Monday, November 13, 2017

DID MARTIN LUTHER HAVE A THIRD-HEAVEN EXPERIENCE?

One of Martin Luther’s first biographers, Johann Mathesius, mentions various prophecies spoken by him, which were fulfilled, and then remarks, “With many sure prophecies he confirmed his doctrine” (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 29). Indeed, many of Luther’s early followers believed him to be a prophet. Even Melanchthon at one point referred to Luther as Elijah, saying, “Thus the Holy Spirit prophesied of this third Elijah, Dr. Martin Luther” (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 29).
Luther Obviously Had Profound Spiritual Experiences

In his book, Luther and the Mystics, Professor Bengt Hoffman, of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, tells of a conversation in which Johann Cochelus asked Luther if he had received special revelations. Luther was silent for a moment, and then replied, “‘Est mihi revelatum,’ yes, he had had revelations.” According to Bengt, it seems that one of these was similar to Paul’s experience of being caught up to the third heaven (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 30).
Like Paul, Luther was not hesitant on insisting that he had received his gospel from heaven. In his book, The Babylon Captivity of the Church, he assured his readers that the truth he was presenting, “I have learned under the Spirit’s guidance.” And when the German prince, Frederick the Wise, expressed concern for his safety after his condemnation as a heretic, Luther wrote to him that he had nothing to fear, and then said, “Your Grace knows, if not, I make known to you, that I have the gospel, not from men, but from heaven through our Lord Jesus Christ(Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 24-25).
He Spoke with Authority

Souer’s work in German, A History of the Christian Church, on page 406 of volume 3, describes Luther as “a prophet, evangelist, speaker in tongues and interpreter, in one person, endowed with all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.” And in the fourth stanza of his great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Luther wrote, “The Spirit and gifts are ours.”
Luther’s boldness does seem to stem from personal encounters with the Almighty. This writer vividly recalls his first reading of Luther's own writings and the impact it produced. As I read The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, I was amazed at the clear, concise and bold nature of his message and said to myself, "Luther is speaking with apostolic authority."
He Kept God's Word Central

However, whatever Luther’s personal experiences may have been, these were never the subject of his preaching. He lived and breathed the Scriptures and found in them the ultimate source of his confidence and courage. When, in later life, he was asked how he, a simple monk and teacher, had been able to have such an impact when opposed by both the pope and emperor, he replied,
I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. The Word so weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all (Hyatt, The Charismatic Luther, 28).
You Talked Too Much About Yourself
I will never forget driving home one night from a meeting in which I had just preached. In the dark on the two-lane highway, I mused over the meeting I had just left and wondered aloud why I had a troubled sense in my spirit.
“It was a good meeting,” I told myself and the Lord. “People responded to the invitation and some were obviously touched and were weeping. Why am I feeling this way?” I then heard the voice of the Lord in my spirit, “You talked too much about yourself.”
Ah! What a revelation! Yes, my message was centered around myself and personal stories of my own spiritual experiences. In doing so, I had failed to preach God’s word. What a travesty!
There is a place for personal testimony, but personal testimonies must never take the place of the testimony of God’s word. God's power for salvation is in His gospel message, as Paul so clearly stated in Romans 1:16. They must hear His word! 
Luther learned this and lived and ministered by it.

This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, The Charismatic Luther, available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Monday, November 6, 2017

