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.
Allow me to let theologian B.B. Warfield introduce the next group of Luther’s 95 protests against the Roman Catholic Church with his summary on their significance:
The significance of the Theses as a Reformation act emerges thus in this: that they are a bold, an astonishingly bold, and a powerful, an astonishingly powerful, assertion of the evangelical doctrine of salvation, embodied in a searching, well-compacted, and thoroughly wrought-out refutation of the sacerdotal conception, as the underlying foundation on which the edifice of the indulgence traffic was raised. This is what Walther Köhler means when he declares that we must recognize this as the fundamental idea of Luther’s Theses: “the emancipation of the believer from the tutelage of the ecclesiastical institute”; and adds, “Thus God advances for him into the foreground; He alone is Lord of death and life; and to the Church falls the modest role of agent of God on earth – only there and nowhere else.” “The most far-reaching consequences flowed from this,” he continues; “Luther smote the Pope on his crown and simply obliterated his high pretensions with reference to the salvation of souls in this world and the next, and in their place set God and the soul in a personal communion which in its whole intercourse bears the stamp of interiorness and spirituality.” Julius Köstlin puts the whole matter with his accustomed clearness and balance – though with a little wider reference than the Theses themselves – when he describes the advance in Luther’s testimony marked by the indulgence controversy thus: “As he had up to this time proclaimed salvation in Christ through faith, in opposition to all human merit, so he now proclaims it also in opposition to an external human ecclesiasticism and priesthood, whose acts are represented as conditioning the imparting of salvation itself, and as in and of themselves, even without faith, effecting salvation for those in whose interests they are performed.” (more…)
In honor of Reformation Day on Sunday, October 31st, I am posting Luther’s 95 Theses over the next four days. I hope they will serve as a reminder of the significance of the Protestant Reformation that began with the hammer strike of this document to the Wittenburg church door in 1517. Meditate on these words and please remember that at the time of this writing Luther is still a Roman Catholic monk of the Augustinian order. (more…)
In honor of Reformation Day I’m re-posting a classic article from 2 years ago explaining the importance of this under appreciated holiday. This is one of my all-time most popular posts so I hope you’ll enjoy!
On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenburg, protesting the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic church. Luther eventually went to trial for heresy at the Diet of Worms where he was asked to repent of his teachings upon penalty of excommunication. His teachings opposed many accepted doctrines and practices of the church. He also challenged the authority and infallibility of the Pope. Luther refused to recant, famously stating:
Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted of error by the testimony of Scripture or since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.
On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.
The spark of the revolution began with the posting of the 95 Theses. The fires were kindled with his defiant words at Worms. The Protestant Reformation began in earnest in 1521. The word protestant simply means protester. A protestant opposes the false teachings of Roman Catholicism.
All of us who are protestants owe a certain debt of gratitude to Martin Luther. He boldly helped to recover the glorious truths of God’s holy word. The historic Apostolic doctrines were uncovered in those tumultuous times. They centered around the doctrine of Justification. In defiance of Rome, Luther taught our justification comes not by a combination of faith and works but by faith alone. He once said:
This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification, is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness.
From this bedrock, sprang what we now call the Five Solas of the Reformation. They are:
- Sola Gratia – Grace Alone
- Sola Fide – Faith Alone
- Solus Christus – Christ Alone
- Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone
- Soli Deo Gloria – Glory of God Alone
Sola Gratia – God’s loving and compassionate grace to lost sinners saves us from his fierce wrath. This grace is not based on any goodness within ourselves. His grace is according to his good pleasure and his purpose. God is not obligated to save one single soul. If he were to send all of humanity to hell he would be just in doing so. However, God in his mercy has bestowed grace upon man, giving every person opportunity to repent of his sin and embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Believers are ‘… justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’, (Rom 3:24) Only by God’s loving grace is salvation made possible to the human race.
Sola Fide – We are saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We trust his sacrificial death on a cross has washed away our sins and redeemed our souls from death, hell and the grave, forever. This faith is a gift of God’s grace. It is not of ourselves, lest any man should boast in his salvation. Faith needs no help to make it complete. Our good works do not alter our standing before God. The Apostle Paul wrote, ‘For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law’. (Rom 3:28) We are saved by faith alone.
Solus Christus – The Son of God clearly named the narrow road that leads to eternal life. it is called Jesus Christ Boulevard and it is clearly marked by his stripes and paved with his blood. He claimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) The Apostle Peter proclaimed, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12) We are saved by Christ and no other.
Sola Scriptura – The truths we adhere to have been graciously given to us in the form of the holy bible. It is a testament of God’s people throughout the course of human history, detailing the account of man’s fall and redemption through Jesus Christ. No other source is authoritative in establishing Christian doctrine and practice. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2Ti 3:16-17) The revelation of scriptures alone through the illumination of the Holy Spirit shall lead us to all truth.
Soli Deo Gloria -The deeds of the saints, the wicked and all the host of heaven are ultimately accomplished for the glory of God. Believers glorify God by displaying His attributes of love, grace, mercy and compassion. The reprobate glorify God by displaying God’s equally glorious attributes of wrath, righteousness and justice. The contrast between sin and righteousness magnifies the holiness, purity and majesty of Almighty God. Jesus came to glorify the Father and in return the Father glorified him. The author of Hebrews wrote of Christ, ‘He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature’, (Heb 1:3) The chief end of man, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism is to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever’. Psalms 79 states ‘Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!’ (Psa 79:9) Let nothing we do or say be done for our glory or for the glory of others, but for the glory of God alone.
In summary, the Reformation sparked by Martin Luther taught us that God justifies the guilty by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone according to the Scriptures Alone for the Glory of God Alone.
When there is a much better alternative holiday to observe on October 31st!
‘What other holiday?’ you may wonder.
Well, let me enlighten you! The day we most commonly refer to as Halloween is also known as…
On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, nailed his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenburg, protesting the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic church. Luther eventually went to trial for heresy at the Diet of Worms where he was asked to repent of his teachings upon penalty of excommunication. His teachings opposed many accepted doctrines and practices of the church. He also challenged the authority and infallibility of the Pope. Luther refused to recant, famously stating: (more…)