The Eye of the Needle, Part 3 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #30)

The Bible says in John 6:45: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”

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:

In support of this doctrine of salvation by God’s grace, Jesus cited the Old Testament. The quotation, ‘They will all be taught by God,’ is from the Prophets, probably Isaiah 54:13, though Jeremiah 31:34 has the same thought. This “teaching” of God refers to His inner work that disposes people to accept the truth about Jesus and respond to Him. Everyone who listens to and learns from God will come to and believe in Jesus. Yet this secret teaching of God is not a mystical connection of people with God directly. Knowing God comes only through Jesus, the Logos of God. As one is confronted by Him and hears His words and sees His deeds, the Father works within him.

Today’s God’s Great Salvation quote is from John Newton. He said: “When I was young, I was sure of many things; now there are only two things of which I am sure: one is, that I am a miserable sinner; and the other, that Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour. He is well-taught who learns these two lessons.”

Our topic today is titled The Eye of the Needle (Part 3) from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

First, let’s consider the question: HOW DOES DISCIPLESHIP RELATE TO ETERNAL LIFE?

Suppose the rich young ruler had been willing to give away all his fortune and even become one of the band who followed Christ. That raises another question: Does being a disciple assure eternal life? Or put another way, Can one be a disciple and not possess eternal life?

Willing disciples sometimes resign their discipleship. Early in our Lord’s ministry many did. These were actual disciples of Christ, that is, pupils, which is what the word disciple means. But surely one cannot conclude they all had eternal life. Judas furnishes another example of a disciple who evidently did not have eternal life. So do the antichrists in John’s day; of these John wrote, “they were not really of us.”

Being a disciple—even of Christ—does not guarantee eternal life.

LOVE REACHED OUT BUT WAS REJECTED

The Lord loved this rich young man. Incidentally, the verb used for love in Mark 10:21 is agape. As far as we know this man was never saved; therefore, he was one of the non-elect. Observe, then, the Lord loved a non-elect man. His agape love extended beyond the world of the elect. How, then, can the “world” of John 3:16 be limited to the elect, as some say it is?

Our Lord was trying to get the man to admit his unrighteousness, his need of help from outside himself. All the time this leader only asserted his own righteousness by his claim to have kept the commands that the Lord cited to him from the Law. So, unwilling to acknowledge Jesus as God and unwilling to admit his own personal failures and self-centeredness, he went away.

The Lord then applied the lesson for the disciples: It is difficult for anyone who trusts in riches to enter the kingdom. It is not the amount of money that makes it difficult, but the trust in any amount of money. We all tend to trust our strong points or our achievements. It is that trust that often keeps us from seeing our real needs. So was the case with this young man. His strength was in his possessions, and trusting them blinded him from seeing his sin.

HOW DIFFICULT IT IS

How difficult is it for a rich man to enter the kingdom? As difficult as it would be for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, Jesus said.

A camel was the largest animal in Palestine in those days. The needle was a sewing needle, not a small gate within a larger gate, as is sometimes suggested. No way could a camel with or without its humps squeeze through the eye of a needle. The disciples understood that the Lord was saying that it is impossible for anyone who trusts in riches to enter the kingdom—unless God intervenes and offers a way of salvation that is unrelated to human resources and abilities. The young man did not stay around long enough to hear that message. He would not acknowledge his need of outside help, so he did not receive it. But he could have, for the Lord said that with God all things are possible—even the salvation of this rich young man. But salvation was not on the basis of giving away his wealth.

Possessions make us comfortable. Money focuses our eyes on this world, not the one to come. Being able to have what we want deceives us into thinking we have no needs, especially spiritual ones. We assume that success “obviously” means that God is smiling on us with great favor. It meant that to the Jewish people of Jesus’ day; that’s what made it inconceivable to them to think that money could actually keep anyone from the kingdom. But it, or anything else that blinds us from acknowledging our sin and need of a Savior, can.

But suppose we do recognize that things cannot give us eternal life. Will giving up those things, or being willing to give them up, then give us salvation? To acknowledge our sins and even to turn from those sins will not gain forgiveness. Only receiving the gift of eternal life from the Savior who died for those sins will.

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