Posted by: Billy Marsh | July 9, 2009

Pride is Heresy. So What Does That Make Me?

The underlying characteristic of all sin is unbelief. Pride is the driving force behind all unbelief. In essence, every sinful word, deed, or thought is a result of the reversal of the Creator-creature relationship. Our pride deceives us into thinking that we are sufficient in and of ourselves to meet our needs or fulfill our purposes. Therefore, our pride is unbelief in God’s Word to us that tells us that we are nothing apart from him, not to mention, that without him we would have never existed.

Pride, however, can show its face in ways that may not be as identifiable. In his Table Talk, The 16th century German Reformer Martin Luther shows how pride can make its way into the pulpit, but warns that God will soon cast that person out. “Scripture requires humble hearts,” Luther says, “that hold God’s Word in honor, love, and worth (281).” When the preacher addresses his congregation by means of the proclamation of the Word in a contrary manner, Luther declares, “[T]he Holy Spirit resists the proud, and will not dwell with them.” Notice Luther’s subtle way of using a scriptural truth to set the stage for his argument. He links the preaching of the Word with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and as a result, both Scripture and the Holy Spirit are interested exclusively in a preacher with a humble and lowly heart. Therefore, any preacher who enters the pulpit with a proud heart not only contradicts the Word of God, but will not be used by the Holy Spirit.

Luther goes on to say, “Therefore, every proud spirit is a heretic, not in act and deed, yet before God.” You can always count on Luther not to sugarcoat anything. It’s not just that a person is wrong for being prideful; the offense is much worse than that. Luther decries that man as a heretic, which entails that pride must be heresy. A simple definition of heresy is a doctrine or teaching that contradicts the fundamental tenets of Christian orthodoxy. So then why would Luther ascribe such a harsh claim to a person who has erred in a way as common and universal as pride? I believe that it is due to the fact that Luther realizes that in one’s prideful state, he or she denounces God as God, thereby elevating his or herself to the place of the Creator. Pride says we don’t need God. Pride says that we are sufficient in and of ourselves. In essence, though we may not think it necessarily, in our pride, we make ourselves God. Pride looks God in the face and says, “Thanks for offer, but I can do it on my own.” This indeed is heresy. And what worse of a place to be in this frame of mind than when preaching the Word of God to his people?

Clearly Luther is drawing from texts such as James 4:6 and Proverbs 3:34 which state that God opposes the proud, but honors the humble. Luther continues to speak towards those seeking a pastorate as he observes, “But it is a hard matter for one who has some particular gift and quality above another, not to be haughty, proud, and presumptuous, and not to contemn others.” Therefore, God uses suffering, trials, and tribulations to keep them humble. Luther cites the example of Paul’s thorn in the flesh as a biblical illustration of one who was extremely gifted, but was made to remember his weakness and helplessness before the Lord. Likewise, today’s preachers, both young and old, must be careful not to become the embodiment of heresy in the Lord’s eyes. We are often all too sure of ourselves, and quickly forget that it is the gracious endowment of the Holy Spirit who enables us to be God’s instruments for his glory.

When we step behind a pulpit or a lectern, or in a Sunday school class or before a small group in our living room with our chests puffed out as if all of those under the sound of our voice have been greatly blessed to sit under our teaching, it is then that we are most opposed by God. The Holy Spirit will not have it. For we are heretics, worthy of eternal fire and everlasting condemnation. Let us not fall into this great heresy. We are of no value apart from the anointing of the Holy Spirit. May we strive to be more humble that his grace may abound to us more and more in order that through the service of our God-given gifts, the Spirit may bless our ministries and use us for bringing lost sheep from darkness into the Lord’s marvelous light.



  1. Excellent.

  2. That last comment was from me.

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