If You Want to Enter Life

by Scarlett Stough

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: Who Then Can Be Saved?

Jesus gave a clear answer to a man’s question: "What good thing must I do to get eternal life?" But first he asked the man why he asked about what is good since none but God is good.

Did this man think of himself as being good? Did he think doing good things made him good enough to be given eternal life? No direct answer is given in Matthew 19:16-19.

Jesus did tell him he must obey the commandments which he identified as being the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus and Deuteronomy. Some people say no one is able to obey God's commandments, which is different than saying "no one has perfectly obeyed them, except for Jesus." Yet God through Moses told us:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.
Deuteronomy 30:11

When Jesus tested the man’s devotion to God and to doing good, the man turned away sorrowful because he loved his wealth and place in society too much to give it up to follow Jesus. He showed by his choice he wasn't willing to do as Jesus asked. Jesus didn't declare to him that he hadn’t kept the five commandments he mentioned, because likely he had, at least in the letter of the law.

The wealthy man did not ask Jesus the right question, but the disciples did:

Who then can be saved?
Matthew 19:25

Jesus gave the clear answer in the very next verse: "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

We can know and believe the right answers about who God is and how he desires us to live. We can, at least in the letter, obey the five commandments having to do with how we conduct ourselves with one another. Many people actually do. They do refrain from murder, adultery, robbery, disrespecting parents and they even love their neighbors as themselves by treating their neighbors as they would like to be treated. Any society would love to have a citizenry who behaves in this way.

The only way to be righteous is given in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul declared:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
Romans 1:16-17

Eternal life is given to those who believe and who act on that belief (James 2:14-26.) But our obedience does not give us eternal life.

You foolish Galatians! [Substitute your own name here.] Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 3:1-6

How frustrating it must have been for Paul to try to get across to us the concept of righteousness by faith, a gift from God, while exhorting us to stop sinning, breaking the law which cannot save us but does instruct us in the basics of holy living (Romans Chapter Six.)

Volume 13 Issue 02 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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