What is a Reformed Church? (2) Solus Christus -- Christ Alone
by Pastor Lars Larson, PhD
(A sermon delivered on September 28, 2008, at the First Baptist Church, Leominster, Massachusetts, USA)
Let us begin by reading the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He declared in John 14:1-6:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
We live in a day in which there is a great need for precision and clarity in thought and message. And so, there is today the great need for definition and explanation. This is one of the reasons for this series of sermons that began last week to rehearse who we are and why we are a reformed church.
When we use the term, “reformed”, we are making a statement that we hold to and espouse the general principles and beliefs that were held by the Protestant Reformers of the 16th and 17th century. There were five foundational principles proclaimed, which expressed biblical convictions which governed their thought and practice. They are commonly identified by five Latin phrases or slogans, each containing the word “sola”, being translated in English as “alone” or “only.” They are Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola gratia, Sola fide, and Soli Deo Gloria. These five expressions are translated as the following: by Scripture alone, by Christ alone, by grace alone, by faith alone, and to the glory of God alone. In addition, the word “reformed” affirms five doctrines that the Bible teaches respecting God bringing salvation to us. These doctrines of grace are (1) the total depravity of man, (2) God’s unconditional election of the lost to be saved, (3) the definite atonement of Jesus’ death for His people, (4) the irresistible grace of God in His calling to salvation, and (5) the final perseverance of the true believers unto their full and final salvation. And so, when we say that we are reformed, we are affirming our understanding of the Christian faith with the five “solas” as well as the five doctrines of grace. We are summarizing these teachings in this sermon series. Today we will address the second of these five solas--Solus Christus, which expresses the belief that our salvation is by Jesus Christ alone.
II. Solus Christus -- Christ alone
A. The biblical teaching of Solus Christus.
Solus Christus is the assertion that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. It affirms the uniqueness of biblical Christianity as the one true religion. To hold to Solus Christus necessitates the denial and repudiation of all other claims to know God and to serve God. All other religions are false religions. All other gods are false gods. Christianity is the only true way that people may come to know God and come into His favor.
Belief in Solus Christus not only distinguishes us from the religions of the world as unique and exclusive, but it also separates us also defines much of what one holds to be true and what one believes is false within larger “Christendom.” This principle declares that knowledge of God is attainable only through Jesus Christ alone, that a relationship with God may be obtained only through Jesus Christ alone, and that salvation from God’s righteous judgment is through Jesus Christ alone, due to His life and His substitutionary death upon the cross of Calvary. Let us consider some biblical passages that clearly assert these truths.
1. There is saving knowledge of God through Jesus Christ only.
The Bible clearly teaches that God reveals Himself to humanity through Jesus Christ alone. We may consider the following Scriptures. First, let us turn to John 1:18, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." John the apostle described the revelation of God through His Son. Revelation speaks of God’s manner of making Himself known to His creatures. Here we read that Jesus Christ alone is qualified to reveal God the Father to us. No one has seen God at any time. God is infinite; man is finite. But Jesus Christ is the “only begotten Son.” He only “is in the bosom of the Father”, in other words, He only is related to God and in such familiarity with God, that He alone can reveal His Father to others. Christ alone is truly capable of revealing the Father.
Also let us consider Matthew 11:25-27. Here the Lord Jesus is praying to His Father, thanking Him for His sovereign grace in revealing Himself to people. Jesus then asserts that He alone is qualified and able to reveal the true God to others.
At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
Christ alone is able to reveal the Father to people. The Son is of the same essence as the Father. He alone knows the Father. Christ alone can reveal the Father to us. The Bible asserts and we espouse Solus Christus--Christ alone.
2. There is access to God through Jesus Christ only.
Solus Christus also affirms that Jesus Christ is the only one who enables sinners to come before God forgiven and welcomed by the Father. Christ alone is the only mediator between the human race and God the Father. It is not the church that provides access, nor a so-called priest, or churchman; Jesus Christ is the only One who is able to escort a sinner before God in a manner that the sinner will be accepted and welcomed. Scripture is clear about this truth:
1 Timothy 2:1-7. "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ‑‑ I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying ‑‑ a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
Ephesians 2:11-18. "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh ‑‑ who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands ‑‑that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only One who can secure our entrance into the presence of God and be received into His favor. No other person or institution has that ability. Christ alone has opened up the way to God for sinners to approach God.
3. There is salvation through Jesus Christ only.
Solus Christus asserts that there is salvation from sin and God’s wrath only through Jesus Christ. There is no other way of salvation. We may see this declared clearly in Acts 4:5-12. Peter made this declaration after he had been arrested for having healed a lame man in the temple court.
