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The Third Reich And The Blood Of The Martyrs Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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July 8, 2022 1:00 am

The Third Reich And The Blood Of The Martyrs Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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July 8, 2022 1:00 am

What might have happened if all the pastors and their congregations in Germany stood up to Hitler? Some did, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In this message, we mark the characteristics of martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel both in Scripture and in the 1940’s. Many gave their lives rather than bow the knee.

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Erwin Lutzer

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The word martyr simply means witness. A faithful witness maintains that witness at the cost of his or her life. Nazi Germany subverted the church, but not every believer. Many gave their lives rather than bow the knee to the swastika. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, for us, the days of the easy life may be drawing to a close. Tell us about the Third Reich and the blood of the martyrs.

Well, Dave, of course, the point is simply this. You're right in what you said, namely that there were many Christians who did not bow to the swastika. When I was in Buchenwald, the concentration camp there, I was gratified to see the number of pastors whose names were on these forsaken cells, if I might put it that way, who were faithful to the gospel, who suffered for it, and who died in Buchenwald.

The question is whether or not we have the courage to live for Christ, no matter what. I want to ask you a question, and I'm going to be answering that question at the end of this broadcast. Can you name the city and the church where Ludwig Müller, Hitler's hand-picked man to run the German church, where was he installed? Well, that's a question that I'm going to be answering. I've written a book entitled Hitler's Cross, how the cross was used to promote the Nazi agenda, so many lessons that we have to learn.

If you're interested in receiving this resource, you can go to, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. And be sure to listen to the end of this broadcast where I answer the question that I have posed. Sometimes the gospel of Christ has to be communicated in more than just words. In fact, unless the gospel message is backed up by deeds, the words have a hollow ring. And there are times when even the deeds are not enough, and only martyrdom really gets the message across. In the 19th century, there was a man by the name of Michael Baumgarten, who was excommunicated from his church, who said these words.

There are times in which lectures and publications no longer suffice to communicate the necessary truth. At such times, the deeds and the sufferings of the saints must create a new alphabet in order to reveal again the secret of the truth. It is the suffering and the martyrdom of the saints that reveals the new alphabet. Many of you will know, of course, that this is in a series of messages in which we have looked at the Third Reich through the lens of scripture. Today, we're going to talk about the biblical doctrine of suffering and martyrdom.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you know that he understood the martyrdom all too well and was put to death in the concentration camp in Flossburg. In a lecture, he said, we must not be surprised if once again our churches will return to the time when the blood of the martyrs will be required. But even if we have the courage and faith to spill it, this blood will not be as innocent or as clear as that of the first martyrs. Much of the guild will lie in our own blood, he said.

And so it was. Now the question that we need to ask is, what would have happened if all the pastors and their congregations in the land of Germany would have stood against Hitler? Martin Niemoller, who himself did do just that, said that there were about 14,000 pastors in Germany and, of course, that many congregations. He says, at the beginning of the Jewish persecution, if we had seen that it was Jesus who was persecuted, the least of these are brethren, if we had confessed him, for all I know, God would have stood with us. And the whole sequence of events might have taken a different course. And if we had been willing to go with him to death, the number of victims might have been only 10,000.

We don't know that for sure, but that's a possibility. But every once in a while, God gives to his church, and it is much more frequent than we think, the opportunity of declaring its faith through martyrdom, yes, even through death. What we'd like to do today is to discuss the concept of suffering and martyrdom, and we do so for a number of different reasons. First of all, are you aware that there are more people who have been put to death for the cause of Christ in this century than in all the previous centuries of church history combined?

We forget that. Tens of thousands and millions put to death under the hand of communism and in other parts of the world where revolution has tried to stamp out the Christian faith. Also, what we need to do is, as a church, understand that God expects us to suffer because the Bible says that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. It is the badge of the church.

Love comes first, suffering always is a close second. When I was in Morocco a number of years ago and discovered that there were only 200 known believers who had converted from the Muslim faith to Christianity, someone made the statement, and I think they were accurate, that until the church understands suffering and martyrdom, it will not grow in countries like that because it is only when Christians refrain from being silent and declare themselves, it is then that the church begins to grow. And to quote the words of Tertullian, it is then that the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the church. What is a martyr, by the way? A martyr is someone who deliberately chooses the path of death.

It is a choice. Strictly speaking, the six million Jews who were killed in concentration camps were not martyrs. And the reason is because this was not something they chose.

It was not the way that they had an option. They had the responsibility of simply being born with a wrong last name, and it is that that put them to death. But a martyr is someone who could remain silent. A martyr is someone who could deny the faith and who could live, but nevertheless chooses to die. Another characteristic of a martyr is that he has a cause that he believes is so great that life itself is not considered to be ultimately valuable. Scripture says in the book of Revelation regarding the martyrs during the time of the Antichrist, they counted not their lives dear unto themselves.

They believed that there was a reason to die that was more important than their own life. Now martyrs have come for many different causes. There have been political martyrs. There have been religious martyrs. Also, there have been those who have died for freedom. All of us, I think, remember the students who in Tiananmen Square stood up against those tanks and those tanks rolled over them. Those students were dying for the cause of freedom.

