Some said Johhan Tetzel could redeem the sins of the dead, if only you had enough coins. "When the money clangs in the box, the souls spring up to heaven," Tetzel said, soothing the consciences of many around Wittenburg, Germany.
It was October 31, 1517 when a simple professor and monk protested the redemption-by-payment, called indulgences, in a letter to his church superiors.
Martin Luther's first complaint stated clearly his position: forgiveness of sins was from Jesus Christ, not from the clergy. One of his points cut sharply into the pope's authority to forgive: "The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God."
Forgiveness of sins, according to Luther, was God's work and not that of church authorities.
As a professor of Theology, Luther gave lectures on Galatians, Romans, Hebrews and Psalms. In the study for those lectures, he discovered truth in God's word.
Luther's protests of indulgences put the match to the dry pile of tinder that had been gathering for centuries. Corruption within the church had rendered it more of an international business than a spiritual haven. Forgiveness was available to those with the money and offices were exchanged for wealth.
No one at the time thought Luther would lead a reformation of Christian beliefs and practices. He himself wanted only to correct the church. But people were fed up with the Church's corruption and rallied behind Luther's teachings.
A hundred years before, men died for what Luther was proclaiming, but the time was right. God raised up a courageous man to speak truth from God's Word.