Snippets from Martin Luther’s Treatise On Christian Liberty

Years ago, I stumbled upon Martin Luther’s Treatise On Christian LibertyI still turn to it often, marveling at the insights regarding the intersection of faith and works.  Here are just a few of my favorite passages.

“Since, therefore, this faith can rule only in the inward man, as Romans X says, With the heart we believe unto righteousness; and since faith alone justifies, it is clear that the inward man cannot be justified, made free and be saved by any outward work or dealing whatsoever.”

“Although it is good to preach and write about penitence, confession, and satisfaction, our teaching is unquestionably deceitful and diabolical if we stop with that and do not go on to teach about faith.”

“We do not, therefore, reject good works; on the contrary, we cherish and teach them as much as possible.”

“But should [a Christian] man grow so foolish as to presume to become righteous, free, saved, and a Christian by means of some good work, he would on the instant lose faith and all its benefits: a foolishness aptly illustrated in the fable of the dog who runs along a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth, and, deceived by the reflection of the meat in the water, opens his mouth to snap at it, and so loses both the meat and the reflection.”

“The inexperienced and perverse youth need to be restrained and trained by the iron bars of ceremonies lest their unchecked ardor rush headlong into vice after vice.  [But] it would be death for them always to be held in bondage to ceremonies, thinking that these justify them.  They are rather to be taught that they have been so imprisoned in ceremonies, not that they should be made righteous or gain great merit by them, but that they might thus be kept from doing evil and might more easily be instructed to the righteousness of faith.  Such instruction they would not endure if the impulsiveness of their youth were not restrained.”

“Hence ceremonies are to be given the same place in the life of a Christian as models and plans have among builders and artisans.  They are prepared, not as a permanent structure, but because without them nothing could be built or made.  When the structure is complete the models and plans are laid aside.  You see, they are not despised, rather they are greatly sought after; but what we despise is the false estimate of them since no one holds them to be the real and permanent structure.”

“[Likewise] we despise the false estimate placed upon works in order that no one may think that they are true righteousness.”

Hymn of the Day: “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee” by Martin Luther

In German, with music by J.S. Bach:

In English, with music by Jo­hann Wal­ter (1524), as performed by the Moody Bible Institute men’s choir.


  1. Carolyn, thanks for this. It’s important to be aware of Luther’s false teachings that we reject based on revelation to modern-day prophets.

  2. Luther taught powerful truths! Thanks for sharing! You’ve inspired me to dust off my copy and read it again.

  3. Some readers of BCC may be familiar with what is called the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), which is quite relevant for Luther studies. It is easily found on line, and I highly recommend learning about it, if you are not already familiar with it. I find it persuasive.

  4. Leonard R says:

    Wow. Just wow. What a gem. Seriously.

  5. The Reformation was certainly a necessary prelude,historically speaking, to the Restoration, but we should not forget (as Jim B. notes) that it introduced as many new false teachings as existing corruptions that it addressed.

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