There’s No Shortcut to Heaven: Buying Full Indulgences Won’t Help

Martin Luther worried that buying full indulgences served to hinder salvation

What most raised the ire of the Church against Martin Luther and his ninety-five theses, however, was not his claim of salvation through Jesus alone or the pope having no power over purgatory, but his bold statement that indulgences served to hinder salvation.Follow Jesus as his disciple.

Martin realized indulgences instilled a false sense of spiritual security in those who bought them. It was as if they had purchased a pass to enter heaven; they were good to go. Then they could live their life as they wanted, without regard for what God wanted. Instead, the people’s complete trust in papal indulgences to secure their salvation removed the requirement of repentance and damned them for eternity.

With their certificate of indulgence in hand, a full indulgence, the people no longer felt a need to repent, Mark 1:15, or to work out their salvation by doing good and helping the poor, Philippians 2:12.

Jesus, however, commends those who clothe the naked and care for the sick, Matthew 25:34-40. Yet all the attention given to buying indulgences removed the focus from those in need. Jesus didn’t say, “Sell your cloak and buy an indulgence.” (He said to “sell your cloak and buy a sword,” Luke 22:36.)

Martin noted that when people paid for their indulgences, they in effect diverted money from the poor and even the needs of their own family. Instead, they redirected it to the Church. Full indulgences had the direct impact of producing less charity for those who needed it most. Instead it provided more money to those in power who already had too much. The Church wanted the people’s money. They had already downplayed helping the poor so they could receive more. The sale of indulgences advanced their unethical quest to get more of their followers’ cash.

Full indulgences were also dangerous because they encouraged complacency.

God’s work in the lives of his creation unfolds in a strange way. Only when a person feels completely lost can the light of God provide the needed illumination. Yet the crutch of indulgences kept people from ever feeling utterly lost and in need of God. True peace comes from faith in Jesus, not by receiving absolution through the purchase of an indulgence.

As a response to placing faith in Jesus comes the need to carry our cross to follow him as his disciple, Luke 14:27. We die to self to live for God. We deny our wishes and become crucified with Jesus, just like Paul, Galatians 2:20. The cross of Jesus, not an indulgence from a pope, provides the way to cover our wrongs. In response to placing faith in Jesus, we need to carry our cross to follow him as his disciple. Click To Tweet

The German people had long lived under the financial tyranny of the Church. They sought relief. Martin’s theses demanded financial liberation and resonated with them. They understood it. It became their manifesto against the Church’s corrupt money grab.

What most of the German people didn’t grasp, however, was Martin’s call to be crucified with Jesus. The people rallied around a vision of financial release from the Church’s practices, thanks to some of Martin’s theses. Read about full indulgences in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

As a result, the other theses accompanied them. This pushed the group of ninety-five theses forward, even if the people didn’t understand them all.

Though Martin understood his theses, he had no idea of the problems they would cause.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

What If God Sent a Pillar of Fire to Guide You?

For Forty Years the Israelites Had a Pillar of Cloud and a Pillar of Fire to Show Them Where to Go

What If God Sent a Pillar of Fire to Guide You?After spending four-hundred years in Egypt, the repressed children of God finally get a chance to leave. This comes under the leadership of Moses. We know of Moses’s meetings with Pharaoh to negotiate the Israelites’ release, of ten plagues, and the people’s escape through the Dead Sea—as if walking on dry land. Their Egyptian captors, in hot pursuit, don’t fare so well.

Now God’s people are free!

What should they do? Where should they go? They know their destination resides in the Promised Land, the area Jacob left four centuries before when he sought food in Egypt. But instead of heading there on their own, they seek God’s direction.

Pillar of Fire

God sends them a pillar of smoke to guide them by day and a pillar of fire to guide them by night. When the pillars move, the people follow. When the pillars stay put, so do they. They do this for forty years.

I must give them credit. They were content to follow God’s direction for four decades, when they could have reached their destination, the Promised Land, in less than a week. For all the times his people messed up when they were in the desert, I admire them for being patient and willing to follow God’s leading, even though it didn’t make sense and was taking way too long. Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go? Click To Tweet

Wouldn’t it be great if God showed us where to go today? If only he would give us a cloud to follow during the day and a fire to blaze our path at night. Then it would be easy to follow him, right?

