This is an incredible volume and, in my opinion, a better introduction to Luther than "Selections From His Writings". It contains a number of his better-known works including the infinitely worthy "Smaller Catechism," the infamous "95 Theses," and the thesis chapters from his personal favorite, "The Bondage of the Will." Alongside these monumental works are set lesser-known, but equally powerful writings. "A Meditation on Christ's Passion" held me near tears for its whole length and "The Freedom of a Christian" is (in my humble opinion) one of the greatest pieces of Christian literature ever penned. It would be too great a task to examine the whole of the contents of the book, but I would like to look in more detail at my personal favorite of the works in this anthology, "The Freedom of a Christian."
Martin Luther's treatise "The Freedom of a Christian" is perhaps the most powerful and concise presentation of the Christian life ever written. I cannot recommend this work highly enough. I rank this among the very best of Luther's works (and that is really saying something). If an inexpensive copy were still in publication I would buy every copy to give as gifts to friends and family. The power, discernment, brevity and readability of this work make a true gem among Reformation writings (and Christian writings in general). Here you will find the essence of the spirit of the Reformation distilled into a guide for practical, biblical living.
With the clarity and bold authority of a true prophet, Luther sets forth the whole of the Christian life in two theses: "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." We are free from sin and the law (subject to none) but slaves to Christ in love (subject to all). As Paul writes in Romans 6:22, "But now...you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God."
Luther writes as a shepherd of the common people and the tone and content differ greatly from his better-known debate-oriented works (ie. Bondage of the Will, 95 Theses). The doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is the heart and soul of Luther's message, founded upon a firm conviction in the authority of scripture alone.
He writes, "One thing, and only one thing, is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ."
And again, "It ought to be the first concern of every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and increasingly to strengthen faith alone and through faith to grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him.... No other work makes a Christian.... 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent' (John 6:29)."
And regarding our service to God, "...In this way the stronger member may serve the weaker, and we may be sons of God, each caring for and working for the other, bearing one another's burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ. This is a truly Christian life. Here faith is truly active through love. That is, it finds expression in works of the freest service, cheerfully and lovingly done, with which a man willingly serves another without hope of reward; and for himself he is satisfied with the fullness and wealth of his faith."
Luther has been described by some as "abrasive" and "crude." O, for more abrasive, crude, Spirit-filled men of God like Luther. He speaks in the manner of Peter--both as a man of the common people and as a prophet of the Most High God. Here is the heart and soul of the Reformation. Luther's heart is poured out in his writings and his heart is filled only with the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, which is the power and the wisdom of God.