Martin Luther Theological Manifesto in the Face

Section 1

Freedom of the Christian was one of the three writings by Martin Luther that characterized the evangelical theology of Reformation. On June 15, 1520, the bull Exsurge Domine had been issued by the Roman Curia whereby Luther was ordered to halt his preaching and was further threatened that he would be charged as a heretic. That had opened him up to the possibility of punishment and arrest. Martin Luther wrote the Freedom of the Christian, in an attempt to persuade Roman Catholics and Pope Leo X that the theology of reformation was a pure confession of God`s Word and consistent with the Holy Scriptures truth and not a novelty in the faith. The book is an expression of Luther`s treatise on the liberty of Christians, in which with clarity and simplicity, he sets forth, the essence of Christian life and faith.

The catholic understanding of freedom was that sacraments and good deeds helps Christians grow in acceptability to God. Luther, however, taught that both eternal life and salvation were not earned by good deeds but were received as free gifts of the Grace of God through the faith of a believer in Jesus Christ as sins redeemer. Luther`s teaching challenged the pope`s office authority by arguing that the Bible was the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God and further spoke against intervention by priests for sin forgiveness considering all Christians who were baptised as being a holy priesthood.

Aristotle stated the obvious about servants and lords among the ancients. If there is a servant, then there is a lord, which follows that, if there is a lord, then, there is also a servant. The paradoxical teachings of Luther following Christ and St. Paul on Christian freedom join the servant and the lord into one. A Christian is subject to none being a perfectly free lord of all, A Christian is also subject to all, being a perfectly dutiful servant.


These two statements that are seemingly contradictory are held together in tension and further provide an outline of the two main parts of the following treatise. Luther in the first part illustrates how faith justifies and sets free the inner man and the second part that illustrates that the outward canal man, who being saved by faith serves the neighbor in Christian life and further engages in good works.

By faith alone, a man is set utterly by God, completely, free in Christ. Being the lord of all, he is subject to no one. He is further bound by love as an utterly dutiful servant to the neighbor, subject to everyone. It is in love and faith that the paradox of Christian freedom plays. Luther views all things in Christ, His work and person, as He applies His saving effects to the Christian.

Luther summarises the tight connection of the freedom of Christians and Christ in the introduction of Freedom of the Christian. According to Luther, Christ bound himself under the law, as utterly free as Christ was, to win humans salvation and to serve His creatures. The salvific example of Christ becomes Christian freedom`s form.

Further, Luther considers freedom first as it relates to the inner man. In Christ, the inner man becomes righteous, pious and free. In line with the emphasis of Luther, the Word does it all. According to him, only freedom and righteousness are necessary for the Christian life. In explaining which Word he refers to, Luther says that the Word is the gospel of God about his son, who is made to take the form of man, suffered, was hanged on the cross, died and rose from the dead and through the Spirit who sanctifies, was glorified. The Gospel brings a lot of comfort with it! Just by faith, Christians get to receive all that is given by Christ. According to Romans, 10 [:9], “Faith alone is the saving and efficacious use of God`s word.” Anyone who confesses with their lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. Faith alone justifies a man and not any other works; for it would neither need Faith or the Word if it were justifiable by any other thing.

The attention of Luther continues to be on the gift of faith, even when expressed in in terminology echoing the mystical traditions: Jesus Christ, “through faiths wedding ring, shares in the pains, death and sins of hell which belong to his bride.” Clearly enough, the affirmation of incarnation is presupposed by an understanding of the incarnation. Christ, as the incarnate Lord gains victory and thereafter redemption through suffering. So that he would overcome all these, he suffered, died and even descended to hell. It is from his resurrection that the Christus Victor motif emerges with a lot of clarity. In a mighty dues, Christ swallowed death and hell after they could not swallow him.

What that implies is that there is nothing the inner person stands to gain from outward external acts like performing sacred duties, going for pilgrimages and fasting. He further argues that it helps the body in no way if it is adorned with the priests’ sacred robes or is occupied with sacred duties or dwells in sacred places or fasts, prays, abstains from certain types of foods, or engages in any such activities that can be done by the body or in the body. Here what Luther offers is the identification of the sinner and not an analysis of individual sins. However, the focus on the sinner includes a concern with grace: there is no possible situation that the soul would be into the extent that it was beyond the reach of God`s grace. According to Luther, such acts only act to produce hypocrites.