THE SECRET PLACE: FINDING A PLACE OF SAFETY IN AN UNSAFE WORLD

Hardly anyone would expect terror to strike a small Baptist church in a small town in central Texas. But that is exactly what happened yesterday during the Sunday morning service at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. An individual, dressed in black and carrying a high-powered weapon, walked in the door and proceeded to slaughter 26 worshippers and wound numerous others.
This heinous act came on the heels of the tragedy in New York City involving a Muslim jihadist who killed eight people with a rented pickup he drove into a crowd of people. And don't forget the recent evil and tragic events at Las Vegas, Orlando and San Bernardino, not to mention the thousands of Christians in the Middle East that are being slaughtered for their faith. What is going on?
In II Timothy 3:1 Paul says, But know that in the last days perilous times shall come. The word “perilous” is translated from a Greek word that means “fierce,” “violent” and “dangerous.” It is the word used of the two demoniacs of Matthew 8:28 who terrorized that region until Jesus came and set them free. In other words, the violent character of those two demon possessed mad-men will be characteristic of the last days, the days in which we now live.
There are also religious terrorists who prey on the naïve and unsuspecting with their alluring doctrines and sensational claims. The New Testament refers to them as false apostles who come as angels of light and propagate doctrines of demons (II Corinthians 11:13-15; I Timothy 4:1). We certainly are living in the perilous (dangerous) times that Paul spoke about in II Timothy 3:1.
What is The Secret Place?
God, however, has provided a place of refuge and safety in this dangerous and unpredictable world. Psalm 91:1 speaks of this place of refuge: The person who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
What is the secret place to which this passage refers, and why is God here referred to by two different names? The answers to these questions provide insight into powerful truths concerning the place of safety God has provided for every believer.
The secret place is a place of personal intimacy between you and God. It is a space known only to you and God. In the ideal marriage, there is a place of intimacy, sharing, and closeness that no one else can breach. In the same way, each of us has the privilege of finding a secret place with God, a place of personal intimacy and closeness where it is just you and God.
How I Found The Secret Place
A number of years ago, I became ill and feared that I might die. To build my faith, I not only read and reread the promises of healing in my Bible, but I also poured over all the faith-building books on healing that I had ever read. As my faith grew, I found myself overcoming questions and doubts. There was, however, one final obstacle to my faith, an obstacle that I could overcome only by finding my own secret place with God.
This final obstacle to faith was tied to the fact that many of the faith-building books I was reading had been written by people who had died of sickness or who had gone through sicknesses from which they were not healed. I knew, for example, that John G. Lake, whose books had greatly helped me, had died of a stroke at the age of 64. Smith Wigglesworth, whose writings were also faith building, had endured a painful ordeal with kidney stones. He did not receive healing for the condition and finally passed them through his urinary tract in a grueling process that took 3 years.
Realities like these raised the question in my mind: “If these people of such great faith had not been healed, how could I confidently expect to be healed by God?” I struggled with this! Finally, I found my own secret place with God, and in this secret place, it was just God and I. I cried out,
Oh God, I don't know why John G. Lake died of a stroke or why Smith Wigglesworth was not healed of kidney stones, or why his daughter was not healed of deafness. I don't know why healing evangelists like Jack Coe died of polio and Kathryn Kuhlman died of heart failure. But Lord, I don't have to know! That is between you and them. This is between you and me. I am here in Your presence with Your promises. This is not about anyone else. This is just You and me and the promises you have made.
As I fellowshipped with God around His word, I found a faith that was not tied to anyone else’s experience. My faith became rooted in my relationship with Him as never before. I found my own secret place with God.
The Significance of the Names For God in Psalm 91
The first name for God in this passage is El-Elyon and literally means “The Most High God.” The nations around Israel all had their gods. The God of Israel, however, was The Most High God. In order to be in that place of safety, one must dwell in the secret place of El-Elyon. This means that our faith cannot be a derivative or reflection of somebody else’s faith. We must find our own place of personal intimacy with God and live there.
The person who finds this place of personal intimacy will abide or remain under the shadow of the Almighty. “Almighty” is a translation of the Hebrew El-Shaddai. El means “strong or mighty one.” Shaddai is derived from the Hebrew word shad, which means “breast.” El-Shaddai thus portrays God as a nursing mother nourishing her infant with her own life. What is more secure than an infant in the arms of its mother being nourished at her breast? 
Under His Covering
Under the shadow is a metaphor or word picture for “a protective covering.” The protective covering is not a pastor, church, denomination or self-proclaimed apostle. It is, instead, a personal thing between the individual and God. God Himself—El-Shaddai—will be our covering when we live in that secret place. This passage is clearly saying that the one who dwells continually in a place of personal intimacy with God will live under His protective care and be nourished and sustained by His own life.
How Do We Live in The Secret Place?
First of all, we must get rid of religiosity and approach God as a friend—with reverence, but as a real Person who wants to have a personal relationship with us.
Secondly, we must give priority to reading and studying His Word, particularly the gospels and the New Testament. Smith Wigglesworth said, "I cannot know God by how I feel; I can only know God from His word." As we read the gospels, we will get to know what God is like. Jesus is God Incarnate and as we are getting to know Him in the gospels, we are getting to know God.
Thirdly, we must worship. Someone has noted that when we pray, we are preoccupied with our needs. When we praise and give thanks, we are preoccupied with our blessings. But when we worship, we are preoccupied only with Him.
In the Secret Place We Come to Know Him
In John 17:3 Jesus prayed to His Father that His followers may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. The word “know” in this passage is the Greek word ginosko and it refers to a knowing that is not merely intellectual, but that is rooted in an intimate relationship between the knower and the object known.
This same word is used of the intimate, physical relationship between a husband and wife. For example, it is the word that is used in Genesis 4:1 that says, Now Adam knew (ginosko) his wife and she conceived and bore Cain.
This is the same word used by Paul in Philippians 3:10 where Paul says that his burning passion and ultimate goal in life is to know (ginosko) Christ. Paul wanted more than anything else to live in that secret place.
How about you? Have you found your own secret place with God? If not, I encourage you to reach out to Him today. He has promised that if you seek for Him you will find Him, when you seek for Him with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
Dr. Eddie Hyatt is the founder of Revive America and the author Pilgrims and Patriots, which documents the radical Christian origins of America and how it was birthed out of the First Great Awakening. His books on Spiritual awakening and the nature of the church and Christianity can be found on Amazon. His vision for another Great Awakening can be found at his website, www.eddiehyatt.com

