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Who Were the Zwickau Prophets?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | Comments (8)

Most Christians have heard of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers. But there is good reason why you have probably never heard of their contemporaries, the Zwickau prophets. In the following two videos, R.C. Sproul and Steve Lawson explain who they were and why they left no lasting legacy.

The principle of Sola Scriptura—Scripture alone—lies at the heart of the Protestant Reformation. Rejecting the pope as God’s voice on earth required that there be a true and superior authority on which Christians could depend. Replacing the pope with someone else who claimed direct revelation from God would have only served to perpetuate the original problem. The scope and extent of the Reformation legacy, still felt today, is primarily due to the Reformers’ unshakable commitment to God’s unchanging revelation found in the pages of your Bible.

A major objective of the Strange Fire conference is to reassert and reemphasize the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture for all of Christian life, practice, and ministry. For more information about Strange Fire, please visit the conference website.

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Jim Brazel  |  Tuesday, July 2, 2013 at 4:31 PM

Thank you...learning about Reformation History is fascinating.

#2  Posted by Rick White  |  Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 11:29 AM

Since the Bible leads us to salvation in Jesus Christ, is God-breathed, teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and trains us in righteous living, to the point we are completely adequate for every good work, why would we ever look for any other source for infallible, inerrant teaching? 2 Timothy 3:15-17. Thank you for dealing with this very important topic.

#3  Posted by Robin Lane  |  Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 2:54 AM

If we study the context of the Reformation (i.e. widespread, appalling abuse of power by the Roman Catholic Church) then it is understandable that the Reformers used the cry “Sola Scriptura” to counteract false teachings. However, a danger with ‘Sola Scriptura’ is that it can be used to negate the vitally important role of the Holy Spirit, about which there are many statements in Scripture.

For example, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will teach disciples all things and help them to remember what he said (John 14:25-26). And Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will bear witness about him, as well as disciples bearing witness about him (John 15:26-27). Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11). And the apostle Paul wrote that the Spirit helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).

These are essential tasks that the Holy Spirit carries out; so let’s be careful not to underestimate his importance. Many of us believe that rather than use ‘Sola Scriptura’, or ‘Word Alone’, it is more faithful to Scripture to say ‘Word and Spirit together’.

#4  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Friday, July 5, 2013 at 12:12 PM


The sentiment of what you have written concerning "Word and Spirit together" may sound balanced but is actually deeply problematic. It can open the door for people to act upon their own feelings and impulses believing them to be the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is only when we submit our actions to the parameters of Scripture that we can certainly know the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is because it is the Holy Scriptures that have been authored by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:16).

The work of the Holy Spirit in human experience cannot be disconnected from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak to individuals in ways that are independent of Scripture. The test of truth is always defined and measured by the biblical text and not by spiritual experience. The Reformers got many things right, none more so than Sola Scriptura.

I am well aware of the verses you have quoted. You need to be especially mindful that John 14:25-26 is describing the instrumental work by the Spirit through the Apostles in writing the New Testament. This is why it says that He will "bring to [the Apostles] remembrance all that [Jesus had] said to [them]." John 15:26-27 describes the establishment on the New Testament church and the accompanying New Testament text. We are called to bear witness about Jesus and we can only do this by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with His Word. It is the Word that discerns who bears witness to the true Jesus and who bears witness of a false Jesus (like the non-Trinitarian Jesus of T.D. Jakes). The Holy Spirit's work in convicting people of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11) is done in their consciences verifying the truth of His Word (Romans 7:7). Romans 8:26 refers to communication within the Trinity and requires a far more lengthy discussion. But for the sake of brevity within this format we can certainly say that this does nothing to conflict or contrast with our utter dependance on God's Word to live and walk in the Spirit - the Word that Peter described as "more sure" than hearing God's audible voice (2 Peter 1:18-19). And Peter was more than qualified to speak on this subject.

#5  Posted by Elaine Bittencourt  |  Friday, July 5, 2013 at 10:02 PM

#3 - Robin,

We, as Calvinist/Reformed cessationists, don't negate the work of the Holy Spirit. To say that it's to display that you don't understand what we believe the ministry of the Holy Spirit is.

Listen/read to this series (3 parts, search for the others):

And this is a good one as well, from the 2012 Shepherds' Conference:

MacArthur mentions, in the above, a series he was doing at GCC about the Holy Spirit. It would be worth your while to search for that one.

