Luke 17 -- 18
A wealthy young man seemed to feel a desperate need as he ran to Jesus, knelt down before Him with no concern as to what others might think. This young ruler then said to Jesus: Good Master, what shall I do to inherit Eternal Life? (Luke 18:18-27; see also Matthew 19: 16-30; Mark 10:17-31). As he knelt before Jesus, he clearly understood that Jesus was the Messiah and that, beyond this physical life, there was an eternity, a real personal existence. In a lifetime, no one question could be of greater importance.
All three of the Gospels mention his great wealth. His question concerning Eternal Life indicates that he was a Pharisee, for an afterlife was one of their major doctrinal convictions, as opposed to the Sadducees who did not believe in life after death.
Luke wrote that this young man was a certain ruler -- perhaps a member of the Sanhedrin, well-versed in the Law, and very "religious." He was no hypocrite. Jesus did not question his integrity when he said: I have kept all these (the commandments) from my youth up (Luke 18:21). In response to his most vital question: What shall I do, Jesus said: You lack one thing: sell all that you have, and distribute to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven: and come, follow Me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich (18:22-23). The young ruler was unwilling to give up the pleasant life that he loved so much. His response revealed, through the things he prized so highly -- the financial securities, his esteem as a ruler, and the prominence that wealth afforded him -- that he was also very covetous. He was sincerely religious -- but he was eternally lost.
Note carefully that the question was not: "What shall I 'believe' or 'confess' or 'pray'?"; but: What shall I 'do' to inherit Eternal Life? Jesus did not criticize the question. Jesus' answer revealed that it showed the young man, in reality, had not kept the commandments at all. He loved himself and his possessions more than he loved his God or the Savior. Discipleship is a serious matter which demands a spiritual commitment.
This should not be twisted to mean that Eternal Life can be earned by self-effort or sacrificial giving. It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration (the new birth), and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). As Jesus pointed out to this very sincere man who fell on his knees before Him, that it is also vital to realize that faith, if it has not works, is dead (James 2:17). We must be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving our own selves (1:22). Salvation is more than believing, kneeling, and confessing that Jesus is the Messiah. When false prophets misdirect and deceive people concerning the eternal destiny of their souls, some, though sincere, will miss their supreme purpose for living. All of us have the same opportunity as the Berean Christians who received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11).
For Luke 18:20: See Ex. 20:12-16; Deut. 5:16-20.
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