On the freedom of a Christian

The strongest influence of the three famous writings no doubt comes from the paper on freedom. The peasants invoke this – in addition to the paper to the German nobility – in the context of their uprising.

On the freedom of a Christian (cover) „Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen“, Wittenberg, 1520 
On the freedom of a Christian (cover)
„Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen“, Wittenberg, 1520

Luther felt himself to be especially misunderstood as regards the instrumentalisation of this paper.

Actually, this paper owes its emergence to the mediation attempt of the papal chamberlain Karl von Miltitz, to whom Luther promised to write a letter to the pope. Luther did this by emphasising the brotherly love and pastoral subservience towards Leo as an individual on the one hand, but does not retract his criticism of the seat of power the papacy and the Curia. 

The open letter to Leo grew to become a paper in itself. The letter and the paper on freedom dedicated to the town magistrate of Zwickau are written in German and Latin. In the paper on freedom, the issue is the charged relationship between liberating faith and subservient love.

“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” This, in itself, paradoxical formulation and core statement of the paper turns out to be an ingenious summary of the Lutheran doctrine of justification. 


The gospel makes humans free from all laws, works and earthly authorities in its concern for their salvation; it makes them free to serve their neighbour, free to love for its own sake, without it being a means to another purpose.