Martin Luther - A True Born Again Believer or a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
Updated: Feb 12
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 conclusively point to genuine conversion and thus a true fruitful Christian life, or feigned testimony and false Christian life. But worst, some of these false believers are in fact wolves in sheep’s clothing of which we are warned.
Many people are shocked by the actual facts and evidence of Martin Luthers beliefs, practices and attitude. 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 persecute them. He betrayed many Bible believing Christians even to their death (I.e. War of the Peasants), in similar circumstance we see unfolding today.
1. Firstly, Martin Luther embraced and taught a false gospel of works.
John MacArthur declares: "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 also heavily promotes Luther. But is this actually true? According to his own words, Luther embraced heresy of baptismal regeneration, a false gospel that has likely sent more people to Hell than any other false doctrine.
Consider some quotes by Luther himself on salvation by baptism (EMPHASIS mine):
“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).
"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.” (Luther's Larger Catechism).
“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).
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 a “damnable heresy” (2 Pet 2:1). This is extremely dangerous and opens up the door to a false gospel and wolves in sheep clothing (Mt 7:15; Ac 20:29-30). Naturally, this was not the only heresy that Luther embraced, since a false gospel means a false salvation which means being off on sound doctrine in general. He 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).
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 Mt 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.
2. Secondly, Martin Luther denied and hated many 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 basis 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. Rather than 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).
3. Thirdly, Martin Luther had a vile, even demonic hatred towards God’s chosen people, the Jews.
His 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 work his Jew-killing machine. He (and his followers) also persecuted many Bible believers, namely the old Baptists/Anabaptists, our forefathers (so much for Jn 13:35 & Mt 5:43-48).
4. Fourthly, Martin Luther continued to embrace many Catholic heresies as prior.
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 2nd Commandment in 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 95 thesis, though popular and often lauded, contain much false doctrine that he clearly continued to embrace from Roman Catholicism.
Luther declared that he was quite content to uphold the ordinances of the church of Rome. Luther was also happy to continue the persecution and murderous philosophy of Rome. He said of Calvin’s actions in Geneva, “With a death sentence they solve all argumentation”. (Juergan L. Neve, A History of Christian Thought, vol. I, p. 285).
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). And then in a drunken stupor, he more than likely committed suicide by hanging.
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 died, contrary to those rewriting history
I think the facts speak for themselves, and yet there is much much more that could be written. Please share these things the next time you see someone casting Martin Luther in a positive light. The Bible response to wolves in sheep’s clothing is 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.