If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:25-26
When we are praised, we should know that we are not the ones being praised, but Christ, to whom all praise and honor belong. The fact that we may teach in a godly way or live in a holy manner is not our gift, but God’s. So we are not the ones being praised, but God in us. If we acknowledge this, we won’t get out of line. We won’t become proud because of this praise. For “what do you have that you did not receive?” (1Corinthians 4:7). Instead, we will give God the glory. We also won’t allow ourselves to give up our calling because of abuse, disgrace, and persecution. God covers our glory with shame by his special grace. He covers it with the world’s bitter hatred, persecution and blasphemy. Furthermore, we face contempt and ingratitude from our own followers – peasants, townspeople and nobles. Though hidden and inward, their animosity toward and persecution of the gospel are more harmful than enemies who persecute openly. God allows this so that we don’t become proud of our gifts. This millstone must be hung around our necks so that we will not be infected by the plague of honoring ourselves.
Certainly many of our followers honor us because we are in official positions as preachers. But for every one who honors us, there are a hundred who hate, despise, and persecute us. The blasphemy and persecution from our opponents, combined with the contempt, ingratitude, and secret hatred from our own followers, delight us so much that we easily forget all about personal glory. As a result, we rejoice in the Lord and stay in line.
The Ninety-Five Theses is a text that everyone knows, most refer to, but few actually read, writes Stephen Nichols. Nevertheless, it is such a crucial text that it deserves to be read widely. Toward that end, Nichols has prepared this edition with an illuminating introduction, explanatory notes, and several illustrations. Martin Luther has left a legacy that continues to enrich the church through his writings. . ., writes Nichols. All of this may be traced back to the last day in October 1517 and the nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the church door.