John 8:51, “If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.”
The undisciplined theologian will read these words of Jesus and fashion them into a works righteousness theology. In order to pass from death into eternal life, we have to keep God’s Word completely. God does not settle for 99.9%; it is not good enough! Only 100% is good enough, and He does not round up. But nobody can do this! So then, no one can go to Heaven. Insofar as these words are interpreted as our works, it is not true—none can completely keep God’s Word and see Heaven. So, if keeping God’s Word depended on us, Jesus would be a liar. Even worse, He would have given us false hope. Insofar as these words are understood as Christ’s works for us, it is true—those who trust in Him will never see death. For as we are baptised in His Word—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)—so we gladly die in His Word and will rise in His Word (Romans 6:3-11).
Thus, the Holy Spirit regenerates us to become heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7). It is only possible that we keep the Word in that the Holy Spirit keeps His Word in us. For Christ did not rise for His sake, but for the sake of our salvation. If He rose merely for Himself, our salvation would be lost. We keep His Word only as He enables us, which He sends His Holy Spirit to work in us beginning at Baptism. This does not give us free course to sin, however, for such licentiousness is to deny Baptism (Romans 6:1-4). Rather, Christ has saved us by grace through faith, not works, having created us as His workmanship to do good works for our neighbours who need them (Ephesians 2:8-10). The Holy Spirit keeps His Word in us unto salvation, and we in turn live out His Word to benefit our neighbour.