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What Does the Bible Say About Indulgences?

What Does the Bible Say About Indulgences?


Indulgences Contradict Salvation by Grace

The notion of indulgences, a practice where one could ostensibly reduce punishment for sins through payments or other acts, stands in stark contrast to the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This passage clearly articulates that salvation, and by extension, forgiveness of sins, is a free gift from God, obtained through faith, not by human efforts or monetary contributions.

Furthermore, Romans 11:6 emphasizes, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.” This underscores that the grace of God is entirely unmerited and cannot coexist with a system that suggests earning God’s favor through practices like indulgences. The concept of indulgences introduces a transactional nature to God’s forgiveness that is contrary to the grace demonstrated throughout Scripture.


Christ’s Sacrifice is Fully Sufficient

The Bible teaches that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is fully sufficient for the forgiveness of all sins. Hebrews 10:14 asserts, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” This single offering of Christ is enough to cover all sins, past, present, and future. The notion of indulgences undermines this complete sufficiency, suggesting additional actions are necessary to deal with sin.

1 John 1:7 also proclaims, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” This is a clear declaration that nothing beyond the blood of Christ is needed to cleanse us from sin. When indulgences propose that something extra is required for forgiveness or lessening of punishment, it directly contradicts the total efficacy of Christ’s atonement.

Undermining Christ’s Atonement

The practice of indulgences significantly undermines the completeness and efficacy of Christ’s atonement. Colossians 2:13-14 explains, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses… God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” This passage reveals that all our sins and their corresponding penalties were nailed to the cross with Christ. If Christ has already paid the full price for our sins, then the concept of needing to obtain indulgences for their remission or reduction of punishment is contrary to the Gospel message.

Moreover, Galatians 2:21 states, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” The introduction of indulgences as a means of dealing with sin effectively nullifies the grace of God, suggesting that there is something lacking in Christ’s death that humans can supplement through their efforts or financial contributions.

Biblical Repentance and Faith

True biblical repentance and faith in Jesus Christ are consistently presented as the means by which we receive forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Acts 3:19 urges, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” This call to repentance is devoid of any notion of indulgences or additional works. Instead, it points to a change of heart and mind as the pathway to forgiveness.

Similarly, Romans 10:9-10 affirms, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” This passage clearly lays out the biblical model of salvation and forgiveness through faith and confession, not through indulgences or other human efforts.


In conclusion, the biblical perspective does not support the concept of indulgences. Scriptures repeatedly emphasize salvation by grace through faith, the complete sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, and the importance of genuine repentance and faith. These teachings stand in direct opposition to the idea of obtaining or contributing to one’s forgiveness through indulgences.

Read More

  1. “The Holiness of God” by R.C. Sproul – This book offers a profound look into the nature of God’s holiness, which is foundational in understanding the biblical view of sin, forgiveness, and grace, countering the concept of indulgences.
  2. “The Gospel According to Jesus” by John MacArthur – MacArthur presents a clear, biblical understanding of salvation and lordship, challenging any notion that aligns with the practice of indulgences and emphasizing the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work.

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