Text: “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? (v. 17)
Did you ever ask that question? Have you ever given any thought to how one inherits eternal life or how one can be assured of spending eternity with Jesus in His kingdom?
There are people who do not give consideration to what will happen after their life on earth is over. In fact, some people believe that this is it, meaning there is no life after this life. Some people believe there is a heaven and some people believe there is a hell. Others don’t believe one way or the other.
As Christians and believers in what the Word of God says, we know in our heart that heaven and hell do exist. There are Christians who are wealthy and have all the material possessions one could ask for and there are Christians who are very poor and have no worldly possessions.
We all know that when we leave this earthly life, we take nothing with us. The important thing is that we know where we are headed when we take our last breath.
Mark records these words: “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’”
Luke’s recording states, “Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Luke 18:18).
Matthew records this same event just a little bit different. His recording says, "Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’” (Matthew 19:16).
Mark’s version indicates to us that Jesus and His disciples were walking along the road, perhaps just leaving town, when someone ran to catch up with Him. The man had something on his mind that was disturbing him. He kneeled down before Jesus and addressed Him as “Good Teacher”.
This man must have known something about Jesus because he kneeled before Him as one bowing his soul in search for help. The act of kneeling before one shows great respect or admiration for that person. Then the man addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” which indicates he was serious in what he was doing. He was like a student eager to get an answer to a question. He was willing to listen to what the teacher had to say. The question he was about to ask Jesus was one of utmost importance in the life of the man.
The man asked Jesus this question, “….what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (v. 17) This man thought eternal life depended upon what he did. There are people today who think they must work their way into heaven. In other words, all their good works entitles them to a reward and that reward is a room in the mansion just over the hilltop.
Our good works will not save us and get us into heaven. We cannot work to save ourselves. God’s Word says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Salvation is a gift. A gift is something given to us by another person. The person giving the gift does not want compensation or payment for the gift because they are giving it to us free of charge. God gave us the gift of salvation by grace. We are not required to work for it or pay for it. We need to thank Him for it just like we thank someone here on earth who has given us a gift.
The man asked the question that was on his mind and Jesus answered with these words: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, so not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother’” ( Mark 10:19).
When the man heard Jesus’ response, he probably stood up straight with shining eyes proud as a peacock because he said, “all these I have kept since I was a boy” (v. 20). The man’s pride showed through like a bright star. Unfortunately, for the man, Jesus could see beneath the man’s pride.
Jesus brought out the true nature of the man when He said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v. 21)
This is not the response the man wanted to hear because there was a barrier between the man and Jesus’ response. The man had great wealth and he was proud of what he had. His love of money was placed before his love for God. His attitude concerning money and his wealth was a barrier between him and God’s first commandment. The man could not stand to give up all his possessions and turn his life over to God the Father. He turned and went away sad.
This happens to people this very day. Jesus does not want all mankind to sell everything and give to the poor, but He does want us to use our possessions to help others. The bottom line here is that nothing should keep us from following Jesus.
There must be no barrier or barriers between us and Jesus. Jesus is not asking anyone to sell their house, car, or to give up all their money or their position, but He is asking us to give Him first place in our heart.
Luke’s account of this incident is as follows: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).
Note that Luke labels this man as a ruler. I don’t know exactly what position or what title the ruler had, but he was one who had some authority. This ruler wanted some assurance about his eternal life. He wanted to know if he had the right qualifications for eternal life. The ruler wanted Jesus to spell out the requirements that would assure his inheritance of eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Jesus went through the commandments which the ruler said he followed. He said, “All these I have kept since I was a boy” (v. 21). Then Jesus proceeded to state one additional requirement. He said, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v. 22)
The ruler had great wealth and he was not willing to give up the wealth to follow Jesus. Some people of this day and age have great wealth which gives them power, prestige and permits them to live a very comfortable earthly life – at least that is what they think.
The ruler placed his life of security in his possessions instead of in God. Some people believe that the more earthly possessions they have, the more secure their future is.
Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
We store up treasure in heaven when we are obedient to God and serve Him by serving others. When we are obedient to the will of God, we are investing in heaven. Do you remember the story about the rich fool?
“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.” (Luke 12:16-18). This sounded like a great idea to the man.
This is the same type of thinking that goes on today. Some people who have abundance want more, so they proceed down the road of destruction. Instead of using what they have for the glory of God, greed sets in, and sin occurs, and they are separated from God. This foolishness leads to self destruction.
Jesus said to the rich man, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).
Everything we have belongs to God. We should use all He has provided to bring glory and honor to Him. This is how we store up treasures in heaven.
