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January 6, 2021 12:01 am
When Martin Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses, he was trying to stir an academic discussion about corruption in the church's sale of indulgences. Today, R.C. Sproul explains how God used Luther's document to effectively launch the Protestant Reformation.
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Martin Luther's conscience tortured him. How could a righteous God forgive him but then he read in Romans the righteousness of Christ is transferred to the believer. This was Luther's great discovery. He said when I understood that the righteousness that Paul is talking about in Romans the doors of paradise swung open and I walked through considered that was the moment of his conversion, a moment so dramatic that it would lead them to confront the powerful Roman Catholic Church. Our focus this week is on the foundational principles of Christianity.
The same principles we discovered during the Reformation. Dr. RC Sproul's message is titled the 95 theses Gordon look this morning at 1515 on market to get in the 15, 20, which was the year he was excommunicated by the papal Borg surgery Domino or his great crisis in 1525 when he was engaged to Catherine von Bora. But that's another story for another time, but I think the supreme crisis. For Luther, that shaped his entire life and really was a provocative motivation for the entire Reformation, which was what is experienced in 1515 and 15. Seven. We remember he was ordained. It referred to as a priest. 15. Danny went to Rome, but in the whole time he was there at Erford he was studying theology and biblical studies for his doctor's degree.
1510 Frederick collector Saxony started a brand-new University at Wittenberg, and he was trying to amass in its initial stages an outstanding faculty and so he got Luther on loan for a couple years of lectures from Erford he also brought in Philip Melanchthon on as part of that faculty in call Staunton Jones and a few others, but in any case, Luther lectured for two years and one back to Erford. He came back again to Wittenberg and lectured for quite a long time on the song's and one he completed that work. He then began his lectures on Romans. In 1515. I'm using the year 1515 there's all kinds of debates about that. Some people say it was early as 1512. Some say his latest 1519. Most scholars put it in between 1514 1515 for the sake of my cycle of five your crises. I'm going to go with them. 1515 date, but in any case, as he was preparing his lectures on Romans. He read an essay from St. Augustine on the letter and the spirit which was not primarily an exposition of Romans. But it was dealing with other matters, but in that particular essay. There was a brief excursus that Augustine gave in which he cited a first from the first chapter of Romans from Romans 117, Romans 116 Paul begins with his statement about not being ashamed of the gospel of Christ, and so on, and he goes on to say N/A yet that is in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. The just shall live by faith. Now Luther had commented initially that his entire career. He struggled mightily against the whole idea of the justice of God. What he feared more than anything else was the justice of God, which is what every human being should fear more than anything else that's worn my students don't ever ask God for justice. You might get it fixed. So Luther hated the idea of the justice of God.
Now he's preparing his lectures on this verse that talks about the revelation of the justice or the righteousness of God and concluded with the statement, the just shall live by faith. And while he's reading this passage out of Augustine. Augustine had written that the righteousness of God that Paul is talking about in Romans one is not that righteousness by which God himself is righteous, but rather a righteousness that God provides for people who are not righteous. Let me say that again.
Augustine was saying that when Paul writes in Romans one about the righteousness of God is not talking about the inherent righteousness of God that righteousness by which God himself is righteous, but he speaking of a different kind of righteousness, a righteousness that God bestows by his grace upon those who do not have it.
That is, here we see the beginning of Luther's development of the whole notion of the imputation of the righteousness of God or the righteousness of Christ to the believer, which is affected by faith as we will see later. Ron Paul expounds upon that greatly in the rest of his epistle to the Romans with the idea of imputation that it's not that we are inherently righteous, but rather God counts as being righteous all those who put their trust in Christ because when they put their trust in Christ, the righteousness of Christ is transfer or counted or imputed to the believer by faith and for this.
This was Luther's great discovery. He said when I understood that the righteousness that Paul is talking about in Romans the doors of paradise swung open and I walked through and he sees this as his conversion moment as his discovery of saving grace.
And after all of the agony that he had been through in all of the other ways in which he sought to gain peace with God and never accomplish that.
Suddenly he said he was reborn and he was at peace now with God just as Paul explains in Romans five so that now you can have some understanding existentially of what this meant to Luther that made him able to stand against an avalanche of criticism and hostility against him from the world and from the church and from people, even in his own University initially and so he was able to take his stand because of his experience of salvation. He was in a trade that or negotiate that with her for anything except he said that that discovery than made him reread the Psalms in a different way change the sole understanding of the Psalms, he began to see justification by faith on virtually every page of the Bible all the way through the New Testament and now these passages would jump out at him and confirm what is understanding and Augustine before him was of Romans chapter 1.
