September 24, 2017

Luther Gives Us Free Sins, Too

Long before our good brother Steve Brown started offering people free sins, a German monk with a passion for Christ, grace, and freedom did the same.

Martin Luther’s classic book, On the Freedom of a Christian (or Concerning Christian Liberty), 1520, is one of the most fundamental books in Luther’s canon and one of the key works of the Protestant Reformation. The most famous and recognizable quote from it is: “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.” The entire book is a masterful treatise expounding Paul’s teaching that God’s grace in Christ has come to set us free, now and forever, and that “what matters is faith that works through love” (Gal. 5:6 GNT).

In the following passage, Martin Luther celebrates the liberty of being married to Christ and offers us unlimited free sins!

Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its Husband Christ.

Thus He presents to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus He betroths her unto Himself “in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies” (Hosea ii.19-20)

Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? Christ, that rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all His good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in Him, and since she has in her Husband Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, “If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine,” as it is written, “My beloved is mine, and I am His” (Cant. ii. 16).

Comments

  1. The title and related post makes me think of a toddler saying “3” but using “f” instead of “th”

  2. …or make that, “Luther gives us free forgiveness for sins.” This whole conversation keeps making me think about that haunting question from Capon, “What would you do with freedom if you had it?” Truth be told, a big part of me wants to just be like Jesus. If I had 3 free sins…. oh heck with 3. We DO have infinite number of free sins, being that they are all forgiven in Christ. But that doesn’t make me want to do any of them. And even forgiven sins are not free. As my old Bible professor used to say, “You can choose your sin, but you can’t choose your consequences.” If I had my way, or the proverbial magic wand, why not just never sin again? This may be pie-in-the-sky, but isn’t this the ideal to which true faith aspires? (Recognizing, of course, how miserably short we always will fall of it, and believing nonetheless that Christ has suffered in our place.)

    • Just re-reading my own comment, I was struck with the idolatry of obedience for the sake of comfort. Perhaps we can aspire to not sin too much in order to protect our lives from consequences, as if that were possible. It’s almost better to sin than to obey with selfish motives, if for no other reason than the former is honesty, while the latter deceives itself with vain notions of righteousness.

  3. This 49 minute class on Luther’s Treatise on Christian Liberty, is one of the best expositions of Luther’s theology and the freedom of the Christian that I have ever heard:

    http://theoldadam.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/martin-luther-on-christian-liberty.mp3

    If anyone doesn’t like it, I will personally triple your money back 😀

  4. All I can say is, “oh, thank You, God!”

  5. sarahmorgan says:

    As someone who’s been badly hurt by the sins of others in a spiritually abusive church, I have to say I’m just not getting all the talk about everybody getting free sins. Maybe I’ve been driven too far away from Christianity to understand much of it anymore.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      I think that’s just it, though, if you’ll pardon my saying so. I think the whole idea of “free sins” is that we recognize that they’re sins – they’re evil, wrong, filthy, hateful to God, and so on. But despite that, no matter how low or vile, we (and our neighbor) are totally forgiven for them without reservation. It’s not that we deny their sinfulness or pretend like they weren’t all that bad; instead, even though we recognize the depth of their evil, we can also say that God’s love and forgiveness are still deeper.

      I’m very sorry that you were hurt by people’s sins. If you’re looking for enormous heaps of grace, Chaplain Mike here is your guy. God’s used him (and this site) to give me rest many times; maybe He can do the same for you.

    • Sarah, there is no intent here to be insensitive. The issue of having been hurt by others’ sins is real and beyond the scope of what we’re saying here.

      The idea of “Free sins” is designed for those who who beaten down by the sense that they’ll never measure up, never be able to please God, never be accepted because of their sins and shortcomings. We offer “free sins” to them as a way of reminding them that Jesus has taken care of all their sins by his finished work, and that nothing can separate them from his love. We are free to simply be ourselves and know that God loves us. As Luther said, ““If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine,” Therefore I am free to do as Paul says: “The life I now live I live within the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

      I’m sorry for your pain, and hope you will find help and comfort in days to come.

      • sarahmorgan says:

        To be honest, Chaplain Mike, I read these posts because I _am_ one of those people that are beaten down by the sense that I’ll never measure up, never be able to please God, and never be accepted because of my sins and shortcomings — that abusive church did a tremendously good job of drilling that into me at a vulnerable time in my life, and I find that I’m still dealing with the effects of it 5 years later. Maybe I’m having such a hard time absorbing it because I still have so much trouble reconciling the paradox of all those “Christians” I had to deal with who said “Jesus loves you!” out of one side of their mouth, and “We hate your guts, want you to leave our church (don’t forget to apologize for your offensive existence and grovel at our feet before you go), and we have no problem ruining your life because you bruised our egos!” out of the other. To me, it just doesn’t seem like it matters anymore whether I sin (with free passes, no less) or not; it doesn’t seem to make any difference, spiritually or otherwise. And, for good or bad, whenever the topic of sin is brought up, I can’t help but focus on those hurt by others’ sins, and sometimes it seems to me that most Christians don’t concern themselves with those folks as much as they focus on themselves and their own personal interests (this is made worse by the fact that I live in a town where individuality is king and community is a sign of weakness, and this attitude has pervaded the churches here as well).
        Thanks for writing these posts, though; I do try to grasp what you’re trying to say, even through my own spiritual fog.

  6. Bill Metzger says:

    The fact that the New Testament frequently refers to Jesus as the Groom and the Church as the Bride is very important. In a marriage, even if one of the spouses cheated on the other, they REMAIN MARRIED. It’s based on an AGREEMENT or PROMISE, not on a track record or feelings. In our “marriage” to Jesus, we are secure in the PROMISE made by Jesus in Song of Solomon 7:10 (and many other places): “I am my Beloved’s and His desire is toward me.”

  7. Hang in there, Sarah.
    The One who made you also loves you dearly, deeply, and without deviation — and all the church-going assholes on planet earth can’t do a darn thing to change that.
    And He really does know how you feel. The ultra-religious assholes of Jesus’ day treated the very God they claimed to serve and worship like a worthless criminal when He showed up as a plain-looking working class Jew — so you’re in very good company.