Martin Luther and Spiritual Warfare


Martin Luther (AD 1483 – 1546) believed that lunacy, idiocy, and insanity were caused by the “possession of devils”. He also believed that dumbness, deafness, lameness, pestilence, fever, and other serious illnesses were also caused by these spirits.  Once Luther’s students asked him specifically if Christians were subject to witchcraft.  It was asked: “Can good Christians and God-fearing people also undergo witchcraft?”  Luther replied: “Yes, for our bodies are always exposed to the attacks of Satan. The maladies I suffer are not natural, but devil’s spells.”  However, he tempered this belief with the idea that such could not happen without divine permission, and cited the case of Job.

When Luther related his belief that Christians were not exempt from the attacks of the enemy, he spoke from personal experience. As intimated above, he himself was often severely attacked emotionally, spiritually and physically.  He also suffered from severe bouts of depression.  “He [the devil] vexes me often so powerfully, and assaults me so fiercely with heavy and melancholy thoughts, that I forget my loving Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, or at least behold Him far otherwise than He is to be beheld.”

Luther wrote: “We cannot expel demons with certain ceremonies and words, as Jesus Christ, the prophets, and the apostles did. All we can do is, in the name of Jesus Christ, to pray the Lord God, of his infinite mercy, to deliver the possessed persons. And if our prayer is offered up in full faith, we are assured by Christ himself (John 16:23), that it will be efficacious, and overcome all the devil’s resistance. I might mention many instances of this. But we cannot of ourselves expel the evil spirits, nor must we even attempt it.”

One clergyman, Andrew Ebert of Frankfurt, wrote to Luther in 1536, asking how to exorcise a girl who had long been mentally ill. For a while, she appeared to be getting better, but then suddenly got worse. She was seen chewing up and swallowing coins, and also spoke a dialect of German she had not previously known. A Catholic priest came to town and tried to cast out the spirit using herbs, holy water, and ritual commands, but failed. Luther wrote back advising prayer for the girl, but warned against using rituals and commands, since the spirits laugh at and scorn the use of these methods. He also warned of being deceived by trickery and fraud, claiming to have run into many such cases. So he advised an inspection of the coins that were supposedly being eaten.

That’s good common sense – something we all should use especially with spiritual warfare.  Actually it’s not just our sense speaking to us but God’s Holy Spirit within.  Learn to listen to Him and follow what He says.  Trust that what you think or feel after praying and reading the Bible is His speaking to you – of course it must line up with His Word.  Getting advice from a mature believer is good as well.

(For more information on the subject of spiritual warfare go to  or email me at and I’ll send you a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook).


Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View) Copyright ©1995-2024