Yet, God does lead us today. In the Bible he promises to give us his Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit fire (Luke 3:16 and Matthew 3:11). And when the Holy Spirit arrives, what is the visual sign? Fire. Yep, tongues of fire (Acts 2:3).

Yes, God still leads us today. He gives his Holy Spirit fire to blaze our path. All we need to do is listen—and obey.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 13-15, and today’s post is on Exodus 13:21-22.]

How Many High Priests Are Named in the Bible?

The Bible talks about priests, chief priests, and high priest

What’s the difference between priest, chief priests, and high priest?

How Many High Priests Are Named in the Bible?

From Mark 14:53 we see there are several chief priests but only one high priest. This is also confirmed in Matthew 26:3. With this as our basis, let’s explore each of these three roles: priests, chief priests, and high priest.

Priest

Though many nations in the Bible have priests, for the Hebrew people, a priest is specifically a male descendent of Aaron from the tribe of Levi. This means there are a lot of priests. Using the NIV is a reference, the word priest occurs 864 times in the Bible.

(Sorry ladies. I don’t like it that only some guys can be priests in the Old Testament, but I’m just reporting how it was. Jesus changed all that, but that’s another discussion for another time.)

Chief Priests

In the Bible the phrase chief priests seems to imply a special selection of priests, namely the leading ones. Chief priests (plural) occurs sixty-six times. However, chief priest (singular) occurs seventy-five times. While this may seem contradictory, it could be that the chief priest (singular) is a key leader who rises above the other chief priests, who are above the other priests.

High Priest

High priest (always singular, except for two times) is mentioned seventy-eight times in the Bible. We see reoccurring mentions in the Gospels: Matthew (seven times), Mark (eight), Luke (three), and John (ten). High priest also occurs in Acts (eleven times). However, the book leading the way with mentions of high priest is Hebrews (seventeen).

The fact that high priest is singular lets us know there is only one high priest at a given time. If the chief priests are over the priests, then the high priest is likewise over the chief priests. In the Bible there is only one high priest at a time. How many do you know? Click To Tweet

The Bible mentions many men who serve as the high priest. How many do you know? Here are the names of high priests in the Bible:

In addition, there are several men who carry the title of chief priest:

The Ultimate High Priest

However, there is one more priest. He is the priest of all priests. What’s his name? His name is Jesus. The writer of the book of Hebrews talks at great length about Jesus being our high priest (Hebrews 2:17, 3:1, 4:14, 5:5, 6:20, 8:1). One way Jesus fulfills the Old Testament is by being our high priest. Ponder the implications.

The Old Testament talks about priests to prepare us to embrace the ultimate priest, the highest of priests, Jesus. Jesus who became our once-for-all sacrifice to make us right with God and restore us back into relationship with him.

Thank you, Jesus.

Martin Luther Supported the Sacrament of Penance

But Luther believed the Pope had no power over purgatory

Martin Luther’s second group of ninety-five theses addressed the pope’s authority over purgatory, or to be more correct, the pope’s lack of authority. Martin asserted that the pope had no power when it came to remitting sins and their penalty in purgatory. Though some accounts claim Luther found no biblical support for purgatory itself, as well as the Sacrament of Penance, his ninety-five theses don’t support this position.Martin Luther Supported the Sacrament of Penance

He agreed that the Sacrament of Penance allows for forgiveness of sins to those who are truly sorry for their actions. He didn’t criticize penance. The difference between the Sacrament of Penance and the pope’s greatly expanded extension of the concept may not be immediately apparent, but the distinction is significant.

The essential aspects of penance reside in admitting mistakes and being remorseful for them. After meeting these conditions, the priest offers forgiveness for the confessed sins.

What the pope had approved, however, was far different. He removed the elements of confession and repentance. Then he replaced them with a monetary payment. Next, the scope of forgiveness expanded to cover all sins, not specific ones. And last, instead of addressing forgiveness in this life, the pope authorized a future forgiveness in death.

Martin made his view clear: The pope had overreached. The papal indulgences didn’t, and couldn’t, remove guilt. These full indulgences fell short of being able to reconcile people with God, which comes solely from sincere repentance. The extent of the pope’s actual authority was limited to what he imposed, not what God established.

