Since we just introduced the Ninety-Five Theses, we’re going to keep talking about them. We had previously covered the “top five” of the Ninety-Five Theses, and here we’ll cover another “top five.”
The first one is thesis No. 4. Here, Luther writes, “The penalty of sin therefore continues so long as hatred of self or true inward repentance continues, and it continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.” After he wrote the Ninety-Five Theses, Luther wrote another document where he elaborates and expands upon each one of the theses. And in his explanations, he clarifies what he means here regarding hatred of self: “True sorrow must spring from the goodness and mercies of God, especially from the wounds of Christ, so that man comes first of all to a sense of his own ingratitude in view of divine goodness, and thereupon to hatred of himself and love of the kindness of God. Then tears will flow and he will hate himself from the very depths of his heart, yet without despair.” Luther wanted to emphasize how crucial it is that we recognize our own sinfulness and how odious the stench of our sin is to a holy God.
The next two we will handle together: theses Nos. 27 and 28. Luther writes in No. 27, “They preach man-made doctrines who say that so soon as the coin jingles into the money box the soul flies out of purgatory,” and in No. 28, “It is certain that when the coin jingles into the money box, greed and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the church is in the power of God alone.” Luther says you can’t buy your way out of sin and you can’t buy your way into heaven. All you can buy your way into, Luther says, is greed and avarice. The sale of indulgences that led to the printing of the Ninety-Five Theses brought only further condemnation rather than redemption.
The fourth of our top five theses is No. 53. Here Luther says, “They are enemies of Christ and the pope who bid the Word of God to be silent in some churches in order that pardons may be preached in others.” To understand what Luther means here, we need to understand something about Luther’s circumstances. In the region of Electoral Saxony, where Wittenberg was located, these indulgences could not be sold. But, that did not stop his parishioners from going across the river and buying them. When they came back, their ears were closed to the Word of God. Luther couldn’t preach to them; he couldn’t counsel them as their pastor. Luther as pastor had his conscience bound because of this indulgence sale.
The last of our top five is No. 93. As Luther is winding down these Ninety-Five Theses, he writes, “Blessed be all the prophets who say to the people of Christ, ‘cross, cross,’ and there is no cross.” What does Luther mean by this? We say “cross, cross” and there is no cross for us, meaning there is nothing we can do, because Christ did it all for us on the cross.