Let me ask you something. Do you think this morning that you are sitting next to somebody who would be willing to be a martyr if the times called for it? There is a man by the name of David Gushy who for years has studied the rescuers during the Holocaust. That is those non-Jews who stuck up for the Jews, people like Corrie Ten Boom and her family. And he has discovered that there are about 12,000 that have been recognized to be rescuers.

That is, they took in Jews, they fed Jews, they hid Jews, they did whatever they could do to spare the lives of Jewish people. In fact, the estimate is, however, that even though only 12,000 have been specifically identified by name, the estimate is that there were about 100,000 of these rescuers who stood against the system, risked their lives, and were willing to die for their cause. Interestingly, again, it is an estimate that every rescuer rescued at least one Jew.

So there were about 100,000 Jews who survived the Holocaust who would not have done so were it not for those who were willing to put their lives on the line and possibly become martyrs for the cause that they believed in. What is a rescuer like? And in studying a rescuer, we really study the characteristics of a martyr because many of these people knew that their life was at risk doing this. Well, according to Mr. Gushy, first of all, they come from diverse backgrounds. There are rich and poor and there are young and old.

And it is very difficult to predict in advance who might be a rescuer and who might not be. Secondly, he noticed that they usually came from stable homes, homes in which there was teaching regarding justice and social problems being solved through love and caring and the willingness of one individual to sacrifice for another. And their motivation, well, they had a variety of reasons. But one of those that were most important on the list is that when they knew someone who was a Jew, perhaps he was their doctor or their attorney or their store manager. When they knew someone who was a Jew, they were more willing to risk their lives for a person like that than for someone whom they didn't know. And that squares with the biblical data when the scripture says that a man is willing to lay down his life for his friends. No greater love hath a man than this, that the man be willing to die for his friends. And then Jesus said, you are my friends if you do whatever I command you. The stronger our friendships in the church, in our families, and among the body, the greater the degree of sacrifice we are willing to make on their behalf.

So they were motivated through personal friendships, through group influence, through families, through churches. And of course, one of the things that you might guess, it was much easier to be a martyr if as a church everyone agreed to be martyrs. Everyone agreed to be rescuers.

It was much easier for individuals to sign on than to stand for that which was right and to do it alone. Now this man says that one of the most universal characteristics of rescuers is that they do not want to be thanked. They just consider that they were doing their duty. And of course, there were many Christians among the rescuers who saw in Jesus Christ their pattern. They asked the question, what would Jesus do?

And the answer was clear. If someone came knocking at his door, would he save them or would he turn them out onto the street? And that for many believers was the motivation to become rescuers. And many of those rescuers, of course, ended up becoming martyrs. Well, what we want to do today as always is to turn to the scripture. And we want to study today not only a theology of martyrdom, but a theology of suffering.

And I invite you to take your Bibles and turn to the book of Revelation chapter 2. Revelation chapter 2 where we have the story of the church at Smyrna. That very name, Smyrna, has in it the word myrrh, which was a spice that was used, as you know, oftentimes. And it had a very beautiful smell connected with it. The bark of a certain tree was taken and crushed. And it had a most pleasant aroma. Myrrh used oftentimes even to embalm bodies.

But myrrh, symbolic of suffering. And the church in Smyrna knew all about it. It was dangerous to be a Christian at Smyrna.

The reason is because this town competed with many others to build a temple to Tiberius. And there was a bust of Caesar. And everyone was expected to take some incense to burn it and to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. And of course, most of the Christians didn't do that.

And they paid for that severely through suffering. We pick up the text, chapter 2, verse 8. Jesus is writing a letter to the church at Smyrna. To the angel of the church in Smyrna write, the first and the last who was dead and has come to life, he says this, I know your tribulation and your poverty, but you are rich. And the blasphemy of those who are Jews and say they are Jews but are not, and they are from the synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison that you may be tested. And you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. Let's pass through this passage of scripture rather quickly, just noting some of the characteristics of this suffering church. What does Jesus say about them?

First of all, he says I know your poverty. Smyrna was a very cosmopolitan city with lots of business and industry. Why were the Christians so poor? Well, it's because they couldn't cheat like others, and therefore they missed out on some of the fat prophets. But more importantly than that, there were those within the city who wouldn't do business with them.

They were ostracized. They were spoken against, and they were poor because they loved Jesus. Let us never forget that there are people today who are poor because they love Jesus. Jesus said, I know your poverty.

I also know that you are experiencing slander. Notice what the text of scripture says here. Those who say that they are Jews, but they are blaspheming. You need to understand that there were Jews who were exempt from the need to worship Caesar. A special dispensation was given to them. And so they used this freedom to harass the Christians, to tattle on them, to make up lies about them. And Jesus said that these Jews are really from the synagogue of Satan.

What a strong term. But the Christians had to endure the grief. They had to put up with the harassment. They had to put up with all of the things that were said about them that were so completely untrue, and they had to endure those lies.