In Matthews account of this incident, a man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life” (Matthew 19:16). In this version, the man was looking for a good thing to do that would assure him of eternal in the kingdom of God.
Salvation does not come by doing good things. There is nothing wrong with doing good things, but the good deeds we do must contain the love of God. Following the commandments is important, but we all falter and fall. They are guidelines for us. We have laws in this country which we sometimes break.
There is a stop sign at the end of the driveway, but we don’t always come to a complete stop. There are signs on the road indicating “no U-turn”, yet I see people make the turn. We have all seen people run through a red stop light. All of us break various laws. Most of the time we don’t mean to, but nevertheless we do. At times we get caught and at times we are lucky.
Matthew tells us this rich young man kept all the commandments, but when Jesus asked him to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, the man walked away sad. His wealth was a barrier between him and God. He wasn’t willing to give up what he had for a better life on earth and a wonderful life in eternity in the Father’s house. He could not keep the first commandment. Money and wealth is good providing it does not come between the individual and God.
Paul and Silas were put into a Philippian jail because Paul said to a spirit that resided in a young slave girl, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” (Acts 16:18). This girl was possessed with the spirit of divination which permitted her to predict the future. Her owners made money from her practice of fortune-telling.
The reason Paul spoke to the spirit was because the girl kept follow him and his group saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). She was making a true statement, but she was doing it in a joking or laughing manner. Although her statement was true, her source or where she received her information was not from God, but from a demon.
The message Paul preached concerning salvation was a message from God. The girl irritated Paul and he knew that if something wasn’t done to curb the girl, his gospel message just might be associated with some demon related activity. Paul knew that the message of truth and the message of evil did not coincide.
When the owners or masters of this girl realized their means of making money was no longer present because the girl was no longer possessed by the spirit and could not tell fortunes, Paul and Silas were captured and taken to the Roman authorities.
They were accused of causing chaos in the city. The owners said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:20-21).
Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten, flogged and put in the most inner cell of the prison. In addition to being put in a cell, they were placed in stocks which were designed to secure the most vicious and dangerous prisoner. The sad part of this ordeal was the fact they did no wrong or they committed no crime.
God works in mysterious ways. At times we have to go through trials and tribulation in our daily walk only to find that the Light is at the end of the tunnel. Paul and Silas suffered, but God was glorified. Paul and Silas were instruments that brought salvation to a lost soul. The most precious and wonderful words in the entire story are: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).
The jailer was concerned about his own life when he realized the prison doors were opened. At this point God showed his power by binding the spirits of all the prisoners. Not one single prisoner walked out of the prison.
Paul and Silas had been praying and singing praises to God while the other prisoners listened. God used Paul and Silas as instruments to demonstrate a supernatural deliverance which led to a household of people being saved. Praise to Almighty God is glorious and victorious.
Every prisoner remained in his cell although the doors were opened. Paul said, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28) The jailer was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. Paul prevented this from taking place when the lights were turned on and the jailer saw that all the prisoners were present.
This was a close call and this is when the jailer became conscious of his own spiritual condition. The spiritual light had been illuminated in his mind and he was eager to claim assurance of his eternal destiny. He asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
This is the same question the wealthy ruler had asked before. This is the same question some are asking today. This is the question people who are not living according to God’s Word should ask.
Regardless of who asks the question, the answer is the same. Paul gave the correct answer when he said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….” (Acts 16:29)
When one realizes there is an empty place in their heart and worldly things don’t seem to fill that empty place, it is time to recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as the only One who can fill that place.
Jesus is standing at the door of every empty heart just waiting to be invited in. Repenting or confessing past sins to Jesus and inviting Him to come and live within your heart in the Person of the Holy Spirit will definitely change your thinking and the way you live.
Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
The young ruler asked the question – the jailer asked the question – people this day are asking the question – the answer is the same: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved….” (Acts 16:29).
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
I want to close with this little poem entitled:
The Second Birth
I never loved the pleasant earth
So much as since my second birth.
The shy forget-me-not’s soft blue
Seems bits of Heaven shining through.
The golden buttercup’s bright face
Proclaims the glory of His grace.
His precious Blood that washes all
The red of maples in the fall—
My sin forever far away.
As white as hawthorn buds in May—
The saint’s new, shining, linen dress—
The robe of His own righteousness.
I touch the pansy’s purple face—
His kingly majesty I trace.
Green pastures breathe refreshment, rest,
And sweet communion on His breast;
While bird song from the orchard trees
Suggest celestial harmonies.
I see in river, hill, and glen
New charms since I’ve been born again!
-------------Lois Reynolds Carpenter