A coat of arms is a visual design that proclaims the achievements of the person who bears it. It is a tradition whose widespread use dates to the middle ages, whose use we might compare to the modern axiom, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’
This illustration (right), though undated, originated during the lifetime of Martin Luther. It is a satirical piece based on the pope’s coat of arms.
Features to be noted:
· The two crossed keys that form the background represent the “office of the keys” – that authority given to “bind and loose” people from their sins. But note that the keys have been shattered.
“They have clouded over the doctrine about sin. They have invented a tradition about the listing of offenses, producing many errors and despair. In addition, they have invented satisfactions, with which they have also hidden Christ’s benefit. From these, indulgences have been born. These are pure lies, fabricated for the sake of making money.” Excerpt, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (Treatise).
Through the buying and selling of forgiveness, the office of the keys has been abused and broken by the papacy.
· From the stock of one key hangs a poor peasant.
“The doctrine of repentance has been utterly corrupted by the pope and his followers. They teach that sins are forgiven because of the value of our works. Then they tell us to doubt whether the forgiveness takes place. They nowhere teach that sins are forgiven freely for Christ’s sake, and that by this faith we obtain forgiveness of sins. So they hide Christ’s glory and rob consciences of firm consolation” Excerpt, (Treatise).
When forgiveness of sins is based upon anything other than the merits of Christ, it robs a person of the certainty of salvation and leads to death.
· Depicted within the coat of arms is a hand clutching money-bags, the “purse of Judas.” From the purse protrudes coins and the mitres of bishops.
“The errors of the kingdom of the pope are clear. Scripture with its entire voice cries out that these errors are a teaching of demons and of Antichrist. The idolatry in the abuse of the Masses is clear, besides being all together useless. The Masses are used for the most shameful moneymaking. Excerpt, (Treatise).
The dialog that accompanies this illustration also states that through annates and other spiritual taxes, the pope has usurped the power that properly belongs to bishops, abbots, kings and princes. He has, in short, betrayed Christ for money -- he is Judas.
· From the stock of the other key hangs the pope.
“The pope defends these errors by unjust cruelty and death penalty. He grabs the decision away from the Church. Gratian’s Second Decretal says, “No one shall judge (the pope’s) throne. For the judge is judged neither by the emperor, nor by all the clergy, nor by the kings, nor by the people.…Peter predicted that there would be godless bishops who would abuse the alms of the Church for luxury and neglect the ministry. Therefore, let those who defraud the Church know that they will pay God the penalty for this crime.” Excerpt, (Treatise).
The pope may claim to be subject to no one’s judgment, but Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that he is subject to the judgment of God.
At the time of Luther, the Gospel of Jesus Christ – put to death for our forgiveness and raised for our justification – was clouded by many abuses and false teachings. But God had great and abundant mercy upon us
when He used Martin Luther to point out the sin and error that within the church and restore the Gospel to its proper place within the church. God would not allow the Gospel to be stolen away from His people any longer.
Friends: it should cut us to the heart when we give up freely what Satan worked so hard to steal from the church. Jesus died so that you would be free from the tyranny of sin and death. Come receive that freedom in the Lord’s house from the very hand of the Lord. Let us encourage you in the Gospel, and may you be encouragement to us as well.
- - Pastor Lorenz