For Luther, Jesus Was Enough

Many Christians are spiritually hungry, but satisfy themselves on the wrong food. Rather than seeking and resting in Jesus and all we have in him, some desire a fresh voice from heaven, the visitation of angels, or something else. I encourage you to thoughtfully read Martin Luther's words below, taken from Table Talk.

Reading this brought a few things to my mind.

1. Jesus is enough. Luther didn't need fresh revelation, nor want visions or visits from angels, for he already had Jesus. And not only does the Christian have Jesus, he also has the word of God and the sacraments in the local church. The Christian truly has been given everything needed for life and godliness.

2. Luther was a gospel man. I love reading that Luther was spending the evening in his room in fervent prayer, meditating on Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice for sinners like himself. This is the habit of one who knows his only comfort in life and death is belonging to our faithful Saviour Jesus; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all our sins, and has delivered us from all the power of the devil.

3. He evaluated this manifestation, and concluded it to be of the Devil. Luther was faced with many Satanic attacks, which isn't surprising considering the way God was using him for the spread of the gospel. And, the Devil hit Luther strategically, seeking to move him away from his gospel hope in ways he was most susceptible. Luther was only sure this manifestation was satanic after the fact.

4. This is not all that needs to be said regarding dreams and visions. When speaking about "revelation" I always say there is no more revelation given, but we only have that which has already been given in Jesus Christ and the word of God. Most practically, the canon of Scripture is closed. But I do not believe this restricts God from giving one a dream, or even a vision. Though I believe it to be uncommon, God seems to occasionally work in this way. In fact, the English translation of this very book was accompanied by a vision.

After Luther's death his discourses (Table Talk) were being printed and distributed to all protestant churches. These publications continued to have a significant impact for the spread of the gospel, which led religious and political rulers to call for the burning of all Luther's printed work. In fact, even owning a copy of Luther's discourses was punishable by death. Most of the books were destroyed, though one pristine copy was sealed up, and found around 1626. Captain Henry Bell was asked to translate the work into English, but continued to run into obstacles preventing him from completing the work. Then, one evening around 1:00am, he awoke to find an "ancient man" wearing white clothing, and a sporting long, white beard, standing beside his bed. The man said, "Will not you take time to translate that book which is sent unto you out of Germany? I will shortly provide for you both place and time to do it." Then he vanished. Here is what Henry Bell said about this experience.

Whereupon being much thereby affrighted I fell into an extreme sweat insomuch that my wife awaking, and finding me all over wet, she asked me what I ailed. I told her what I had seen and heard, but I never did heed nor regard visions nor dreams. And so the same fell soon out of my mind.

Then about a fortnight after I had seen that vision on a Sunday, I went to Whitehall to hear the sermon; after which ended, I returned to my lodging... and sitting down to dinner with my wife, two messengers were sent from the whole council board with a warrant to carry me to the keeper of the Gatehouse, Westminster, there to be safely kept until further order from the lords of the council; which was done without showing me any cause at all wherefore I was committed. Upon which said warrant I was kept ten whole years close prisoner, where I spent five years thereof about the translating of the said book; insomuch as I found the words very true which the old man in the aforesaid vision did say unto me-- "I will shortly provide for you both place and time to translate it."

- from the Introduction to Table Talk

I suppose the options of such an experience are: 1) It was all in Bell's mind, 2) It was a lie Bell told, 3) It was another Satanic manifestation, 4) it was a vision given of God. I have never had such an experience, but I have no reason to doubt the man's testimony or mental state. I certainly don't believe the Devil helped to get the gospel out (besides, Jesus said attributing the work of God to the Devil was, well, really bad.). I am happy to conclude with Bell that God led him in a unique way for the spread of the gospel.

But don't miss the real point here. Jesus is enough. But, is Jesus enough for you? Do you continue to go to him and his work to find life and nourishment for your soul? Or are you looking to something other than what you already have? Are you seeking him, or an experience?