Martin Luther, the Father of the Protestant Reformation, Said that the Supernatural Gifts and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit Never Ceased
By Julio Severo
Martin Luther (1483-1546), the German theologian who was the father of the Protestant Reformation, wrote very much in a time that there was no typewriter and computer. He was unquestionably a great mind, especially because his translation of the Bible into German unified the German language.
While the Catholic Church ordered Latin as official language for Bible reading to keep the German people in ignorance, Luther translated the Bible to their own language, so that all Germans could read and study the Bible.
So the total contempt of perennialist Eric Voegelin for Luther’s intelligence is nonsense. In fact, Voegelin saw the Protestant Reformation as the “Great Confusion” saying that the Reformation was“probably the biggest piece of political mischief concocted by a man [Luther], short of the Communist Manifesto.”
Not much different, Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian immigrant self-exiled in the U.S. and an admirer of Voegelin, treated Luther with the same contempt, even saying that Luther was an astrologer, when history points that Luther clearly condemned astrology. He also said that Luther was a a man who committed genocide, but he treats the Inquisition, which tortured and murdered multitudes of Jews and Protestants, as a human-rights court. Such contradiction is proper of lunatic charlatans. And Carvalho is a big charlatan.
Yet, my intent is not to defend Luther from the ridiculous ideas from perennialists Voegelin and Carvalho. Luther’s vast work is more than enough to do it.
As a charismatic evangelical Christian, I will address only what Luther commented about this Bible passage where Jesus said:
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:16-18 NKJV)
Luther lived in a time when the only prevalent religious miracles were Catholic miracles: people allegedly being “healed” by touching the tomb of a Catholic saint or touching a relic. Demon expulsion was a very liturgical act, without much result. It was the famous “exorcism,” where you couldn’t tell if the demon was in the exorcist or in his victim.
Luther knew very much about Catholic miracles, Catholic culture and Catholic interpretation of the Bible, but he was just beginning to know and experience the Gospel, which he could read. Basically, this was his experience — the experience of a man beginning to understand what the Catholic Church had hidden for centuries.
Everything for Luther was completely new: repentance, forgiveness, grace, salvation, etc. It is just natural that many other issues were also new for him because of his total lack of positive experience in the miracles of the New Testament and negative experience in the multitude of Catholic religious “miracles.”
Yet, what he said is charismatically applicable even if he did not know anything of charismatic gifts. For example, Luther said,
“For if we preach only its history, it is an unprofitable sermon, which Satan and the godless know, read and understand as well as true Christians.”
That is, only preaching without a sign is a tremendous void and uselessness. The Apostle Paul also meant this when he said:
“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4 NKJV)
For Paul, just a sermon filled with philosophy and no demonstration of the Spirit and his power was useless.
Luther also had a view very similar to Christians today who preach victory over all evil. He said,
“What is Christ’s inheritance? His heritage is life and death, sin and grace, all that is in heaven and earth, eternal truth, power, wisdom, righteousness; he governs and rules over all, over hunger and thirst, over fortune and misfortune, over everything imaginable, whether in heaven or on earth, not only spiritual but also secular affairs; and the sum total of all is, he has all things in his hand, be they eternal or temporal. Now if I believe on him, I become partaker with him of all his possessions, and obtain not only a part or a piece; but, like him, I obtain all, eternal righteousness, eternal wisdom, eternal strength, and become a lord and reign over all. The stomach will not hunger, sins will not oppress, I will no more fear death, nor be terror-stricken by Satan, and I will never be in want, but will be like Christ the Lord himself.”
He also addressed hunger in his commentary. He said,
“In the light of this we now easily understand the sayings here and there in the prophets and especially in the Psalms; as when David in Ps 34:10 says: ‘The young lions (the rich) do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek Jehovah shall not want any good thing.’ And in another Psalm: ‘Jehovah knoweth the days of the perfect; and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be put to shame in the time of evil; and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.’ Ps 37:18-19. And immediately following in verse 25: ‘I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.’”
The unbelieving individual would have a hard time to believe in what Luther said. During the time of Apostle Paul, a famine hit the Roman Empire and the churches in Israel suffered very much, and in 2 Corinthians 8 Paul begs the churches in Europe to send money and any other assistance.
I mention the unbelieving individual because during the coronavirus pandemic many unbelievers, within and outside the churches, said, “If you Christians have supernatural gifts, heal yourselves and others!” In Paul’s time, they could say, “If you Christians have supernatural gifts and are suffering famine, do as Jesus did: Multiply your food to you and others!”
