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On Christian Liberty

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | On Christian Liberty.pdf | Language: TAIWANESE CHINESE
    Martin Luther(Author)

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  • PDF | Unknown pages
  • Martin Luther(Author)
  • Fortress Press (2003)
  • Taiwanese Chinese
  • 9
  • Religion & Spirituality

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Review Text

  • By B. Marold on August 10, 2010

    Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty (The Freedom of a Christian), Translated by W. A. Lambert, revised by Harold J. Grimm (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2003) Luther's works translated into English comprise 55 thick volumes. Looking at the editions of his works in German and in Latin, I can believe that even those 55 volumes are not complete. So where does one start with this vast volume of writing? This little book is about as good a starting point as one could wish for. It may not be Luther's best statement of his position. For that, one may need to go to the far more difficult The Bondage of the Will, but this little work, written in the heat of the opening battles of the Reformation, in 1520, may be one of the most concise statements of Reformation theology you will find anywhere. It is an especially good balance to The Bondage of the Will, which may leave one in a pessimistic mood, after reading the long argument against free will and the complete inability of a person to affect their own salvation. Following Paul's epistles, especially Romans and Galatians, Luther spells out the Reformation doctrine of sola fide, faith alone. That's the easy part. Luther does at least two additional things which illuminate that doctrine and show us where it takes us. I'm particularly taken by Luther's opening sentence: `Many people have considered Christian faith an easy thing, and not a few have given it a place among the virtues'. This statement is reassuring to those who may like to think they have a Christian faith, but have doubts. As those who have read a biography or two of Luther will attest, he is not being clever or cute when he says that he himself has `...no wealth of faith to boast of...'. He was beset by doubt well into his term as an Augustinian monk. Appropriate to much of Luther's thinking, the cornerstone of this little book is an antinomy, a lovely little word denoting two statements which appear to contradict one another. The statements are:A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.Both are from statements by Paul. The first means that the true Christian is no longer bound by the law. Obeying the law serves him no purpose. But the reason for that freedom is his faith in the saving power of and love of Christ. Love and faith implies trust, and trust in the will of Christ means that we are ready, willing, and as much as we are able, dedicated to serving others. One direction where Luther goes beyond Paul is in explaining how all of this works. It is based on man's twofold nature, `...a spiritual and a bodily one.' The law is designed primarily to govern our bodily nature while faith, and salvation addresses our spiritual nature. Apparent contradictions regarding human nature arise when we match statements regarding our human nature with our spiritual nature. An inference which Luther draws from this is that all those things which people do to discipline their body, such as contemplation, meditation, fasting, and what have you, has no effect on one's spiritual salvation. A further inference is that as ineffective as these things are, that is exactly how important and efficacious we find the word of God. We can experience nothing worse than to be cut off from the word of God, as Amos reports at 8:11 The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.' Luther interjects here a clarification which answers the question one may have. If there is so many `words', after all, the Bible is a very long book, what is it that we must attend to. As Paul says in Romans 1, `the Word is the gospel of God concerning his Son, who was made flesh, suffered, rose from the dead, and was glorified through the spirit...' This is why Luther had little interest in books such as James, where there is but one reference to Christ. With all this talk of `freedom', Luther takes great pains to address the fact that this doctrine does not license one to do whatever they please. There are two `controls'. The first is that `Christians should be subject to the governing authorities and be ready to do every good work'. Lutherans are all about giving unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Taken to extreme, this meant that the German Lutherans did not object to Hitler's Nazi extremes when they had the chance. The more important conclusion regarding how one lives is that `...a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian.' Our Christian freedom is a freedom of the spirit and not of the flesh. For our own part, it is more Christian to serve others rather than ourselves. But at the same time, according to Paul at Romans 14:3, `Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.' Paul seems to draw a fine line between permitting the practices of ethnic Jews who cherish their dietary laws, and preventing those same Jews from insisting that `Christians' be circumcised. Paul would criticize the intolerant, just as Luther would criticize as un-Christian the kinds of policy or practices which abstain from helping our fellow humans.This little book is worth a month of Sunday sermons.

  • By Kevin from Texas on February 4, 2016

    This is the foundational truth that the protestant reformation was built on. This is a must read for every protestant Christian. This explains Luther's ideas of justification that was at the heart of his issues with the Catholic church.