Sunday, November 5, 2017

HOW MARTIN LUTHER MADE CHRISTIAN UNITY POSSIBLE

I sat in a seminary class and listened as a guest lecturer bashed Martin Luther, accusing him of “destroying the unity of the church.” I decided I could not keep silent and so raised my hand.
I told the instructor that I disagreed with his assumption that the church had “unity” at the time of Luther. What the church had, I said, was a “uniformity” that was imposed by force. With the merger of church and state by Constantine in the fourth century, the church gained official, governmental status in the Empire with the power of the state now at its disposal to enforce its doctrines, claims and cause. It became an imperial church!
This is not Unity
Believing the wrong doctrine became a civil crime known as heresy, and heretics were imprisoned, tortured, beheaded and burned at the stake, all in the name of unity. One-hundred years before Luther, the Czeck priest and pastor, John Huss, was found guilty of heresy for preaching the authority of Scripture and saying that Christ, not the pope, is the head of the church. He was publicly burned at the stake. That is not unity!
Luther would have suffered the same fate if it had not been for the protection of the powerful German prince, Frederick the Wise. Nonetheless, because he too preached the authority of Scripture and that Christ, not the pope, is the head of the church, he was excommunicated. A warrant was issued for his arrest and Christians were ordered not to print or read his books, but instead to burn them. That is not unity!


Should Truth be Sacrificed for Unity?
For those who think Luther destroyed the unity of the Church, my question is this, “Should Luther have recanted at his heresy trial?” Should he have renounced his teachings on the authority of Scripture, the priesthood of all believers and justification by faith? Should he have sacrificed truth for an artificial show of unity? Is unity our goal even at the expense of truth?
By refusing to sacrifice truth for an artificial unity, Luther showed himself to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 8:31-32, If you continue in My word, you are My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Those who sacrifice truth for a superficial unity are not true disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Real Cause of the Division
No, Luther was not the cause of the division that took place at the time of the Reformation. The cause is to be found in the rigid authoritarianism of the Roman Church at the time. Hans Kung, the most widely read Catholic theologian in the world today, recognizes this. Referring to the claim of Catholic bishops to be the successors of the apostles, he wrote, “The decade long, indeed century long, predominately unapostolic behavior of the bishops was a major cause of the Lutheran Reformation.”
What Luther destroyed was not unity, but a uniformity that was imposed on the masses by force. Yet, he did not set out to do even this. He wanted to see the Roman Church reformed according to the Scriptures and the glaring abuses, such as the selling of indulgences, addressed. However, the “unapostolic behavior” of the Roman bishops, particularly the bishop of Rome, made this impossible.
Here is Real Unity
Instead of destroying unity, Luther made Biblical unity possible, for there can be no real unity without diversity. The existence of thousands of Protestant churches should not be looked upon as a problem, but a possibility. Just as a symphony orchestra is made up of many different instruments that make many different sounds, so the true church is made up of a rich diversity of individuals and churches.
What brings unity in the symphony orchestra is when all the instruments respond to the maestro and begin playing the same song in the same key and melody. The sound that comes forth is beautiful and rich because of the blend and harmony of the different instruments with their different sounds.
In a similar way, when the many different churches, Catholic and Protestant, stop playing their own song and seeking their own status and power, and begin responding to the true Head of the church--Jesus Christ--and flowing with His Holy Spirit, something beautiful will emerge. God’s power will flow, and the world will see Jesus as they have never seen Him before.
I have experienced sweet Christian fellowship with Catholics and members of various Protestant denominations around the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a common openness to the Holy Spirit. Thank you, Martin Luther, for making such Christ-centered, Biblical unity a possibility once again in the Church of Jesus Christ.

