Ask, Not Do
August 22, 2021
Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17).
“Judged by the principles and strategy of much contemporary evangelism, Jesus seems to have made a serious and insensitive mistake. He not only did not take advantage of the man’s obvious readiness to make a decision but He even seemed to be teaching righteousness by works” (John MacArthur).
The Old Testament did teach righteousness by works. (Genesis 15:4-6) And behold, the word of the LORD came to him (Abraham), saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. (Psalm 106:29-31) Thus they provoked Him (God) to anger with their deeds, and the plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped. And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore.
But righteousness is not the equivalent to salvation in the Old or New Testaments. We cannot confuse the two. Righteousness means to do what is right before God. Even a non-believer can do what is right before God from time to time. That doesn’t make him/her saved, it just makes him/her righteous at that time.
Jesus knew the heart and motives of this man who came to Him asking, "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life." He wasn’t fooled by the man’s flattery, "Good Teacher", and He wasn’t fooled by the man’s motives, "All these things I have kept from my youth" (v. 20).
The Mosaic Law was given to reveal a person’s true spiritual and moral condition. God blessed those who obeyed the Commandments and cursed those who disobeyed the them. It was never intended to save them, only to drive them to the One who could save them - God Himself. Had this rich young ruler believed that, he would have had the attitude of the publican who went to the Temple, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). He would have understood . . . without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). He asked what more he had to do to have eternal life, but he did not ask Jesus for eternal life. There’s a big difference.
“Lord Jesus, Your desire is that we come to You for eternal life, for You are the only One who can provide it. Open our understanding and let the truth sink in that we can do nothing to merit salvation. Our righteousness is but filthy rags. Only You can save the lost soul. May that be our message to those who seek eternal life. In Your name I ask, Amen.”