The pope didn’t have a stockpile of eternal credits. He couldn’t subjectively transfer salvation to others. Even if one person could go beyond what God requires, they couldn’t save their excess to use later for someone else, as some people believed. Only Jesus can do that. And he did. He freely offered forgiveness to all who believe, without any involvement of the pope. Martin Luther concluded that the pope had no real authority over purgatory. Click To Tweet

From this Martin concluded that the pope had no real authority over purgatory. Martin argued that if the pope truly did have power to release one person from purgatory that he should release all people. That out of love he could free everyone. This would effectively abolish purgatory. And if the pope intentionally left people in purgatory merely to raise money, his actions accounted for nothing more than greed.

Martin did, however, identify one thing the pope could do in relation to purgatory. He could pray for the early release of the people there, an action any member of the clergy could exercise.Sacrament of Penance in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

Prior to Martin, others had proclaimed salvation only through Jesus and questioned the pope’s authority over purgatory. They did this without being charged with heresy. Had Martin restricted the focus to these points, he might have escaped the firestorm of attacks that followed. But he took one more step.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

When God Tells Us to Do Something, Does He Mean Forever?

God instructs Jacob to go to Egypt, but he doesn’t intend for him to stay

Just like Cain and Abel, along with Ishmael and Isaac, Joseph and his brothers have problems, too. There are two reasons why Joseph’s brothers don’t like him. First, he’s Dad’s favorite. Second, he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

As a result, Joseph’s brothers sell him off as a slave, and he gets hauled off to Egypt. Yet, God orchestrates their reunion: Joseph has risen to a position of power in Egypt. He has stockpiled food for the future. Meanwhile, his family back home is starving. His brothers go to Egypt to buy food, and eventually Joseph reveals himself to them. He invites them to Egypt, where they have plenty to eat and a great place to live.When God Tells Us to Do Something, Does He Mean Forever?

As Jacob wrestles over what to do, to go or to stay, God tells him not to be afraid and to go to Egypt. God also promises to bring Jacob back home.

Jacob gathers his family and they had out. When they arrive in Egypt, the family is reunited. Jacob again sees Joseph, his beloved son who he thought was dead.

Four Hundred Years Later

Jacob directs his family to the land of Goshen, a great place for them to live and raise their flocks. They go there and settle down. Life is good. They stay four-hundred years. I don’t think this is what God had in mind when he sent them to Egypt. I think this was a short-term command, to go to Egypt for as long as the famine lasted and then return home. Why else would he have promised Jacob he would bring him home again?

Instead, Jacob and his descendants stay. They don’t return home. Their numbers grow, and they’re eventually enslaved. Life’s not so good for them anymore.

Of course, God knew this would happen. Though it may not have been his intent for them to spend four centuries in Egypt, he uses this to make them into a great nation. Sometimes when God tells us to do something, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Click To Tweet

Sometimes when God tells us to do something, like go to Egypt, it’s a short-term command, not a permanent instruction. Thankfully, even if we misunderstand what God tells us to do, he can still turn our situation around and make events work out for our own good.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 46-48, and today’s post is on Genesis 46:3-4.]

The Prayer Tower: Thoughts about Seeking God in High Places

A Personal Essay About Encountering God, Prayer, and Hiding in a Prayer Tower

The Prayer Tower: Thoughts about Seeking God in High PlacesThe afternoon assignment at a writers retreat is to take a walk and describe our observations. Leaving the rest of the group in search of some needed solitude, I come upon a sign that simply says, “Prayer Tower.” I can’t ignore the opportunity. Suddenly, my journey has added purpose.

I take a sharp left and begin my assent. A few steps, a landing, and then more stairs. Turn right, walk a bit, and climb some more, I wind my way up the hill. There’s another landing and then a U-turn, followed by more walking and more stairs: fifty steps and counting; soon seventy-five gives way to one hundred.

What will I find? Am I climbing a stairway to heaven? One hundred and sixteen steps later, I reach my destination: a platform, presumably for prayer. A prayer tower. Panting, I pause to catch my breath.

The vista is grand, with the panorama of Lake Michigan, my favorite of the Great Lakes. I look west, with water as far as I can see; the far shore hides behind the horizon’s dip. A few ships dot the distance before me. An occasional car announces its presence behind me. All around are tree-covered sand dunes, sprinkled with homes and a string of condominiums.

With winter giving way to spring, naked tree branches creak to a brisk breeze. The biting wind tightens the once warm skin of my face. Below me friends walk along the beach, next to the frigid waters with wind-swept waves. Others, having grown tired or cold, are already retreating, seeking to recapture the warmth of inside.

