From the Word
1 “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me.
John 16:1–4, RSV
Christ tells what moves those who oppose the gospel to such hatred and persecution of Christians as to excommunicate them and even attempt to kill them. It is because they preach concerning Christ, whom they themselves do not know. That they do not know Christ is true without a doubt. Their own deeds prove it. They are blind and without the true knowledge of God and of Christ, opposing God and his Son with their acts of ban and murder under the very appearance and with the boast of thereby serving God. But Christ strengthens and comforts his own people that they fear not harsh judgment, nor are intimidated from preaching and confession, but say to their adversaries: “We must obey God rather than man.”
Here Christ also fixes the standard of judgment and points out the difference between the true and the false Church. The Church is not to be judged by name and external appearance. Human reason cannot furnish the necessary qualifications for the true Church. The actual test is in ascertaining who have the real knowledge of Christ and who have not. What does it mean to know Christ and the Father? The papists boast of such a knowledge, as the Jews boasted of being able to recognize the Messiah. But an intellectual knowledge of God is not sufficient. He who wishes to know God truly must know him in the Word and promises which the Scriptures set forth about Christ, that Christ is the Son of God, sent by the Father as a sacrifice and ransom for the sins of the world; that he might appease the wrath of God and effect reconciliation for us, redeeming us from sin and death and securing for us righteousness and everlasting life. Whenever, therefore, we have the knowledge of Christ, we must cease boasting and trusting in self-righteousness and in works. If Christ alone shall bear my sins I cannot at the same time atone for them by my own works and by my own pretended worthiness. This teaching points out the true Christ and the real knowledge of him. He who thus knows Christ, knows the Father also. This knowledge is the article of faith by which we become Christians, and is the foundation of our salvation.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 182–83.