Freedom: William Wallace vs. Martin Luther

luther-v-wallaceEvery time I watch Braveheart, I cannot wait until the speech that William Wallace gives to the Sons of Scotland persuading them to fight the English army for their freedom. Wallace’s speech is so persuasive, the first time I heard it I felt like getting my sword from under my bed and joining the fight for freedom.Then one night I read Martin Luther’s “On Christian Liberty” and William Wallace’s speech was never the same.

Luther and Wallace were both champions of freedom, but it became obvious that Luther’s idea of freedom was much different from that of Wallace.In Luther’s case, freedom was from the Law and for Wallace it from the English army.The difference between Wallace’s freedom and Luther’s freedom (which I will call Christian freedom) is the step taken after freedom from the oppressor is granted.

Wallace’s end goal of freedom was for him and his countrymen to be free to act without hindrance or restraint in all things in life: he essentially didn’t want anybody telling him what to do.Luther, on the other hand would agree with Wallace because he didn’t want the Law dictating his every move, but Luther understood Christian freedom as living free from the Law but living a life governed by love.Therefore, freedom is not just deliverance from something, but freedom from one thing to another.

The fact that Christians are free from the bondage of the Law is a primary consideration for Luther.The condemnation of the Law has become absorbed by Christ because the believer is found hidden in His righteousness.Because of Christ’s victory and fulfillment of the Law, it becomes powerless to bind the Christian because its demands have already been met.

The qualifier “Christian,” of Christian freedom implies that it is an extraordinary brand of freedom. Ironically, Christ is only person to fully uphold the Law, yet even in Christ’s perfection there was little effort to uphold the particulars of the Law, but to live a life characterized by love. Christ himself summarizes the Law of the Old Testament by emphasizing that Christians should love both God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39) which completely revolutionizes the way the Law is understood and upheld.

At first glance, the concept of freedom can seem a bit arbitrary, so allow me to bring this idea of Christian Freedom from the stratosphere of theological deliberation and into your living room, applying it to the individual and also to the church.The current state of the American economy has a number of people wondering where their next meal is going to come from.With that said, the freedom that William Wallace seeks leaves him free to choose the option of doing nothing about the plight of his fellow man.Christian freedom, on the other hand leaves us free do as we please as well, but because we are continually being conformed to the mind of Christ, our every action should be oozing the love and compassion of our Savior.As we continually meditate on the gospel that has reconciled to Christ, the grace that we have been shown should be the same grace that we demonstrate to others.Notice there is no magic formula, boxes to check, three easy steps or rules to uphold, we are free to the extent that we know and glory in Christ.

In the world’s eyes, the church is very good at pointing people to the things that we do and don’t do because we are good, and at times legalistic, Christians.This is a tragedy because the church is showing off the effect (good works) of the gospel before we reveal its cause (Christ). The world is not looking for another law or more rules to be a slave to, because all manner of bondage already runs our society into the ground, rather, people are looking to be free from their vices and addictions, not simply trading them for a new form of bondage from religion.

Those of us who are invested in the SBC will do well to build upon the foundation of piety and devotion of generations past.  I have been encouraged with the “gospel centered” preaching and teaching from pulpits in recent years. The up and coming generation of Baptists should look to exalt our cause (Christ) and show his value with our actions by freely loving God and loving one another, and in these the Law (Matt. 22:37-39) is satisfied.


Comments 0

  1. Good word.

    This post comes at a great time. I have been thinking a good deal about freedom and how the terminology has been employed by those within the church over the years.

    It has become a word that has been used to convey some things I think are dangerous. Many have used this idea of “freedom in Christ” to give them warrant to do things that do not honor the Lord Jesus Christ. I can “speed” because I am free in Christ. I can watch trash on television (those shows that promote things that the Lord hates) all because I am free in Christ. There are so many more examples that could be given.

    Is there truth in these statements? Some. I can watch what I like and know that it does not condemn me, just as not watching something does not make me righteous I know that obeying traffic laws are not going to present me righteous before a holy God, and I know that not obeying those laws will not condemn me if I am in Christ. There is a fine line.

    However, to use “freedom in Christ” in this way is, in my estimation, outside of the biblical ideal. We are never “free” in the sense that we are our own autonomous person. We are are always slaves. You are either a slave to sin or a slave to Christ! We are not free to live “as we please” as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are commanded to live a life that is “worthy of the gospel by which we have been called.” This is not an option. Failure to do so may mean that you are still a slave to sin and were never truly set free.

    Great post.

  2. I like this article, but one point of contention:
    “The current state of the American economy has a number of people wondering where their next meal is going to come from.”

    While this statement as a logical assertion is difficult to argue with (“a number” could be three out of 300,000,000 in the US), the statement implies that a large number of Americans are struggling to find food to eat. And you presume this is due to the state of the economy.

    This assertion is an oversimplification and an exaggeration at the same time.

    As one who is poor myself, I have come to more clearly understand the plight of the poor in America. It resembles in FEW WAYS the plight of the poor in developing countries and is much more analagous to a business trying to keep the doors open when business is bad. If one is responsible (different from being poor) there is really no way to starve in America. “Responsible” poor people don’t “wonder” where their next meal is coming from–they know: It comes from food stamps (we get over $400/month!), the soup kitchen, Women and child supplements (WIC in FL–the support that provide grain and protein foods for women and their small children), and church food pantries. Because of a combination of social(ized) support through government and social care directly from individuals and churches, few responsible poor people actually wonder where their next meal is coming from.

    We poor wonder how we are going to pay the light bill, not the grocery bill.
    We poor wonder about how we will ever pay for college, not what our kids are going to eat.

    But there are real needs of the poor in the US. What are they? This is a great topic of discussion and study.

    Why does malnutrition exist in some corners of poverty in the US? The answers are various, but much has to do with irresponsibility of individuals and parents (of malnourished children), rather than a lack of kindness by our government or our churches. That being said–wiser kindness can help people in these situations. They are not without hope. But their meal has already been paid for. They need an invasion of grace, mercy, rebuke, and wisdom (etc.) into their lives.

    While the state of the poor in America is complex, the short answer is not that they need to get food for their next meal.

    The simple answer (if there is one) is that they (and we) need Jesus and discipleship to follow him daily.

  3. By the way–my post is a little off the main topic (but not off-topic) and this article is great.
    My case is with a passing statement, not with the meat of the article.

    After re-reading my post, I felt it came across a little more contentious than I meant it to be.

    Together in the Task,


  4. chrisHey Ginger,I would check out any of the following: the Humphrey’s group, the Yanase group, the Vizuete group. They are all young mriareds and are a great groups. Let me know how it goes and if you have any other questions.Have a great weekendChris

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