Monday, June 21, 2010

Is Jesus Good? Part 2

The condition of the rich young ruler is to be examined more thoroughly than Jesus’ question. The young man apparently considered himself good since he was following the letter of the law and therefore trusting in his own righteousness which comes from the law. Scripture makes it clear that such righteousness does not save, Romans 3:19-26; Philippians 3:4-11. In this context the young man felt that he and Jesus were equals, both good teachers. Jesus wished to dispel this flawed thinking. If the rich young ruler addressed the Lord merely as a good man, then His answer was that no one was good but God. If the young man came to Jesus in faith, trusting in the Christ’s righteousness and abandoning his own, then he had every right to call Jesus good; because in that light he would also perceive that Jesus was in fact God incarnate. The rest of the passage indicates he did not perceive this, because he went on in an effort to justify himself through obedience to the law.

Jesus cites numerous passages from the law, including loving one’s neighbor as oneself. This might have been a further proof to the rich young ruler that he was not adhering to the law as he believed, since his great wealth was a testimony that he was not as charitable toward other men as he ought to have been, James 5:1-6. The young man persisted, saying he was faithful to the law, but felt that he was lacking something still. Jesus told him to abandon his hold on this world and the love of it, and to follow Him instead, 1st John 2:15-17; 1st Corinthians 7:31. The rich young man rejected this offer, and by this revealed his heart and who his genuine master was, Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 16:13-14.

Proverbs 10:15 states, “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city.” The rich man’s trust was in the wrong place. He did not trust in God, who can raise the dead and give life to whomever He wills; he trusted in his efforts, accomplishments, and accumulation. When the disciples asked, “who then can be saved?” Jesus responded by informing them that “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:25-26. The transfer of trust had to be made, and Jesus attempted to make that clear to the rich young man; and through him vicariously to us who read about him. The rich man was focused only on himself, and what he must do, Matthew 19:16, 20. Jesus tells His disciples that there is nothing man can do, Matthew 19:26.

The rich young man wanted to know what God wanted him to do to earn eternal life; what “good thing” he needed to accomplish. The Jews carried this mentality in their reasoning. A crowd would later parrot the same question. They asked, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For them, and for all of us, there is but one answer for all time: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent,” John 6:28-29.

Salvation is by grace, due to Christ’s redemptive work, Romans 3:24. Work would imply wages earned, but grace is unmerited favor and mercy from God, Romans 4:4-5. Belief is the essential ingredient to eternal life, Romans 10:9. Salvation was brought by God’s election and provision; any mingling with works transforms grace into human effort, Romans 11:6. A man is only justified by faith in Christ, believing that the work Jesus did is sufficient to pay for our sins and permit us back into God’s presence. No works, law or effort on our part will achieve the righteousness God demands, Galatians 2:16, 20. The law only confines one under sin, but the promise of salvation by grace releases men from this bondage, Galatians 3:21-23. Attempting to be justified by the law is futile, Galatians 5:1-4. By God’s grace through faith in Christ alone (humble trust in Jesus’ ability to do all He says He is capable of doing) are we saved. No one is saved by works, because God will not allow boasters into Heaven, Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:27-28. We are, as unsaved men, dead in our sins; we need God’s resurrection life to indwell us through the Spirit, Ephesians 2:1, 5. Christ Himself is given to us when we believe, so when we receive eternal life we receive Jesus Christ abiding in us through the Spirit. We do not receive this life by works, but only by faith, Colossians 3:1-4; Galatians 3:2-7; Romans 8:9-11. This new life is only given to one born again through faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit as one hears the word of God (the gospel) and is cleansed by it, John 3:3-8; Romans 10:17; Ephesians 5:26. Finally, God’s kindness did not come due to our efforts, but due solely to His undeserved mercy; and it is by this mercy we are justified, Titus 3:5-7.
To be Concluded.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.