Luther and his 95 theses
Have you ever nailed something to a church door?
Would you feel free to put your ”lost cat” notice on your local church door?
What would it take to make anyone put a list of the failings of their employer on the office door?
Martin Luther put 95 points in his list. Why not a 100? or why not only 2 or 3?
How many problems did he really have with his church?
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Luther's main issue was the abuse of “indulgencies” - paid licenses to sin!
Luther questioned whether the church had the authority to grant indulgences even though Pope Urban II first offered indulgences to Crusaders in 1095.
Luther believed that the only true path to salvation lay through faithfulness to Christ and his teachings, not through adherence to the ideologies and dogmas of the Catholic Church.
In 1517, Pope Leo X wanted to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, but he didn't want to spend his own money so he started offering indulgences in exchange for donations!
To Luther's eyes, the Church was essentially selling salvation.
Luther read the Bible in Latin and Greek and saw nothing that gave the Church any right to charge people for their salvation.
Luther was not trying to undermine the Church, he was just trying to stop them making money and turning salvation into a business. He did not attack the idea of indulgences as such, only the abuse of them.
What does it mean?
The act of putting the 95 theses on the church door is generally regarded as the start of the Reformation 500 years ago. It resulted in the rise of a Lutheransim and the rejection of Roman Catholicism by millions of Europeans.
Luther's study of the Bible was key to all the events, so it is no surprise that he took his stand on the Bible and said "Here I stand, I can do no other". When challenged he said...
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God."
(This is called Sola Scriptura).
Justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls, according to Martin Luther.
(This is called Sola Fide),
Some of Luther's theses...
1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, says "Repent ye," etc., he means that the entire life of the faithful should be one of repentance.
27. They preach human folly who pretend that as soon as money in the coffer rings a soul from purgatory springs.
32. Those who suppose that on account of their letters of indulgence they are sure of salvation will be eternally damned along with their teachers.
36. Every Christian who truly repents has full forgiveness both of punishment and guilt bestowed on him, even without letters of indulgence.
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in all the benefits of Christ and the Church, for God has granted him these, even without letters of indulgence.
82. For example: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love … for after all, he does release countless souls for the sake of sordid money contributed for the building of a cathedral? …"
95. And so let them set their trust on entering heaven through many tribulations rather than some false security and peace.
Salvation is free!
The FIve Solas of the Reformation
Sola Fide by faith alone
Sola Scriptura by Scripture alone
Solus Christus through Christ alone
Sola Gratia by grace alone
Soli Deo Gloria glory to God alone
The problem of indulgencies had been going on for a long time. See notes on Wycliffe from 1330-1384.
"For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Luther made a trip to Rome in 1510 where he became disillusioned with the incompetence, flippancy, and immorality of the Italian clergy. When he returned he prepared a series of lectures on Psalms, Romans, and Galatians and gained a new understanding of Paul's message - he started to understand how faith is a gift from God, not an achievement of man.
He was a regular attendee at confession and could stay there for hours. He needed to confess every sin he could remember since the previous confession the day before and couldn't bear to miss even one small sin. He said he hated the idea in Rom 1:17 that ‘in it the righteousness of God is revealed’ …according to which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner. I lived without reproach as a monk, but my conscience was disturbed to its very depths and all I knew about myself was that I was a sinner. I could not believe that anything I thought or did or prayed satisfied God. I did not love, nay, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.
At last, meditating day and night ... by the mercy of God, I gave heed to the context of the words, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’
Then I began to understand that the righteousness of God is…a gift of God, namely by faith…
Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through gates that had been flung open.
An entirely new side of the Scriptures opened itself to me…and I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the loathing with which before I had hated the term ‘the righteousness of God’.
The new understanding of God's righteousness as a gift, is at the heart of the gospel message.