Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Who Then Can Be Saved?

I believe that the Bible clearly states that salvation is by faith alone. Through faith in the Lord Jesus we receive eternal life.

In response to that belief, I had a question on one of my last posts that I would like to answer here. The question was:

Do you believe that we can ignore the commands of God and then still expect go to heaven? When you read Mt 19:17-18, do you think Jesus was telling us that we can be certain we will enter life even if we break the commandments of the Father by committing adultery or murdering?

Let’s take a look at Matthew 19:16-26 (the rich young ruler) stepwise:

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?"

Note what the man asks, what good deed (work) must I do to have eternal life.

And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.”

There is only one who is good and that is Jesus (Rev 5:4-5). In other words, all have sinned (Rom 3:9-20).

If you would enter life, keep the commandments."

“If”? Doesn’t sound too promising for doing it on your own.

He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

These are some of the ten commandments. The law.

The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?"

I guess this guy missed the sermon on the mount (Mt 5:1-7:29). No one can keep all of these commandments (Rom 3:20). As Jesus explained, if you have lust in your heart you have already committed adultery (Mt 5:28). If you are angry with someone you have committed murder in your heart (Mt 5:22). This man was not admitting his own sin before God.

Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus exposed this man’s sin. The man loved his possessions more than the poor (his neighbors). Second, Jesus is testing this man’s faith to give up all he owns to follow Jesus (Matt 16:24).

Now, pay close attention to Jesus’ explanation of this whole exchange:

And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying,"Who then can be saved?"

Here is the million dollar question. This man said he had kept all the commandments and his wealth may have been seen as a blessing from God. If he couldn’t get himself into heaven, who could?

But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Jesus’ answer to “who then can be saved” is “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” It is impossible for man to get himself into heaven (Eph 2:8-9). Only God can do it through the work of the cross.

So to answer the commenter, “do you think Jesus was telling us that we can be certain we will enter life even if we break the commandments” : I think that Jesus was telling us that we can never follow all of the commandments. If salvation were based on some cooperation or work on our part, we would all be doomed (Gal 2:16). With man it is impossible.

Which is precisely why Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins. If we could redeem ourselves or somehow contribute to our salvation, then why would the father have sent his only beloved son to be tortured and killed? He did it because there was no other way (Rom 8:3).

And after making such a huge investment, knowing that we can never merit righteousness on our own (Gal 3:10-11), why would he then require some righteousness on our part to keep his gift of salvation (Rom 8: 32)? His sacrifice, his gift, would be a waste because no one would be able to keep it in the end (Gal 2:21).

Saving faith (Eph 1:11-14), the kind that results in following Christ’s example, comes from God (Phil 1:29; 2 Pet 1:1; John 6:44). If we have true, saving faith then we are heaven-bound (Heb 10:19-22; John 5:24; John 6:37; John 10:27-28; Rom 8:38-39). Whatever works come after that, whatever commands are followed, are because of a transformed heart (Eph 3:17), a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and a spirit-filled life (Romans 8:9) all of which are indicative of the saving faith, not a contribution towards it (Eph 2:10; Phil 1:6; Phil 2:13).

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