  • By William E. Turner Jr. on April 9, 2004

    Before being set free by the reading of Romans 1:17, Martin Luther was enslaved to the bondage of works righteousness. He was acutely aware of his need for salvation but sought it through the means of works instead of finding it through faith in Christ. Upon discovering the "righteousness of God" Luther was set free from his bondage and was able to become a slave to Christ. It is this freedom of the gospel, which Luther sets forth as being the freedom for the Christian. Through faith alone a believer is justified in Christ and set free to live a life of obedience compelled by the love of Christ. Thus freedom to service through the gospel of Christ is at the heart of Luther's treatise The Freedom of a Christian.He begins the work by summarizing the Christian life in paradoxical fashion. He writes, "A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none." And he continues by stating, "A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to none." Luther correctly believed that these two assertions, although seemingly contradictory, are nonetheless biblical and he seeks to show how they work together in the rest of this treatise.It is only through faith alone in the gospel of Jesus Christ whereby one is saved and is given the free gift of Christ's righteousness and the perfect freedom found in being united with Christ. Thus the only thing necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom is the Word of God, which is the gospel. Without the Word of God there is no help for the soul. Yet a soul that has the Word of God is found lacking nothing.Luther's work asserts the underlining truth of the Christian life: that we are freed through the death of Christ to service. We are freed from the bondage and slavery of the law, sin and Satan and we are now chained in freedom to obedience toward Christ. Freedom for the Christian is escape from the bondage of sin and submission to the bondage of Christ. It is only in submission and service to Christ where one is found truly free.One of the most evident features of Luther's work is that justification is through faith alone. He makes it clear that there is no work, which can accompany faith to bring about justification. Works cannot, and never will justify. Only faith in Christ as a gift of God will justify a sinner. The importance of sola fidei for Luther is that if works can justify then there is no need for the gospel. Therefore Luther's insistence upon faith alone is foundational to upholding the biblical gospel. If works are added then the gospel is bunk.The law-gospel distinction, which comes out in this treatise, is most significant for the Christian life. The law truly kills, but thankfully it is not an end in itself but points to the gospel, which is life. The chains of the law steer to the unbound grace in the gospel of Christ. While Luther seems to place a dichotomy between the two testaments as one being of commandments (OT) and the other being of promises (NT) it would be safer to say that there is both law and gospel, commandments and promises, in both testaments.Luther's teaching on union with Christ most helpfully highlights the very foundational nature of this doctrine to the whole of salvation. It is by virtue of this union with Christ whereby a sinner is found righteous. By faith alone one is united with Christ and made a partaker of the perfect life and the perfect death of Christ. That sinner is then buried, and raised up with Christ. Indeed Christ's righteousness swallows up our sinfulness. It is by this glorious uniting symbolized in a wedding where Christ marries his bride the church. And for Luther it is the "wedding ring of faith" which unites believers to Christ.Luther also hits an important note in writing, "So let him who wishes to do good works begin not with the doing of works, but with believing, which makes the person good, for nothing makes a man good except faith, or evil except unbelief." The only true works, which are good, are those works that are born out of faith. A good tree will produce good fruit and likewise a dead tree dead fruit. Faith alone produces a desire for righteous living, which produces good works compelled by the love of Christ.Luther's The Freedom of a Christian is an important work in that it sets in bold relief the necessity of faith alone for justification. Works cannot justify and it is only through faith in Christ whereby one is saved. It is within the inner man having been justified where good works find their foundation and it is through the outer man where good works find their expression. Truly good works can only flow from a renewed heart. Such a renewed heart is freed from the bondage to sin and is now compelled to love Christ and others. A true Christian is freed from sin unto service toward Christ. This free servitude is at the heart of Christian freedom.

  • By Peter Dubbelman on February 1, 2011

    On Christian Liberty by Martin Luther. Easy to read, historically important, theologically significant. Luther's words to Pope Leo X and his accompanying treatise `on Christian liberty' are very bold, especially given their historical and cultural content; his words, at times, border on being brash. This book is worth reading, especially given its historical significance and the fact that it succinctly summarizes Luther's thoughts on justification. Why read about Luther's thoughts from either his detractors or defenders, when you easily can read his translated works?In this short work on Liberty, Luther sets forth the whole of the Christian life in two theses: "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all."Other notably quotes, for me, that also represent major streams within this book are: 1) "One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ." 2) The "wedding ring of faith" unites believers to Christ. 3) "So let him who wishes to do good works begin not with the doing of works, but with believing, which makes the person good, for nothing makes a man good except faith, or evil except unbelief."


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