL SALVATION TO ALL WHO BELIEVE THIS, … How can water do such great things? It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost,…” (Luther's Small Catechism, 1529).
The binding Lutheran symbol, the Augsburg Confession, states that “baptism . . . is necessary to salvation” and “condemn[s] the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without baptism” (Article IX).
Luther obviously denied salvation by grace and faith alone in favour of adding baptism to salvation, believing that water baptism produces regeneration/salvation, that one can only become a Christian through this means. The actual facts contradict Luthers claim to have been “justified by faith.” He embraced a works-gospel, which is “another gospel” (Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:4). All these were written years after he was cast out of the Roman Catholic Church. So whatever Luther meant by “man is saved by faith and not by works,” its obviously not what the Bible teaches. He is exalted as a popular example of embracing justification by faith alone through grace alone, whereas the truth as we have seen clearly is a rejection of the true gospel of Christ and an embracement of justification by works.
My question is: why does he keep receiving a pedestal, while believing in “damnable heresies” (2 Pet 2:1). This is extremely dangerous and opens up the door to a false gospel and wolves in sheep clothing (Matt 7:15; Ac 20:29-30). Naturally, this was not the only heresy that Luther embraced, considering a false gospel means a false profession of faith which means being off on sound doctrine in general.
Luther also taught that communion was necessary for maintenance of salvation; that through communion, one received forgiveness of sins that threatened one's relationship with Christ. Consider a few quotes:
”For here in the sacrament [Communion] you receive from Christ's lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God's grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defence, and power against death and the devil and all evils" (The Large Catechism, p. 98).
In his Catechism he taught that communion “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink, established by Christ Himself.” (Formula of Concord, 1577).
“We believe, teach, and confess that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and that they are truly distributed and taken together with the bread and wine. . . . That the right hand of God is everywhere; and that Christ, in respect of his humanity, is truly and in very deed seated thereat.” (Articles I, V).
Luther’s view of the Lord’s Supper, consubstantiation, is even further a damnable heresy and practically identical to Rome’s transubstantiation.
Even further, he upheld infant baptism, teaching that even though infants are unable to exercise faith, God through His prevenient grace works faith in the unconscious child. He based the baptism of infants on the command to baptize all nations, perverting the truth of Matt 28:19. He also believed and taught that repentance on its own (without faith) was conversion, and that it was gradual. He failed to understand justification in James is the practical evidence of justification by faith in salvation.
So it is very plainly evident that Luther embraced a false gospel of faith plus works, the same type of false gospel as Rome, specifically baptismal regeneration and maintenance of salvation by the Lord’s Supper, which is a “damnable heresy” (2 Pet 2:1) and “another gospel” (Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Cor. 11:4). He continued this heresy in spite of leaving the Catholic Church and for the remainder of his life. Although Luther claimed that “his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works,” he in fact clearly trusted in his water baptism and sacraments to secure his salvation.
Luther's perverted gospel is further exposed in his claim that one can commit murder or adultery 1000's of times a day and still be covered by Jesus death! Of course he had to say that because he himself was guilty of murder and maybe even adultery, and he publicly supported murderous tyrants like John Calvin and their evil behaviour. And further, he agreed that Philip of Hesse could have two wives to help the prince stop committing adultery; the second marriage just needed to be kept secret. After the secret got out, Luther lied, denying his role in the bigamy. So not only did he encourage adultery here (having two wives is adultery), he was also a pathological liar.
What does God have to say about that?
"No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (1 Jn 3:15) and no "murderer . . . shall. . . inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal 5:21)
No "adulterer . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10)
“All liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Rev 21:8)
This point on its own proves Martin Luther was a false believer, hypocrite, false teacher, heretic and wolf in sheep's clothing. But there is more, much more...
2. Secondly, Martin Luther denied and hated many God-inspired books of the Bible.
Instead of trembling before the inspired books of the O.T. and N.T. (Is 66:5), Luther denied and attacked the canonicity of Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Revelation, and several OT books, meaning, he didn’t believe that they were actually God’s Word, providing a foundational basis for apostasy and for the rise of theological modernism in Germany a century after his death. He considered James to be an epistle of straw only good for fire starter. He had a particular hatred for James, writing much toxicity against the book he called an “epistle of straw,” even claiming that “Some day I will use James to fire my stove” (Weimer, “Tischreden” (5) p. 5854). Unsurprisingly, Luther explicitly rejected the warning of Rev 22:18-19!