Additionally, secular activities and dressing do not necessarily harm the spiritual being. According to Luther, the Church had in its ways become very corrupt and had lost sight on several Christianity truths, the most important of which was the doctrine of justification – God`s act of declaring a sinner righteous, through the Grace of God, by faith alone. According to Luther, Justification is the act of God of declaring unrighteous sinners with faith in God, righteous.

Section 2

The sinful man is joined with God by the word of God. About the Bible, Luther specifically refers to its center, namely to Jesus Christ as the redeemer. Through this, Luther points to faith`s creative circle: it is through faith that the world is heard truly and the Word wakens that faith. This concept is both complex and profound. It is evident that as the soul requires only the Word of God for its righteousness and life, faith alone is enough and not works. Luther recognizes faith as an eye-opener to truth and posits that it is only through faith that one can recognize their sinfulness. The moment a person begins to have faith, they learn that all things within them are altogether damnable, sinful and blameworthy. It is only through such that the awareness for the need of Christ who is the redeemer comes into being. It is only through belief in Jesus that one becomes a new man.

The righteousness of Christ justifies any sinner’s righteousness. As such, according to Luther, faith alone justifies the law and makes a person righteous. In some sense, this is a new status before God: Whereby, sins are forgiven, and through the merits of another, we become justified, the other being Christ. From a different perspective, faith can be understood in terms of the Gospel and Law dialect. Namely, the details of personal sins are through the law, recognized by God. God`s eternal commandments confront false piety and pride which lead to their crumbling. While the commandments of God show us what we ought to do, they fail to give us the powers to do so. Their intention is to teach a man to know himself so that through them, he may become aware of his inabilities to do well and may further despair of his abilities.

According to Luther, love`s servanthood is exclusively the lover`s servanthood and not of the loved one to whom through such servanthood, freedom is granted. Here it is only, from the grace of God that the possibility of proffering love in authentic freedom which redeems as it liberates originates. In a more soteriological than anthropological manner, Luther continuously uses the terms “flesh” and “spirit.”

Luther also puts the outer man into consideration. Are Christian’s content with not doing any other works and being saved by faith alone? Is the liberty of Luther, liberty of ease? In answering the charges placed on him by his Roman Catholic opponents, Luther answers, “…not so, you wicked man, not so.” If only we were perfectly spiritual men or wholly inner would it be proper indeed? However, we cannot be that when living, we shall only be that at the day the dead will resurrect, the last day. As we continue to live in the flesh, we begin to progress in that only which the future life shall perfect.

As Luther puts it, it is not possible to separate these two men in the same man. While the two men can be distinguished, it is not possible to separate them.

Man does all kinds of works, insofar as he is a servant. In this life, it is necessary that man learns self-control and also have dealings with others. It is here that the works begin, it is here that man cannot enjoy leisure, and it is also here then man must take due care for purposes of disciplining his body through watching’s, fasting’s, labors and any other such reasonable disciplines. It is also necessary that man subjects his body to the Spirit so that he can obey and further conform to faith and the inner man as, if the body is not held in check that is its nature. Being created in God`s image, the inner man is both happy and joyful because of Christ in whom numerous benefits are conferred on him; and as such, it is the occupation of man, in love that is on no way constrained, to joyfully serve God without even the thought of gain.

The Homily of Alms deeds posits that God requires oh his faithful servants who are the true Christians his name should be glorified and their vocations certainty declared. The homily further points out that the works of mercy and pity upon the poor are more acceptable to God and more profitable to humankind and they should be afflicted without any kind of misery. Christians are required seek and further learn the holy word of God to gain an understanding of what is required of them and then performing it diligently. Through his, charitable acts that are godly are encouraged.

Towards the end of his treatise, Luther asks, “Who then can comprehend the glory and the riches of the Christian life?” The Christian is filled with love having all things and can do all things. That makes Christians almighty workers, joyful, free and conquerors over all tribulations, servants of their neighbors while at the same time being the lords of all. However, it is hard to find people leading such Christian lives presently. Most Christians are never even aware of why they bear the name of Christ because it is never sought after or preached about. Luther posits that it is only because Christ dwells in us that by faith in God we are turned into Christ’s to one another and further treat our neighbors the same way Christ treated us8.