This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, The Charismatic Luther, available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

HOW NOT TO BE WHAT MARTIN LUTHER CALLED A "SCHWARMER"

The Reformation opened the door to all sorts of wild theories about the church, the end of the world, and the kingdom of God and how it would be established. Some said the kingdom of God would be established by God’s people taking up the sword, slaying the wicked and establishing righteousness by force. Others said it would be established by a “second commissioning” of apostles and prophets who would go forth with such power, signs and wonders that no one would be able to resist them.
It was within this milieu of religious fervor and expectation that Luther had his notorious run-in with the “Prophets of Zwickau.” And it was in this conflict that Luther coined the word scharmer to describe these individuals whom he considered to be irrational spiritualists led astray by the thoughts and feelings of their own heart.
Luther Confronts the Schwarmer
While Luther was hiding in the Castle of Wartburg, after his condemnation at the Diet of Worms, three men from Zwickau came to Luther’s hometown of Wittenberg, which was the center of the Reformation. Led by a weaver named Nicholas Storch, they claimed divine visions, dreams and visits from the angel Gabriel. They became known as the “Prophets of Zwickau.”
Storch and his two friends wowed the people with their revelations and began taking the reform movement in Wittenberg in a radical direction that was not compatible with Luther’s desire or with Scripture. Luther was for gradual change as a result of the people’s hearts being changed by the preaching of the word.
These new prophets, however, demanded instant and radical changes in the church services and the long-held traditions and practices of the people. They began smashing statues, images and paintings. Their basis of authority was not Scripture, but the visions and angelic visitations, which they claimed.
Although many, including some of Luther’s colleagues, were won over by the sensational claims of these men, their presence and message caused unrest in the city, prompting Melanchthon to send a message to Luther about what was happening.
Luther Returns
When Luther read the message, he put his life at risk, left the Castle at Wartburg, and returned to Wittenberg. He preached eight sermons on eight consecutive days, challenging with Scripture the visions and dreams of the prophets from Zwickau. It was at this time that he coined the word schwarmer as a derogatory designation for these individuals whom he considered to be irrational dreamers led astray by the imaginations of their own heart. Concerning Luther's eight sermons, the historian, Philip Schaff, wrote,
The ruling ideas of these eight discourses are: Christian freedom and Christian charity; freedom from the tyranny of radicalism which would force the conscience against forms, as the tyranny of popery forces the conscience in the opposite direction. In plain, clear, strong, scriptural language, he refuted the errors without naming the errorists.”
A Personal Encounter with a Schwarmer
This reminds me of how, during the midst of a series of meetings, I received a phone call from one of the participants. The voice on the other end of the line said, “I was lying by the pool meditating and God spoke to me and said, ‘Call Eddie Hyatt and tell him to start a church and call it ‘The Gateway to Heaven.’”
I did not need a special revelation from heaven to know that the message was not from God. I also knew he was not a false prophet, just a mistaken one who had not learned to distinguish the voice of the Spirit of God from his own thoughts, feelings and over-active imagination. He was a schwarmer, but an honest one who was willing to receive correction.
The Schwarmer Leave Wittenberg
The schwarmer in Wittenberg, however, were unwilling to receive correction. Through Luther’s preaching and influence, it soon became obvious to the people that the “prophets” were in error. Realizing they had lost their influence, the three men departed Wittenberg. One of Luther’s colleagues wrote to the Elector of that region,
Oh, what joy has Dr. Martin’s return spread among us. His words, through divine mercy, are bringing back every day misguided people into the way of truth. It is as clear as the sun, that the Spirit of God is in him, and that he returned to Wittenberg by His special providence.
Although Luther was not prefacing what he said with a “thus saith the Lord,” his message was obviously more prophetic than the dreams and visions of the schwarmer. Always remember that just as Solomon’s temple was constructed quietly without any sound of a hammer or tool (I Kings 6:7), God’s word and work can flow forth without hype and fanfare.
How Not to be a Schwarmer
Luther’s experience serves as a reminder of the importance of following the Biblical admonitions to test the spirits and to judge prophecy. Because false miracles and prophets are predicted for the last days (Matthew 24:11,24), we must be especially vigilant. Concerning the supernatural, we must be open without being naïve, and critical without being judgmental. Here are five characteristics of a schwarmer we must avoid.
1.     A schwarmer is proud of his spirituality. Pride, however, is the stronghold of deception and we must avoid like the plague any temptation to spiritual pride or a holier-than-thou elitism.
2.     A schwarmer is unteachable. Unteachableness is a fruit of pride. Nurture a humble and teachable heart.
3.       A schwarmer has no sense of the distinction between soul and spirit and tends to attribute every thought, feeling and impression to the Spirit of God. Learn to distinguish your own soulish thoughts and feelings from that which is from the Spirit of God.
4.     A schwarmer loves the limelight and will proclaim visions and prophecies to draw attention to themselves. Keep the attention off yourself and on Jesus
5.       A schwarmer tends to exalt visions and prophecies over and above God’s word and common sense. Instead of being a schwarmer, be a Berean. The Bereans were commended by the Holy Spirit because they searched the Scriptures daily to find out if the things spoken by Paul and Silas were so (Acts 17:11)

