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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Reformation Sunday Evening
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles, October 28, 2012

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

 [Please scroll down to the end of this sermon for a biographical sketch of Luther by the great Baptist preacher, C. H. Spurgeon].

Concerning this text, Martin Luther (1483-1546) said, “The evil spirit sleeps not, is cunning and wicked...He goes about like a lion that is hungry and roars as though he would devour all” (Martin Luther, Th.D., Commentary on Peter and Jude, Kregel Classics, 1990 reprint, p. 218; comment on I Peter 5:8).

Dr. R. C. H. Lenski said, “At this time, under Nero, the roar of frightful persecution was being heard by poor Christian victims. In October of the year 64 [A.D.] the storm broke. Peter himself became a [martyr]...Not always does the devil roar [like this]...” (R. C. H. Lenski, Th.D., The Epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude, Augsburg Publishing House, 1966, p. 225).

The Devil roared during the first three centuries, when thousands of Christians were torn to shreds by lions in the arenas of ancient Rome. Peter was undoubtedly thinking of this when he said,

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

The Devil roared like that during the Inquisition in Luther’s day, and during the Holocaust, and during the Cultural Revolution in China, and under Muslim extremism in many parts of the world tonight.

But the Devil is not “roaring” here in the Western world. Here he is using a more subtle method to “devour” people. Here he uses materialism (the denial of the supernatural) to put us to sleep, and make us unaware of his presence. But the Devil is secretly very active in America and the West. Even though he works here in an unseen way, his goal is the same, “seeking whom he may devour.” Christ said the Devil “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). One of the Devil’s names is “Abaddon” (Revelation 9:11). “Abaddon” means “Destroyer.” Whether openly or secretly, the Devil’s purpose is to “devour,” to “murder,” to “destroy” human souls.

The Devil has been so successful in his hidden work that many Baptist pastors in America seldom if ever preach whole sermons on Satan or demons. Some preachers seem to be blind to the reality of Satanic activity, even in their own churches!

What spiritual fools Americans have become! We have allowed Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter to be banned in our public schools. Yet nearly every classroom is decorated with demons and skeletons and witches and vampires, with blood running out of the corners of their mouths, for the children to gaze at on Halloween. The Bible says, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22), and Shakespeare said, “What fools these mortals be.”

This brings us back to Martin Luther. He has often been accused by 20th century liberal-influenced “scholars” of overemphasizing Satan and the demonic. Even a conservative modern Lutheran like Ewald M. Plass was somewhat critical of Luther’s emphasis on the Devil. Plass said, “Luther naturally shared many of the superstitions then current. No doubt he often ascribed to the activity of the powers of darkness what was due to natural causes.” But, then, Plass protected himself by saying, “Possibly the devil was more noticeably active [in Luther’s time] than usual, because he sensed how much was at stake” (Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says, Concordia Publishing House, 1994 edition, pp. 391-392).

David L. Larsen also belittled Luther’s emphasis on Satan and the demonic by saying, “Luther was truly a medieval...Luther saw all of humanity ‘locked in a profound conflict between God and the Devil while the Last Judgment rapidly approached’” (David L. Larsen, M.Div., D.D., The Company of the Preachers, Kregel Publications, 1998, p. 153). Dr. Larsen is an American preacher, influenced by Western materialism. But a preacher in Africa, China, or India would agree with Luther completely. This doesn’t make Third World preachers “medieval.” It only shows that they are Biblical, rather than rationalistic materialists, like those at Fuller Seminary and other theologically liberal institutions.

Dr. Larsen undoubtedly learned to find fault with Luther on this subject at the liberal Fuller Theological Seminary, a new-evangelical school where Larsen earned his Master’s degree. I have found that students at Fuller quickly learn to be critical of the past giants of our faith. That is the way I was taught at the two liberal seminaries from which I graduated. But I resisted that influence, and Larsen did not! Larsen said, “Luther was truly a medieval...Luther saw all of humanity ‘locked in a profound conflict between God and the Devil while the Last Judgment rapidly approached.’” What’s wrong with that? Why does that make him a “medieval”? In old age Luther said some medieval things about the Jews, and other matters, that I strongly reject. But Luther was not wrong to think that mankind is “Locked in a profound conflict between God and the devil”! He was exactly right on that – because that’s what the Bible teaches!

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

Most of what Luther said about the Devil and demons was right out of the Bible.

I. First, Luther was right when he spoke on the origin of the Devil and demons.

Luther said,

      [Where did the Devil come from?] These are the assured facts: The angels fell and the devil was turned into an angel of darkness from an angel of light...

