Don’t Indulge Me

An indulgence from 1521

Daily Reform, Day 187

Galatians 2:21 & 2 Corinthians 4:1-4

From the Reformer

To reject the grace of God is a common sin, of which everybody is guilty who sees any righteousness in himself or in his deeds. And the Pope is the sole author of this iniquity. Not content to spoil the Gospel of Christ, he has filled the world with his cursed traditions, e.g., his bulls and indulgences.

—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Pulling It Together

The indulgences to which Luther refers were certificates issued under the authority of the Pope (initially the indulgence of Pope Leo X that was used to build the basilica of St. Peter in Rome). It was perceived that these indulgences offered a release from purgatory. This perception was advertised by Johann Tetzel, an indulgence hawker in Luther’s locale, with the jingle, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

Both teachings, indulgence and purgatory, are false—and for the same reason. They come with a price but not the price of the cross. An indulgence cost money instead of the shed blood of Christ. An indulgence for the relief of temporal punishment is counterfeit, for only the cross offers true relief—and it is not partial but instead, complete. As for purgatory, the same true doctrine applies. One is not made ready for heaven in a place called Purgatory. One is purified for glory in the cross of Christ. Jesus paid the price for your righteousness and offers his forgiveness and righteousness to you freely. Believing that you must add anything to his grace is tantamount to the rejection of the same.

© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reform: Devotions with the Reformers

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