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October 10, 1520: Damnable Heretic

Luther: In Real Time

Ligonier Ministries

Religion & Spirituality, Christianity, History

4.92K Ratings

🗓️ 10 October 2020

⏱️ 12 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


It's been three years since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door at Wittenberg. Now the pope's envoy is knocking on Luther's door, and the message is dire. Today, travel back to October 10, 1520, to witness why Luther was called to recant his teachings and what was at stake if he refused.

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It's October 10th, 1520, Zittenberg, Germany. A man places a document in the hands of an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther.


Looking down, Luther immediately recognizes the lead seal attached to a coarse hemp rope.


On one side, Luther sees the likeness of the Apostles, Peter and Paul.


On the other, he sees the name of the most powerful man on earth


Pope Leo the 10th he'd seen the seal pressed in wax before this, a decade before, while on pilgrimage.


In 1510, cloaked in his black Augustinian cow, Luther had travelled from Erfurt Germany


over the Alps to the Eternal City of Rome, all 639 miles on foot.


Bone weary on his arrival, Luther had dutifully crawled up the Scala Sancta, all 28


cold marble steps on his knees. These sacred stairs were said to be the very ones Jesus Christ had ascended to face his trial before Pontius Pilate.


The same 28 steps Christ had then descended when condemned and led out his crucifixion.


When Luther finally reached the top, the Dominican friar held out a wooden box.


Luther dropped some coins into the slot, and the friar handed him a letter of indulgence, a confirmation that his long pilgrimage,


the scaling of the marble steps on his knees, and the coins he'd given to the church were good works that


would lessen the time he would spend paying for his sins before he could


enter heaven. There was nothing controversial about this. Everybody knew the church's


teaching and it seemed logical. God is pleased when we do good works and he offers us his grace as a result.


Doesn't scriptures say that God will give to each person according to their works. But for many years now a question had haunted


Luther. What would be enough? How many good works would be enough to secure a place in heaven? How would you know? Because


he still felt guilty.


Just five years previously in 1505, Luther had been returning on horseback to Airfoot where he was studying law


the profession his father wanted him to pursue. He had hoped to find some


answers in his studies, but it did nothing to calm Luther's thoughts about his


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