Love Under Fire


The Fruit of the New Teaching Becomes Visible

The false prophets led the people to neglect the Bible or to cast it aside completely. Students, throwing off all restraint, left their studies and withdrew from the university. The men who thought that they were fit to revive and control the work of the Reformation succeeded only in bringing it nearly to ruin. Rome's supporters now regained their confidence and exclaimed triumphantly, “One last struggle, and all will be ours.” LF 81.1

At the Wartburg castle, Luther heard about what had happened. He said with deep concern, “I always expected that Satan would send us this plague.”3 He recognized the true character of those pretended “prophets.” The opposition of the pope and the emperor had not caused such great perplexity and distress as these developments had. The professed “friends” of the Reformation had become its worst enemies, stirring up strife and creating confusion. LF 81.2

The Spirit of God had urged Luther forward and had carried him beyond himself. Yet he often trembled over the results his work might have: “If I knew that my doctrine injured one person, one single person, however lowly and obscure—which it cannot, for it is the gospel itself—I would rather die ten times than not retract it.”4 LF 81.3

Wittenberg itself was falling under the power of fanaticism and lawlessness, and all over Germany Luther's enemies were blaming him for it. In bitter anguish he asked, “Is this, then, going to be the end of this great work of the Reformation?” But as he wrestled with God in prayer, peace flowed into his heart. “The work is not mine, but Yours,” he said. But he determined to return to Wittenberg. LF 81.4

He was under the empire's condemnation. Enemies were free to kill him, friends forbidden to shelter him. But he saw that the work of the gospel was in danger, and he went out fearlessly in the name of the Lord to battle for truth. In a letter to the elector, Luther wrote: “I am going to Wittenberg under a protection far higher than that of princes and electors. I am not asking for your highness's support, and far from wanting your protection, I would rather protect you myself.... There is no sword that can help this cause along. God alone must do everything.” In a second letter, Luther added: “I am ready to receive the displeasure of your highness and the anger of the whole world. Are not the Wittenbergers my sheep? And if necessary, shouldn’t I expose myself to death for their sakes?”5 LF 81.5