“The freedom of the Christian” by Martin Luther

“Many people have considered Christian faith an easy thing, and not a few have given it a place among the virtues. They do this because they have not experienced it and have never tasted the great strength there is in faith.

It is impossible to write well about it or to understand what has been written about it unless one has at one time or another experienced the courage which faith gives a man when trials oppress him.

But he who has had even a faint taste of it can never write, speak, meditate, or hear enough concerning it. It is a living ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life,’ as Christ calls it in John 4:14.

As for me, although I have no wealth of faith to boast of and know how scant my supply is, I nevertheless hope that I have attained to a little faith, even though I have been assailed by great and various temptations; and I hope that I can discuss it, if not more elegantly, certainly more to the point, than those literalists and subtile disputants have previously done, who have not even understood what they have written.

To make the way smoother for the unlearned—for only them do I serve—I shall set down the following two propositions concerning the freedom and the bondage of the spirit:

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

These two theses seem to contradict each other. If, however, they should be found to fit together they would serve our purpose beautifully.

Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Cor. 9:19, ‘For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,’ and in Rom. 13:8, ‘Owe no one anything, except to love one another.’ Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved.

So Christ, although He was Lord of all, was ‘born of woman, born under the law’ (Gal. 4:4), and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, ‘in the form of God’ and ‘of a servant’ (Phil. 2:6–7).”

–Martin Luther, The Freedom of the Christian (1520), in Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I (ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann; vol. 31; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 31: 343–344.

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Filed under Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, grace, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther, Preaching, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel, Worldview

One response to ““The freedom of the Christian” by Martin Luther

  1. Christopher Herndon

    That is so rich and encouraging, and I didn’t realize how much Martin Luther looks like my friend Nick Roark.

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