For his lack of experience on charismatic gifts, Luther’s view went in several directions. For example, he said,
“In passing, be it said, however: We must not suppose that the signs here mentioned by Christ are all the signs that believers will do, neither must we imagine that all the Christians will do them; but Jesus means: All Christians can and may do the signs. Or, if I believe, then am I able to do them; I have the power. Through faith I obtain so much that nothing is impossible to me. If it were necessary and conducive to the spreading of the Gospel, we could do easily the signs; but since it is not necessary, we do not do them. For Christ does not teach that Christians practice the spectacular, but he says they have the power and can do these things. And we have many such promises throughout the Scriptures; for example, in John 14:12, where Christ says: ‘He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.’ Therefore, we must allow these words to remain and not gloss them away, as some have done who said that these signs were manifestations of the Spirit in the beginning of the Christian era and that now they have ceased. That is not right; for the same power is in the church still. And though it is not exercised, that does not matter; we still have the power to do such signs.”
Even having no experience of charismatic gifts, Luther was careful to warn that “we must allow these words to remain and not gloss them away, as some have done who said that these signs were manifestations of the Spirit in the beginning of the Christian era and that now they have ceased.” Luther made it clear that the false doctrine that the manifestations of the Spirit have ceased is not right. This false doctrine has even a name among its adherents: Cessationism.
For Luther, And though these supernatural and spectacular gifts were not exercised in his time, that did not matter. “We still have the power to do such signs,” he said.
He also said,
“God has always accompanied his Word with an outward sign to make it the more effective to us, that we might be strengthened in heart and never doubt his Word, nor waver.”
Other important sayings of Luther that are helpful for us to reject cessationism and hold fast to the Bible is:
“Therefore, strive not to comprehend, but say: This is Scripture and this is God’s Word, which is immeasurably higher than all understanding and reason. Cease your reasoning and lay hold of the Scriptures.”
“Therefore we must disregard our feeling and accept only the Word, write it into our heart and cling to it.”
“Our feelings must not be considered, but we must constantly insist that death, sin and hell have been conquered.”
“Thus faith leads us quietly, contrary to all feeling and comprehension of reason.”
“The more faith increases, the more our feelings diminish, and vice versa.”
“When the heart and conscience cling to the Word in faith, they overflow in works.”
When Christians without supernatural gifts look at their lack of experience, it is very easy to believe in every false teaching, including the doctrine that the supernatural gifts ceased. But we cannot trust in our experience. Even not having such gifts, Luther did not dare to conclude that these gifts ceased.
In his commentary to Mark 16, Luther encouraged Christians to pray, saying,
“A Christian ought to acquire the custom of praying the Lord’s Prayer, firmly crossing himself and saying in thought: Keep me, dear Lord, from the sin against the Holy Ghost, that I may not fall from faith and thy Word, and may not become a Turk, a Jew or a monk and a papal saint, who believe and live contrary to [the Gospel].”
A Christian who does not want to sin against the Holy Spirit will never embrace cessationism and even though he may be used by God to criticize false prophecies and gifts, he will never condemn true prophecies and gifts and he will never say that they ceased.
Luther encouraged Christians not to become Turks, an euphemism to Muslims. About Jews, for Luther the Jewish religiosity did not lead to salvation in Christ, because the Jews totally rejected Christ and His salvation.
He encouraged Christians not to become monks and papal saints, who are individuals involved in extreme religiosity and false piety and false miracles and many empty prayers, but no real contact with God.
Luther also explained that he and even other theologians should never be seen as perfect examples. He said,
“He permits it to happen that many great saints err and stumble, in order that we may not trust in men, though they be many, great, and holy. We must be led to rely upon the Word that is sure and cannot deceive.”
Luther was very humble to confess that he did not understand everything about Mark 16 and supernatural gifts. As the father of the Protestant Reformation, he confessed that he was imperfect and that he had not the final truth, but he pointed God’s Word as the final truth. And this Word is mortal enemy of the false doctrine of cessationism.
Then Luther said,
“And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”
“How shall we proceed here that we may preserve the truth of the passage: he that believeth shall have power also, and be able to show these signs? For the Lord says all these signs shall accompany them. Now we know that the apostles did not present all the signs, for we read of no other that drank poison than John the Evangelist, and there are no other individual instances. If the passage shall stand literally, then few believers will be cleared and few saints be entitled to heaven; for these signs, one and all, have not accompanied them, though they have had power to work signs, and have exhibited some of them.”
Luther raised an interesting point. All the apostles did not drink poison, but all of them received authority from Jesus to heal the sick and deliver people oppressed by demons. Jesus said,
“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19 NKJV)
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8 NKJV)
Mark 16 probably teaches that the real followers of Jesus should expect signs, miracles and wonders of every kind possible and impossible.