The Bible says that Luther was right,

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Luther said,

      There are good and evil angels [but] God created them all good. Thence it follows of necessity that the evil angels fell and did not stand firm in the truth...It is very probable that they fell by pride, because they despised...the Son of God, and wanted to exalt themselves above Him (Plass, ibid. p. 391).

The Bible says that Luther was right. Both the Bible and Luther say what Ezekiel 28:13-17 tell us,

“Thou [Satan] hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee” (Ezekiel 28:13-17).

And concerning the fallen angels that became demons, the epistle of Jude says,

“The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).

Some of these fallen angels are chained in Hell. But most of them are the demons we encounter in the world today. Luther said, “And though this world, with devils filled.” “Devils” is the old word for “demons.” Sing it!

And though this world, with devils filled,
   Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
   His truth to triumph through us.
(“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther, stanza three.)

II. Second, Luther was right when he said that the Devil is the author of sadness and despair.

Luther said,

      All sadness is of the devil, for he is the lord of death. Therefore sadness in our relation to God is most certainly the work of the devil (Plass, ibid., p. 398).

      The Reformer constantly calls the devil the spirit of sadness; Satan hates light, life, and laughter; for he is a spirit of darkness and despair, and he likes to drag man into darkness and despair, representing the sinner’s case as hopeless (comment on Luther, Plass, ibid., pp. 397-398).

Luther said,

“[The Devil] shoots terrible thoughts into the heart: hatred of God, blasphemy, and despair. These are the ‘fiery darts,’ Ephesians 6:16” (Plass, ibid., p. 399).

These are real things that are actually happening today, to people we know personally. One of our deacons spoke with a young man in the inquiry room. The young man said, “God doesn’t love me. Jesus doesn’t love me.” As Luther said, these are clearly thoughts that come from Satan, “blasphemy and despair.” Then the deacon read to him, from the Bible,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

When the deacon asked him if he believed that verse, he refused to answer. I believe that the Devil himself stopped him from answering! The Devil tries to keep us from hearing the Bible, and from accepting it when we do hear it. Luther said, “All the cunning of the devil is exercised in trying to tear us away from the Word [of God]” (Plass, ibid., p. 396).

A young woman said to this same deacon, “I’m not forgiven, and I don’t know why.” She may not know why, but I do. She is not forgiven because she continually believes the thoughts Satan puts into her mind, rather than believing the promises of the Bible. She rejects the words of Christ, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Luther said that the Devil “shoots terrible thoughts into the heart, [thoughts of] despair.” He said, “All the cunning of the devil is exercised in trying to tear us away from the Word [of God].” That is exactly what Jesus said, “Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12).

III. Third, Luther was right when he showed that sadness and despair are not the same as conviction of sin.

Luther said that sadness and despair come from the Devil. But he taught that conviction of sin is from God. The Bible makes that same distinction,

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation...but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (II Corinthians 7:10).

Luther spoke of the conviction of sin that comes before conversion. He said,

      It is necessary, if you would be converted, that you become terrified, that is, that you have an alarmed conscience. Then, after this condition has been created, you must grasp the consolation that comes not from any work of your own but from the work of God. He sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world in order to proclaim to terrified sinners the mercy of God. This is the way conversion is brought about; other ways are wrong ways (Plass, ibid., p. 343).

Luther said,

      By justification we mean that we are redeemed from sin, death, and the devil and are made partakers of life eternal, not by ourselves, but by help from without, by the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ (Plass, ibid., p. 343).

Luther said,

      Nothing more is required for justification than to hear of Jesus Christ and to believe on Him... (Plass, ibid., p. 707).

On these points Biblical Protestants and classical Baptists agree with the Great Reformer, Luther. The Apostle Paul himself said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Nothing more is needed! We are saved by faith in Christ alone! Please turn to hymn number four on your song sheets. Sing it!

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing,
   Our helper He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
   His craft and power are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing,
   Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
   Lord Sabaoth His name, From age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us,
   We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim – We tremble not for him;
   His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers – No thanks to them – abideth;
   The Spirit and the gifts are ours Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
   The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
   (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther, 1483-1546;
        translated by Frederick H. Hedge, 1805-1890.)