Jesus said, I know that you are enduring that. Then notice prison. He says the devil will cast some of you into prison. And the prisons in those days were very different from the prisons that we have today. They didn't get three meals in prison, perhaps a slice of bread from time to time and a cup of water, very messy and dirty and smelly. And yet you look at the history of the church and you discover that prisons in Caesarea and Jerusalem and Philippi and elsewhere, those dirty places were sanctified by the presence of believing Christians who were there and who prayed and who stayed there.

And many of them died in those messy places. Jesus said the devil is going to cast some of you into prison. And next, notice, be faithful unto death.

Some of you will die and some did. In the history of the church, there's a man by the name of Polycarp who was the bishop of the church in Smyrna. In 155, he became a very famous martyr. At the age of 86, he was asked to deny Christ and he said, I cannot deny him. Eighty and six years, he has been faithful to me.

I cannot now be unfaithful to him. So what happened is they brought him to the place of execution. They were going to burn him and they thought that they would have to tie him to some wood.

But he told them that that was unnecessary because he said, I'm not going to run away. I will have the grace to die here. And he made a very famous speech in which he said, you threaten me with fire that burns for a short time for you do not know that the fire that awaits the wicked is coming to you.

Why are you waiting? Come do what you will with me. And he died. So Jesus is saying to this church, behold, some of you are going to really suffer. Now what I'd like to do in the next few moments that are left to me is to give you five characteristics of Christ, because you see what Jesus does is he becomes the hub of our suffering. When we begin to suffer, he becomes the center of it all. Everything begins to point to him and he makes sense out of what we are experiencing. And the outline that I have all today happens, just happens, just like Moses or rather Aaron said that he threw the gold into the furnace and out came a golden calf.

In the very same way, I just threw some words together and they all began with a letter P. And you'll notice that they are there in your outline that is published in your bulletin. Let's go. Number one, the presence of Christ. Notice in the text, I know your tribulation and your poverty. I know it. Your ways are not hidden from me. I understand what you are going through. There is no detail of your pain that escapes my notice. I know.

I know. And I say to you today who are going through a trial, it may not be martyrdom. In fact, not one of us who is here today has been martyred.

That's a requirement actually to come to Moody Church. But God knows your suffering. You've heard me say it before that when Stephen was stoned, the first Christian martyr, throughout the whole New Testament you find that Jesus is always seated at the right hand of God the Father. This is the only time when it says he was standing at the right hand of God the Father. As Stephen had the privilege of looking into heaven, he saw Christ awaiting him. And it's almost as if Jesus was saying, be faithful Stephen, hang in, soon we will be together, but be faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life. How different trials look from heaven. Oh my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. I always like to emphasize that we have to live in light of eternity. And of course, even though I've been walking with God for many years, I'm still learning that lesson.

At the beginning of the program, I asked a question. Ludwig Müller was Hitler's hand-picked man to run the German church. The question is, where was he installed? Well, the correct answer actually is in Wittenberg, the very church where Luther nailed his 95 Theses. You know, it's been my privilege to lead tours to the sites of the Reformation, so I've been in that church many, many times. Bonhoeffer and Niemöller were also present there.

Bonhoeffer whispered to Niemöller at the back of the church, you have now witnessed the death of the church in Germany. You know, there are so many lessons that we have to learn and I've written a book entitled Hitler's Cross, how the cross of Christ was used to promote the Nazi agenda. Very important. And you know, for a gift of any amount, this resource can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to

That's Or if you prefer, you can call us and I hope that you have an opportunity to get a pen or a pencil, write this down, 1-888-218-9337. As a matter of fact, you can pick up that phone and call right now. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. For many believers, life becomes tedious, even painful. They begin to long for their eternal home.

David is one such listener. He asks this, what is your opinion about a Christian praying to God to go ahead and take him home to heaven? I'm ready to go and have been asking God for some time to take me home. Is this a scriptural thing to do or to pray for? Yes, I think it is scriptural.

You know, while I'm speaking about this, my mother is 102. She greatly desires that she would go home to glory. And even though I've not heard her pray that she will, I think that there's no doubt that she prays that regularly. You know, the Apostle Paul says in Philippians chapter 1 that he desired to be with Christ, which is far better. So I can imagine that if you desire to be with Christ, you're going to pray that you're going to be with Christ. But the bottom line is this, you must always let God make the final decision.

Don't try to hurry the process because God has not lost your address as you might think that he has. He has a purpose for you. So what you do is you share with God the desire of your heart to be with him. But at the same time as the Apostle Paul did, you accept the fact that God makes that decision and pulses to abide in the flesh is much more needful for you. I want to die, but God has a purpose for me. Let God be God. Thank you, David, and thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Good runners train to win their races. But for believers, the training for life's race includes lessons in how to die. Some modern day martyrs gave their lives during the oppression in Nazi Germany. And these people can show us how to die faithful to Christ. Next time, lessons on suffering from Jesus' words to the church at Smyrna. Make plans to listen. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-26 22:32:23 / 2023-03-26 22:41:17 / 9

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