And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to the helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be know to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
God’s Word in many ways and in many places asserts the exclusive nature and work of Jesus Christ. He alone is able to reveal God to people. He alone is able to enable access to God. He alone is able to bring salvation to sinners. The Bible asserts Solus Christus.
B. The historic setting of Solus Christus during the Reformation.
During the Middle Ages biblical Christianity was all but absent from the world. For all practical purposes the Bible had become a lost book. Church belief and practice had been shaped by tradition and evolving doctrine as time passed. The faith and practice of Rome had become errant in many respects. One of the major errors of the times was the teaching that knowledge about God was assessable through the observation of nature and the reasoning of the mind. Many believed that one could come to know God, even come into a saving relationship with God, through natural religion. One described the times:
Many Renaissance minds were convinced that there was a saving revelation of God in nature and that, therefore, Christ was not the only way. The fascination with pagan philosophy encouraged the idea that natural religion offered a great deal--indeed, even salvation--to those who did not know Christ. (Michael Horton).
Most of those in the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church believed and taught that their church leaders mediated the grace of God in salvation through the administration of the sacraments. People believed that their salvation came from God through Jesus Christ through their priests, through the church, not through Jesus Christ alone. In addition, for centuries the people had been taught and they had believed that personal merit was necessary in order to obtain salvation. “Grace” as they defined it, the improvement and merit of one’s holiness could be obtained through the veneration of relics and receiving the help of saints to whom they prayed and whom they worshipped.
One of the worse abuses of the day was the crass selling of indulgences. Rome taught that you could shorten the time in purgatory (itself an unbiblical idea) for yourself or loved ones if you purchased indulgence from Rome. John Tetzel was one of the worse abusers, who openly sold these indulgences in Germany. Here are a few words from one of his sermons:
You should know that all who confess and in penance put alms into the coffer according to the counsel of the confessor, will obtain complete remission of all their sins. If they visit, after confession and after the Jubilee, the Cross and the altar every day they will receive that indulgence which would be theirs upon visiting in St. Peter’s the seven altars, where complete indulgence is offered. Why are you then standing there? Run for the salvation of your souls! Be as careful and concerned for the salvation of your souls as you are for your temporal goods, which you seek both day and night. Seek the Lord while he may be found and while he is near. Work, as St. John says, while it yet day, for the night comes when no man can work.
Don’t you hear the voices of your wailing dead parents and others who say, ‘Have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, because we are in severe punishment and pain. From this you could redeem us with a small alms and yet you do not want to do so.’ Open your ears as the father says to the son and the mother to the daughter..., ‘We have created you, fed you, cared for you, and left you our temporal goods. Why then are you so cruel and harsh that you do not want to save us, though it only takes a little? You let us lie in flames so that we only slowly come to the promised glory.’ (from W. Kohler, Dokumente zum Ablassstreit, pp. 125-26)
Now it is true in Rome’s counter reformation efforts, many of these abuses were repudiated and corrected by Rome. But the practice of the distribution of indulgences continued and continues today, having been intentionally revived and promoted by the late pope John Paul. Here was the statement from The Council of Trent in 1563 which followed the Reformation, on Rome’s position on these matters:
Since the power of granting indulgences has been given to the Church by Christ, and since the Church from the earliest times has made use of this Divinely given power, the holy synod teaches and ordains that the use of indulgences, as most salutary to Christiansand as approved by the authority of the councils, shall be retained in the Church; and it further pronounces anathema against those who either declare that indulgences are useless or deny that the Church has the power to grant them [Enchiridion, 989, The Council of Trent (Sess, XXV, 3-4, Dec., 1563)].
Many attribute the beginning of the Protestant Reformation to be the public posting of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. These 95 Theses have been described as largely a refutation of the selling of indulgences. Inside the very church of the door in which these 95 Theses hung, there were relics in the thousands.
Inside the Castle church at this time were seven aisles full of relics (the bones of saints and other supposedly holy items) to be adored the next day. Duke Frederick the Wise, was very high on relics. His Castle church housed 19,000 pieces, worth more than 1,900,000 days indulgence. The relic collection supposedly had a piece of the burning bush, soot from the fiery furnace, milk from Mary, and a piece of Jesus’ crib, to name a few. (Dr. Richard P. Bucher)
I have read to you before the indictment against the matter of relics by John Calvin. He wrote a tract against relics. The church historian, Philip Schaff, wrote of Calvin’s tract:
“What was at first a foolish curiosity for preserving relics has degenerated into abominable idolatry. The great majority of the relics are spurious. It could be shown by comparison that every apostle has more than four bodies and every saint two or three. The arm of St. Anthony, which was worshipped in Geneva, when brought out from the case, turned out to be a part of a stag. The body of Christ could not be obtained, but the monks of Charroux pretend to have, besides teeth and hair, the prepuce or pellicle cut off in his circumcision. But it is shown also in the Lateran church at Rome. The blood of Christ which Nicodemus is said to have received in a handkerchief or a bowl, is exhibited in Rochelle, in Mantua, in Rome, and many other places. The manger in which he laid at his birth, his cradle, together with the shirt which his mother made, the pillar on which he leaned when disputing in the Temple, the water-pots in which he turned water into wine, the nails, and pieces of the cross, are shown in Rome, Ravenna, Pisa, Cluny, Angers, and elsewhere.
