49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
Luther was seeing a tendency on the part of those who bought indulgences to lose their fear of sin and punishment. After all they had purchased their “get out of jail free” card. They need not fear the sting of sin and in fact they lost their “fear of God”.
When you look at the writings of Martin Luther, you will see that he speaks often about the “fear of God”. He begins the explanation of each of the ten commandments with the words, “we should fear and Love God …”. He felt that we must always understand our position before God in the correct way, as a humble sinner in need of forgiveness begging the mercy of a loving and forgiving God. We must always remember that He is the God who can punish or forgive! He has all control of our eternal existence. The purchase of indulgences might give one the feeling that they are in control and that God must do their bidding.
Once again Luther is reminding people that their hope for life in heaven is not found in the indulgences that they buy, but in the saving work of Jesus Christ risen from the grave and the grace of God that brings that salvation into our lives by the power of His Spirit.
O Lord my heavenly Father, visit me once again with the power of Your Holy Spirit that I may trust completely in You. Help me to turn from my dependence on my earthly actions and to trust 100% in Your Son Jesus Christ. Give me a healthy fear of You and Your power but at the same time show me Your love for me as Your forgiven child. In Jesus name. Amen.