30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
In this Thesis Luther was stating that no one could be sure of their own contrition, let alone be sure of their forgiveness. This reminds us again that this was very early in Luther’s development of his theology. That is one of the greatest joys too come from Luther’s work is the fact that we can be absolutely sure that we are forgiven.
Luther did a real turn on this particular train of thought. He came to understand our salvation and ultimate eternal rest comes from “Grace Alone”. We are forgiven not on account of our good works or even of our contrition. It is because of God’s grace, made evident in Jesus Christ as he died and rose again, that we can be sure of our salvation.
This reliance on grace above all else is what separates the Lutheran Church from almost all other denominations. Some say you must live a holy life (if you are a good person you will go to heaven). Some say that Jesus paid for our sins but you still need to lead a good life (belief in Jesus got you started but you still have to do the right things and avoid the bad things if you want to go to heaven). The problem with these options is that if my salvation depends even a little bit on my actions then I can never be sure that I have done enough and therefore I can never be sure of going to heaven. The bible says that I can be sure “He who believes will be saved”. That is the belief that Jesus came into the world to set us free from the chains that separate us from our Father in heaven. The belief that when God looks at me He does not see my sin but He sees the sinless Christ. So as Lutherans we say that we believe in “Grace Alone” (It is not about how I lived my life, it is about the love of God who gives me heaven as a gift).
Holy Father in Heaven, I come to You in prayer because Your Son Jesus has given me a way back to You. Help me to always remember that I do good things because You love me, not that I do good things so that You will love me. You loved me first and You gave Yourself for me so that I may live forever with You. Amen.