The sight and sounds of birds, varieties mostly unknown to me, abound, too many to count. Gulls prevail with their plaintive caw, while a diligent woodpecker tap-tap-taps, either searching for food, forming a home, or seeking to attract a mate. Gray skies, decorated with blustery clouds, complete the picture.

God’s nature surrounds me. His wind pushes against me. Only with commitment to my task do I stand firm against winter’s final onslaught. I stand in awe. I try to pray, but words allude me. Why do I need to climb a prayer tower to pray, anyway?

In the Bible Moses ascends Mount Sinai and God’s glory descends. There he encounters God’s power (Exodus 24:15-18).

Jacob dreams of a stairway connecting earth with heaven. Angels traverse it; God stands at the top. Jacob proclaims this awesome place as God’s house and the gate into heaven (Genesis 28:12-17).

Although encouraging, these verses, do not confirm that I need elevation to better connect with the Almighty.

In a less reassuring instance, Moses—denied entry into the Promised Land because of one act of disobedience—is told to climb mount Nebo. From there he sees in the distance what God is withholding from him. Then he dies (Deuteronomy 32:48-52 and Deuteronomy 34:1-6). His mountain vantage doesn’t symbolize connection with God as much as punishment for sin and a lost reward.

Other biblical accounts point to elevation as a place of temptation.

From Leviticus to Amos, the “high places” (mentioned 59 times in the NIV) are usually a site for idol worship and heathen practices, providing an ongoing snare to God’s people, repeatedly distracting them from him. Some kings remove the high places or at least try to diminish their use, only to have a future generation restore them.

The tower of Babel, intended as a monument that reaches up to the heavens isn’t an attempt to connect with God as much as an arrogant tribute to aggrandizement. God quickly ends their brash scheme (Genesis 11:3-9). I can pray anytime, anywhere, and God hears me just fine. Click To Tweet

Balaam has his issues with altitude, as well. Although God prevents him from cursing Israel when atop various mountain vistas and thereby keeping him from earning the rich rewards he desires (Numbers 22-24), things don’t go well for Balaam when a sword later ends his life, exacting God’s final punishment (Numbers 31:8). Jude labels this profit motive as the error of Balaam (Jude 1:11).

Jesus likewise encounters temptation in high places, with Satan twice attempting to use an elevated vantage to derail Jesus from his mission. Fortunately for us, Jesus prevails, and the enemy retreats (Luke 4:1-13).

Based on my quick review of what the Bible records about elevated places, it seems a prayer tower may not be the ideal place to connect with God. Yet here it is, and I stand atop it, seeking to do just that.

From my hilltop perspective, I don’t just see nature and friends. I also spot remnants of other activities. Bottles, mostly broken, suggest this place of prayer gives way to revelry in the nighttime hours. Other trash is more disparaging. I see that SB climbed a tree to carve his “forever” love to ND. I try to not consider the ramifications any further. Suddenly I don’t feel quite so close to God. This prayer tower, this high place is as much hideout as haven.

Although I encounter God in the prayer tower, I pray little. But that’s okay. I can pray anytime, anywhere, and God hears me just fine. After all, he’s always with me (Psalm 73:23).

You Can’t Buy Salvation: Heaven Is Not For Sale

Some of Martin Luther’s 95 theses counter the practice of buying salvation

Martin objected to the abuse of indulgences; you can’t buy salvation. Though he mentioned the Church and the pope in some of his theses, he focused on the unbiblical excess of this one practice.You Can't Buy Salvation: Heaven Is Not For Sale

Here’s the background:

In a creative, though misguided, fundraising effort, some church leaders began selling full indulgences. Through the purchase of indulgences, people could essentially purchase their salvation. They could also secure the eternal deliverance of others, both dead and alive. They could buy their way into heaven.

The money raised was supposed to go to Rome to build the new Saint Peter’s Basilica (Church), replacing the old Saint Peter’s. It had stood over a millennium and reportedly served as the burial site for Jesus’s disciple Peter, also recognized as the first pope.

Historians debate how much of the money collected actually made it back to Rome to help erect this shrine, but the promise of payment secured the permission to sell indulgences. The pope granted this authority to peddle eternal pardons to archbishop Albert of Brandenburg. Albert in turn tapped John Tetzel, among others, to carry this out. Tetzel pursued his assignment with much zeal. In the process, he earned Martin’s ire.

