The Eye of the Needle, Part 1 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #28)

The Bible says in John 8:23-24: “And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

Jesus pointed out His heavenly origin and His real home. The Jewish leaders he was talking to belonged to this world, but He does not. Jesus said twice that they would die in their sins. If they would reject the Sin- Bearer, they would continue in the realm of sin. If they would reject Jesus as the revelation of God, they would miss their only hope for salvation.

Today’s quote is from Dave Hunt. He said: “For God to forgive sinners without the full penalty being paid would contradict His justice and make Him our partner in evil. Christ fully paid that penalty for our sins–but the pardon must be willingly and gladly received. God will not force anyone into heaven.”

Our topic today is titled The Eye of the Needle (Part 1) from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

He was young, probably early twenties. In the normal course of events he still had most of his life to look forward to.

He also was wealthy. Extremely so. Unlike most who spend years accumulating wealth, he already had more than his share.

He was influential. Already he sat with the Sanhedrin, the governing body of his people.

He was moral. Not many could even begin to claim that they had kept the commandments all their lives. He made that claim.

But deep down this rich young leader knew he lacked the greatest treasure anyone could have—eternal life.

The story of his encounter with the Lord Jesus is recorded in Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18:18-30, and a sad story it is.

Recognizing in Jesus a supreme goodness he did not possess, this rich young man asked the Lord what he had to do to gain eternal life.

The question reflected the Jewish perspective of the time. One had to do something great in order to merit eternal life.

Before responding, the Lord probed the young man’s concept of Him. In what sense did he call the Lord “good”? Only in the sense that Jesus was a good teacher, but merely a human teacher. That is why the Lord emphasized that only God is good in the intrinsic sense of good. Christ was trying to deepen and widen the man’s concept of “good” so that he would acknowledge Jesus as God. Then he might realize that he could not perform anything, no matter how noble, that could grant him eternal life. But Jesus, as God, could, if he would recognize Him for who He is.

However, since the young man did not acknowledge Jesus as God, the Lord answered him from the man’s own point of view. If eternal life was to be gained by doing something, then there was no need to ask a new teacher what to do. The law could answer his question.

So Jesus told him to keep the commandments, and he replied that he had done so all his life. Had he really done so? Of course not. No person fails to covet, and no child always honors his or her father and mother. But the young man claimed he had always kept the commandments, and he likely had done so to some degree at least. But no one, including this man, could say he had kept them absolutely.

Altogether, we will consider four questions raised by this passage. Today we are going to consider the first one which is: Can one gain eternal life by keeping the commandments, even by keeping them perfectly, if anyone could do that?

Paul answered that very question at the conclusion of his synagogue message in Antioch in Pisidia. He said that only through Jesus is everyone who believes justified and that no one could be justified by the Law of Moses. Later he wrote to the Romans that “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” So even if the rich young man’s claim were true that he had kept the commandments the Lord mentioned, and even if he had kept them perfectly, he still could not have gained eternal life.

In citing the six commandments that He did, our Lord used the Law to try to make the young man face the fact that he was a sinner. This is exactly what Paul said the purpose of the Law was—by the Law comes the knowledge of sin. The man raised the question of gaining eternal life by some meritorious work. He should have raised the question of his own sin and how to have it forgiven, which was what the Lord was trying to get him to acknowledge.


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