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Luther: How False Prophets Overthrow Faith in Christ


You see, if we took up this warning and guided ourselves by the words of Christ, we could easily defend ourselves against all the false prophets and preachers.  They are breaking in all over the place.  This is due to the fact that we who hear the genuine Gospel do not take it seriously and are not concerned about really having it and keeping it.  We act so sleepy and slothful, as if we could never lose it.  As a consequence we are taken in by this lovely outward appearance and show before we have a chance to look around.  As soon as a different new teacher comes along and goes to work, the word “Beware!” is forgotten. Yet it is with this word that we should be armed, listening to each individual as though we did not hear him, looking and paying attention only to the doctrine.  Some frivolous and fickle spirits only look into the preachers’ mouths and chase after them, impelled by a curiosity that makes them think: “Oh, I have listened to this one already.  Now I have to listen to that one, too.  He is such a fine, learned, and saintly man.”  There the devil already has a foothold, and he has taken them in before they realize what is going on.  Now he drives and directs them at will from one schism to another.  Paul says of such people that they are like a reed (Matt. 11:7), “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).  If a different one arises today or tomorrow, they quickly rush over to listen to him.  The cause of this is the fact that in their heart they do not have a sure understanding of the Word of God and that they depreciate the Gospel.  They imagine that if they have heard it once or twice, they know it all and have it all.  They quickly become bored with it, so that as soon as someone else comes along bringing something new, they open up their eyes and ears wide.  The same thing happens to them that happened to Adam and Eve when they were seduced by the serpent, who made them open up their eyes to see the forbidden tree and who insinuated such beautiful thoughts as these, contrary to the Word of God (Gen. 3:1): “Why should we not eat from this tree, too?”  Thus their desires and curiosity were aroused, and they became bored with all the trees in all of Paradise, staring only at this one.

If we took the Gospel seriously and if, in our lives, we were concerned to keep this treasure pure and clean, we would not be deceived so easily.  I hope that no schismatic spirit could overturn me very easily, since I know that the Gospel is true and I would not want to lose it.  If someone comes along in his beautiful sheep’s clothing, I will not pay attention to his mask, as though I wanted to hear something different or new, but to whether or not he agrees with my Gospel.  If not, then, thank God, I am well grounded and certain enough to know that he is a false prophet and a ravenous wolf under his sheep’s clothing.

So the demonic spirits have a double advantage: the fact that we are such careless, smug, and frivolous people; and the fact that they can deck themselves out in the beautiful wool of a sheep.  By “sheep’s clothing” He does not mean wickedness and coarse sins, like those of heathen and non-Christians.  He means the excellent name and reputation of true Christians, who have Holy Baptism, the Sacrament, Christ, and everything that is Christ’s.  They have to bring all this along.  None of them dares to come along with the statement: ‘This is what I say.”  They come along instead with the statement:

A member of the Jim Roberts group cult, aka the Garbage Eaters. I had some contact with them when I was in Seattle. I should write about that.

“Dear friends, this is what Christ says.  There you have the Word of God and the Scriptures.  If you want to be saved, you must believe this.  Anyone who teaches otherwise, is deceiving you.”  They make use of the glorious name of Christ and God, and of awesome and grand words like “the glory of God”,

John Calvin, who loved to terrify people with “the glory of God”, although maybe not as much as his spiritual descendants.

“truth,” “eternal salvation,” and other words like these.  When someone hears himself being admonished by these glorious words, with the salvation or damnation of his soul at stake, he becomes frightened and makes a commitment immediately, unless he is well armed and well grounded against this.  For it cuts like a sharp razor and penetrates body and soul.

Luther, The Sermon on the Mount, AE: 21, pp. 252-253

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