In the years leading up to this approval to market indulgences, Church decisions began to depart from a biblical understanding of salvation. This became a slippery slope that made their latest ruling feasible. The Church headship at that time had become corrupt and greedy. Ambitious religious leaders no longer saw the papacy as a way to serve God and lead his people. Instead they viewed it as a means to live a life of luxury and wield unrestrained power.

But Martin objected to the Church selling what Jesus died to give away with no strings attached. You can’t buy salvation.

Martin’s main concern was that a full indulgence removed the need to repent to become right with God. Instead of professing remorse for sins, a person could pay a fee to secure their eternal reward. The price was often disproportionate to their economic condition.

Beyond that, people could purchase the release into heaven for loved ones who had already died. They could also secure a future liberation for those still living. For these souls, their salvation happened without any action on their part. It wasn’t an act of personal repentance or their decision to purchase forgiveness.

Martin advocated that we become living temples through our bodies instead of constructing church buildings. He placed Saint Peter’s as the least important of all Church structures. Martin may have considered Saint Peter’s Church last as a matter of hyperbole. However, as the costliest of Church facilities, he saw it as the biggest distraction to people from becoming living temples.

He based this view on what he read in the Bible. Paul wrote that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we’re built on the foundation formed by the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as our chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Ironically, Peter—for whom the building was named—wrote that we are like living stones, which are being built into God’s spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).

Martin also noted that the wealthy pope already had enough money to finance the new Saint Peter’s Basilica. He had no reason—other than greed—to approve a fundraising campaign. Yet by him granting authority to Albert to sell indulgences, even more money could pour into the Church’s treasury. This essentially grew the pope’s personal wealth.

Instead of building this grand shrine, Martin advocated giving the money to the poor. These were the very people Tetzel and others fleeced when they hawked indulgences. Besides, few of Martin’s fellow Germans would ever make a pilgrimage to Rome. They would never see the building they helped finance with their purchases of indulgences. Martin Luther based his views on what he read in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Martin provided a voice for their simmering angst.

You can't buy salvation. Read 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanThis message resonated with the German people. They had suffered under the corruption of Church leadership and felt the Church in Rome overlooked their plight in Germany.

They also rankled under Martin’s revelation that they had wasted money to purchase indulgences. He said the certificates they received held no value, either in this world or the next.

But Martin had more to say…to be continued.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Ishmael and Isaac: Two Half-Brothers Who Don’t Get Along

There are many ways to solve family problems, but kicking out your son isn’t one of them.

Ishmael and Isaac: Two Half-Brothers Who Don’t Get AlongLast week we looked at the story of Cain and Abel. We examined the first case of sibling rivalry. Things escalated out of control with one brother ending up dead and the other sentenced to wander, forever carrying the stigma of the world’s first murderer.

As we march through the book of Genesis, many centuries pass. Now we consider father Abraham and his two sons Ishmael and Isaac. Born of different mothers, these two half-brothers don’t get along either. As a solution, Ishmael and his mom are sent away. Problem solved. Sort of.

Separating the sparring brothers doesn’t resolve their differences, it merely uses distance to keep them from fighting. This isn’t a solution to fix a problem but merely a tactic to ignore it. This is one more instance when the Bible instructs us in parenting by showing us what not to do. Beyond this it’s also a case study that teaches us what to avoid when pursuing problem resolution.

As is the case when families split, Ishmael and his mom head off to start a new life. Even though the Bible doesn’t label it as a divorce, that’s what it is. Being a single mom is never easy, but in ancient culture, with its male-dominated society, it would be nearly impossible. But that’s the future for Ishmael and his mom. As is the case when families split, Ishmael and his mom head off to start a new life. Click To Tweet

Isaac, however, gets to stay. He remains with his mom and his dad. Life is good for him. Abraham discards his first son to focus on his second son. Family 2.0.

The Future of Ishmael and Isaac

Though the Bible account focuses on Isaac, we do hear of Ishmael one more time. About seventy-five years later, Abraham dies. Ishmael returns. He and Isaac bury their father. Ishmael and Isaac both pay their respects. They both mourn their father’s passing.

Does this mean Ishmael and Isaac reconciled? Possibly. I hope so. But I’m not sure. No one knows. But unlike Cain and Abel, one brother did not kill the other. Instead, they eventually figure out how to come together.

This is something to think about.

