58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
Here Luther finishes the sentence that he started in the Theses before. Indulgences are not themselves temporal merits of the church and here he says that they are also not the merits of Christ and the saints. So if these last two Theses are true then Luther points out that indulgences are simply the word of the Pope and cannot be as effective as the merits of Christ, because Christ offers His merits free of charge to any who believe. Therefore there is no need of indulgences.
We must once again consider the idea of indulgences. They rest on the idea that the church has amassed the extra good works of the saints of the past and that the church can actually “sell” these spare good works to people who Luther says elsewhere are “lazy sluggards” who rather than living a good life want to buy their salvation. All of this comes from a misunderstanding of what Christ came into the world to do, and what He has accomplished for us through His life, death and resurrection.
When God created Adam and Eve it says that He created them in “His image”. That is perfect and Holy and living in the perfect relationship with the God of Creation. Through the fall all humankind has lost that image and the relationship with God. Man is completely unable and unwilling to restore that relationship by his own doing. No matter how good a life a person might live they can never restore the relationship that mankind had at creation. It is not about “how we act” but rather about “who we are”. We were created to be “children of God” but since the fall we are “enemies of God”.
God came into the world as the man Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah. Not to simply live a perfect life that would cover over the sins of all of humankind, but He came to make of mankind a “new creation” He makes us new people. People that have a restored relationship with God. Not perfect people, or people who have the potential for perfection, but people who have been given a new life where we once again have a living relationship with the Father of Creation. With that we strive to use the Spirit of God within us to live our lives as the “Children of God” once again.
Dear Father Creator, please visit me with an extra measure of Your Spirit that I may live my life as Your child. Help me to trust in You alone for my salvation and remember that my good works are as filthy rags! In Christ Amen.