From the moment that he allowed iniquity to form in his heart* Lucifer, The Lightbearer, has hated God and has attacked Him and His people. When the Reformers responded to the Holy Spirit working upon their hearts, Satan devised a variety of ways to attack the work of God. The Reformers faced persecution that endangered their lives to frighten them into abandoning the truth.
When persecution didn’t work Satan resorted to other tactics. Just as he offered Christ all the kingdoms of this world (Matthew 4:9), he offered Christ’s followers worldly benefits if they would abandon the Saviour. Another tactic Satan tried was to mingle truth with error to deceive Christians into serving him instead of God. In Germany in 1521 and 1522, Satan used a trick that almost destroyed the Reformation.
Discrediting the Bible
A group of fanatics sprang up, teaching that the Bible was useless since God spoke to them directly. They said that God gave them visions which revealed the future. Nicholas Storch said that the Bible was no longer important because God spoke to him directly. He claimed that the angel Gabriel told him, “Thou shalt sit on my throne.” Storch and his followers preached that the Turks would take over Germany and kill all the priests. Then Storch himself would rule over a kingdom of saints.
Storch and his companions arrived in Wittenberg December 27, 1521. They told Melanchthon that God sent them to instruct the people. Melanchthon was puzzled. He wrote, “Let us beware of quenching the Spirit of God, and…of being led astray by the spirit of Satan.”
Confusion and Disorder
The new “prophets” confused the people and some of them were carried away with the excitement. A friend of Melanchthon’s, a school teacher, was convinced by the prophets and joined them. Even Melanchthon became confused.
Frederick didn’t know what to do. The false prophets were unsettling Wittenberg. He told the professors at the university that perhaps Satan was sending them temptations and that the best thing to do was let it run its course and the movement would eventually just dwindle away.
When Luther, who was still in the castle at Wartburg, heard about the trouble the false prophets were causing at Wittenberg, he wrote to Frederick. He said, “I always expected that Satan would send us this plague,” because Frederick had a collection of idols – his relics. In fact, Frederick had more than 17 000 relics which included teeth from saints, a few of the Virgin Mary’s hairs, a wisp of straw from Jesus’ manger bed, and a twig from the burning bush where Moses met with God.[i] Frederick used the relics as a sort of fundraiser for the University of Wittenberg.
Disorder at the University
At the same time that the false prophets were stirring up trouble, Professor Carlstadt was impatiently pushing for immediate reforms. “We must fall upon every ungodly practice, and overthrow them all in a day!” he preached. The people rushed into the churches and smashed the images.
This was still not enough for Carlstadt. He told the students to leave the university and go home and be farmers because God had said to Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Genesis 3:19). Another Wittenberg teacher sent his students home saying that education was unnecessary since Storch and the other prophets never went to school and God spoke to them directly.
The result of the fanaticism was that the governments of Germany recalled their citizens from the disordered city of Wittenberg. More importantly, though, Satan had found a way to plant doubts about the authority of the word of God in people’s minds. The Bible was losing its hold on the people’s hearts.
Luther knew what he must do. At the risk of his life, he must return to Wittenberg and lead the scattered sheep back to the Good Shepherd.