Even though not every Christian will drink poison and raise the dead, every Christian is called to pray and minister for the sick and people oppressed by demons.
Then Luther criticized theologians who having no supernatural experience try to “spiritualize” the miraculous signs that follow a Christian. He said,
“Some rush on here and explain these signs as spiritual, so as to preserve the honor of the saints; but it will not do to strain the words. They do not carry such meaning, therefore they will not bear such an explanation. It puts upon the Scriptures uncertain construction for us.”
Luther also criticized theologians who interpret that the signs and wonders are for the church as a whole, not for individual Christians. He explained:
“Others, with equal heedlessness, say that though not every individual has the power and does the wonders mentioned, yet the church as a whole, the multitude of Christendom, has; one may drive out devils, another heal the sick, and so on. Therefore, they say, such signs are a manifestation of the Spirit; where the signs are, there is also the Christian Church, and so on. But these words do not refer to the Church as a whole, but to each person separately. The meaning is: If there is a Christian who has faith, he shall have power to do these accompanying miracles, and they shall follow him, as Christ says, in John 14:12: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do, shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do,’ for a Christian has equal power with Christ, is a congregation, and sits with him in joint tenure. The Lord has given Christians power, as is written in Mt 10:8, also against the unclean spirits, that they might cast them out and heal every disease. Thus it is written in Ps 91:13: ‘Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under foot.’”
Luther also addressed theologians, abundant today among Calvinist cessationists, who interpreted that they have no such supernatural experience because Mark 16 has already been fulfilled. So, according to their interpretation, these gifts ceased 2,000 years ago. Luther said,
“We read also that this has been fulfilled. There was once a patriarch in the wilderness, who, when he met a serpent, took it in both hands and tore it in two, and thought no more about it, but said: O what a fine thing it is to have a clear and guiltless conscience! So, where there is a Christian, there is still the power to work these signs if it is necessary. But no one should attempt to exercise this power if it is not necessary or if need does not compel. The apostles did not always exercise it, but only made use of it to prove the Word of God, to confirm it by the miracles; as is written here in the text: V.20. ‘And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word by the signs that followed.’”
In his total lack of experience of supernatural gifts, Luther offered his personal view that “there is no need of working miracles as in the apostles’ times.” I would dispute such view with the fact that the Book of Revelation, which addresses the last days — our days —, is filled with demons working fake wonders and miracles and God working even bigger real wonders and miracles.
In the New Testament, especially in Corinth and other European cities, there was much witchcraft. The apostles, empowered by the supernatural gifts, met witches and mediums. The Bible says:
“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour.” (Acts 16:16-18 NKJV)
“Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.” (Acts 19:11-19 NKJV)
Witches were able to work fake wonders and miracles, which had much destructive power. How did the apostles counter their fake wonders and miracles? Through bigger real wonders and miracles.
It is nonsense to think that today there is less witchcraft and less fake wonders and miracles than in the days of the New Testament. Such dark reality should be countered by the name of Jesus and supernatural gifts, which are spiritual weapons.
“But since the Gospel has now been spread abroad, and made known to all the world, there is no need of working miracles as in the apostles’ times. If need should arise, and men were to denounce and antagonize the Gospel, then we verily should have to employ wonder-working rather than permit the Gospel to be derided and suppressed. But I hope such a course will not be necessary, and that such a contingency will never arise. For another example: That I should here speak in new languages is not at all necessary, since you all can well hear and understand me; but if God should send me where the people could not understand me, he could easily grant me their speech or language, that I might be understood.”
His way of seeing the gift as tongues as mere learned human tongues just shows his total lack of experience with supernatural gifts. If in his view there is no need of working miracles as in the apostles’ times, why does no one say to Satanists, witches and sorcerers that they have no need to work demonic miracles to make people oppressed, possessed and destroyed?
Why deactivate supernatural weapons of the Holy Spirit when all demonic weapons, including demonic signs and wonders, are fully active and deceiving millions of young people?
In another example, Luther did not recommend the ministry of casting out demons. Why? Because the only experience he had was seeing Catholic priests doing it. He said,
“I know not what I shall say about those who venture to do signs where they are not necessary. For example, some drive out demons. But I know that it is a dangerous undertaking. The devil, indeed, lets himself be driven out, but he does not intend to suffer for it; he allows it only that he may strengthen the sign-worker in such error. I would not like to trust him. We have many such instances in our times. I know also of many that happened not long ago.”
