“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63
Only those who partake of Christ Jesus in faith – of His body given into death upon the cross as a sacrifice for sin, and of His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of all – have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day to the glories of heaven. Apart from such partaking of Christ’s body and blood in faith, one remains spiritually dead in trespasses and sins (cf. John 6:51ff.; Ephesians 2:1ff.). And, it is only by the gracious working of God the Holy Spirit through the Word of God that one can be brought to faith and made alive spiritually.
Does Jesus here speak of the Sacrament of the Altar? We would have to say no because, when He spoke these words, He had not yet instituted His Supper; and, though it offers many benefits, nowhere does the Bible make partaking of the Lord’s Supper necessary for salvation.
But Jesus, who called Himself the Bread of Life and that Bread which came down from heaven (cf. John 6:31ff.), does teach that He is the Life-giving bread and that apart from partaking of Him in faith, one remains dead in trespasses and sins and doesn’t have forgiveness of sins or eternal life. But, through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, one is made alive spiritually and has as his own God’s gifts of forgiveness for all sins and life everlasting in heaven (cf. John 3:14ff.; 8:24)!
But, as in Jesus’ day when many stumbled over His words, so also today, many people stumble. They cannot understand how Jesus could give his flesh and shed His blood for the sins of the world, and they cannot grasp how partaking of this heavenly food in faith gives life and salvation. Thus, they turn back and quit following Jesus and reject His life-giving Word.
As Jesus so clearly states, it is God’s Holy Spirit who gives life; the flesh, our own human reason and understanding, profits us nothing in regard to faith in Christ Jesus. It is as Luther explains in the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth….”
And, the words which Jesus spoke are Spirit and they are life. They are the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit of God in His Word. And, it is through these words that the Spirit regenerates us, brings us to faith in Christ and gives us life in Jesus! “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17; cf. Romans 1:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21).
Sad to say, many still seek to generate faith and give life by the flesh, which profits nothing. They seek to stir up their hearers’ emotions (with powerful preaching and moving music) so that people will make their own decisions for Christ. Rather than simply preaching the Bible, which is the Word of God, they offer up testimonials and share human doctrines and opinions. Rather accepting the Bible as the inspired and unerring Word of God, they subject it to human understanding and seek to explain it in ways which appeal to human reason. And when Christian pastors simply preach the Word of God and administer the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) in accord with Christ’s own institution and commandment, many reject their sound preaching and obedience to the commandments of our Lord Jesus in favor of their own opinions and ideas of what will be more appealing and reach more of the lost.
But the truth spoken by Jesus remains: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”; and, “No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:63,65; cf. John 1:12-13; 3:3-6; 1 Corinthians 12:3).
The words Jesus spoke to His hearers about being the Bread of Life and the only way to obtain eternal life are true. It is only through faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of the world that we have been saved and have life eternal. And, it is only by the gracious working of God’s Holy Spirit through the Word and the Sacraments that one can come to faith in Christ and be raised from spiritual darkness and death unto life everlasting for Jesus’ sake.
Gracious Savior, thank You for fulfilling all righteousness in our stead and bearing upon the cross the full punishment for the sins of the entire world. By Your Spirit and Your life-giving Word, bring us to partake of you in faith that we might have forgiveness and the everlasting joys of heaven. We ask this for the sake of Your bitter sufferings and death in our stead and Your glorious resurrection. Amen.
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible