Last night I watched the awesome movie Martin Luther (1953) with the family. It is my favorite version. One scene in the movie that is iconic is when he nails the 95 Theses to the door of Wittenburg’s Castle Church:–on October 31, 1517. Rebekah said, “It would be good to read those theses.” I said, “I have them in the Appendix of my New Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. And so, after the movie, we read the first 50 theses. Since they were written while Luther was still a Catholic priest, they show that at this time he still believed in Purgatory and in a rightful use of indulgences and confession to the priests. But it also shows that at this time he was beginning to see the sales of indulgences as a false gospel; and as encouraging false repentance. We found that several of these first 50 theses are very relevant to our modern day church context.
Further, I DREAMED last night that I was in the times of Luther! I saw that Luther had posted his 95 Theses on a big scroll-like paper over there on a medieval looking church castle door. I wanted to do that too. I saw the 95 Theses in my DREAM! Then I went to my pastor and asked him if I could do the same thing, because I had a few theses of my own. He said, “No, don’t do that.” I said, “Why! Because it would be too controversial?” Then the dream ended.
Selections from Martin Luther’s 95 Theses
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying, “Repent ye,” etc., intended that THE WHOLE LIFE OF BELIEVERS SHOULD BE PENITENCE.
3. It does not, however, refer solely to inward penitence; nay such inward penitence is naught, unless IT OUTWARDLY PRODUCES VARIOUS MORTIFICATIONS OF THE FLESH.
4. The penalty thus continues as long as THE HATRED OF SELF–that is, TRUE INWARD PENITENCE–continues: namely, till our entrance into the kingdom of Heaven.
28. IT IS CERTAIN THAT, WHEN THE MONEY RATTLES IN THE CHEST, AVARICE AND GAIN MAY BE INCREASED, BUT THE SUFFRAGE OF THE CHURCH DEPENDS ON THE WILL OF GOD ALONE.
32. Those who believe that, through letters of pardon, they are made sure of their own salvation, will be ETERNALLY DAMNED along with their teachers.
35. They preach no Christian doctrine, who teach that contrition is not necessary for those who buy souls out of Purgatory or buy confessional licenses.
Note: In the buying and selling of indulgences, salvation from Purgatory and Hell was promised falsely to the people–that they didn’t even have to have a repentant heart towards God for their sins. So, the “indulgence gospel” was a no-repentance gospel…much like the cheap grace and antinomian non-judgmental “love” gospel being preached by many pastors today.
36. EVERY CHRISTIAN WHO FEELS TRUE COMPUNCTION HAS OF RIGHT FULL FORGIVENESS OF PAIN AND GUILT, even without letters of pardon.
40. TRUE CONTRITION SEEKS AND LOVES PUNISHMENT; WHILE THE AMPLENESS OF PARDONS RELAXES IT, AND CAUSES MEN TO HATE IT, OR AT LEAST GIVES OCCASION FOR THEM TO DO SO.
Note: Martin Luther preached that true repentance from sin in the heart seeks and loves God’s punishment for sin in this life–that is, being disciplined by God for our sins (as in Hebrews 12:4-13). (Better to be disciplined by God temporarily in this life, with a repentant heart, than to be impenitent and eternally damned by God to Hell!) But on the contrary, WHEN NOTHING BUT GOD’S FORGIVENESS AND GRACE IS PREACHED–whether through the indulgence gospel of Luther’s time, or through the cheap grace/seeker-sensitive gospel of today which has no Hell or repentance in it–“it causes men to HATE” GOD’S DISCIPLINE FOR SIN. And creates a carnal, unspiritual, and morally lax American church culture!
45. Christians should be taught that he who sees any one in need, and passing him by, gives money for pardons, is not purchasing for himself the indulgences of the Pope, but the ANGER OF GOD.
46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have superfluous wealth, THEY ARE BOUND TO KEEP WHAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE USE OF THEIR OWN HOUSEHOLDS, AND BY NO MEANS TO LAVISH IT ON PARDONS.
Note: Luther would bear witness against all pastors who guilt the poor of their churches, into giving more to their churches, even when they are struggling to pay their bills, and need to keep the money they have for supporting their families.
50. Christians should be taught that, if the Pope were acquainted with the exactions of the preachers of pardons, he would prefer that the Basilica of St. Peter should be BURNT TO ASHES, THAN THAT IT SHOULD BE BUILT UP WITH THE SKIN, FLESH AND BONES OF HIS SHEEP.
Note: What a parallel to Pentecostal pastors and prosperity preachers:–but also to pastors of all denominations, who would use any method in preaching to move people to give more money to the church, whether through fundraisers, or sermons, or anything. The rule of God’s Word on tithing and giving is clear: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Oh, and not even THIS BIBLE VERSE should be twisted by a pastor in a sermon to stimulate thoughts about giving. The pastor should just shut his mouth about giving totally; and TRUST GOD TO PROVIDE FOR HIS CHURCH!