His venomous views towards these books could be read up till the early 1900’s in their respected preface in the German Bible that bears his name. He also corrupted the Ten Commandments, removing the 2nd, and then dividing the 10th into two, then renumbering 2 to 9. He carried this on from Rome, since this blasphemous error is EXACTLY as found in the Catholic Catechism. It's easy to understand why popery altered God’s Word to no prohibition against idols, statutes, and images but why Luther? Very likely because he as a dog and pig had never been transformed, so he always remained a dog and pig, keeping many of Rome's traditional heresies, including a graven image of Mary in his study.
Instead of attacking God’s Word, Luther should have considered more carefully that “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed” (Pr 13:13; cf. 2 Tim 3:16; Pr 30:5-6; De 12:32; Rev 22:18-19). And his life was destroyed, eventually culminating in years of drunkardness, climaxed with suicide by hanging.
3. Thirdly, Martin Luther had a vile, even demonic hatred towards God’s chosen people, the Jews, and others.
I guess that would be natural for one who had the same evil attitude towards the God's Word. Luther wrote absolutely terrible and horrible things about the Jewish people. His vicious hatred was more so than any other German “theologian” since his day, and he would have gladly killed them all given the opportunity. This of course laid the groundwork for Hitler, a Lutheran who read Luther a few centuries later, to flame his anti-semitic hatred and work his Jew-killing machine.
Luther is to have said,
“First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honour of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians . . .” He suggested that Jewish, “houses also be shattered and destroyed . . . Let their prayer books and Talmuds be taken from them, and their whole Bible too; let their rabbis be forbidden, on pain of death, to teach henceforth any more. Let the streets and highways be closed against them. Let them be forbidden to practice usury, and let all their money, and all their treasures of silver and gold be taken from them and put away in safety. And if all this be not enough, let them be driven like mad dogs out of the land.” (Will Durant, About the Jews and Their Lies, 1543, pp 211-212)
In another place he writes,
"If I had to baptise a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words `I baptise thee in the name of Abraham” (Martin Luther 'The Facts About Luther, TAN Books, 1987, p. 290; Grisar, “Luther”, Vol. V. p. 413)
Yikes. No murderous hatred to be seen there. Evidently, the anti-Semitic charge against Luther is not anti-Lutheran propaganda. In light of his hatred for the Jews, his widespread complicity and role in the eventual Holocaust a few centuries later under Hitler (a Lutheran who read Luther and orchestrated the Jewish Holocaust), is unsurprising.
Luther (and his followers) also persecuted many Bible believers, namely the old Baptists/Anabaptists, our forefathers (so much for Jn 13:35 and Matt 5:43-48). He hated and severely persecuted those who disagreed with him, including professing Christians. Luther taught that dissenters should be banished.
During what is called the War of the Peasants or the Peasants War (see also here among many articles written on the subject), the German lower class of society rose up against the government, eerily similar to what is occurring today with people rising up against the tyrannical antichrist governments, and though Martin Luther initially supported it and even helped inspire the event, Luther ended up turning against the people and openly encouraged the murder of up to 100,000 German peasants who were in the uprising:
"To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! Transfix them. Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog!” – “If they say that I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them like mad dogs” (Erlangen Vol 24, p. 294)
“The peasants [involved in the Peasants’ War] would not listen; they would not let anyone tell them anything; their ears must be unbuttoned with bullets, till their heads jump off their shoulders. . . . On the obstinate, hardened, blinded peasants, let no one have mercy, but let everyone, as he is able, hew, stab, slay, lay about him as though among mad dogs, . . . so that peace and safety may be maintained . . .” (ibid)
"Therefore, let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish, than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you." (Janz)
While Luther was not the cause of the Peasants’ War, he did contribute to it by his foolish, ungodly and wicked statements.
Luther also said of RCC leaders,
“If I had all the Franciscan friars in one house, I would set fire to it . . . To the fire with them!”
Must be Luther's version of loving thy neighbour as thyself.
Is it any surprise that those who love Calvin, love Luther? Two peas in a pod with almost identical violent murderous knee-jerk tendencies and false gospels.
4. Fourthly, Martin Luther continued to embrace many Catholic heresies as prior to his departure from Rome.
Concerning Mary, he continued to believe she was conceived without sin, as Christ was, preaching that,
“It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.” (On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God, 1527).
He believed his entire life that she was a perpetual virgin and always kept a graven image of her in his study.
Like Rome, he removed the 2nd Commandment from the Word of God (Ex 20:4-6).
He believed that Christ Himself became the sin of men rather then bearing the sins of mankind as Scripture teaches, claiming,
“All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person.” (Comment on Gal. 3:13 in Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, 1535)
Luther’s confusion on the work of Christ, his deliberate rejection of the fact that Christ suffered the penalty for the world’s sins, to rather affirm instead that He Himself became a sinner, is a very dangerous heresy. It is Luther that is the great and Satanic blasphemer!
