81) This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
Luther tries to show the pope that indulgences actually make him look bad and will bring mistaken impressions from the people.
82) Such as: “Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
Luther gives his own examples of shrewd questions that might be asked and seems to be saying, “How am I supposed to answer these question, your eminence?”
83) Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?’’
Funerals and anniversary masses on the date of the death of loved ones are supposed to bring forgiveness of penalty from purgatory, but the dead who are already redeemed by Christ need no “help.”
84) Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake?’’
The pope is even helping out enemies of God who try to get their friends out purgatory. Why not just honor the dead man’s legacy and declare him free because of love?
85) Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?’’
Certain sections of the laws that the Roman Catholic Church had used for forgiving the penalties of those in purgatory had not been used for a long time, so why all of a sudden use them again?
86) Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?’’
Crassus is Marcus Licinius Crassus, Roman general and politician, said to be the richest man in Roman history. This is an especially shrewd question since the pope had lost so much money by taking out loans and gambling debt, not be helping those in need.
87) Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?’’
Not everyone needs release from purgatory. Some of those who people are buying indulgences for are already in heaven.
88) Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?’’
The papal indulgence is a one time thing. Why not pray for the souls of people all the time, and if your prayers are considered so effective, this would release everyone from purgatory, anyway.
89) “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?’’
According to Luther, the pope is saying former indulgences and other acts of penance are no longer valid for this period of time.
90) To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
This is the theme Luther will keep coming back to. In 1302, Pope Boniface VIII sent out a papal decree, Unam Sanctam, which basically says the pope has absolute authority in all matters of faith and life because he said so. Luther is beginning to question this from a biblical and logical perspective. This puts the Church and pope in a bad light, both from their enemies and from Christians.
91) If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
Luther, once again, is giving the pope the benefit of the doubt. Obviously the pope doesn’t want indulgences being sold like this.
92) Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)
Luther is blaming the indulgence preachers who are saying buying forgiveness brings peace when it does no such thing.
93) Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!
Luther is supporting those, like himself, who are teaching that the forgiveness of sin is given freely through the death of Jesus on the cross to all who receive it. It appears the cross isn’t necessary if you can buy your way out.
94) Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
Christ alone is the supreme authority and he has already freed us from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
95) And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).
We are in a battle with the forces of evil, but Jesus is already victorious and so, while in this life we have suffering and sorrow, we will someday receive a hero’s welcome in heaven!
Well, as has been said, “That’s all she wrote.”
These Ninety-Five Theses take on a life of their own and Luther, the obscure, solitary monk, will spend the rest of his life expanding his teaching and leadership, which will in turn, be used to transform the Church and the world.