The Freedom of a Christian: A New Translation – Martin Luther

The Freedom of a Christian: A New Translation by Martin Luther
Series: Crossway Short Classics
Published by Crossway on February 21, 2023
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Theology

Martin Luther’s Classic Work, Newly Translated by Robert Kolb

Originally published in 1520, The Freedom of a Christian is one of Martin Luther’s most well-known and enduring treatises. In it, the German Reformer examines Christian ethics and how justification by faith alone impacts the liberty of believers. He famously writes, “A Christian is a free lord of everything and subject to no one. A Christian is a willing servant of everything and subject to everyone.” Luther also further develops ideas and doctrines that were key to the Reformation, such as the priesthood of all believers and union with Christ.

This addition to the Crossway Short Classics series features a new translation from the original German to English by renowned Reformation scholar Robert Kolb. The Freedom of a Christian reminds modern-day readers that it is ultimately grace that transforms God’s people and frees us to love and obey.

Accessible: Helpful for those looking to learn more about Luther and the Christian life, both new Christians and seasoned saints alike
Part of the Crossway Short Classics Series: Introducing modern-day readers to classic works of faith―other volumes include Fighting for Holiness; Heaven Is a World of Love; and The Emotional Life of Our Lord
New Translation: Translated from the original German by world-renowned scholar Robert Kolb, author of Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith.
Foreword by Carl R. Trueman: Author of the bestselling book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

This addition to the Crossway Short Classics series begins with a preface from Carl R. Trueman that provides historic context for when Luther wrote this treatise. A brief biography of Luther follows, and the rest of the book reproduces a current translation of The Freedom of a Christian, Luther’s approach to Christian ethics based on his realization that our faith is based on Christ’s righteousness, not our own works. He further refined his thoughts later as he saw people abuse this concept to make excuses for sin, but this treatise shares a foundational understanding of how we can experience freedom in Christ through total forgiveness and do good works out of love for God and others.

The Freedom of a Christian: A New Translation is great for people who want to explore some of Luther’s shorter, more accessible theological works. The eloquent, old-fashioned writing style can be difficult for some modern readers to follow, but the book’s brevity will make it easier for them to understand, and this translation from the original German reads smoothly. The necessary changes in grammar and sentence structure between the languages are invisible to the reader, and this translation does not involve archaic phrases from outdated English. There are also helpful footnotes to clarify things.

One reflection Luther shares near the end is that in an ideology of works-based righteousness, good works become self-serving because the person doing them is striving for acceptance from God. He argues that a more biblical understanding of faith and works frees us to truly do good, since our good works flow from love instead of being a means to an end. I would recommend The Freedom of a Christian to people who are interested in Luther’s writings and this point of theology, and to pastors who are preparing to preach on passages that bring up complex questions about the relationship between faith and works when following Jesus.