Luther declared that he was quite content to uphold the ordinances of the church of Rome.
One example of that is the Eucharist. Luther contently continued embracing the Roman Catholic Eucharist. In a meeting between Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, held at the Marburg Colloquy in 1529, the men attempted to reconcile their differences, aiming to unify the Lutheran and Zwinglian groups of German and Swiss-German reformations. John D. Hannah writes, "Luther and Zwingli composed their views on fifteen articles and agreed on fourteen, but could not agree on the fifteenth . . . the Eucharist. Their failure to compromise on this issue prevented unity; it meant the permanent fracturing of the movement. Luther insisted upon a REAL CORPOREAL (BODILY) PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE LORD’S SUPPER, while Zwingli on a non-corporal (spiritual) memorialized presence. (adapted from (Hannah, John C, The Kregel Pictorial Guide To Church History: Volume 4—The Reformation of the Church (The Early Modern Period), A.D. 1500-1650," 2009, p.11). CAPS emphasis mine.
In other words, Luther embraced the same heresy as Roman Catholicism that Christ was really bodily present in the Lord's Supper. I.e. The Eucharist.
Luther’s 95 thesis, though popular and frequently lauded, contain much false doctrine carried over from Roman Catholicism, which he obviously did not reject as we note both in the Theses and in the things written here.
Luther was also happy to continue the persecution and murderous philosophy of Rome, noted in the previous point. He said of Calvin’s actions in Geneva, who was responsible for the torture and awful murders of up to 100 people,
“With a death sentence they solve all argumentation”. (Juergan L. Neve, A History of Christian Thought, vol. I, p. 285)
5. Fifthly, Martin Luther spent his last years as a drunkard and then hit the eject button by way of rope.
In the end, historical records show that Luther was mostly drunk in his latter years, as such is the case with those who perish under such false pretence (Pr 31:6-7), while saved people abstain from all appearance of evil including drink (Pr 31:4-5; 1 Th 5:21-22). No "drunkard . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-11). Unsaved people drink alcohol, so they are drunkards (the Bible doesn't differentiate between the one who drinks alcohol casually or daily -- they are all drunkards and fall under that label).
And then in a drunken stupor, he more than likely committed suicide by hanging. Maybe that is why Reformed theologians and Calvinists today are so quick to assure people that suicides go to heaven. There is a vested interest, in spite of ignoring all the other hard facts of Luthers unregeneracy. It is however a blatant and Satanic lie, for "ye [i.e., truly saved people] know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." (1 Jn 3:15b). Read here for the answer to the question, "Do Professing Christians that Commit Suicide Go to Heaven?"
In 1606, Franciscan Heinrich Sedulius, Luther’s servant, in his "Preaescriptiones adversus haereses” wrote:
"On the night before his death, Martin Luther let himself be overcome by his habitual intemperance and in such excess that we were obliged to take him, completely drunk, and place him in his bed. Then, we retired to our bedroom, without sensing anything unpleasant! The next morning, we went back to our lord to help him get dressed, as usual. Then -oh, what a pain!- we saw our master Martin hanging from the bed and strangled miserably! His mouth was crooked, the right part of his face was black, his neck was red and deformed.”
This is how Luther actually died, contrary to those rewriting hagiographic history in favour of their hero's.
When we truly understand Martin Luther (verses the false historical representation of him), his false works-based gospel, hatred for Jew and Christians alike and for anyone else that disagreed with him (like his buddy Calvin) and hatred for much of God's Word, his ongoing embracement of Roman Catholic dogma, its not difficult to see why he is exalted by false religious institutions and neo-evangelical’s alike, nor why he became so popular.
“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Lk 6:26)
I think the facts speak for themselves, and yet there is much much more that could be written. Please share these things or his page the next time you see or read someone casting Martin Luther in a positive light.
"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Col 2:8)
Sadly many people gullibly accept the myth that Luther was a regenerate saint because he allegedly embraced “justification by faith alone” and because he came out of the Roman Catholic Church (which he did in 1517) allegedly reduced the gospel. Neither are true. He in fact embraced a works gospel and continued to embrace many Roman Catholic heresies until his death, both of which are clearly proven above. The label might have changed for him, but his heresies hadn’t. The evidence for this is so overwhelming, one would need only a fraction of it to make this clear and determined conclusion. Even his 95 thesis are loaded with scriptural error and false doctrine.
So to answer the obvious, Luther was indeed a wolf in sheep's clothing, that much is very clear.
The Bible's response to wolves in sheep’s clothing is according to what Rom 16:17-18 tells us:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
Here I stand, I can do no other… well, I stand with the Bible and the old Anabaptists/Baptists that Luther and his followers persecuted and hated. Here we can see why.