A Treasure Chest Opened… Sometimes
The pope of Rome grants this indulgence to Roman Catholics under certain prescribed conditions. If they fulfil the conditions precisely, then they will receive the indulgence. Furthermore, the indulgence can either be partial or plenary. Rome’s Catechism states: “An indulgence is either partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.” In the case of the particular indulgence which Benedict XVI has granted for his appointed “Year of Faith”, it will be plenary (full).
But note something more about an indulgence, from the definition given above from the official Catechism of the Roman Catholic institution: the Roman Catholic obtains it “under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” What is Rome talking about here?
Well, according to its own explanation given in its Catechism, Rome’s “treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints” refers to “the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God…. This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable and even pristine in their value before God. In this treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints…. they attained their own salvation and at the same time co-operated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.”
Cutting through all Rome’s theological jargon, what this means is absolutely, shockingly anti-biblical. According to Rome, Mary and the so-called “saints” were all so holy that they attained Heaven by their good works. Note the words: “They attained their own salvation.” They earned their own salvation by their good works, or merits. But their works were so good, and so many, that they actually earned more “credits” than they needed for their own salvation! And these extra good works, these surplus merits, are supposedly laid up in a “treasury of the Church” of Rome, and can be dispensed to other Papists in the form of indulgences by the pope of Rome, when he sees fit, to deliver them from temporal punishment due to their sins! Here are the precise words from Rome’s Catechism:
“An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favour of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins.” And: “this treasure [Christ] has committed to the care of St. Peter… and to his successors, his own vicars on earth [the popes of Rome]… who are to distribute it to the faithful for their salvation. And they are to apply it with compassion, for pious and good reasons, in order that it may benefit those who are truly contrite and who have confessed, at times for the complete remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, at times for the partial remission…”
To put it as simply as possible: without any scriptural support whatsoever, Rome claims that some were so perfect on earth that they went to Heaven by the performance of their own works (merits) without going to Purgatory first, and are called “saints”; and their merits were so super-abundant that what they did not need in order to earn their own salvation, are added to a great “treasury of merits”; and from time to time the pope of Rome is able to dip into this treasury, to open this treasure casket for a time, and to dispense these surplus merits to others, so that their temporal punishments for sin can be remitted, either in whole or in part!
Has ever a more iniquitous teaching of salvation appeared on the earth? What devilish lies are proclaimed by this doctrine of indulgences! Let the Word of God condemn this satanic deception. First, salvation is always and only and entirely by God’s grace (His undeserved favour), through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. It is never, ever earned by one’s works (merits) (see Eph. 2:8,9). And once sin is forgiven, there is no temporal punishment for sin still remaining to be paid! Second, there is no place called Purgatory, where Roman Catholics go to suffer the temporal punishment due for their sins. There is Heaven and there is Hell, and no place in between. If a person comes to Christ by faith, repenting of his sins and trusting in Christ alone for salvation, he is fully and completely saved from his sins, and goes to Heaven immediately when he dies. Third, every single person who is saved by grace through faith is called a saint in Scripture. (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:2). Fourth, since salvation is not by works, it follows that there is no “treasury” where the extra good works of people are stored up. The saints of God cannot even gain merit by their own works for themselves – how then can they gain extra for others? (see Isa. 64:6; 1 Tim. 1:15). Fifth, the Roman pope cannot open this treasury, for the very simple reason that it does not exist.
And sixth: if indeed the pope of Rome has this power to open some great “treasury” which will so wonderfully benefit Roman Catholics, why does he not open it all the time? Or why does he not just leave it open? Or at the very least, why does he not open it regularly, say once a year? And why are partial indulgences ever granted, instead rather of plenary ones all the time? If indeed, as the Roman pope, Clement VI, pronounced, “this treasure [Christ] has committed to the care of St. Peter… and to his successors… who are to distribute it to the faithful for their salvation”, then distribute it already! If, as this same Clement pronounced, “they [the popes of Rome] are to apply it with compassion, for pious and good reasons,” what more compassionate, pious or good reasons could there be than the remission of the temporal punishment of millions at any given time? Since it is supposedly of such immense benefit to his subjects, one would think he would be magnanimous enough to do this! But no – long years may go by without the Roman pope ever lifting the lid of the treasure chest, and poor Romanists have to supposedly suffer the temporal punishment due to their sins, both in this life and in Purgatory, when their spiritual leader (they believe) could simply unlock the treasury, plunge his bejewelled fingers into it or whatever it is he has to do, and dispense the “infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God”, and the “truly immense, unfathomable and even pristine” value of the merits of Mary and the other “saints”! What kind of a monster is this man? How tragic that over a billion people trust him to help them obtain salvation! If he really has such enormous power, Roman Catholics should be battering on the door of the papal residence, demanding that he show compassion and contribute, as only he can according to their belief system, to relieve the temporal sufferings which Roman Catholics have to suffer in this life and the next because of their sins!
Now let us get back to this latest plenary indulgence, granted by Benedict XVI during Rome’s present “Year of Faith”:
According to this papal decree (in which the writings of the popes Paul VI and Clement VI are quoted): “Because it is above all a question of developing to the highest degree – insofar as it is possible on this earth – holiness of life and hence of obtaining, in the highest degree, purity of soul, very useful will be the great gift of Indulgences, which the Church, in virtue of the power conferred on her by Christ, offers to all those who with the proper dispositions fulfil the special prescriptions to obtain them. ‘With the Indulgence – Paul VI taught – the Church, making use of her power of minister of the Redemption wrought by Christ the Lord, communicates to the faithful the participation of this fulness of Christ in the communion of Saints, furnishing them in very large measure the means to attain salvation’…. Manifested thus is the ‘treasure of the Church,’ ‘of which also the merits of the Holy Mother of God and of all the elect, from the first to the last righteous’ constitute ‘a further increase’.”
So: the “Church” of Rome claims it has power from Christ to offer an indulgence to those Papists who fulfil the correct prescriptions. But where in God’s Word is such power conferred on this “Church” by the Lord Jesus Christ? Nowhere. It is simply a fiction, invented to exercise control over its subjects. Where in all the Bible are we taught that “the means to obtain salvation” is (among other things) to be found in papal indulgences? Nowhere. It is a lie. Not one verse in all the Bible can be brought forward to support it.
As for calling Mary the “Mother of God”, this too is a lie: can God have a mother? And if He does, then was Mary’s mother the grandmother of God? See how Rome has turned the humble Mary into a goddess! She was the mother of our Lord’s human nature, but not of His divine nature. And where, from Genesis to Revelation, do we find the teaching that the supposed “merits” of Mary and the “saints” are stored up in some heavenly “treasury”, awaiting the pope’s pleasure as to when the key will be turned in the treasury’s lock and these merits will be dispensed to the people? Again, not in any book, chapter or verse of the entire Bible.