So here we can say even before there was a general controversy. The Reformation are the scenes of the Reformation were sown in the personal experience of Luther but then what happened in 1517, which we usually think of as the beginning of the Reformation was Luther's attacking the 95 theses to the castle church door at Wittenberg had its roots in a controversy with respect to the sale of indulgences and understand those take a few minutes to go back to that in 1513 there was a hole in Zoller Prince by the name of Albert who lived in the neighboring province called Brandenburg and he was 23 years old.
He had an older brother who had great ambitions for the Hohenzollern dynasty and for their household and they wanted to have greater power and influence throughout Germany and in 1513.
What happened was three area bishoprics became vacant. There is first of all, the archbishopric of Martinsburg. There was the bishopric of all Bush thought and most significantly the archbishopric greed of Mainz and whoever was the Archbishop of Mainz became virtually the Pope of Germany, a minute was the highest ecclesiastical place of authority in the whole nation. Now the idea that Albert's brother cooked up was to gain those bishoprics for Albert that he might be the Archbishop of Magdeburg, the Bishop of Kolber Stott and the Archbishop of Mainz, all at the same time and the way to achieve that was to purchase these offices from the Pope. Remember I said that the papacy at this time was at one of its most corrupt times you had Joyce the second who was a Borgia Pope, followed by Leo the 10th.
Who's the one who excommunicated Luther and he was a Mattice hope but in the meantime, the practice of simony was widespread by now simony, is that sin that is condemned in the New Testament when you recall Simon Magnus saw the miraculous works of the apostles and wanted to buy the Holy Spirit. Remember that from Peter. And Peter said you and your money perish with you that which is a polite way of saying you and your money go to hell were not doing this deal. And so simony it was so called because was Simon Magnus who tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, and so this practice of selling church offices became widespread at this time in history and of course Albert was trying to take advantage of it now, besides the biblical prohibition against simony. You also had ecclesiastical prohibitions in place in terms of canon law in Rome, number one, you are not allowed to hold more than one bishopric at the same time and Albert, one of three number two, he was too young to be consecrated as a bishop, as he was only 23 years old, but as far as the Pope was concerned, money talked and so a negotiation took place between the representatives of Albert and Albert himself with the Pope and he was able to secure all three bishoprics to archbishopric's and one regular bishopric and the total cost of this was about $250,000. Now when it came to buying these offices see got involved a little bit of negotiation with the Pope. For example, with respect to the archbishopric of Mainz.
This ongoing price was 12,000 ducats of gold and in addition to that the Pope wanted from Albert another 12,000 ducats and he said let's get our ducats all in earlier but he said no I'll offer you 7001 for each one of the seven deadly sins the Pope and wanted one for every disciple with 12 they finally compromised on 10,000 for the 10 Commandments, but in any case for this big deal to go through Albert had to borrow the money and the big bank when the time was a few ogres in Germany and so the few ogres brokered this deal between Albert and the Pope and so money was given to Albert then given to the papacy in order to get these bishoprics in and so the Pope entered into an agreement with the figures to raise the money to pay for all of these bishoprics okay now in order to do this.
