As Luther looked to Paul for understanding of who the Christian is as a freed being, he also began to recognize the mystery of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of all who came to serve, not to be served. (See Gal.4:4, Phil 2:5-8, Luke 22:27). Paul points to God’s purposeful action in Christ in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” At God’s perfect time, the Son was born as human, a genuine human, to come to humankind both where and as humanity exists. Jesus was born as a Jew; therefore, he was born under the Law of God as given through Moses. Continuing in verse five, “in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” Sinners, in need of justification before God, are slaves to their sin as Jesus stated in John 8:34, … “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Jesus justifies the sinner by paying the wages of the sin (i.e., death, see Romans 6:23) himself at his crucifixion. This work of Christ, frees the sinner from their condemned plight.
As Luther continued his study of Paul’s letters, he began to realize how Paul views himself in relation to others. In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul states, “For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all so that I might win more of them.” Luther interpreted Paul’s Christian identity in this way, “A Christian is lord of all, completely free of everything [including greed, status, gluttony, etc.]. A Christian is a servant, completely attentive to the needs of all.” He explains, that as a freed Christian, no works bring about salvation or credit with God, however, as a servant of the neighbor, all kinds of works are done. Furthermore, Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” All works are for the benefit of the neighbor, not the self. “Given the abundance of our faith, our life and works become a surplus to be used freely in service of the neighbor.” Christians are freed from the requirement of works to secure salvation, this liberty, then, is to “empty” one’s self to “serve and help” others in every way possible. The verdict of being declared “righteous,” leads to performance of service.
Luther viewed freedom only in relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the one who frees from the powers of “sin, death, and the devil.” In this freedom, a person is no longer consumed with death and damnation, but now freed, in response to God’s grace, to serve the neighbor. Faith in Christ and his work is sufficient for redemption. Faith frees a soul from the weight of the law, honors God, and links the soul with Christ. On the cross, Christ freed the sinner from the wages of sin and freed the sinner for service to others.
Jungel, Eberhard, The Freedom of a Christian, Luther’s Significance for Contemporary Theology, Translated by Roy A. Harrisville, (Minneapolis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1988), 21 Keller, Timothy, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, The Path to True Christian Joy, (Leyland, 10Publishing, 2012) 39 Luther, Martin, The Freedom of a Christian, translated by Mark D. Tranvik. (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 2008). Morris, Leon, Galatians, Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom, (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 1996). The Holy Bible, NRSV (Cambridge University Press, 1989).