The Eye of the Needle, Part 2 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #29)

The Bible says in John 6:64-66: “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

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:

The life Jesus gives must be received by faith. The words do not work automatically. From the start, Jesus knew which followers were believers and which ones were unbelievers. This is another evidence of His supernatural knowledge. Jesus had taught that divine enablement was necessary for people to come to faith. Believers who remain with Jesus show evidence of the Father’s secret work. The unbelieving crowds are evidence that “the flesh counts for nothing.” Jesus rejecting the people’s desire to make Him their political king; His demand for personal faith; His teaching on atonement; His stress on total human inability and on salvation as a work of God — all these proved to be unpalatable for many people. They gave up being His disciples (“disciples” here refers to followers in general, not to the twelve apostles).

Today’s God’s Great Salvation quote is from F.B. Meyer. He said: “How often God takes away our consolations, that we may only love Him for Himself; and reveals our sinfulness, that we may better appreciate the completeness of his salvation!”

Our topic today is titled The Eye of the Needle (Part 2) from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

First, let’s consider the question: DID JESUS CHANGE THE NATURE OF THE GOSPEL?

Did Jesus introduce to the rich young ruler a Gospel different from the one He had previously announced to the harlot at the well in Samaria? He did not tell her to keep the commandments.

Not at all. She knew full well that she was a sinner. She did not need to be faced with that issue as the rich young ruler did.

But Jesus knew that the man’s answer was not entirely true. Even if he had kept all of the commandments specifically mentioned in their dialogue, he had failed to keep some of the other commandments. Obviously he had broken the very first commandment of the Decalogue. He worshiped the god of money as well as the God of Israel. He certainly did not love the Lord with all his heart, soul, and might. His love of possessions kept him from that kind of total love for the Lord. Because he apparently did not share his wealth, he also violated the command to love his neighbor as he loved himself. The proof that you love someone else as you love yourself is that you want to give that person whatever is important or precious to you. How many others of the 613 commands in the Mosaic Law he had failed to keep or violated secretly we do not know. But clearly he had broken at least these.

So the Lord, trying to show the young man his true spiritual and moral condition, told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Then, said the Lord, he would have treasure in heaven.

Now, let us consider the question: WILL A VOW OF POVERTY WORK?

Can one really gain eternal life by selling all of one’s possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor? It’s easier to dodge this question than to face it squarely. Here is the answer of the lordship/discipleship/mastery salvation position: “Do we literally have to give away everything we own to become Christians? No, but we do have to be willing to forsake all, meaning we cling to nothing that takes precedence over Christ. We must be eager to do whatever he asks. Jesus’ request of this man was simply meant to establish whether he was willing to submit to the sovereignty of Jesus over his life.”

But unfortunately for this answer, the verbs in Mark 10:21 are commands: go, sell, give. The Lord did not say: Be willing to go, sell, and give. And in the parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke, imperatives (commands) also are used.

Even though the Lord commanded the man to sell and give, suppose we were to change the question to ask whether we must at least be willing to do something hard, like giving up our possessions, in order to inherit eternal life. An affirmative answer does not match the plain meaning of the words.

If the correct answer to this question is yes—we must either give up all or be willing to—then who among your acquaintances has eternal life? Who do you know who is truly and without reservation willing to give up everything for Christ? Would you or I be willing, for example, to die for Christ? I’m personally not sure I could answer unequivocally in the affirmative. Self-preservation is a very strong instinct, and who is to say what any of us might do if faced, as many believers have been, with the prospect of a martyrdom. And yet the Lord said in this same passage that in order to be His disciple one must hate his own life.

Of course, no one can ever gain eternal life by giving away his money. So, some say, that is not the point of the encounter (though without question it is what the Lord said to the man). The point, we are told, is that one must be willing to repent of sin and/or commit to the mastery of Christ in order to be saved.

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