Summary: To become a Christian, you must recognize your sinfulness.
This man who came to Jesus was the perfect evangelistic target. He was ready to sign the car, raise his hand, walk the aisle, or whatever. There was no need to explain to him how we know God exists, why we can trust the Bible, or why we should be concerned about eternity. To the human eye, he looked like the hottest evangelistic prospect the Lord had encountered so far. He was ripe. He was eager. There was no way he would get away without receiving eternal life . . . but he did. In a sense, Jesus drove him away. Why?
This man who sadly left the presence of Jesus without receiving eternal life is often called the rich young ruler. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each tell us about him:
• All three say he was RICH;
• Matthew adds that he was YOUNG;
• Luke says he was a RULER.
I. WHAT THE YOUNG MAN DID RIGHT (v. 16)
A. He Came to the Right Person (v. 16a).
"And, behold, one came. . . ."
The words "and, behold" are an exclamation indicating wonder and amazement. Matthew must have been astonished that this man would seek out Jesus and admit that he needed eternal life.
Jesus is the source of eternal life: ". . . God hath given to us eternal life, and this life in his Son" (1 John 5:11).
Jesus is eternal life: "This is the true God, and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there in none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
B. He Had the Right Attitude.
He came publicly.
Mark tells that he came running and knelt at Jesus’ feet (Mark 10:17).
Obviously he was desperate for eternal life.
B. He Asked the Right Question (v. 16b).
". . . and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing must I do, that I may have eternal life?"
Some might say that the man’s question was flawed.
There is something we all have to DO to receive eternal life: we have to BELIEVE.
The Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas, "Sirs, what must I DO to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30-31).
Had this young man been in an evangelistic service, there would have been no need to sing additional verses of "Just As I Am." He was ready.
What an opportunity! This fellow was eager, seeking, a "can’t-miss" convert. He was young, rich, intelligent, and influential. Think of what he could do for the Lord! He could give his testimony, write a book, and be a large donor to the Christian cause. No evangelist worth his salt would mess up an opportunity like this.
He had come to the right Person, with the right attitude, asking the right question.
II. WHAT THE YOUNG MAN DID WRONG (vv. 17-22)
A. He Did Not Confess His Sinfulness (vv. 17-20).
1. He did not understand that only God is good (v. 17a).
"And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. . . ."
God is good; you are not.
2. He did not understand that no one has kept the commandments (vv. 17b-19).
". . . but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
What Jesus said is true: If a person was able to keep all of God’s commandments, he would possess eternal life. "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgements: which if a man do, he shall life in them" (Leviticus 18:5).
Charles Spurgeon said, ". . . on the ground of law, if he would deserve eternal lie as a reward, he must be as good as good, and keep the commandments to perfection. Thus the rugged way of works was set before him; not that he might attempt to win eternal life thereby, but that he might perceive his own shortcomings, and so feel his weakness as to look for salvation by some other method" [Spurgeon’s Popular Exposition of Matthew, p. 162].
Law always precedes grace. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).
What is the purpose of God’s law? Romans 3:20 gives us the answer: "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in [God’s] sight: for BY THE LAW IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN."
"Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 1:10).