Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 685
Here are some memorable quotes from Martin Luther’s treatise “On the Freedom of a Christian:”
“The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers, that, so soon as we perceive that anything of ours is not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed” (Lines 36-37). This quote suggests that Christians are often unwilling to accept criticism when it directly impacts their personal choices.
“In brief, trust not in any who exalt you, but in those who humiliate you” (Line 184). This quote suggests that flattery can leave one blind to the truth about oneself. Instead of indulging in the ego-stroking talk of supporters, one should listen to one’s fiercest critics, since that is how one develops and grows.
“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” (Lines 233-234). These contradictory statements, Luther explains, were both uttered in the Bible by the apostle Paul. Luther uses these two ideas to guide his continued discussion of a Christian’s freedoms.
“For the word of God cannot be received and honored by any works, but by faith alone” (Lines 292-293). 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.
“The third incomparable grace of faith is this, that it unites the soul to Christ, as the wife to the husband” (Line 408). This quote stresses the importance of the soul becoming one with God, which is only achieved through “cleaving” to His word and trusting His promises will be fulfilled.
“A Christian man is free from all things; so that he needs no works in order to be justified and saved, but receives these gifts in abundance from faith alone. Nay, were he so foolish as to pretend to be justified, set free, saved, and made a Christian, by means of any good work, he would immediately lose faith with all its benefits” (Lines 520-523). Luther suggests that faith frees Christians from the responsibilities of moral actions.
“Here then works begin; here he must not take his ease; here he must give heed to exercise his body by fastings, watchings, labor, and other moderate discipline, so that it may be subdued to the spirit, and obey and conform itself to the inner man and faith” (Lines 586-589). In this quote, Luther says some works must be performed in order to maintain a healthy soul.
“We do not then reject good works; nay, we embrace them and teach them in the highest degree. It is not on their own account that we condemn them, but on account of this impious addition to them, and the perverse notion of seeking justification by them” (Lines 698-700). Luther clarifies his position in this quote, explaining that good works are necessary to live a Christian life, but they cannot be used to justify admittance to the kingdom of heaven.
“But now, in the doctrine of men, we are taught only to seek after merits, rewards, and things which are already ours, and we have made of Christ a taskmaster far more severe than Moses” (Lines 815-816). Luther explains that the current state of the world prevents many Christians from seeking the true path of faith.
“We conclude therefore that a Christian man does not live in himself, but in Christ, and in his neighbor, or else is no Christian; in Christ by faith, in his neighbor by love” (Lines 893-894). Luther summarizes his discussion with this quote, saying that true Christians are ruled by faith and love.
“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” (Lines 1022-1024). In his final paragraph, Luther reaffirms his belief that a Christian’s freedom depends on his or her relationship with God.