"The table of the last Supper is at Rome, in the church of St. John in the Lateran; some of the bread at St. Salvador in Spain; the knife with which the Paschal Lamb was cut up, is at Treves. What semblance of possibility is there that that table was found seven or eight hundred years after? Besides, tables were in those days different in shape from ours, for people used to recline at meals. Fragments of the cross found by St. Helena are scattered over many churches in Italy, France, Spain, etc., and would form a good shipload, which it would take three hundred men to carry instead of one. But they say that this wood never grows less! Some affirm that their fragments were carried by angels, others that they dropped down from heaven. Those of Poitiers say that their piece was stolen by a maid-servant of Helena and carried off to France. There is still a greater controversy as to the three nails of the cross: one of them was fixed in the crown of Constantine, the other two were fitted to his horse’s bridle, according to Theodoret, or one was kept by Helena herself, according to Ambrose. But now there are two nails at Rome, one at Siena, one at Milan, one at Carpentras, one at Venice, one at Cologne, one at Treves, two at Paris, one at Bourges, etc. All the claims are equally good, for the nails are all spurious. There is also more than one soldier’s spear, crown of thorns, purple robe, the seamless coat, and Veronica’s napkin (which at least six cities boast of having). A piece of broiled fish, which Peter offered to the risen Saviour on the seashore, must have been wondrously well salted if it has kept for these fifteen centuries! But, jesting apart, is it supposable that the apostles made relics of what they had actually prepared for dinner?”
"Calvin exposes with equal effect the absurdities and impieties of the wonder-working pictures of Christ; the relics of the hair and milk of the Virgin Mary, preserved in so many places, her combs, her wardrobe and baggage, and her house carried by angels across the sea to Loreto; the shoes of St. Joseph; the slippers of St. James; the head of John the Baptist, of which Rhodes, Malta, Lucca, Nevers, Amiens, Besançon, and Noyon claim to have portions; and his fingers, one of which is shown at Besançon, another at Toulouse, another at Lyons, another at Bourges, another at Florence. At Avignon they have the sword with which John was beheaded, at Aix-la-Chapelle the linen cloth placed under him by the kindness of the executioner, in Rome his girdle and the altar at which he said prayers in the desert. It is strange, adds Calvin, that they do not also make him perform mass.
"The tract concludes with this remark: “So completely are the relics mixed up and huddled together, that it is impossible to have the bones of any martyr without running the risk of worshipping the bones of some thief or robber, or, it may be, the bones of a dog, or a horse, or an ass, or—Let every one, therefore, guard against this risk. Henceforth no man will be able to excuse himself by pretending ignorance.”
The cry against this great error and nonsense and of the Protestant Reformers was Solus Christus--Christ alone! The Reformers rejected and repudiated publicly the belief that salvation came through the church, through the pope, through priests, through completing pilgrimages, through venerating idols, saints, relics, praying the Rosary, purchasing indulgences, enduring an invented purgatory. They proclaimed the message of the Bible that through Jesus Christ alone the knowledge of God was mediated to sinners. Jesus Christ alone provided access to God by sinners; through Jesus Christ alone was God’s promise of salvation.
"The Reformation was, more than anything else, an assault on faith in humanity, and a defense of the idea that God alone reveals Himself and saves us. We do not find Him; He finds us. That emphasis was the cause of the cry, 'Christ alone!' Jesus was the only way of knowing what God is really like, the only way of entering into a relationship with Him as father instead of judge, and the only way of being saved from His wrath." (Michael Horton)
Here is a statement of James Montgomery Boice:
Justification because of Christ alone (solus Christus) means that Jesus has done the necessary work of salvation utterly and completely, so that no merit on the part of man, no merit of the saints, no works of ours performed either here or later in purgatory, can add to his completed work. In fact, any attempt to add to Christ’s work is a perversion of the gospel and indeed is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-9). To proclaim Christ alone is to proclaim him as the Christian’s one and only sufficient Prophet, Priest, and King. We need no other prophets to reveal God’s word or will. We need no other priests to mediate God’s salvation and blessing. We need no other kings to control the thinking and lives of believers. Jesus is everything to us and for us in the gospel.
