Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ’s people, “The cross, the cross,” where there is no cross. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.
In the years following his initial posting of the theses, Luther became emboldened in his resolve and strengthened his arguments with Scripture.
He longed for the hope and security that only the good news can bring, and he was frustrated with the structures that were using Christ to take advantage of people and prevent them from saving union with God.
Further, Luther’s focus on the teaching of Scripture is significant, since it provided the foundation on which the great doctrines of the Reformation found their origin.
But you might be surprised to learn that the Ninety-five Theses, even though this document that sparked the Reformation, was not about these issues.
Instead, Luther objected to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church was offering to sell certificates of forgiveness, and that by doing so it was substituting a false hope (that forgiveness can be earned or purchased) for the true hope of the gospel (that we receive forgiveness solely via the riches of God’s grace).Luther is known mostly for his teachings about Scripture and justification.Regarding Scripture, he argued the Bible alone () is our ultimate authority for faith and practice.Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.Obviously, since Leo X had begun the indulgences campaign in order to build the basilica, he did not “wish to give of his own money” to victims.Luther’s attitude toward the pope is also surprisingly ambivalent.In later years he called the pope “the Antichrist” and burned his writings, but here his tone is merely cautionary, hoping the pope will come to his senses.If people know only one thing about the Protestant Reformation, it is the famous event on October 31, 1517, when the Ninety-five Theses of Martin Luther (1483–1586) were nailed on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in protest against the Roman Catholic Church.Within a few years of this event, the church had splintered into not just the “church’s camp” or “Luther’s camp” but also the camps of churches led by theologians of all different stripes.Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better.Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.