Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
But what is Paul really driving at in this passage? And who are the ones truly guilty of viewing matters from a fleshly point of view? As it turns out, these questions, and Luther's answer, are manifestly relevant in our Protestant Gnostic world. So I share what Luther says on this in his Great Confession.
It is well to understand that he does not refer here to Christ's personal flesh, as this spirit foolishly imagines, for that remains Christ's flesh in eternity and all the angels will recognize him in it eternally. But just as we regard our brothers in a spiritual, no longer a fleshly manner, so much the less do we regard Christ in a fleshly manner. Formerly, he means to say, when we were holy in Judaism and in the works of the law-which the false apostles are once again promoting-we knew nothing spiritually about Christ, but what we sought was merely fleshly. For "we had hoped that he would redeem Israel," Luke 24, and would regard our holiness and glorify us according to the flesh. This was really to know Christ according to the flesh-a real fleshly perception. But all this has now passed away and died with him. We no longer regard him so, for all this has vanished and we are entirely a new creation in Christ. This interpretation is given you by Paul himself; just read and examine the text rightly.
Now, all who regard and know Christ from a fleshly point of view are inevitably offended at him, as was the case with the Jews. For since flesh and blood thinks no further than it sees and feels, and since it sees that Christ was crucified as a mortal man, it inevitably says, "This is the end; neither life nor salvation is to be found here; he is gone; he can help no one; he himself is lost." But he who is not offended at him must rise above the flesh and be raised by the Word so that he may perceive in the Spirit how Christ precisely through his suffering and death has attained true life and glory. And whoever does this properly, whoever is able to do it, is a new creation in Christ, endowed with new spiritual knowledge. Just so, even now, all are offended at Christ if they view his Supper in a fleshly manner, as the fanatics do. They are the ones who regard Christ according to the flesh, as they accuse us of doing. For flesh cannot say or know more than, "Here is bread and wine," therefore it must be offended at Christ when he says, "This is my body," for it is an old creation in Adam. If it is not to become offended, it must rise above this flesh and believe the words, "This is my body"; then it will understand that this bread is not mere bread but the true body of Christ.
It grieves me, indeed, that the devil should thus ridicule God's words. But it moves me to pity that the poor people should not see how the fanatics use these vague ideas as the foundation of their fantasies. They boast, swearing by all they hold dear, that they have learned nothing from us. Really, this is not necessary. Their writings show it all too plainly, without boasting on their part.