18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
Luther here is putting forth the idea that the souls in purgatory could still merit forgiveness while they reside in purgatory. The church was of the mind that souls in purgatory could not “grow in love” or merit further forgiveness than what they had when they went to purgatory.
In later years Luther came to understand that not only was he mistaken about purgatory as a place, but also the idea of a “state of merit” which the church would regularly espouse. The church had developed the idea that man could somehow “merit” God’s forgiveness. The church at Luther’s time said that the time available for man to merit more forgiveness ends with their death.
As time went on Luther came to believe that the problem with this type of thought is that we cannot “merit forgiveness”. God’s forgiveness is a gift from Him. If we earned it or merited it then it would not be forgiveness but payment. We cannot make up for our sins, they have to be forgiven. It is not a matter of doing “enough right to counteract the bad acts we have done” rather it is God lifting us out of the mire of our own sin and placing us together with Him. Purely as an act of love.
Oh Lord God, help me to trust only in you. Give me a faith that the world can not shake and hold me close until one day You will take me home to be with you in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.