#4 - Cameron,

"The work of the Holy Spirit in human experience cannot be disconnected from Scripture. The Spirit does not speak to individuals in ways that are independent of Scripture. The test of truth is always defined and measured by the biblical text and not by spiritual experience. The Reformers got many things right, none more so than Sola Scriptura."

Two thumbs up!!

#6  Posted by Robin Lane  |  Monday, July 8, 2013 at 5:32 AM


Yes, I agree about the importance of submitting to Scripture. But rather than viewing ‘Word and Spirit together’ as ‘deeply problematic’, I would describe it as very challenging. Let’s face it; the Scriptures are so extensive that even when someone who follows ‘Sola Scriptura’ wants to act upon their feelings, they can simply choose verses of Scripture that seem to support what they want to do.

I’m not suggesting that there should be a disconnection between experience and Scripture. Indeed, the biblical charismatic stance is simply that the spiritual gifts continue to be given to this day, in accordance with Scripture. Thus it agrees that Scripture should be used to test every experience.

Something that is problematic is your interpretation of 2 Peter 1:18-19. Surely Peter was not saying that the written word is ‘more sure’ than his own hearing of God’s voice testifying about his Son. Rather, Peter was saying that what the apostles were proclaiming to people was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies in the person of Jesus. They were ‘more sure’ than they could be from reading the written word because they had seen and interacted with Christ both before and after his resurrection. They had amazing experiences that CONFIRMED the written word, making them ‘more sure’ of what they were proclaiming to people. They were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

#8  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 7:44 AM


I did not interpret 2 Peter 1:18-19. I quoted from it. But since you raised the issue, there are rules of interpretation that can and should be applied to Scripture. In the case of the words "more sure" as found in 2 Peter 1:19 John MacArthur comments:

"This translation could indicate that the eyewitness account of Christ's majesty at the transfiguration confirmed the Scriptures. However, the Greek word order is crucial in that it does not say that. It says, 'And we have more sure the prophetic word.' That original arrangement of the sentence supports the interpretation that Peter is ranking Scripture over experience. The prophetic word (Scripture) is more complete, more permanent, and more authoritative than the experience of anyone. More specifically, the Word of God is a more reliable verification of the teachings about the person, atonement, and second coming of Christ than even the genuine first-hand experiences of the apostles themselves."

#9  Posted by Robin Lane  |  Friday, July 12, 2013 at 6:42 AM

Hello Cameron,

Yes there are rules for the interpretation of Scripture, and they include the need to consider each verse within its context and, wherever possible, to take the plain meaning of the words. Thus, the statements you quote are surprising in light of the following:

(1) IMMEDIATE CONTEXT – In verses 18 and 19, Peter is part way through a defence of the apostles’ teaching. He started with ‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths’ (1:16) and is en-route to warning his readers that false teachers will come among them, bringing destructive heresies and ‘even denying the Master who bought them’ (2:1). Therefore, Peter’s account of God the Father’s spoken words is vitally important to his argument. The apostles taught that Jesus is God’s Son. God the Father confirmed it directly. Peter witnessed that confirmation, it was very important to him – so important that it now forms part of Scripture.

(2) WIDER CONTEXT – Peter’s objective was to keep reminding his readers of the truths about Christ so that they would remember them after Peter’s death (1:12-15). Those truths include the vital message about righteousness through faith in Christ (1:1). That message seemed radically different from the old covenant, yet it is ‘the prophetic word made more sure’, the words of the prophets fulfilled. The promised Messiah had come. Peter and the apostles were called to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8) – they saw, heard, experienced his earthly ministry.

(3) PETER’S ACTIONS – Peter was extremely unlikely to write of Scripture versus experience in the way John claims, because he himself responded to prompts that came to him separate from Scripture, e.g. the vision and the command that led him to go to Cornelius’s house. Peter also argued vigorously on the basis of what he saw and heard, “… who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17).

(4) PAUL’S ACTIONS – Saul of Tarsus thought that he was obeying Scripture when he ravaged the early church. Many years after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he explained his subsequent actions saying, “… I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision …” (Acts 26:19). So Paul would also be extremely unlikely to write of Scripture versus experience in that way. Indeed, Paul received the gospel he preached directly from the Lord (Galatians 1:11-12).

When the two lead apostles took experiences as seriously as that, it is most surprising to conclude that 2 Peter 1:18-19 is a warning to be careful about experiences. The command to test everything comes elsewhere in Scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).