This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, The Charismatic Luther, with the subtitle, Healings, Miracles & Spiritual Gifts in the Life of the Great Reformer, now available from Amazon in Kindle, and soon to be available in paperback. Check out his website atwww.eddiehyatt.com.

MARTIN LUTHER: A LEGACY OF COURAGE FOR THIS GENERATION

If Martin Luther was anything, he was bold and courageous, so much so that his own friends sometimes thought he was too bold. In giving a report to Spalatin about Luther’s performance at his heresy trial, Frederick the Wise said, “How excellently did Father Martin speak before the Emperor and Estates. He was bold enough, if not too much so.”
It was no time for timidity or reticence. The church was in shambles. God’s people were enslaved to an oppressive religious system that was obsessed with power. The times called for a courageous voice that would not flinch in the face of the greatest powers on earth. Luther became that voice that God used to change the course of history.
Such bold voices are in great need in the church today. There is so much hedging, weaving and ducking by Christian leaders today when it comes to making a clear sound for truth.
For example, I was astounded to hear a well-known evangelical pastor and leader, dance in circles when asked by a popular TV icon if Jesus is the only way to God. Instead of giving a simple straightforward answer, he ducked, weaved, swerved and feinted, but never gave a clear answer to such a simple, straightforward question.
We have heard other leaders bob and weave when asked their views on same-sex marriage. One popular answer is, “We are having a conversation about that.” My question is, “Why are you afraid to take a clear and loving stand for truth?"
Contrast Luther, who at this trial for heresy in the city of Worms, was ordered to recant by what the historian, Philip Schaff, called “a fair representation of the highest powers in Church and State—a numerous array of dignitaries of every rank.” The emperor himself was there along with barons, counts, bishops, cardinals and personal legates of the pope, all glaring at Luther and demanding that he recant.
Knowing his life was on the line, Luther did not flinch. There was no dancing, weaving or ducking. Instead, he boldly declared,
I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus, I cannot and will not recant anything, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand! I can do no other! God help me! Amen!
We can all be thankful that Luther did not duck, weave and dance around the issues of his day. He obviously made mistakes, but no one could ever complain of not knowing where he stood. He changed history by being clear, concise, courageous and bold.
May God raise up a generation to proclaim His truth with that same spirit of courage and boldness.
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, The Charismatic Luther, with the subtitle, Healings, Miracles & Spiritual Gifts in the Life of the Great Reformer, now available from Amazon in Kindle, and soon to be available in paperback. Check out his website atwww.eddiehyatt.com.






