The final farewell is given in the words of John 3:7 spoken to Nicodemus who came seeking wisdom: “You must be born anew.” We have arrived at that point now. No repairs, no improvements, no optimistic encouragements are possible. Just straight talk: “You must be born anew.” But like Nicodemus we ask how that can be. Now all possibility is truly cut off. The theologian of glory, of course, will suggest one last stratagem: turn even that into something to do—perhaps crawling back into the womb to come out again. But therewith the insistence on doing something has at last turned into a cynical reductio ad absurdum. The theologian of glory has at last come up against something that can’t be done! So Luther’s proof executes the final coup de grace (literally: the stroke of grace!). “To be born anew, one must consequently first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. To die, I want to emphasize, means to feel the very presence of death.” One must first die and then be raised up with the Son of Man. This is the gateway to the righteousness that avails before God.

Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, 1518