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Who knows? You can.

The story has often been told of the monk Martin Luther exasperating his confessor with hours of detailed confession. The burden of sin weighed heavily on Luther, and the Roman system of confession and penance could not relieve him of it. Steve Lawson writes:


In an effort to ease Luther’s burden, Staupitz sent him on an official trip to Rome (1510). Luther hoped to find peace there by visiting sacred sites and venerating supposed relics of Christianity, but instead he discovered the gross abuses and masked hypocrisies of the priests. He became disillusioned with the corruption of the Roman church and disenchanted by the pilgrimages to adore religious relics. These objects included the rope with which Judas supposedly hanged himself, a reputed piece of Moses’ burning bush, and the alleged chains of Paul.

Yet worse, it was claimed that the Scala Sancta (“the Holy Stairs”), the very steps that Jesus had descended from Pilate’s judgment hall, had been moved to Rome, and that God would forgive the sins of those who crawled up the stairs on their knees, kissing each step. Luther dutifully climbed the stairs in the appointed manner, but when he reached the top, imagehe despaired: “At Rome, I wished to liberate my grandfather from purgatory, and went up the staircase of Pilate, praying a pater noster on each step; for I was convinced that he who prayed thus could redeem his soul. But when I came to the top step, the thought kept coming to me, ‘Who knows whether this is true?’”

—Steven J. Lawson, The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther (Reformation Trust, 2013), 7–8.

Luther’s doubts led him to dig into the Scriptures, which led him out of the bondage of Rome to freedom in Christ. Rome is once again—or, rather, still—offering indulgences (get yours here). Thousands will be flocking to Brazil this week to get theirs. We should pray that the thought will come to them, “Who knows whether this is true?”

Posted 2013·07·22 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Martin Luther · Papism · Steve Lawson · The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

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