Martin Luther declared that Jesus Christ was the “center and the circumference of the Bible.” To fail to recognize this, will cause the reader of the Bible to remain in darkness. He wrote,
Whoever has not accepted or will not accept perfectly and purely this Man, called Jesus Christ, God’s Son, whom we Christians are preaching, should let the Bible rest in peace. This is my advice. He will certainly take offense and become blinder and madder the longer he studies. [What Luther Says, ed. Ewald Plass (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), pp. 145-148]
The Belgic Confession (the Reformed confession of the Netherlands) (1561) speaks of the folly and futility of looking to ourselves in the least degree rather than upon Jesus Christ alone:
We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works. And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ. And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him. That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to appear before God relying-- no matter how little-- on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up. Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.”
C. The present day assault on Solus Christus
We speak about these matters not merely to draw up before us 16th century history and recount old battles fought and won, for the struggle which the Reformers fought in their day exists today. According to University of Virginia sociologist James Hunter, 35% of evangelical seminarians deny that faith in Christ is absolutely necessary. According to George Barna, that is the same figure for conservative, evangelical Protestants in America: “God will save all good people when they die, regardless of whether they've trusted in Christ,” they agreed. Eighty-five percent of American adults believe that they will stand before God to be judged. They believe in hell, but only 11% think they might go there. R.C. Sproul observed that to the degree that people think they are good enough to pass divine inspection, and are oblivious to the holiness of God, to that extent they will not see Christ as necessary. That is why over one-fourth of the “born again” evangelicals surveyed agreed with a statement that one would think might raise red flags even for those who might agree with the same thing more subtly put: “If a person is good, or does enough good things for others during life, they will earn a place in Heaven.” Furthermore, when asked whether they agreed with the following statement: “Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and others all pray to the same God, even though they use different names for that God,” two-thirds of the evangelicals didn't find that objectionable. Barna observes “how little difference there is between the responses of those who regularly attend church services and those who are unchurched.” One respondent, an Independent Fundamentalist, said, “What is important in their case is that they have conformed to the law of God as they know it in their hearts.” (Michael Horton)
You see, there is a need for these principles to be proclaimed loudly and broadly today, not simply because there is Roman Catholic error respecting these things, but because there is great “Protestant” or evangelical error as well. There is the need today to teach and affirm Solus Christus, Christ alone, for the truth of God is always eroding and decaying. It always needs to be proclaimed and championed.
Facts about the 95 Theses or the Disputation Against Indulgences
By Dr. Richard P. Bucher
(1) On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther mailed the 95 Theses to local bishops that they might take action against indulgences. According to Luther's co-worker, Philipp Melanchthon, Luther also posted the Theses to the Castle church door on this same day, though that is the only source that we have that mentions it. It was customary to post public notices on the Castle church door.
(2) Inside the Castle church at this time were seven aisles full of relics (the bones of saints and other supposedly holy items) to be adored the next day. Duke Frederick the Wise, was very high on relics. His Castle church housed 19,000 pieces, worth more than 1,900,000 days indulgence. The relic collection supposedly had a piece of the burning bush, soot from the fiery furnace, milk from Mary, and a piece of Jesus' crib, to name a few.
(3) The purpose of the 95 Theses was to invite local scholars to a disputation on indulgences. It was an academic exercise. The subtitle read, “Out of love and zeal for truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following theses will be publicly discussed at Wittenberg under the chairmanship of the reverend father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology and regularly appointed Lecturer on these subjects at that place. He requests that those who cannot be present to debate orally with us will do so by letter. In the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.” That disputation took place in Wittenberg two weeks later. Luther did not intend the Theses to be a program for reform, an attack on the Pope, etc. He was simply questioning indulgences, something he had done ever since his first lectures on the Psalms (1513-14).
(4) Luther was not the only one to question indulgences. Many throughout Europe had complained and were complaining about them. This explains in part why the Theses spread so rapidly and found such enthusiastic support. Luther was the first to think through a Scriptural response to indulgences so thoroughly.
(5) Indulgences were part of the Church's teaching of penance. By Luther's time it was taught that there were three parts to penance: (a) confession and sorrow for sin, (b) absolution/forgiveness spoken by the priest, and (c) satisfaction, some good work done to pay for the temporal punishment of sin. Visiting relics, pilgrimages to holy places, the praying of the rosary, and the purchasing of indulgences were all examples of satisfaction, the third part of penance.