Monday, October 30, 2017

MARTIN LUTHER & THE GIFT OF FAITH FOR MIRACLES

Martin Luther saw miraculous answers to prayer and experienced courage in the most excruciating situations that can only be explained as a manifestation of the gift of faith, as mentioned in I Corinthians 12:9. This gift of faith is not the faith for salvation, nor the faith by which we live out our daily lives. It is, rather, a supernatural manifestation of God’s own faith in our heart for a particular situation.
Faith for Healing
An example of such faith in the life of Luther occurred when he received word that his friend and colleague, Frederick Myconius, lay dying in the last stages of tuberculosis. When Luther read this report, a supernatural and bold faith rose up in his heart. He then penned a letter to Myconius in which he said,
I command you in the Name of God to live because I still have need of you in the work of reforming the Church. The Lord will never let me hear that you are dead but will permit you to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done because I seek only to gAlorify the Name of God.
Myconius said that when he read the letter it seemed as though he heard Christ say, “Lazarus, come forth!” Luther’s words were fulfilled. Myconius was healed and outlived Luther by two months.
On another occasion, Luther’s close friend and colleague, Philip Melanchthon, became extremely ill and was at death’s door. Luther is said to have fervently prayed, using all the relevant promises he could repeat from Scripture. As he prayed, a supernatural faith rose up in his heart. He then turned, and taking Melanchthon by the hand, said, “Be of good courage, Philip, you shall not die.”
Melanchthon immediately revived and soon regained his health. He later said, “I should have been a dead man had I not been recalled from death itself by the coming of Luther.”
Faith to Face a Thousand Goliaths
When Luther stood before the tribunal at his trial for heresy in the city of Worms, it was a setting that would strike fear into any heart. There sat the emperor in all his royal dress and entourage and around the room were bishops, cardinals, personal delegates of the pope, dukes, princes and counts, all in their splendid garb and titles. The historian, Philip Schaff, called it “a fair representation of the highest powers in Church and State—a numerous array of dignitaries of every rank.”
They were there to demand that this insignificant monk, Martin Luther, from the insignificant town of Wittenberg stop preaching and writing those “heretical” doctrines about faith and the priesthood of all believers.
In contrast to the tribunal he faced, Luther was dressed in his simple monk’s cowl. It was David versus Goliath multiplied a hundred times over.
A table had been placed in the room with Luther’s books on it. He was first asked if these were his books. He looked them over and replied in the affirmative. He was then ordered to recant.
Luther seemed overwhelmed by the imposing authorities assembled before him, and in a voice that could barely be heard, he asked for more time to consider their demand. The emperor gave him one day.
Backing in his lodging Luther poured out his heart to God. As he prayed, there came a bold, unshakable faith into his heart. Later in life, he wrote about that moment, saying, “I was fearless. I was afraid of nothing. God can make one so desperately bold.”
Luther returned the next day and was again ordered to recant. He clearly and unequivocally stated that he was willing to recant but only if he could be shown by Scripture and reasonable arguments that he was wrong.
The medieval church was not in the habit of discussing its demands with accused heretics, and they angrily demanded that Luther recant then and there. Knowing his life was on the line, Luther did not flinch, but quietly and confidently stated,
I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus, I cannot and will not recant anything, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand! I can do no other! God help me! Amen!
This was a significant turning point in church and world history. From that moment, there was no stopping the Reformation. Luther’s boldness unleashed a groundswell of support that spread across Europe and eventually around the world.
He was so bold, in fact, that some of his friends thought he was too bold. Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, in giving a report of Luther’s performance, said, “How excellently did Father Martin speak before the Emperor and Estates. He was bold enough, if not too much so.”
This Gift of Faith is For You
Do you feel a need for faith, courage and boldness? There is a gift of faith that God can manifest in your heart that will result in miracles, or enable you to face a trying situation with unshakable faith. Look to Him now and yield to His Holy Spirit. Faith from heaven will flow!


This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, The Charismatic Luther, with the subtitle, Healings, Miracles & Spiritual Gifts in the Life of the Great Reformer, now available from Amazon in Kindle, and soon to be available in paperback. Check out his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.





