Today is the 500th Anniversary (Oct 31, 1517) of Dr. Martin Luther challenging the Roman Catholic churches practice of selling indulgences for the remission of sins. That challenge came in the form of 95 Thesis, debate topics, regarding the practice of selling forgiveness. His courage, faith and determination began a process that we are still benefiting from today.
A Brief Historical Summary
The Church in Rome was running short on money and needed funds for it’s massive building projects. The Vatican endorsed the selling of indulgences. Indulgences were slips of paper with the Papal Seal stating that your dead relative in Purgatory would have his or her time there reduced by hundreds, thousands even millions of years. Purgatory was an abysmal place midway between heaven and hell. It wasn’t hell itself but it was still a miserable place. Purgatory was built on the idea that too many believers die without confessing every known sin. Therefore if you insulted your parents when you were young but never repented an additional 1000 years would be added to your eternity in purgatory.
Indulgences were Papal (the Pope in Rome) guarantees that your time in purgatory would be reduced if you paid a certain amount of money to the church for the indulgence. In Germany the indulgences were selling like hotcakes. Martin Luther, a monk, challenged this entire idea and saw it offensive to the only real means of true forgiveness-the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Luther rejected purgatory and the Pope’s authority over it. In fact Luther has a very famous quote where he said, that the pope had no jurisdiction over purgatory and if he did, he should empty the place free of charge.
Forgiveness for sin and eternal life were not measured by how much you paid or did but in whom you put your total trust. It was am amazing and liberating idea. Luther did not make up this idea but took it straight from scripture.
Romans 1:17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.
Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
I Peter 2:5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
America’s concept of human rights, freedom of the individual, God given rights, government for the people and by the people, all stem from these great Biblical truths. America is not America by human wisdom but by the truth of God’s Word in Jesus Christ.
Thank you Martin Luther! Thank you for the thousands of men and women through the ages who have stood by these truths and died for this proclamation. Most of all thank you Lord Jesus Christ that you are the one name under heaven by which we must be saved.