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Freedom of a Christian


Martin Luther
1483 – 1546
(Married Katarina von Bora, 1525: six children)

I: Introduction

II: Background and youth

elementary schooling at Breslau, Magdeburg and Eisenach.

began university studies at Erfurt, 1501.

III: The Monk

joined Augustinian (Reformed) order, 1505.

ordained to priesthood, 1507.

lectured at Wittenberg, 1508.

visited Rome, 1510.

IV: The Professor

appointed to chair of theology, 1510.

lectured on Psalms, 1513-15.

lectured on Romans, 1515-16.

lectured on Galatians, 1516-17 9 (and again in 1541.)

lectured on Hebrews, 1517-18.

V: The Indulgence Controversy

the Ninety-Five Theses, 1517.

VI: The Disputant

disputed with Johann Eck at Leipzig, 1519.

wrote three great tracts, 1520.

An Address to the Nobility of the German Nation for the Improvement of the

Christian Estate

On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church

On the Freedom of the Christian

disputed with Johann Eck at Worms, 1521. (From this moment until he died there was a

price on Luther’s head.)

completed translation of NT into German, 1522.


VII: The Social Conservative

supported the peasants’ grief but not their methods in the Peasant War, 1524.

VIII: The Victor

Diet of Speyer, 1526

Second Diet of Speyer, 1529

The Colloquy of Marburg, 1529. (Does est mean “is” or “signifies”?)

Diet of Augsburg, 1530. (Luther remained nearby in Cobourg. The Lutheran cause was

represented by Philip Melanchthon, since the emperor feared Luther’s physical presence

would provoke a riot.)

IX: The Shamed?

Luther and the Jewish people.




Luther: “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 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.”




The first power of faith:

The Word (=Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit) confers righteousness upon believers

as the “happy exchange” (2 Cor. 5) occurs:

my shame for his glory,

my condemnation for his acceptance with the Father,

my sin for his righteousness.


The second power of faith:

Believers honour God by vesting all their trust in God. To honour God and trust him in this

way is to obey him. God can be obeyed only in faith.

Note Luther’s understanding here of the kind of obedience the Decalogue enjoins: not conformity to a moral code but rather eager, glad, grateful self-abandonment to the “character” God wills for me. My gratitude is born of the fact that God has redeemed me at measureless cost to himself.

E.g., the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal” is violated if I merely refrain from stealing.

God wants not external conformity from me but rather a living relationship (faith) with him wherein I cheerfully embrace the shape he ordains for my life. He ordains this shape for my good

(i.e., as blessing.) I gladly endorse it out of gratitude for what he has already done for me and

promises yet to do for me. My not-stealing is my faith-quickened abandonment of my selfist self

as I “put on” the “new man (woman)” he wills for my good.

In other words, the Decalogue never encourages moralism but always faith and the Christ-shaped

“new creature” that faith glories in.


The third power of faith:

We are united with Christ. (Actually the third is logically prior to and the ground of the first



Since faith “puts on” Christ, believers are free from sin, death, the world and the devil as Christ was free from the domination of sin, death, world and devil.

Since faith “puts on” Christ, believers are bound to the needy as Christ bound himself to them.

When Luther’s opponents told him that his elevation of faith underserved the neighbour, Luther replied that faith always serves the neighbour in love. Such love is love only if it disregards the neighbour’s ingratitude and one’s own loss.

Finally Luther insists that faith is the (only) cure for anxiety. Anxiety is a form of self-preoccupation. The Christian doesn’t live in herself but in another: in Christ through faith, in the neighbour through love.

Paradoxically, she finds herself, discovers her identity, to the extent that she doesn’t seek it but rather forgets herself through her immersion in Christ (faith) and neighbour (love.)