Therefore, because of his negative experience with Catholic exorcists, Luther said that the deliverance ministry was unnecessary and dangerous. He used his negative experience with Catholic exorcists to interpret the Bible. His lack of experience is the contrary of Jesus and his apostles, who spent most of their ministries preaching the Gospel, healing the sick and casting out demons. In no way Jesus saw the ministry of casting out demons as unnecessary.
If Luther saw Jesus casting out demons, he would understand this ministry as extremely necessary. But his only experience about this was Catholic exorcists.
I cannot blame Luther. I have seen Catholic exorcists who seemed so demonically oppressed as the victims they were supposedly trying to help. But I am sure that if Luther lived today and saw charismatics and Pentecostals casting out demons he would say, “Wow! This is very different from what I saw in the Catholic Church!”
I have expelled demons for years. It is a hard ministry, but in the name of Jesus all demons are subjected to us.
Luther mentioned that in his time many Christians “have brooded over the question of signs, vainly asking why they do not accompany our preaching and whether they no longer can be expected.” Cessationists found their own human answer to this question.
Many of the issues of Luther are centered in the fact that he knew nothing of the New Testament way of casting out demons, healing the sick and working signs and wonders. Such case is similar to a man who wants to teach others to drive a truck when he himself never drove any car.
To drive a truck, it is not enough for you to have driving experience with a simple car. You need much official experience with truck driving.
I wonder about the stupidity of a man teaching others to drive trucks when he has never driven any car. In the same way, I am marveled at the stupidity of theologians with no experience with supernatural gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit posing as theological experts who know everything about every supernatural gift.
We can excuse Luther, because he was brought up in a Catholic culture filled with religious “miracles” and miraculous relics very different from the New Testament experience. Luther was trying to understand and explain the new things he was seeing or not seeing.
Even doubting the need of supernatural gifts today, Luther made it very clear that they did not cease. So when cessationist heretics use Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, to support their heresy, they are committing another heresy.
Luther finished his commentary on Mark 16 by saying:
“The wicked world shall not see nor heed such signs and wonders, but with open eyes and hardened hearts shall pass by and blaspheme them, just as it always despises God’s works, blaspheming even the public and indisputable miracles of Christ and the apostles. The world would but the more despise such signs, were they done by us… The Jews so fared when they despised the signs by which Christ manifested his proffered help and blessings. They looked for and demanded other signs. Then he refrained and would give them no other sign than the sign of Jonah, lying, after his crucifixion, for three days in the grave in weakness and death. Afterward he came forth from death and the grave, demonstrating his power by his resurrection and ascension. Now he mightily rules over all the world, and will overthrow and destroy it, together with all its power and glory.”
Therefore, when in doubt about the interpretation of theologians, do just as Luther said:
“Therefore, strive not to comprehend, but say: This is Scripture and this is God’s Word, which is immeasurably higher than all understanding and reason. Cease your reasoning and lay hold of the Scriptures.”
I do not understand why many Calvinists today embrace the cessationist heresy. In 1990 I read “The Christian in Complete Armour,” a book written by the Calvinist and Puritan theologian William Gurnall (1617-1679). In his extensive book, Gurnall said,
“It was a heroic speech of Luther, who foresaw a black cloud of God’s judgments coming over the head of Germany, but told some of his friends, ‘That he would do his best to keep it from falling in his days’—yea, he believed it should not come—‘and,’ said he, ‘when I am gone, let them that come after me look to it.’”
So, according to Gurnall, Luther saw prophetically a big tragedy coming over Germany. Undoubtedly, this was Nazism, which was the biggest tragedy and judgement in the history of Germany. Luther saw it and did his best to keep such tragedy from happening in his time and he asked that after his death German Christians did also their best to keep such tragedy from happenin0067.
Luther gave serious attention to a prophecy he received from the Holy Spirit. Yet, most Lutheran citizens in the Nazi Germany did not believe in prophecies and other supernatural gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Satan took full advantage of their ignorance.
Let us not allow Satan to take advantage of our ignorance. We live in the last days, as the Book of Revelation confirms. Satan is working great deceptive and destructive signs and wonders to lead young people astray. Let us counter Satan’s signs and wonders with God’s signs and wonders.
If Christians in Germany had prayed, watched and kept Luther’s prophecy, Nazism would have been destroyed. Let us pray and watch and keep the necessary prophecies, because we live in prophetic times.
Luther’s quotes in this article were taken from Luther’s Works available in English.
Portuguese version of this article: Martinho Lutero, pai da Reforma protestante, disse que os dons e manifestações sobrenaturais do Espírito Santo nunca cessaram
Source: Last Days Watchman
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