Reformation Day just passed. As a late celebration, I thought we would consider one thesis from Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Luther’s fourth thesis of his Ninety-Five Theses says,
“The penalty of sin, therefore, continues so long as hatred of self or true inward repentance continues, and it continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.”
Dr. Stephen Nichols over at 5 Minutes in Church History points out that “after he wrote the Ninety-Five Theses, Luther wrote another document where he elaborates and expands upon each one of the theses. And in [Luther’s] explanations, he clarifies what he means here regarding hatred of self:”
“True sorrow must spring from the goodness and mercies of God, especially from the wounds of Christ, so that man comes first of all to a sense of his own ingratitude in view of divine goodness, and thereupon to hatred of himself and love of the kindness of God. Then tears will flow and he will hate himself from the very depths of his heart, yet without despair.”
Commenting on Luther’s explanation, Dr. Nichols says,
“Luther wanted to emphasize how crucial it is that we recognize our own sinfulness and how odious the stench of our sin is to a holy God.”
It is necessary that we recognize this about ourselves and sin so that we will turn to God for salvation and sanctification. For if we don’t, we will continue to live as sinners, thinking we are pleasing to God. Once, however, we recognize the depth of our sin we should be motivated to forsake our past life and put off the old self for the new in Christ (Col. 3:9-10).
As well as focusing on the mercies and goodness of God that is poured out on us, sinners, who are undeserving of God’s goodness and mercy, should keep us from despair because we know the Lord is for us, saving and sanctifying us with His tender care, not forsaking us, even though our sin is repulsive to Him. Knowing God sees us for who we are, yet still loves, cares, and ultimately saves us by sending His Son to die for us, should encourage us to be honest about our own sin, admitting, repenting, and forsaking it openly before the Lord. As Luther says, we should hate ourselves, not being content with our current state, but always striving to rid sin from our lives through the power of Christ.
Question for Reflection
- Do you have a holy hatred for the sin in your life?
Stephen Nichols, 5 Minutes in Church History: Top 5 of the 95: 2015 edition