“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

Spurgeon, the greatest Baptist preacher of all time, said this about Luther,

      I would sum up and illustrate this teaching by mentioning certain incidents of Luther’s life. Upon the great Reformer gospel light broke by slow degrees. It was in the monastery that, in turning over the old Bible that was chained to a pillar, he came upon this passage – “The just shall live by his faith.” This heavenly sentence stuck to him: but he hardly understood all its bearings. He could not, however, find peace in his religious profession and monastic habit. Knowing no better, he persevered in penances so many, and mortifications so arduous, that sometimes he was found fainting through exhaustion. He brought himself to death’s door. He must make a journey to Rome, for in Rome there is a fresh church for every day, and you may be sure to win the pardon of sins and all sorts of benedictions in these holy shrines. He dreamed of entering [Rome] a city of holiness; but he found it to be a haunt of hypocrites and a den of iniquity. To his horror he heard men say that if there was a hell Rome was built on the top of it, for it was the nearest approach to it that could be found in this world; but still he believed in its Pope and he went on with his penances, seeking rest, but finding none...[later] the Lord wrought him a full deliverance from superstition, and he saw that not by priests, nor priestcraft, nor penances, nor by anything that he could do, was he to live, but that he must live by his faith [in Christ]. Our text of this [morning] had set the [Catholic] monk at liberty, and set his soul on fire.

[“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).]

When Luther finally understood that text he trusted Christ alone. He wrote to his mother, “I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.” Spurgeon said,

      No sooner did he believe this than he began to live in the sense of being active. A [priest], named Tetzel, was going about all over Germany selling the forgiveness of sins for so much ready cash. No matter what your offence, as soon as your money touched the bottom of the [collection] box your sins were gone. Luther heard of this, grew indignant, and exclaimed, “I will make a hole in his drum,” which assuredly he did, and in several other drums. The nailing up of his theses on the church door was a sure way of silencing the indulgence music. Luther proclaimed pardon of sin by faith in Christ without money and without price, and the Pope’s indulgences were soon objects of derision. Luther lived by his faith, and therefore he who otherwise might have been quiet, denounced error as furiously as a lion roars upon his prey. The faith that was in him filled him with intense life, and he plunged into war with the enemy. After a while they summoned him to Augsburg, and to Augsburg he went, though his friends advised him not to go. They summoned him, as a heretic, to answer for himself at the Diet [Imperial Council] of Worms, and everybody [told him to] stay away, for he would be sure to be burned [at the stake]; but he felt it necessary that the testimony should be borne, and so in a wagon he went from village to village and town to town, preaching as he went, the poor people coming out to shake hands with the man who was standing up for Christ and the gospel at the risk of his life. You remember how he stood before that august assembly [at Worms], and though he knew as far as human power went that his defence would cost him his life, for he would, probably, be [burned at the stake] like John Huss, yet he [acted like a] man for the Lord his God. That day in the German Diet [Court] Luther did a work for which ten thousand times ten thousand mothers’ children have blessed his name, and blessed yet more the name of the Lord his God (C. H. Spurgeon, “A Luther Sermon at the Tabernacle,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1973 reprint, Volume XXIX, pp. 622-623).

“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).

My first encounter with Luther was in a Baptist church, long ago, in the early 1950’s. One Sunday night they showed a black-and-white movie about him. He seemed like a strange figure from the past, who had nothing to say of interest to me. The movie seemed boring and long, and I wondered why my pastor, Dr. Walter A. Pegg, even bothered to show it. I should add that today I have a completely different view of this great movie. I love to watch it now! Click here to see a scene from this film.

My second encounter with Luther came much later, after I was converted. I read about John Wesley’s conversion experience, in which Wesley said,

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and had saved me from the law of sin and death (John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, third edition, Baker Book House, 1979 reprint, volume I, p. 103) .

This made an impression on me, because I knew that Wesley went on to be one of the most powerful preachers of the First Great Awakening. Wesley was converted while listening to Luther’s words on justification by faith in Christ.

Still later, I learned that John Bunyan, our Baptist forefather, read Luther when he was so remarkably converted, “Expanding his study of the Scripture with writings of Martin Luther” (Pilgrim's Progress, Thomas Nelson, 1999 reprint, publisher's introduction, p. xii). Bunyan went on to become the most widely read Baptist author of all time!

John Wesley, the Methodist, was converted by hearing Luther’s words. John Bunyan, the Baptist, was helped in his struggle for conversion by reading what Luther wrote. I thought that there must be a great deal of good in reading Luther after all.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Isaiah 14:12-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Christian, Dost Thou See Them?” (by Andrew of Crete, 660-732;
translated by John M. Neale, 1818-1866;
to the tune of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

(John 8:44; Revelation 9:11; Romans 1:22)

I.   First, Luther was right when he spoke on the origin of the
Devil and demons, Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-17;
Jude 6.

II.  Second, Luther was right when he said that the Devil is the
author of sadness and despair, John 3:16; 6:37; Luke 8:12.

III. Third, Luther was right when he showed that sadness
and despair are not the same as conviction of sin,
II Corinthians 7:10; Acts 16:31.