Martin Luther’s 95 Theses – Part 4

Happy Reformation Day to all you Protestants out there who embrace the doctrine of justification through faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone according to the scriptures alone and for the glory of God alone.

Here is the last section of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses that set off a firestorm that continues to burn throughout the world today!

Ecclesia semper reformans, semper reformanda!

  • Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.
  • On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant’s words.
  • In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.
  • It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.
  • It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.
  • We assert the contrary, and say that the pope’s pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.
  • When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  • We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].
  • It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.
  • The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.
  • This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.
  • They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter’s church, a very minor purpose.
  • Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?
  • Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love’s sake, and just because of its need of redemption.
  • Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,—why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?
  • Again: since the pope’s income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?
  • Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?
  • Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.
  • What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?
  • These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.
  • If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.
  • Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “Peace, peace,” where in there is no peace.
  • Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross.
  • Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.
  • And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.
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