Reformation 2018: Salvation Is By Abounding Grace Alone

Protestant churches, i.e., those that still believe and confess the theology, piety, and practice recovered in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, celebrate Reformation Day on October 31. This is the day, in 1517, that Dr Martin Luther (1483–1546), a German biblical scholar and theologian, mailed to the Archbishop his famous Ninety Five Theses against the abuse of indulgences. According to Roman (Catholic) Canon Law, an indulgence is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment of sins.” According to Roman dogma, Christians who do not complete those temporal punishments (penance) in this life must do so after this life before going to heaven. The church, however, Rome says, has the authority and power to release (remit) someone from those punishments. As a fund-raising scheme in the 16th century, a certain monk, Johann Tetzel (1465–1519), went about Germany selling plenary (full) indulgences. For the price of a donation, Tetzel, with the authority of the papacy and Roman ecclesiastical authorities behind him, sold indulgences by pleading with Christians to rescue loved ones from the pains and tortures of purgatory. He even had a jingle: “When the coin in the coffer clinks, the soul from purgatory springs.” Modern huckster like Kenneth Hagan or Kenneth Copeland are nothing new.  Rome had been offering indulgences to the dead since the Council of Constance (1414–17). Remarkably, contrary to oft-repeated claim that the sale of indulgences ended with the Council of Trent, Rome continues to sell indulgences. Just a few years ago, Rome offered an indulgence for those who follow Pope Francis’ Twitter feed. Rome continues to claim the authority to sell indulgences. In §1471 of her Catechism she says that those who are “duly disposed,” who have already been forgiven [by a priest], gain “under certain prescribed conditions” an indulgence. Trading money for services rendered is one of those conditions as in the case of the Great Jubilee (2000) when Rome offered indulgences to those who made a pilgrimage to specified places or who “support by a significant contribution” works of a religious or social nature [emphasis added].

Luther was certainly right when he said, in thesis 28: “It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.” Read more»

R. Scott Clark, “Reformation is By Abounding Grace Alone” (October 30, 2018)

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Dr. Clark, Good Morning!

    How are mid-terms?

    Thank you for this summation of the work that blesses us in confessional, Reformed Theology from the Reformation.

    Can people who hold to the Roman Church be called ‘Christians”? Aren’t they ‘Papists’, since they hold their leader in place/above Christ?

    Aren’t there five solas including Solus Christus and Soli deo Gloria?

    • Hi Catherine,

      The Ancient Church mid-term is this Thursday. We always hope for the best!

      We have have always said that there are true believers within the Roman communion even as we confess in Belgic 29 that Rome is a false church and in Art. 28 that Romanists should come out of the false church and unite the congregations that bear the marks of the true church: the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the use of church discipline for correcting sin. We keep praying that this will keep taking place.

      I don’t know about the history of “Solus Christus” but yes, Soli Deo Gloria is one of the early formulae.

  2. Last Sunday our pastor, preaching on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 2, he preached on how the moral law might be thought of as serving the gospel. Since Christ has fulfilled the covenant of works, or the requirement of perfect obedience for a right standing before God, the law has two more gospel uses. First it shows us our sin and misery to drive us to Christ as the source of perfect obedience we need to be acceptable to a perfectly righteous and holy God. The third use is in showing us how we may obey God because we love Him, just as a child wants to obey his parents because he realizes that they care for him out of love for him, so he wants to show his love by obeying them.

    I thought our pastor’s preaching was very insightful, it reminded me of how the Mosaic covenant is related to the Abrahamic covenant as the everlasting, new covenant of grace. The moral law was written by the very finger of God, as a sign of its importance, as a confirmation of His grace, not to overturn the covenant of grace announced in the garden and formally established as a covenant with Abraham, but to remind the people of how He alone had delivered them out of Egypt, and to show them how they should respond in love to Him. How sad that this has so often been obscured and misunderstood by the people in the visible church so that they have tried to go back to the law, as the broken covenant of works, to try to establish their own righteousness. How wonderful of God to use the Reformers to recover the right use of the law, under the covenant of grace.

  3. Dr. Clark,
    In our Reformation Celebration evening our Pastor presented five solas. According to Jason Helopoulos, “Why the Reformation Solas”, Ulrich Zwingli is quoted as writing/saying: “Through Christ alone we are given salvation blessedness, grace, pardon and all that makes us in any way worthy in the sight of a righteous God.”
    In the same presentation
    Calvin is attributed with Soli Deo Gloria
    Martin Luther is attributed with Sola Gratie
    Philip Melanchthon with Sola Fide
    Theodore Beza with Sola Scriptura

    Is Jason Helopoulos’ information accurate?

    • They may have focused on a particular sola in some of their writings, but they all taught the gospel, and so they all taught all of the above.

Comments are closed.