Within the 95 Theses, there is nothing distinctly Lutheran or Protestant. There is no discussion of justification by faith through grace. The selling of the general indulgence by Tetzel was commissioned by the Pope in order to finance the building of St. Peter’s Cathedral. The common people thought they were buying the forgiveness of sins. Luther’s Theses are a reaction to the misuse of penance and indulgences. This was not an act of rebellion, but a simple call for discussion among monks and clergy. The indulgence originally was a granted permission to relax or commute the penance imposed upon a repentant sinner as an outward sign of sorrowIn understanding Luther's Theses of 1517- Attention should be focused on these:
THESIS 1: When the Lord calls us to repent, he meant the entire life of a believer is one of penance.
THESIS 2: Matthew 4:17 means “repent”, not “do penance”. This verse does not refer to the sacrament of penance
THESIS 3: Repentance is both internal and external. *Luther not attacking the sacrament of penance or the institution of indulgences, but the gross abuse of the indulgence.
THESIS 6: The pope cannot remit guilt, but only declare it has been remitted by God. The pope’s power is limited. He does not remit guilt, he administers the remittance.
THESIS 8: The cannons of penance only apply to the living, not the dead. This is an abuse of the sacrament of penance. Luther is attacking a papal policy only 50 years old.
THESIS 27: There is no “springing from purgatory” when the indulgence is paid (against Tetzel, and the paying of a general indulgence.)
THESIS 32: All those who believe in Eternal security because of letters of indulgence are eternally damned with their teachers. (The church never taught this, but Luther sees this implication drawn by common people)
THESIS 71: The indulgence “idea” that satisfaction can be reduced by an action of the church is valid. Luther shows He is only attacking the abuse of penance and the indulgence.
THESIS 81-82: The papacy is brought into disrepute by the sale of indulgences. The papacy has become hard to defend.THESIS 82: Laity asks, “Why doesn’t the pope just let everyone out of purgatory by an act of love, rather than redeeming souls for money to build a church?”