The Rich Young Ruler (Part Four)

Luke 18:18-30

Seeing that he became sad, Jesus said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For 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.” Those who heard this asked, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God (18:24-27 CSB).

Jesus presented to all the necessity of God’s grace.

He illustrated how hard it is let go of an idol of the heart. The camel was the largest land animal of the area. The eye of a needle is a tiny opening. It is totally impossible for a large camel to pass through such a small opening! Jesus wanted everyone to understand that salvation is totally impossible through human effort, works, or merit. Since we are all so filled with pride in ourselves, we need to hear this over and over and over again. We cannot save ourselves!

Observe how Christ enlarged everyone’s understanding. To inherit eternal life or to have treasure in heaven is equivalent to entering the kingdom of God. The people of his time thought that riches were a sign of God’s favor. “If God loves anyone, he must love the rich! Look at all the wealth he gives them!” Jesus shocked everyone by declaring that riches are far from a sign of God’s favor and acceptance. In fact, it is impossible for the rich man idolizing and trusting in his riches to be saved. Certainly, people of God’s Word ought to know this. Psalm 73 wrestles through the problem of why the righteous suffer, while the wicked live affluently. King Ahab (among many others) had wealth, but he was far from God and an oppressor.

Those listening were stunned, and they ask, “Who then can be saved?” Notice that they understood that being saved was equivalent to entering the kingdom of God or having treasure in heaven or inheriting eternal life. They all mean the same thing. Consider what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3 NIV). As Jesus went on to teach, this is the action of the Holy Spirit, far beyond human power.

Jesus taught the total necessity of God’s saving grace. It is impossible for a rich ruler or any other person to do anything to earn eternal life. No one can save himself or herself! Is there any hope for anyone? The good news is that what is impossible for all people everywhere is very possible for God. At this point Jesus does not explain to the crowd how God saves people. He merely points them to God. People must become God-focused in their thoughts and ideas. Jesus decided to drive this one point home with great emphasis. In the next section, we see that he took the Twelve aside to explain God’s way of salvation in more detail. That way is through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Do you realize your complete need of God, if you are to have any hope at all of salvation? Christ’s offer of eternal life is clear. “Come, follow me.” Why not change your mind about whatever has a hold on you and cry out to God through Christ, relying totally on him to give you eternal life and treasure in heaven? Your hope is not found in you at all. It is found in Christ alone.

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Eight)

dscn05071 Corinthians 12:3

Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (HCSB).

To understand the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, we need to comprehend the spiritual condition of fallen people. What has happened to fallen mankind? Through Adam’s sin, all humanity is born dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). It is not pleasant to be among the dead. The sights that can be seen can make even the strongest stomachs feel squeamish. This is the natural condition of humans since Adam’s sin (Ephesians 2:3; cf. Romans 5:12). It also is an active condition. Spiritual death manifests itself in the practice of rebellious, anti-God ways of living. We must understand that a person in this condition loses none of his or her humanness (Ephesians 2:3; cf. Ephesians 4:17-19).

Here are five characteristics of spiritual deadness:

  • The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of separation from God (Ephesians 2:12). This means that they are in the realm of God’s wrath (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 5:6).
  • The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of sensuality and not spirituality (Jude 1:19). The material part of reality dominates their lives.
  • The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of non-receptivity (1 Corinthians 2:12). They do not listen to God’s words, supposing them nonsense or incredible.
  • The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of hostility toward God (Romans 8:7). Though they may talk about God, their belief is in a remade God, who only does what people like. They do not want to hear about the true God’s sovereignty and justice.
  • The spiritually dead person lives in the realm of spiritual bondage (2 Timothy 2:25-26). They are slaves to sin, while supposing they are free.

As we tell others the gospel, we must realize their condition. What hope do you have about seeing you friend turn to Christ? There is hope, but it’s found in the Holy Spirit and not in you. Those who don’t know the Lord view themselves as whole, while they are terribly broken. This part of the message is very unpopular to those who are self-reliant.

What is the extent of sin’s corruption of human hearts? There are eight actions that fallen humans cannot do. Years ago, Steele and Thomas made a list of these actions. We have already mentioned two of them (call Jesus “Lord”, 1 Corinthians 12:3, and understand the things that come from the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14). Now let’s look at the other six.

  • He or she cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)
  • He or she cannot come to Christ (John 6:44, 65)
  • He or she cannot hear (John 8:43)
  • He or she cannot receive the Holy Spirit (John 14:17)
  • He or she cannot be subject to God’s law (Romans 8:7-8)
  • He or she cannot please God (Romans 8:8)

So then, what can you do? You can do nothing to save yourself, but the Lord Jesus Christ is a very able Savior. If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I urge you to call on Him and be saved. You say that you can’t, and I agree. But neither could dead Lazarus come out of the grave, yet he did when Christ called him to come out. The Spirit of God uses the word of God to create life in spiritually dead people. He calls the dead to live through the Scriptures. Listen to the word, and may God give you grace to respond (Romans 10:13).

Grace and peace, David