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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 430

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In Martin Luther’s treatise The Freedom of a Christian, he outlines the beliefs of a true Christian and how clinging to those beliefs liberates Christians from the perils of earthly existence.

He begins this discussion with two contradictory statements about Christians from the apostle Paul: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.” Luther suggests that despite the opposite nature of these claims, a true Christian will embody both statements. Christians are free when they place their trust in God wholeheartedly, yet they are bound by love for their neighbors to serve others.

To explain his version of Christian liberty, Luther states, “For the word of God cannot be received and honored by any works, but by faith alone.” This quote is a central tenet of Protestantism, which asserts that one’s good deeds in life do not matter when seeking the salvation of Christ. This also means that one’s soul cannot be saved because he or she lived a just, moral life. Helping others is important, according to Luther, but it is not the way to be granted eternal salvation. Therefore, Christians are only free when they submit themselves wholly to the word of God and have absolute faith in his redeeming power.

One feature of Luther’s writing is that he tends to repeat himself. He tries to explain the same concept in a multitude of ways in order to ensure his message is understood by anyone who reads it. This means reading Luther can be tedious, and analysis gets repetitive if we examine every part of the text.

So, let’s skip to the end of the text, when Luther restates his purpose most explicitly: “We have therefore need to pray that God will lead us, and make us taught of God, that is, ready to learn from God; and will Himself, as He has promised, write His law in our hearts; otherwise there is no hope for us.” Luther truly believes that Christians have lost their way in terms of faith, and he worries that many will find themselves excluded from the kingdom of heaven if they are unwilling to fully commit themselves to the idea that faith is the only key to salvation.

Of course, this idea diverges from the Catholic tenet of good works that was espoused at the time. Luther was willing to defy the accepted Christian leaders of the day in order to disseminate his message to the masses.