The tract on freedom by Luther has rightly been referred to as the perfect expression of his understanding of Reformation and the mystery of Christ. It goes with Christ the same way it goes with the freedom of the Christian. In a nutshell, The Freedom of the Christian is Christ’s confession. The freedom of a Christian is by itself a gift from Christ himself. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom, Christ has set us free…” Christ gives to those who bear his name by baptism, what he did to win salvation in his human and divine natures. Through faith alone, God justifies the sinner. After the likeness of Christ, the sinner transforms in inner and outer man. In works of love, the Christian is at once utterly free in faith and a servant to all in works of love. It is between the twin poles of love and faith that Christian life is lived. In line with the teachings of Martin Luther to the church, that is the paradoxical freedom of Christians.

The conclusion further powerfully and repeatedly celebrates the meaning of faith active in love. It is a Christocentrically understood love generally. The Christian, being free from all works needs to empty themselves in that liberty, taking upon themselves a servants form, being found in human form, being made in man`s likeness, and to help, serve and in all ways possible deal with their neighbors as they see that God through Christ has dealt and continues to deal with them. It is very crucial that this is not just viewed as a mere limitation. Luther prefers to speak of identification instead of an imitation: “Therefore, I will give myself to my neighbor as a Christ, the same way Christ offered himself to me.”

Luther`s assertion that it is necessary that a Christian is Christ to their neighbour is the epitome of his ethic. Luther referred to Christians as Christians because Christ dwells in them and they are also Christ’s to one another. He provides scriptural examples of such life-styles. Luther gets concrete cases from the concern of the New Testament with the Old Testaments injunctions, where freedom and obedience have been observed to coexist and love has flourished. For example, Virgin Mary submitted to the Mosaic Law of purification out of willing and free love. Apostle Paul refused to circumcise Titus at the demand of the work-righteous but circumcised Timothy, for the weak people`s sake,

From reading Freedom of Christians, it is evident that in every way, Luther portrays Christian freedom with primary attention to the inner liberation and spontaneous creativity which are results of faithful love and redemption.

Luther`s struggle for reforms in the Roman Catholic Church drew attention to somewhat peripheral issues. Particularly, that may have been the case with regard to the impassioned comments he made on the role played by ecclesial ceremonies. In their rigid defense, Luther sees a practice that is rather unbiblical of work-righteousness which fuels his eagerness of criticizing the stubborn ceremonialists who he further refers to as unyielding as deaf adders which are very unwilling to hear the truth of liberty.

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To conclude, Luther`s concern with freedom is thoroughly soteriological. Liberation in its essence is made up of redemption. It is no surprise that Luther was concerned about salvation because he was a biblical theologian. The ultimate significance of the tract on Christian freedom is seen in its balancing role contextually. With no doubt, as a reformer, Luther contributed to the new understanding of the church`s structure as a realm of redemption and as a prophet, challenged his contemporaries to correlate their ecclesial renewal with God`s foundational Word. Through faith and in the courageous living of faith, experiencing Christ`s presence through the Word, Luther was able to outline the reciprocity of hearing and preaching, of receiving and delivering, and of being loved and loving: that was the concept through which the concept of Christ was grasped both corporately and personally.

Luther`s efforts were earmarked by the prioritizing of responsibilities and not the denial of the need for activity. According to Luther, the authentic human being only emerged under the impact of faith and God`s word, which enabled the becoming of Christ for others in addition to the acceptance of the Christ in others for one`s own life.


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  • Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther: shaping and defining the reformation, 1521-1532. Vol. 2. Fortress Press, (2009): 64-93.
  • King, Martin Luther, and James Melvin Washington. A testament of hope: The essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, (1991): 24-32.
  • Lull, Timothy F., and William R. Russell. Martin Luther's basic theological writings. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, (2012): 98-111.
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  • Luther, Martin. The Freedom of a Christian, 1520: The Annotated Luther Study Edition. Fortress Press, (2016): 45-64.
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  • Mullett, Michael. Martin Luther. Routledge, 2014.
  • Rieder, Jonathan. Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, (2014): 166-193.
  • Stacey, Caroline M. "Justification by Faith in the Two Books of Homilies (1547 and 1571)." Anglican theological review 83, no. 2 (2001): 255.
  • Weaver, Denny. "Christus victor, ecclesiology, and Christology." The Mennonite quarterly review 68, no. 3 (1994): 277-290.

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