In faith, the soul is filled with grace and blessedness. It also unites the soul with Christ like a bride to her husband. This marriage, St. Paul says, unites Christ and the soul in one body (Eph 5:30). All things, then, are shared. Everything that belongs to Christ becomes the believers. What belongs to the believer becomes Christ’s. This begins the joyful exchange.

Because Christ is human and divine and his righteousness is invincible and eternal through the wedding ring of the bride—that is, faith—he takes the sins of the believer and makes them his own. He acts like he did them himself. The believer’s sins are swallowed up and drowned in Christ. No sin is too great for his righteousness. Through this, the believer is freed from all their sins and given the gift of Christ’s eternal righteousness. Is this not worthy of a joyful wedding celebration, when the righteous bridegroom (Christ) receives the poor, despised, and evil whore in marriage, unburdening her of all evil and adorning her with everything that is good! Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 15:57: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Let us now see what else we have in Christ and what a great blessing true faith is. First of all, you should know that in the Old Testament, God set apart all firstborn males of both humans and animals. Being the firstborn male was special and gave two great advantages to him. In particular, he received sovereignty and priestly authority. So the firstborn son was master over all his brothers and a priest before God. This prefigures Jesus Christ, who is God’s firstborn son by the Virgin Mary. He is therefore a king and a priest, spiritually speaking, for his kingdom is not of this world. Neither does it consist in earthly things but, instead, spiritual ones like truth, wisdom, peace, and joy. Earthly things are not excluded, though, for all things in heaven and on earth and in hell are subject to him.

Thus his priesthood does not consist in outward trappings. It stands invisibly in the spirit in that he continuously pleads for his own before the eyes of God and offers himself and does everything a righteous priest should do. He is “interceding for us,” St. Paul explains in Romans 8:34.

Now, just as Christ has the right of the firstborn with its honor and dignity, he shares it with all Christians so that by faith they too become rulers and priests with Christ. As 1 Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.” What happens then is that through faith, a Christian is lifted up so as to become sovereign over all things spiritual. Nothing can harm their salvation. In fact, all things are now subject to and assist in their salvation. St. Paul says in Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” whether it is life, death, sin, righteousness, good and evil, or anything else. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 3:21–22, he writes, “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether . . . life or death or the present or the future.” This does not mean that we are physically empowered to possess or use everything the way people on earth do, for we certainly have to die. No one can escape death. We must suffer many other things, as did Christ and his saints. This is instead a spiritual authority, ruling by putting the body under subjection. That is, with respect to the soul, I can improve myself without any physical or temporal thing so that even death and suffering serve me and become useful for my salvation. Indeed, this is an exalted and honorable thing, a spiritual kingdom in which, if I believe, nothing is too good or too evil that it cannot serve me for good, for I do not need anything anyway. My faith is sufficient for me. Look at how precious the authority and freedom of a Christian is!

This is an excerpt from “The Freedom of the Christian” written by Martin Luther and translated and edited by Adam Francisco (1517 Publishing, 2020), pgs. 10-13. Used with permission.

The Freedom of the Christian is the theme for this year’s Here We Still Stand Conference.
To register for free for HWSS, click here.