Friday, October 6, 2017

WAS MARTIN LUTHER ANTI-SEMITIC?

I recently received an angry email from a person who excoriated me for quoting Martin Luther, telling me what a terrible, anti-Semitic person he was and insisting that he and everything he said should be rejected.
Perhaps she was influenced by the oft-quoted tirade of the liberal, anti-Lutheran Cambridge professor, William Inge, known by his students as “the gloomy Dean.” Inge, who is quoted by John Hagee in his book, Jerusalem Countdown, ranted, “The worst, evil genius of Germany is not Hitler, or Bismarck, or Frederick the Great, but Martin Luther.”

Luther & Anti-Semitism

Luther did, in later life, make horrific, inexcusable statements about the Jews of his day; statements that must be recognized and rejected by modern believers. Yet, how do we explain the fact that some of the most vigorous opponents of Hitler, willing to sacrifice their lives to protect the Jews, were German Lutheran pastors, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer?
The answer, no doubt, lies in the fact that Luther’s contention with the Jews is only found in his later writings and was theological in nature, not racial. His statements against the Jews were consistent with statements he made against Catholics, Turks (Muslims), Baptists and all he considered to be enemies of the Gospel of Christ. For this reason, I will argue in this essay that Luther was not anti-Semitic.
We will begin by looking at the larger picture of Luther, for throughout much of his life he had very positive relations with Jews and advocated for their freedom and protection in an anti-Semitic world.

Luther’s Love & Support for the Jewish People

Luther once stated that he admired—indeed, loved—the Jewish people. In his book of 1523 entitled That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, he attempted to win Jews to the gospel message of Christ, and in that context he also advocated humane treatment for them in the face of widespread anti-Semitism throughout Europe. He reminded Christians that Jesus Christ was born a Jew and that “we in turn ought to treat the Jews in a brotherly fashion.”
Luther continued to support his Jewish friend, Bernard, when he fell on hard times in 1531 and had to leave his family because of his debt. Luther and Melanchthon each cared for one of his children and continued this support for many years. Even though it posed a financial hardship for him, Luther said he did it because “he felt obligated to do good to Bernard as a member of the Jewish church.” Bernard also served as a messenger for Luther on numerous occasions.
Luther reported on one occasion that three rabbis visited him because they had heard of his interest in the Hebrew language and hoped to reach an agreement with him. Even though they rejected his argument that the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament point to Jesus Christ, Luther was kind to them.
Because Jews were forbidden to travel in that part of Germany, Luther gave them a letter of introduction in which he asked, “for Christ’s sake,” that they be granted free passage. Because of his mention of Christ, they refrained from using the letter.
To another Jewish friend, Luther argued that the gospel had to be of God; for how else could it be explained that Gentiles, who hate Jews, worship a Jewish king, much less a crucified one. 

Luther Encounters Anti-Christian Polemics

Luther was eventually attacked by Jewish writers who vilified him for his attempts to win them to Christ. His writings such as, That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, were maligned and held up to ridicule.
Luther’s response was, at first, mild. He replied, “For the sake of the crucified Jew, whom no one will take from me, I gladly wanted to do my best for you Jews, except that you abused my favor and hardened your hearts.”
Luther’s attitude toward the Jews obviously hardened as he entered more extensive dialogues/debates with Jewish rabbis on the Scriptures and the Messiah. Luther had hoped that, through these debates, the Jews would be won to faith in Christ.
Through these debates, however, Luther was exposed to rabbinical writings that maligned Jesus and Christianity. He was horrified to read of Jesus being vilified as the illegitimate son of a whore and a cabalistic magician who was exposed for his trickery and put to death.
Having been taught from childhood to reverence and honor God and Jesus and Mary, he responded with both anger and fear. He wrote;
I am still praying daily and I duck under the shelter of the Son of God. I hold Him and honor Him as my Lord, to whom I must run and flee when the devil, sin or other misfortune threatens me, for He is my shelter, as wide as heaven and earth, and my mother hen under whom I crawl from God’s wrath. Therefore, I cannot have any fellowship or patience with obstinate blasphemers and those who defame this dear Savior.
When he found the rabbis to be obstinate in their positions, he finally gave up any hope of the Jews coming to Christ en masse. And with them entertaining such blasphemous views of Christ, he gave up any hope of Christians and Jews being able to live together in harmony.
Although Luther should have responded in the spirit of the One he proclaimed (Who had prayed for His tormenters at the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”) he, instead, reacted with anger and fury and wrote a treatise entitled On the Jews and Their Lies. The word Lies in the title referred to the Jewish diatribes against Jesus, Mary, and the Triune God. The third section of this book contains the diatribes that he fulminated against the Jewish people.

