Ephesians 2:8,9 (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

And from Wikipedia's definition of "Indulgence", it

is the full or partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven....They are granted for specific good works and prayers.

What I don't understand is, if you are forgiven, what punishment does the Indulgence remove? If you are "saved not by good works", how can good works remove that punishment?

  • In the context of a "Purgatory", Indulgence shortens the time one suffers for the atonement of his forgiven sins. At least this is what I interpreted from your included definition.
    – Rek
    Aug 26, 2011 at 13:35
  • That's just it. Indulgence is not needed. Salvation, and forgiveness of sin, is a gift from God, one for which we don't have to pay. That's why Luther opposed indulgence vehemently.
    – Cryst
    Aug 26, 2011 at 13:47
  • This might go a step or two further than indulgences. I believe a better question would be the biblical basis for confession and priestly abolishing of sins, which in turn probably leads to the debate on apostolic succession.
    – felideon
    Aug 26, 2011 at 13:48
  • @Cryst: I believe you are right about indulgences have nothing to do with salvation but you've got your history all wrong. Luther did opposed the selling of indulgences but was not against the practice of apostolic pardons.
    – Caleb
    Aug 26, 2011 at 15:10
  • 1
    See also What are indulgences? Nov 11, 2011 at 19:52

2 Answers 2


The idea is that we are not our own. If you read that in light of:

Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.

1 Cor 26-29

There's another reason why no one should boast.

Eph 2:8-9 is more to admonish Pharisees who thought they were saved by adherence to the law and 1 Cor 26-29 is to admonish the rich and powerful who thought they were above the law. Both use the same language and ought to be read in the same context, they can't really mean two different things or have different weight.

Indulgences are just a way of understanding in a human way how our actions can reduce our temporal punishment in purgatory, or be applied to others to reduce their punishment. If we need to pay to the last penny, then we need a method of payment that is possible for human beings to understand.

One thing we can agree on though, it is not necessary for salvation to receive indulgences.

Selling indulgences is just plain old Simony, which is not something that should have ever been going on, although it clearly did.


If you are looking for an answer from a Catholic perspective, I guess your answer may be found here http://www.catholic.com/library/Primer_on_Indulgences.asp

Personally, I think the logic breaks down at "Principle 5" where John 20:23 seems to be misinterpreted (and is used as a basis for many Catholic doctrines). Up to Principle 4, I kind of agree in the sense that if I sin against another -person- I need to make mends with this person. I believe this is the nature of John 20:21-23.

However, sinning against -God- is entirely different. Only through Jesus do we have atonement. Only through Jesus our sins are forgiven. Principle 3 talks about David's sin and how God punished him by allowing his son to die. However, realize that all the examples and references are from the Old Testament, before Israel had the grace of God through Jesus. I see no New Testament references in regards to 'temporal punishments'.

  • 1
    Link is unfortunately dead. Is there an updated link? Feb 6, 2016 at 5:33

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