When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church, his purpose was to promote reform to the existing Roman Catholic Church.
Luther’s first concern was the lack of teaching the truth concerning repentance.
I suspect that Luther realized the meaning and reality of repentance is completely missed if a person thinks they can go to a priest, confess, receive absolution and continue in their lifestyles.
Repentance – The theme of repentance is found throughout the entire Bible and its idea is expressed even when the word itself is not used. In the Old Testament, two Hebrew words, the verbs nacham and shub, are often translated as repent. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament by Koehler, Baumgartner, Richardson, and Stamm says nacham means “to be sorry, come to regret something, to repent” as in Job 42:6, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” In their Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil and Delitzsch remark, “Nacham is the exact expression for metanoeo, the godly sorrow of repentance not to be repented of. He repents (sitting) on dust and ashes after the manner of those in deep grief.” Regarding shub, which means “to turn,” the Theological Wordbook of the OT says, “The Bible is rich in idioms describing man’s responsibility in the process of repentance. Such phrases would in-clude the following: ‘incline your heart unto the Lord your God’ (Josh 24:23): ‘circumcise yourselves to the Lord’ (Jer 4:4); ‘wash your heart from wickedness’ (Jer 4:14); ‘break up your fallow ground’ (Hos 10:12) and so forth. All these expressions of man’s penitential activity, however, are subsumed and summarized by this one verb shub. For better than any other verb it combines in itself the two requisites of repentance: to turn from evil and to turn to the good.”
Even today, repentance is not what people enjoy hearing. Human nature leads us to go our own sinful way. Luther understood that without true repentance a person cannot enter the kingdom of God . Without true repentance, a person will perish. The Catholic Church was making a mockery of this teaching. There are religions today that do the same thing. Repentance is a condition of the heart that produces a change in behavior a turning away from sin. It cannot be bought or faked because God is a personal God. He looks at and knows our hearts. Those who served the church could please the church, but we will not answer to an organization, we must answer to God. We may find ways to disguise our sin to the world, but never to God.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? Or what will a man give as an exchange for his soul? Matthew 16:26
Those who were serving men rather than God were in danger as Luther realized. This was the start of the Protestant Reformation.