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Johann Blumhardt’s Spiritual Warfare

Blumhardt wanted Christians to face up to spiritual realities.

“PEOPLE DON’T NEED CHRISTIANITY. They need Christ,” said Johann Christoph Blumhardt. Born in Stuttgart, Germany on 16 July 1805, he was reared in Pietist surroundings. After training, he became a pastor to the small towns of Möttlingen and Haugstett, where he learned to detest powerless religion. “Have I a right to preach Jesus, the risen one, when so little changes?” he asked. 

His own life changed when he reluctantly began to deal with a woman in his congregation who was oppressed by evil. After counseling and prayer failed to relieve her, he felt compelled one day to challenge the devil in Christ’s name. There ensued a terrible fight which lasted for several months until on this day, 28 December 1843 a demon left the woman, shrieking “Christ is victor, Christ is victor” so loudly that the whole village heard. The woman, who had dabbled in the occult, was freed from her bizarre behavior and became a gentle, helpful associate in Blumhardt’s work.  

Having awakened to the struggle between light and darkness, Blumhardt could not return to powerless Christianity. “I wish all this religious warmth and comfort would die,” he said. Revival broke out in his area after a wicked man asked to confess to him and pleaded for absolution. When Blumhardt placed his hands on him, the man shone with joy. After that, hundreds came to confess their sins. Many found physical healing, too. 

Blumhardt was accused of returning to Roman Catholic practices. However, he pointed to scriptures such as John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” He added, “The present genteel, self-loving brand of piety assumes, ‘I don’t need anybody; I can set things right with God myself.’ But as long as people quietly try to work out their own salvation, they won’t get anywhere. Only when they recognize the need for one another, and reach out and open up to one another will they move forward.” 

Revival followed. “Everywhere, guilty consciences were struck. Old enemies became reconciled. In several cases stolen goods were returned...Previously, hostile villagers had spitefully blocked a footpath that shortened his way from Mo?ttlingen. Now they love him like a father,” wrote an observer. 

When outsiders flocked to Blumhardt for help, his superiors in the Lutheran church forbade him to directly assist anyone outside of his own parish. He was also ordered not even to pray over such people. “Are we really doomed to continue in so wretched a state? Must Christian life remain so beggarly poor?” he lamented. “We are a dehydrated people. Nothing will quench our thirst and end the drought but God pouring out his Spirit once again.” When he was ordered not to give hope out of the scriptures, he refused to obey. 

Eventually Blumhardt founded a Christian spa by the sulfur springs at Bad Boll where many people reported healing through prayer and Christian instruction. His son Christoph carried on the work after him.

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