From the Word
Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.
John 8:51, RSV
By these words Christ breaks entirely with the Jews in that he ascribes such virtue to his teaching that it becomes a powerful emperor over Satan, death, and sin, to give and sustain eternal life. Here see, how divine wisdom and human reason are in conflict with one another. How can a human being grasp the thought, that a corporeal, an oral word should redeem forever from death? But let blindness run its course. Christ is speaking here not of the word of the law, but of the gospel, which is a discourse about Christ, who died for our sins. For God did not wish to impart Christ to the world in any other way; he had to embody him in the Word and thus distribute him, and present him to everybody; otherwise Christ would have existed for himself alone and remained unknown to us; he would have thus died for himself. But when the Word places Christ before us, it places us before one who has triumphed over death, sin, and Satan. Therefore he who grasps and retains Christ has eternal deliverance from death. Consequently it is a Word of life, and it is true that whosoever keeps the Word shall never see death.
From this we may well understand what Christ meant by the word “keep;” it is not such keeping as one keeps the law by good works; for this word of Christ must be kept in the heart by faith and not by good works. The Jews rage fearfully against Christ, that Abraham and the prophets are dead; they know nothing of what it is to “keep,” to “die,” or to “live.” And to “keep” is not said in vain; for there is a conflict and battle when sin bites, death presses and hell faces us; then we are to be in earnest in holding firmly to the Word and let nothing separate us from it. Thus you see how Christ answers the Jews and praises his own teachings. You say, my Word is of the devil, and wish to sink it to the bottom of perdition; on the contrary I say to you that it has divine power in it, and I exalt it higher than the heaven of heavens, and above all creatures.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 103–04.
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