From the Word
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 1:1–4, RSV
Just as we interpret the words of Christ, when he says, “I am the life,” so also should we interpret these words, and say nothing philosophically of the life of the creatures in God; on the contrary, we should consider how God lives in us and makes us partakers of his life, so that we live through him, of him, and in him. For it cannot be denied that through him natural life also exists, which even unbelievers have from him. Natural life is a part of eternal life, its beginning, but on account of death it has an end, because it does not acknowledge and honor him from whom it comes; sin cuts it off so that it must die forever. On the other hand, those who believe in him, and acknowledge him from whom they have their being, shall never die; but this natural life of theirs will be extended into eternal life, so that they will never taste death. “He that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” These and similar passages are well understood when we rightly learn to know Christ, how he overcame death and has brought us to life.
When the evangelist says, “In him was life,” and not, “In him is life,” as though he spoke of things past, the words must not be taken to mean the time before creation, or the time of the beginning; but they must be referred to the time of Christ’s life or sojourn upon earth, when the Word of God appeared to men and among men; for the evangelist proposes to write about Christ and that life in which he accomplished all things necessary for our life.
The words of the evangelist therefore simply refer to the sojourn of Christ on earth. Whoever will disregard the life and sojourn of Christ on earth, and will wish to find him in some other way than as he now sits in heaven, will always fail. He must look for him as he was and sojourned on earth, and he will then find life. Here Christ was made our life, light, and salvation. “In him was life,” not that he is not our life now, but that he does not now do that which he then did.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 106–07.
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