This is how the indulgence program that was represented by Johan tassel started out for centuries the Roman Catholic Church had had this concept of indulgence which continue to expand in its application to get people have reduced time in purgatory or to get out of purgatory. All it wants to have a plenary indulgence cover all of their sins, now and forever more. And it was tied to the sacrament of penance, which I'll explain a little bit later to the works of satisfaction which one has to perform in other words, to be restored to saving faith and among those works of satisfaction are commonly simple disciplines like saying so money our fathers so many Hail Marys like we saw Luther on his pilgrimage to Rome go through in order to get the indulgences associated with the sacred steps there at the Lateran church will now this thing has expanded to include alms giving that the giving of alms would help a person be restored to a state of grace again on Lincoln expand on that later on, but for now, the church in order to raise money for the completion of the building of St. Peter's that Julius the second had started in the eight that ended in their running out of money in the weeds growing in the foundation now. Leo the 10th wants to finish that grand project so you authorize the distribution of indulgences for sale now. The idea was for a person to give all this and have it count towards a worker satisfaction they had to be given genuinely and from the heart. The church eschewed any idea of a crash notion of buying salvation as they were not so Moses and for sale sort of, but indulgences are if the heart is right and so and so, with an agreement among Albert the Pope and the fugue are bankers we have this special indulgence commission where tassel was commissioned from Rome to go to the provinces of Germany and to bring the papal bull that announce this new indulgence program and so tassel was a great salesman. It wasn't that scrupulous, but he was very successful and it was the sale of the indulgences was filled with pomp and pageantry weeks in advance of the papal legates coming to a particular town or village. The messenger would be sent out and say next month at such and such a day on that day the papal representative will be here and the indulgences will be available to you if you give the alms necessary for them and they even had a scale worked out of how much money and indulgence would cost for a nobleman, compared to or contrasted to a peasant and every different tradesmen have a different level, but in any case, they would send the message in advance. Then the day when it would come.
There would be this massive holy procession where the papal bull was document would be carried on either a gold embroidered cushion or a velvet cushion and it was like a circus coming to town and all the people would rush to the town square and get in line and make their payments to get indulgences for the relatives and so on. We don't know if it's truth or legend that that so use the slogan every time a guilder and the cattle brings a soul from purgatory springs and so the idea was that by the indulgence your home free.
Now this was taking place across the border from where Luther resided, but it was so popular that people were so excited about it that people from Luther's congregation went over the border took advantage of the sale of the indulgences from tassel. They would come back to Wittenberg with their document of indulgence and wave it in the face of their friends and say look, I have all my sins forgiven and Luther now as a pastor was horrified because he knew some of these people were scoundrels and completely secularized pagans who were holding these documents up of indulgences and it was because of that out of his pastoral concern that he wanted to discuss the matter with his fellow faculty members at the University of Wittenberg, have an academic discussion you would post theses to be discussed in the scholarly colloquium not for public consumption. That's why Luther wrote them in Latin. He wrote these 95 theses post them on the church door at Wittenberg and inviting the rest of the faculty to discuss indulgences of the whole system that was involved well. Some enterprising students saw them, and were amazed by them without Luther's knowledge or permission.
They took these Latin feces translated them in the German and because of the newly invented Gutenberg press, they were able to duplicate the feces and within 14 days a fortnight, two weeks the documents the theses were in every village, city and Hamlet in Germany and it was now wildfire and that's when people say that's when it all started. Karl Barth reflecting audits that Luther had no intention of making this a big public issue. There is going to discuss and simply with his his colleagues, but the metaphor that Barth used was he said that it was like a blind man who was climbing up the stairs in a bell tower and he lost his balance of the restart of the dark and grab a hold of the first thing you get hold of and it was the rope to the church bell. All of a sudden the church bells started ringing and waking everybody in town and that was the result of the feces and so not only was Germany astir but the word got back very quickly to Texel about the theses and to Albert and both Albert and tassel reported the incident of the 95 theses to Leo the 10th in Rome and he just dismissed it out of hand's drunken monk in Germany who cares or anything but the thing just kept escalating and escalating until finally Luther was brought to that Imperial diet that forms in 1521, where he was called upon to recant and he said you asked me to recant. Yasmin answered Don could do to him without horns.
I cannot recant them less unconvinced by sacred Scripture whereby evident reason I cannot recant my conscience is held captive by the word of God of act against conscience is neither right nor safe here I stand I can do no God help the rest, as we say is this is Dr. RC Sproul and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. Thank you for being with us timely web. Luther struggled to understand salvation isn't unique. We all must come to grips with the claims of the gospel. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with several Reformation Bible college students and I asked them if perhaps they could relate to Luther struggle let's listen to what Julie had to say. I think I had a basic understanding that the only thing that saved me was Christ's righteousness that it'd been so clouded by castings I picked up culturally and just demand mind. I really felt very unsettled. I was becoming more and more aware of my own sin and said I just had a lot of difficulty squaring how I could how I could be sinful and yet acceptable to God and said it to really have. It spells out that it's not my righteousness. It's Christ's righteousness counted in my favor. And that's a very firm place to be in the unit is and we appreciate Julie sharing that with us and that's why we think it's so important to return to the very foundations of our faith in our resource offer today provide you with an opportunity to do just that.
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