An indulgence was a certificate, which when purchased, and when confession was made, assured the holder of the of temporal punishment (not eternal punishment in hell but punishments in this life and in purgatory for sins already forgiven). It was not ordinarily taught that indulgences forgave sin or eternal punishment.
(6) What prompted Luther to write the 95 Theses was a special jubilee indulgence instituted by Pope Leo X. The purpose of this indulgence was to build St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. (Actually 50% of the proceeds was to go to the building of St. Peter's; the other 50% was to go to Albrecht, who had recently bought his position as archbishop of Mainz - he needed the money to pay off his loan). This indulgence was a plenary indulgence, which meant that all sin and eternal and temporal punishment would be forgiven to those who purchased them.
(7) This jubilee indulgence was claimed to give four chief graces: a) the complete forgiveness of all sin; b) the possibility to receive a confessional letter which would grant one the right to twice receive absolution for all sins; c) purchasers of the indulgence and their dead relatives would participate in all the pious works and merits of the church; d) the full forgiveness of punishment for those already in purgatory when one bought an indulgence for someone already there.
(8) Though Luther's prince, Duke Frederick the Wise, had prohibited the sale of the jubilee indulgence in his Saxon territory, they were being sold across the river. John Tetzel, a Dominican, was the chief salesman and preacher. He had been hired by Archbishop Albrecht.
(9) When indulgence salesmen came to town, they would set up inside the local church. While they were there, regular preaching was suspended and forbidden. Actual drafts of indulgence sermons from this time exist. One sermon reads:
You should know: whoever has confessed and is contrite and put alms into the box, as his confessor counsels him, will have all of his sins forgiven, and even after confession and after the jubilee year will acquire an indulgence on every day that he visits the cross and the altars, as if her were visiting the seven altars in the Church of St. Peter, where the perfect indulgence is granted. So why are you standing about idly? Run, all of you, for the salvation of your souls . . . Do you not hear the voices of your dead parents and other people, screaming and saying: "`Have pity on me, have pity on me . . . for the hand of God has touched me' (Job 19:21)? We are suffering severe punishments and pain [in purgatory], from which you could rescue us with a few alms, if only you would." Open you ears, because the father is calling to the son and the mother to the daughter. (Oberman: 1992, 188).
(10) How much did this indulgence cost? It depended on one's station in life. Kings and Queens: 25 gulden; high counts and prelates: 10 gulden; low counts and prelates: 6 gulden; merchants and townspeople: 3 gulden; artisans: 1 gulden; others: .5 gulden; the indigent were to fast and pray.
(11) The main topics of the 95 Theses are repentance and good works. However, Luther makes several startling statements about the Pope, which later brought him into conflict with the Roman Church. Many viewed this document as an attack on the papacy, which was not Luther's intent.
(12) Luther later tells us that within two weeks the Theses had been translated into German and spread throughout Germany. Prior to this Luther was only known locally. The Theses catapulted him into international fame.
(13) John Tetzel died in 1519, a disgraced and broken man.
Sources: Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation, 1483-1521, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985; Heiko A. Oberman, Luther, Man Between God and the Devil, New York: Image, 1992.
Consider Rome’s teaching on relics from The Catholic Encyclopedia: the Coucil of Trent(Sess. XXV), which enjoins on bishops and other pastors to instruct their flocks that “the holy bodies of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ—which bodies were the living members of Christ and ‘the temple of the Holy Ghost’ (1 Cor. 6:19) and which are by Him to be raised to eternal life and to be glorified are to be venerated by the faithful, for through these bodies many benefits are bestowed by God on men, so that they who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of the saints, or that these and other sacred monuments are uselessly honoured by the faithful, and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid, are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and also now condemns them.”…We learn from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (before 350) that the wood of the Cross, discovered c. 318, was already distributed throughout the world; and St. Gregory of Nyssa in his sermons on the forty martyrs, after describing how their bodies were burned by command of the persecutors, explains that “their ashes and all that the fire had spared have been so distributed throughout the world that almost every province has had its share of the blessing. I also myself have a portion of this holy gift and I have laid the bodies of my parents beside the ashes of these warriors, that in the hour of the resurrection they may be awakened together with these highly privileged comrades” (P.G., XLVI, 764). We have here also a hint of the explanation of the widespread practice of seeking burial near the tombs of the martyrs. It seems to have been felt that when the souls of the blessed martyrs on the day of general were once more united to their bodies, they would be accompanied in their passage to heaven by those who lay around them and that these last might on their account find more ready acceptance with God.
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. VII (New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1892), pp 607f. The complete Schaff’s history (along with thousands of other texts) is online at http://www.ccel.org.