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Luther on the Doctrines of Devils (and of Rome)...

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  • gmw
    From Dr. Martin Luther s treatise, ... St. Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-7 says: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2003
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      From Dr. Martin Luther's treatise,

      That Doctrines of Men are to be Rejected:

      St. Paul in

      1 Timothy 4:1-7 says: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their consciences seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables.”

      O how this thunders and storms against all the works, doctrines and orders of men. First, if they boast that they have derived their practice from the pope and from holy fathers, what will Christ’s judgment be? Will He not say, “Paul, My Apostle, is My chosen vessel, as Luke writes, Acts 9:15: why then have you not ascribed greater authority to his word than to that of the pope and the fathers, of whom you do not know whose vessels they are?” How will they stand before Him?

      Next, we ask them whether butter, eggs, meat, milk and all the food which they avoid on fast-days and in the orders, have not been created by God, and are not God’s good creatures? Then it is certain that they are the men of whom Paul here says that they forbid the food which God has created and has given to believers to use. And they also forbid marriage, so that they cannot escape: this passage fits them and is spoken of them. Let us see what Paul thinks of them and how he reproves them.


      They have departed from the faith; for they could not have introduced such doctrines and works if they had not thought the doctrines and works would make them pious and save them. But such an opinion is of itself a sure sign that they have fallen away from the faith, since it is the work of faith alone to do that which they expect works to do, as has frequently been said.


      They give heed to seducing spirits. He does not say, “to seducing men,” but “to seducing spirits”; and these are they who pretend to be spiritual and bear the name spiritual, and claim to be of the Spirit and in the Spirit. But since they are without faith it is impossible for them not to err in spiritual matters. Hence this is a fitting succession: they depart from the faith and follow after error in the spirit.

      3. Their doctrines he calls “doctrines of devils.” This also must follow where faith and the true Spirit are wanting: the devil gives them the seducing spirit and leads them on with beautifully varnished doctrines and works, so that they think they are altogether spiritual. But since the doctrine does not originate in the Scriptures, it can be the doctrine of no one but the devil.

      4. They are speakers of lies. For they at times quote even the Scriptures and the sayings of the fathers and wrest them to support their doctrines, as we see them do daily. But this is all false and a lie, since the Scriptures are altogether against them.


      It is sheer hypocrisy. This is true and needs no comment. For all that they do is only appearance and show, concerned with external matters of food and clothes.


      They have their conscience seared with a hot iron; that is, they have an unnatural conscience. For where there is no sin nor matter of conscience, they make sin and a matter of conscience, as was said above. Just as a scar caused by searing is an unnatural mark on the body.


      They forbid to marry, by creating an estate in which there shall be no marriage, as we see in the case of both priests and monks. Wherefore, behold the judgment of God upon such doctrines and estates: that they are doctrines of devils, seducing doctrines, false doctrines, faithless doctrines, hypocritical doctrines. God help us! Who would remain in them when God Himself passes such judgment? What would it help you, if you had made a thousand vows and oaths on such doctrines? Nay, the stricter the vow, the more reason to break it, because it was made after the devil’s doctrines and against God.

      But see how cleverly they worm themselves out and ward off this text from themselves, saying that it does not apply to them, but to the Tatianists,

      the heretics who condemned marriage altogether. Paul, however, does not speak here of those who condemn marriage, but of those who forbid it for the sake of appearing spiritual. Let us grant, however, that Paul speaks against the Tatianists. Then, if the pope does what the Tatianists did, why does it not apply to him as well? Be they Tatianists or the pope, this text speaks of those who forbid marriage. The words of Paul condemn the work, and make no distinction about the person who does it. He who forbids marriage is the devil’s disciple and apostle, as the words dearly say. And since the pope does this, he must be the devil’s disciple, as must all his followers; otherwise, St. Paul must be a liar.


      They forbid the food which God has created. Here, again, you see that the doctrines of man are ascribed to the devil by God Himself through the mouth of Paul. What greater and more terrible thing would you wish to hear concerning the doctrines of men, than that they are a falling away from the faith, seducing, false, devilish, hypocritical? What will satisfy those whom this text does not satisfy? But if the doctrine that forbids certain kinds of food is devilish and unchristian, that which concerns clothes, tonsures, places and everything external will be just as devilish and unchristian.

      But here again they worm themselves out, and say that St. Paul is speaking of the Manicheans.

        We are not asking about that. St. Paul speaks of the forbidding of meats, and, be they Manicheans or Tatianists, the pope and his followers forbid meats. Paul speaks of the work which we see that the pope does. Therefore we cannot save him from this text. If some other man arose today or tomorrow and forbade meats, would it not apply to him, even if he were no Manichean? If that way of interpreting Scripture were true, we might boldly do what Paul here forbids, and say, It does not apply to us, but to the ancient Manicheans. But that is not the way. Whether the pope with his monks and priests be not a Manichean, I do not discuss; but I do say, that in his teaching and works he contradicts the teaching of St. Paul more than any Manichean.


      They are unthankful. For God has created meats, says St. Paul, to be received with thanksgiving. And they refuse to receive them, that they may have no occasion to be thankful for God’s goodness. The reason for which is, that they have no faith and do not know the truth. For Paul says, I Tim. 4:3, “To them which believe and to them which know the truth, they are given to be used with thanksgiving.” But if they are unbelieving and do not know the truth, as St. Paul here says they are, they are beyond question heathen, non-Christians, blind and foolish. And this, I suppose, they regard as praise of the pope, priests and monks!


      Paul rebukes them as wicked, harmful preachers; for he says that Timothy shall be a good preacher, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, if he will put the brethren in remembrance of these things. It follows that they who teach the contrary must be wicked preachers and be nourished with words of unbelief and of wicked doctrines.


      He calls such doctrines profane and old wives’ fables. Is not that foolish talk? He says that the great doctors busy themselves with fables such as old wives chatter about behind the stove, and calls them profane, unchristian and unholy idle talk, although the doctors claim that they are the very essence of holiness!

      Who has ever heard the doctrines of men so terribly decried in every way? that they are apostate, unbelieving, unchristian, heathen, seducing, devilish, false, hypocritical, searing the conscience, unthankful, that they dishonor God and His creature and are harmful fables and old wives’ chatter. Let him who can, flee from beneath this judgment of God.


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