90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
Luther knew that the response of the pope and the leaders of the church was “because I said so” type of answers. They leaned on their positions as leaders in the church to give credence to their answers. Luther states here just how unsatisfactory that type of answer was to his questions, and further reason that these are some of the issues that he would like to debate with the church.
We are looking back over 500 years to the time that Luther was writing and we can see just how prophetic his statements were, the church and the pope would be ridiculed and people would be so unhappy with the church that they would leave and some would never came back. In the years to come, the church would try and answer these questions but in most cases it was too little too late. In a very real sense the Holy Roman Church never recovered from the questions that Luther raised in the 95 Theses.
Luther wanted to talk to the church about “reform” but when the leaders saw Luther they saw, “revolt”.
Sweet Jesus Lord of Heaven and Earth come fill my heart today with the love only You can give. Allow me to see the world that You have made with the same love and care that You have for Your creation. Let me see in Your church here on earth the power of Your presence. In Your name, Amen.
89. “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?”
Here you need to understand a little about what was happening with the sale of indulgences. In order to sell more indulgences, the pope had declared that any previous indulgences or pardons that had be granted by previous popes were null and void. So people who had assumed that they were completely forgiven or that their loved ones were bought out of purgatory because of indulgences they purchased years ago, now had to buy new ones given out by this pope. Luther’s point was that you are either forgiven or you are not. When they say what was done before is not now valid that actually makes the indulgences sold now just as worthless.
Luther wanted to support the pope and his ideas, but these kind of edicts made it hard for Luther to justify the actions of the pope. In other writings he laid the blame for these actions on Tetzel and the other indulgence salesmen because he wanted to believe that the pope was innocent. But to those of us who have less allegiance to the pope we see his corruption in these actions.
Once again we are reminded not to put our trust in men, but to put our trust in God alone!
Creator Redeemer Sanctifier I put all my trust in You. You are my Heavenly joy and triumph. Give me the assurance of Your forgiving touch, that I may live for You in all that I do. In Jesus name, Amen.
88. Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?”
With this Thesis Luther is projecting onto the Pope the kind of Love that God has for His people. If the Pope loved like God does, he would be granting remissions and blessings 100 times a day. But the Pope is a man not God. The Pope does not love perfectly as God loves.
The problem with God’s church on earth is that it is made up of flawed human beings. The church on earth will always be a pale comparison of God’s kingdom in heaven. Like Luther we sometimes forget that the leaders in our church today are still men and women flawed and imperfect. We come to think that they are on the level of God’s perfection. We often expect them to love and serve perfectly as God does.
Our inability to lead a perfect life does not disqualify us from leadership in God’s church on earth. In fact God is not looking for “perfect leaders”, He is looking for “perfectly forgiven leaders”. As the leaders in God church we rest on His forgiving love we are made right before God by the actions of Christ on our behalf.
The Apostle Paul said it well when he said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize.” Phil.3:12
Lord God, forgive me for the times that I have lived for myself and not for You. Forgive my attempts as living a perfect life and instead guide me to live for You and by Your Spirit allow me to live through You and be who you are calling me to be. In Jesus Name, Amen.
87. Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?”
This question is based on the notion that some people could be perfectly contrite and therefore have already earned full remission of sins and the Lord’s blessings. What would the Pope be able to give to these people since all he had was remission for sins and the promise of blessings.
The problem with this question comes in that no one can be “perfectly contrite”. As long as human beings live in this sin filled world we are unable to be perfect at anything. This also brings up the misunderstanding that sins and works of contrition can be weighed and measured and that the desire is that they should weigh out equal.
Luther was rediscovering the truth that sin is a condition of man that separates him from the perfectly holy God of the universe. This relationship cannot be restored by a certain number of “good works”. Therefore it also cannot be restored by indulgences that represent false good works.
Full remission and blessings are truly the gifts of God for His people. God gives them free of charge and out of love for His people. Christ came into the world and lived and died so that we can have these precious gifts and no man, not even the Pope, controls them.
Dear God in Heaven I thank You that You have loved me more than I can love myself and You have saved me from my own sinful nature. I could never merit Your love and forgiveness, so I thank You that You have loved me and saved me anyway. Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.
86. Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?”
This question by Luther is a natural question. Some of the cathedrals were built and paid for by the princes as a personal chapel. But most were built by the Bishops, Archbishops, or Popes with the Church money. The Church money was considered to be the Pope’s personal money and they treated it that way. So this is a logical question as to why this basilica would not be paid for just as the others had been.
Interesting side note is that “Riches of Crassus” was a reference to the Roman ruler who was at around 200 BC and had more money than the Roman Empire. If you wanted to talk about a very rich person you said “rich as Crassus”.
Luther was unaware that Pope Leo X had spent the bulk of the churches money waging a war to establish his nephew as Duke of Urbino. So Leo really did not have enough money to finish the work on the basilica. Luther’s assumption that “the church has lots of money” is an assumption that has passed all the way down to today, as most people are sure that all churches have an unlimited amount of money. This comes because the buildings are ornate and beautiful and the large church celebrations i.e. Christmas and Easter, seem to spare no expense in their production. The truth today as it was in Luther’s day is that the church only has the money that the people give to it!
Dear Lord please give me a thankful heart that I may rejoice in the blessings that you have poured out on me and my family. Help me to be content with what I have and not to be jealous of what someone else may have. In Jesus Name, Amen.
85. Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?”
The penitential canons were the laws of the church established long ago. These were the laws having to do with the penitence that needed to be offered in order to move a soul out of purgatory. Deeds that needed to be done and masses to be said, pilgrimages made. But by the time of Luther these were not even being referenced, yet the indulgence salesmen were selling indulgences that would pay for the penitential canons. Getting people to pay for penalties that did not have to be paid penalties that did not exist.
These things that Luther is sighting are such blatant acts to raise money, you wonder why people did not see through what the pope and his leaders were doing. But people want to be able to do something to get God’s attention even if it looks like a scam! A few years ago there was a TV evangelist who had a program that encouraged people to send in their prayers and he would pray for them. When you sent in your request you got a message back saying “we have received your request for prayer by __________ he gets a lot of requests for prayer and if you can send in a minimum of $5.00 we can guarantee that he will pray for you”. That looks pretty fishy but thousands of people sent in their money get prayed for. This is what the church has done in the past when they had people pay for the priest to say a mass, or buy a candle to light for a forgotten soul. We are happy to do it to get the spiritual relief that we want.
Luther had started to tell people that they did not need to do all those things anymore because God had already forgiven their sin on the cross and they had to do nothing. Today we have to be reminded of the same thing, we do nothing for our salvation, God has done it all.
Dear Heavenly King, You reign over all of the earth and You reign in my life. Take control of my heart and give me the joy of knowing that I am forgiven in You. Remind me of Your love and restore my trust in You. Through Jesus Christ, Amen.