Matthew 19:17 – TWO PREREQUISITES FOR HAVING ETERNAL LIFE THIS CHRISTMAS (Part 2)

Posted: December 12, 2017 in Matthew, Matthew 19
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Eternity © by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net

Matthew 19:17 – TWO PREREQUISITES FOR HAVING ETERNAL LIFE THIS CHRISTMAS (Part 2)

With a worried look on her face as she sat upright in her hospital bed, June said, “How can I know for certain that I will go to heaven. Have I done enough?” How could I know that June would die the next day? June would have loved the answers that Jesus gave to the rich young ruler who came to Him with the same question about good works and eternal life but her response to Christ was so different.

“Why ask Me about what is good?” Jesus replies. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17 NLT).

Surely Jesus is good and therefore should be able to answer his question. Why does Jesus say “Why ask Me about what is good?” Why does Jesus say, “Keep the commandments” and not “Follow Me” or “Believe in Me” first?

Jesus could have quoted the words that would eventually be written in Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Jesus could have quoted words which Paul would write in Titus 3:5 (NLT)“He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”

Where is His evangelical zeal? He didn’t go through the 4 spiritual laws or Evangelism Explosion points to cover the gospel and elicit a response of faith. Why did he bring up keeping the law, of all things? Jesus, what are you doing? Where is Your theology?

Then again, perhaps the 4 spiritual laws and our traditional methods are not the only way to share the gospel. What was Jesus trying to get this young man to realize? For that matter…

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW IF I AM TO RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE?

As I shared with June I told her that not one of us is good enough to get to heaven by ourselves. Like Jesus, I said in effect that…

  1. NO-ONE IS GOOD BUT GOD. Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” This young man was quite satisfied that he was a good man. He was arrogant enough to think that a perfect God would accept a flawed human standard of goodness. This is a common misconception.

 

Instead of saying “You are a sinner”, Jesus makes it clear to him that no-one is good but God. It amounts to the same thing.

 

If God alone is good then God alone holds the answers to receiving eternal life. It can’t be earned by us, only received by us and in a way that will not compromise the perfect character of God.

 

  1. WE RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE. WE DON’T EARN IT. Jesus says to him, “…if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments”.

I told June that Eternal Life is a gift, not something we earn, work for or deserve. But what about the rich young ruler?

Jesus gives this young man an impossible task. If it were possible to keep the commandments perfectly as Jesus did, then he could receive the gift of heaven. But no-one can. He has already said “No-one is good but God.” Paul would eventually write, For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.(Romans 3:20 NLT).

Was Jesus helping this young man see that there was nothing he could do to receive eternal life by himself? Was He helping him to place his trust alone in a perfect God rather than his good works? Is this what He was saying to June as I spoke to her that day?

What happens next? (see part 3 for more of the story).

Pastor Ross

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