Though using distance to separate us from our problems may seem like the best solution, it’s merely a way out. Instead we must seek to restore damaged relationships. It may take time, a long time, but it’s worth the effort.

[Read through the Old Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 25-27, and today’s post is on Genesis 25:9.]

What Does the Bible Mean When It Says, “All Scripture?”

All scripture can teach us about God and instruct us in his ways

What Does the Bible Mean When It Says, “All Scripture?”One verse I heard often at a particular church I attended was 2 Timothy 3:16. It says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” (KJV). This verse was cited to remind us of the holiness and practical applicability of the Bible to inform our daily lives. According to this preacher, “all scripture” referred to the KJV, the only version he accepted.

However, let’s consider the phrase all scripture. When Paul wrote these words to Timothy, the New Testament didn’t exist. So Paul couldn’t have been referring to that text. Yes, there were various portions of what later became the New Testament being circulated among the followers of Jesus, but they also shared other texts that didn’t make it into today’s Bible. Therefore, Paul couldn’t have meant for all scripture to encompass the New Testament.

From his perspective, when he said, “all scripture,” he envisioned the texts that were available to the Jewish people. That would certainly include the Old Testament) and may have included other supporting religious documents).

The version of the Bible in use in Paul’s time was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint included the thirty-nine books we have in our Old Testament, but it also included more.

The Septuagint used during the lifetime of Jesus and Paul, also included the books we now call the Apocrypha. So these books of the Apocrypha would fall under Paul’s umbrella term of all scripture. (And for my preacher friend who insisted on reading the Bible in the KJV, I must point out that the original version of the KJV included the Apocrypha.)

That’s something to think about.

If the Apocrypha is part of what Paul meant when he said, “all scripture,” then the Apocrypha is also “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” When Paul writes that all scripture is profitable, I take him seriously. Click To Tweet

The books of the Apocrypha included in the Septuagint are:

See why Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.

When Paul writes that all scripture is profitable, I take him seriously. And I encourage you to as well.

Martin Luther Grew Concerned over the Abuse of Indulgences

Luther’s 95 theses detail his objection to the sale of indulgences

As we consider Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses, it’s important to note that his initial objection centered on the abuse of indulgences, not indulgences themselves. He didn’t object to the concept, but merely how it had morphed into something he found unsupported by scripture.Martin Luther Grew Concerned over the Abuse of Indulgences

It’s also an overstatement to suggest he started out opposing many of the church’s practices as unbiblical and in need of reform. Martin sought not to provoke a revolution against the Church, but to spark a civilized, theological debate within its leadership. He wanted to address what he saw as an overreach of one specific church doctrine.

He preached publicly on this to the laity and sought to discuss his concerns privately with Church leaders. The leaders weren’t interested.

Frustrated, Martin drafted a list of ninety-five points of contention. Some say he wrote on impulse and out of anger. Others insist his concise words resulted from a carefully informed study. His points of dispute addressed purgatory, a place between heaven and hell; indulgences, a payment of money to escape purgatory; and the pope’s unbiblical role in this.

Writing in Latin, to keep the uneducated masses from overreacting, Martin intended his ninety-five theses to be a document for the learned that would spark debate among Church leadership and bring about needed reform within the Church.

According to legend, and consistent with his fiery personality, here’s what allegedly happened: On October 31, 1517, on the eve of the Feast of All Saints day, he took a hammer and defiantly nailed his list of grievances to the wooden door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His bold act of rebellion symbolized revolution.

This myth, while compelling, is unlikely. It stands in contrast to his calling to serve the Church and his character as an academic, professor, and preacher.

An alternative understanding shows Martin respectfully posting his theses on the church doors, which served as a bulletin board for the local university housed there. This wasn’t a show of brazen rebellion, but the accepted practice of the day: attaching a notice, written in Latin, on the church’s door of the items he wanted to debate. Since only learned scholars could read Latin, the masses would have no idea of the issues he raised. This would allow the Church to consider this issue in isolation.Martin Luther desired to offer correction to his beloved Church and change her from within. Click To Tweet

Or so was Martin’s intent. Regardless of which explanation we follow, his action brought attention to his words, but not in the way he hoped.Abuse of indulgences in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

His attitude wasn’t rebellion, but respect. He desired to offer correction to his beloved Church and change her from within. His short preamble to his list of ninety-five items confirms this. In it, he conveyed his humility and called for a discussion to discern truth.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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