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He argued that indulgences led Christians to avoid true repentance and sorrow for sin, believing that they could forgo it by purchasing an indulgence. They also, according to Luther, discouraged Christians from giving to the poor and performing other acts of mercy, believing that indulgence certificates were more spiritually valuable. Wittenberg in accordance with University custom on 31 October or in mid-November. Woodcut illustration of a preacher preaching to listening people while other people exchange money for indulgence certificates. The papal arms are displayed on the walls on either side of a cross. Popes are empowered to grant plenary indulgences, which provide complete satisfaction for any remaining temporal punishment due to sins, and these were purchased on behalf of people believed to be in purgatory.
This led to the popular saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs”. Political rulers had an interest in controlling indulgences because local economies suffered when the money for indulgences left a given territory. It would apply to almost any sin, including adultery and theft. All other indulgence preaching was to cease for the eight years in which it was offered. Indulgence preachers were given strict instructions on how the indulgence was to be preached, and they were much more laudatory of the indulgence than those of earlier indulgences. Wittenbergers to travel to these cities and purchase them, since sales had been prohibited in Wittenberg and other Saxon cities. By venerating the large collection of relics at the church, one could receive an indulgence.
Luther became especially concerned in 1517 when his parishioners, returning from purchasing Tetzel’s indulgences, claimed that they no longer needed to repent and change their lives in order to be forgiven of sin. After hearing what Tetzel had said about indulgences in his sermons, Luther began to study the issue more carefully, and contacted experts on the subject. He preached about indulgences several times in 1517, explaining that true repentance was better than purchasing an indulgence. He taught that receiving an indulgence presupposed that the penitent had confessed and repented, otherwise it was worthless. A truly repentant sinner would also not seek an indulgence, because they loved God’s righteousness and desired the inward punishment of their sin. It is a cautious and searching examination of the subject.
The first thesis has become famous. It states, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. In the first few theses Luther develops the idea of repentance as the Christian’s inner struggle with sin rather than the external system of sacramental confession. 7 then state that the pope can only release people from the punishments he has administered himself or through the church’s system of penance, not the guilt of sin. The pope can only announce God’s forgiveness of the guilt of sin in his name. 29, Luther challenged common beliefs about purgatory. 16 discuss the idea that the punishment of purgatory can be likened to the fear and despair felt by dying people.
24 he asserts that nothing can be definitively said about the spiritual state of people in purgatory. He denies that the pope has any power over people in purgatory in theses 25 and 26. 29, he attacks the idea that as soon as payment is made, the payer’s loved one is released from purgatory. He sees it as encouraging sinful greed, and says it is impossible to be certain because only God has ultimate power in forgiving punishments in purgatory. A giant scale holds the pope with a certificate bearing the papal seal and another man on one side being outweighed on the other side by a bearded figure handing another certificate to kneeling figures.
Animal figures are receiving the pope’s certificates. 34 deal with the false certainty Luther believed the indulgence preachers offered Christians. Since no one knows whether a person is truly repentant, a letter assuring a person of his forgiveness is dangerous. In theses 35 and 36, he attacks the idea that an indulgence makes repentance unnecessary. This leads to the conclusion that the truly repentant person, who alone may benefit from the indulgence, has already received the only benefit the indulgence provides. Truly repentant Christians have already, according to Luther, been forgiven of the penalty as well as the guilt of sin. In thesis 37, he states that indulgences are not necessary for Christians to receive all the benefits provided by Christ.