The Significance of the Religious & Social Setting

Without excusing Luther, we must, nonetheless, understand that the medieval period was not a time of civility and tolerance. The medieval Roman Church, of which Luther was a part, imprisoned, tortured, and put to death those that deviated from the official teachings of that church.
Luther himself was declared a heretic and excommunicated because of his teachings on justification by faith and the priesthood of all believers. But for God’s help, he too would have been imprisoned and put to death.
Not having—or desiring--material weapons with which to fight his enemies, Luther said he sought to overwhelm them with words. He thus used logic, ridicule, compassion, laments, threats, satire, hyperbole, and every form of speech in making his arguments.
He did not hold back but unleashed a torrent of words against the “Romanists,” the “Turks,” the “Anabaptists,” the “Jews” and all that he considered to be enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Those on the other side used the same sort of abusive language against him.
In his excellent book, Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas, attributes Luther’s increased vitriolic attacks against Jews, Catholics and everyone else with whom he disagreed, to be due in part to his deteriorating health as he aged. He suffered chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, cataracts in one eye and an inner ear problem that caused dizziness and fainting spells. He also suffered mood swings and depression. In this condition, everything seemed to set him off. When his own congregation sang anemically, he called them “tone-deaf sluggards” and walked out.
Yes, On the Jews and Their Lies contains abusive and violent language; but Luther used the same sort of language against the Catholics, the Anabaptists and even his own German people whom he called “brutal, furious savages” who were spiritually “deaf, blind, and obdurate of heart.”
His recommendation that the Jews be expelled from Germany was his same stance toward Catholics, Turks (Muslims), and Anabaptists. In this he was consistent with the idea, he retained from Roman Catholicism, of a territorial state church that holds the right and responsibility to forcefully maintain the purity of the faith in a particular region.
It was smaller sects, such as the Anabaptists, Separatist Puritans and Quakers, who championed the cause of voluntary congregations, free to function in an open environment without coercion by a state church. Such an idea of openness and tolerance was, however, new and novel to the medieval period and it was one in which Luther fell short in his theological battles, particularly with the Jews and Anabaptists.

Respecting Luther Despite His Shortcomings

The eminent Lutheran scholar, Martin Brect, says that Luther’s invectives against the Jews were not based on race but on a disagreement in theology. This seems obvious from the above evidence. Brect says that Luther, therefore, “was not involved with later racial anti-Semitism.”
Nonetheless, Luther’s misguided invectives had the unfortunate result of him becoming identified with the church fathers of anti-Semitism and they provided fodder for modern anti-Semites who cloaked their hatred of the Jews in the authority of Luther.
While we acknowledge Luther’s failures, we must not fall into the trap of rejecting him and everything he stood for. That would be tragic. On their website (www.lcms.org), The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod has graciously and wisely denounced Luther’s anti-Jewish invectives while recognizing the vital and critical contributions he has made to all of Christendom.
They also point out Luther’s conciliatory tone in his last sermon when he said of the Jews, “We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord.”
There is other evidence that late in life Luther’s tone shifted back toward his earlier and more conciliatory attitude. In 1545, for example, about one year before his death, Luther revised a hymn that had blamed the Jews for the death of Christ (a common claim by the medieval church), removing the invective against the Jews. Luther’s revised version reads,
T’was our great sins and misdeeds gross
Nailed Jesus, God’s true Son, to the cross.
Thus you, poor Judas, we dare not blame,
Nor the band of Jews; ours is the shame.
If Luther were living today in this more tolerant and civil era, and with the Jews back in their homeland, he might well be one of their biggest supporters.
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, The Charismatic Luther, with the subtitle, Healings, Miracles & Spiritual Gifts in the Life of the Great Reformer, now available from Amazon in Kindle, and soon to be available in paperback. Check out his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.