The Sign of the True Christian: The Keeping of the Commandments

Easter 6 Saturday

John 14:21

“He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me. But he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Christ just comforted them with the great comfort that they are to be in him, and he in them, which is the chief part of Christian doctrine. From it, we understand that we do not become righteous and saved in ourselves, or through ourselves, but in and through Christ who accomplished everything for us: He fulfilled the law and overcame sin, death, and the devil. “These are,” says he, “your benefits from me, and then I also want to be praised in you, and you will have to confess and preach these benefits in the world. … Then it will certainly happen to you that the wretched devil, the world, and even your timid conscience will hang themselves around your neck. False brothers and sectarian spirits will do the same, and you will be surrounded by all kinds of affliction, terror, fear, and distress. This will prove and establish whether you are truly in me and I in you, whether your faith is certain, whether you have received baptism and my Supper in earnest, and whether you were serious about preaching and hearing the gospel and letting yourselves be called Christians. The great danger and distress will nicely refine you and show what everyone is or is not.” For they all can say the words, as also the pope boasts with his followers: “We are baptized Christians, and Christ is in us, and we are in him,” etc. But when it comes to risking one’s life or even lesser things, such as temporal possessions, disgrace and shame, or some other affliction or heartache, inflicted by the devil, then people say: “I truly do not know what to do.” For it hurts to be thrown into the dungeon, to be beaten and put in the stocks, to let go of everything, to be everyone’s doormat, to be treated in a way that there is no being on earth more miserable than a Christian. There the flesh is weak and fearful so that the heart beats loudly, and the devil fans the flames so that the heart gets more and more frightened and timid. “This is why,” says Christ, “I want to give you a sure sign indicating who are the true Christians – they are in me, and I in them – namely, the keeping of my commandments. For you already have received that which I was to accomplish for you and what you were to receive from me. … But whether you believe this with certainty and cling to it earnestly – that will be found if you also on earth live in this way, preaching and confessing freely and undauntedly and risking possessions, honor, body, and life for such preaching and confessing; also wholeheartedly loving each other in the way I taught and commanded you to do. One must experience and test where there is genuine faith in me.” But everything depends on whether you feel and find this in you, as he said in verse 15 above, that you love this man. For if you truly believe what Christ did for you, love will be there as well, and you will feel that your heart has this attitude: “All this Christ, my dear Lord, did for me – he reconciled the Father to me; shed his blood for me; fought against my death and overcame it; gave me everything he had as a gift – should I then not love, thank and praise, serve and honor him in return with my body and possessions? I would rather wish that no man had ever been born!” “This is why,” says Christ, “loving me wholeheartedly pertains to a sincere Christian; otherwise he will not do it.” The heart must cling to Christ alone and not love or fear anything else. If they want to throw you into the dungeon or take away body or possessions, you will reply undauntedly: “I will gladly suffer this, to spite the devil, and to love, honor, and praise my dear Lord.” In this way, no suffering will be bitter for you, but it will be bearable and light for you, as one reads in the many examples of the holy martyrs how they despised all torture and pain through the love of Christ.

 

St. Louis ed., 8:429-431.

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