“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.

“He became a servant” by Richard Sibbes

“Is the Lord Christ a servant? This should teach us not to stand upon any terms. If Christ had stood upon terms, if He had refused to take upon Him the shape of a servant, alas, where had we and our salvation been?

And yet wretched creatures, we think ourselves too good to do God and our brethren any service. Christ stood not upon His greatness, but, being equal with God, He became a servant. Oh! We should dismount from the tower of our conceited excellency.

The heart of man is a proud creature, a proud piece of flesh. Men stand upon their distance. What! Shall I stoop to him? I am thus and thus. We should descend from the heaven of our conceit, and take upon us the form of servants, and abase ourselves to do good to others, even to any, and account it an honour to do any good to others in the places we are in.

Christ did not think Himself too good to leave heaven, to conceal and veil His majesty under the veil of our flesh, to work our redemption, to bring us out of the cursed estate we were in. Shall we think ourselves too good for any service?

Who for shame can be proud when he thinks of this, that God was abased? Shall God be abased, and man proud? Shall God become a servant, and shall we that are servants think much to serve our fellow-servants? Let us learn this lesson: to abase ourselves.

We cannot have a better pattern to look unto than our blessed Saviour. A Christian is the greatest freeman in the world. He is free from the wrath of God, free from hell and damnation, from the curse of the law.

But then, though he be free in these respects, yet, in regard of love, he is the greatest servant. Love abaseth him to do all the good he can. And the more the Spirit of Christ is in us, the more it will abase us to anything wherein we can be serviceable.”

–Richard Sibbes, “A Description of Christ,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 8-9.