DUNCAN/The impossibility of salvation
Please turn in your Bibles with me to Matthew 19:16-26. Jesus is teaching that those of us who enter into the kingdom and remain in the kingdom have to recognize their need, and have to manifest a childlike trust and a childlike humility as being members of that kingdom. And here Jesus reminds us that no man is able to enter into the kingdom of God without acknowledging his absolute poverty. And this is something that the rich young ruler, who we meet today had a problem with. In this passage I want you to see three things. First, that we must be interested in eternal things. Second, that Jesus is the great physician of our souls. Third, that salvation is only possible with God.
I. We Must Be Interested in Eternal Things
First of all, in verses 16-17, I want you to look at this young man who comes to the Lord Jesus Christ. And I want you to see that there is no more important question that we could ask, than questions about our eternal destiny. One thing we have to say for him, whatever else we can say about this rich young man, he was asking the right question. He was interested in eternal things, in spiritual things. Furthermore, we’re told in Mark chapter 10:17 that he was eager. Do you notice that he ran to Jesus. He recognizes Jesus as someone who can give him the answer to this very important question. In that same verse, we are told that he is reverent. He knelt down before the Lord Jesus and asked Him this question, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ What a contrast between this man and the Pharisees and so many in the crowds who had been apathetic about Christ or malicious towards Him. They had no respect or reverence for Him. This man is not only spiritually interested, he comes with a reverent posture towards the Lord Jesus Christ. The question he is pursuing is of the utmost importance. And it speaks well of his spiritual interests. He wants to know how to gain eternal life.
II. Jesus The Great Physician of Our Souls
Jesus’ response to this young man shows us both Jesus’ deity and His ability to look into the hearts of men. I want you to look in verse 17 at what Jesus says when He responds to the young man. The young man says to Him, “What good thing must I do in order to obtain eternal life?” Jesus’ first response is to say, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good.” Now I want you to stop right there. And I want you to recognize what Jesus has done. In a few moments, this young man is going to claim to be good and I want you to notice what Jesus has already said to him. “No one is good except God.” Do you realize what the Great Physician of our souls is doing here? He is saying, “Your fundamental problem is that you think that you are good. You think that you are spiritually wealthy before the Lord. You do not recognize your own poverty. No one is good except God.” And then He says, “Now, keep the commandments.” The Lord Jesus in this passing comment before He ever gives an answer to the man’s direct question is telling us that no one is good. Jesus has already told him that only God is good. All men since Adam are fallen. We’re wicked and our hearts are crooked. We need redemption, salvation and forgiveness. He is administering the spiritual anecdote this man needs before the conversation even begins.
III. Salvation is Only Possible with God
The young man responds to Jesus in verses 18-19. His immediate response to Jesus’ words, “keep the commandments,” is, “Which ones?” Now that response evidences the misunderstanding that he has about the nature of the law itself, and the nature of complete fidelity to the Lord. First of all, his statement, “Which ones?” indicates that he doesn’t realize that in order to fellowship with God, a man has to be completely cleansed. Jesus lists in verse 19 many commands from the second table of the law, and the rich young ruler responds to the Lord Jesus, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” He manifests a massive misdiagnosis of the state of his heart, of his moral state. His affluence has tricked him into thinking that he is spiritually wealthy when, in fact, he is a beggar. Jesus takes this young man to the first commandment, and He says, “Sell everything that you have.” What is Jesus doing? He is saying to the young man, “What is the first commandment? You shall have no other gods before Me.” And He is saying, “Sir, what will it be? God or wealth. Your possessions are coming between Me and you. Sell everything that you have.” Whatever our root sin is, if we will not relinquish it, we lose everything in our fellowship with God. If we hold something dearer than Him, we are blocking the way to fellowship with God almighty.
In this passage, Jesus makes it clear to His disciples that the love of the world and the love of money make us complacent towards heavenly riches. This would have been a jolt to Jesus’ contemporaries and maybe even to the disciples. In their day, they thought of wealth as a sign of God’s divine blessing upon a man. And here was a man who was outwardly moral. He was respected. He was wealthy. He showed every sign of being God’s child, and yet he goes away sorrowing, and the disciples say to Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” Salvation is humanly impossible for all men, whether we’re poor or rich. No matter how apparently moral or apparently divinely favored we may be. No matter how much money we have, no man can earn the favor of God. That is only received by God’s grace. But I want you to understand that the one thing that can block you from reaching out for the grace of God is fooling yourself into thinking that you are already rich. You see why Jesus speaks so frankly, so brutally here? This man has been lulled to sleep thinking that he has it all. But he has nothing, because he doesn’t have God.
This is so applicable to us today, in a day and time where sociologists talk about us suffering from affluenza. Our very comfort has made us comfortable to live apart from God. His worthiness, the worthiness of the Lord Jesus Christ is the way into fellowship with God. And the blessings God gives us there are better than any of the trinkets we can experience here. May we seek the things eternal and relinquish anything which holds us back.