Martin Luther was a man who was all in. That is to say that when he was committed to something, whether it was becoming a monk or striving to make himself acceptable to God by good works, he gave his all. Therefore, it should not be surprising that when young Martin was converted by the pure, biblical gospel of grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, he became a man obsessed with biblical truth like never before.
God brought Luther to the realization that God’s saving grace was mediated to the believing sinner by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The medieval Roman Catholic Church’s answer was that grace came only through the church’s sacraments which included the sale of indulgences.
In his continuing quest for a greater understanding of God’s Word, and the communication of such as a professor of theology and a lecturer, it was only a matter of time before Luther’s passion for the biblical gospel, and the traditions of the Catholic Church, would clash. This growing tension between the two came to a head during the summer of 1517.
The Catholic Church was dominated by religious relics, centuries of traditions and unbiblical superstitions in 1517. It remains so today, five hundred years later.
In 1513, Leo X became pope following the death of his predecessor Julius II. Leo wanted to make Rome the artistic and creative center of the Western world. In hiring such artists as Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and others, Leo consequently plunged the church into even deeper debt than what he inherited from Pope Julius.
Pope Leo needed money specifically to pay for the new St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Albert, archbishop of Magdeburg, wanted to also become bishop of Mainz. However, since holding two or more bishoprics was unlawful according to the church’s laws, Albert needed a papal dispensation or exemption, from the pope. Pope Leo was willing to grant such an exemption for a price.
Therefore, Albert took out a loan and agreed to give half the money to Pope Leo. This gave the papacy much needed cash flow. In return, Pope Leo granted that indulgences could be sold in Albert’s territories, whereupon Leo and Albert would split the proceeds. Therefore, Pope Leo would continue to receive the money he needed to pay for St. Peter’s, while Albert would have a steady income of cash to repay the bank. If you think this was rather unethical, imagine what Martin Luther thought.
This growing controversy became centered on the abuse of the church’s sale of indulgences. What exactly are indulgences? What did the buyer receive? Are indulgences still sold by the Catholic Church today? More to come.
I Peter 1:17-19 says, “17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
The purchase price of our salvation is not by our silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!