Summary: Pentecost 8(C) -- An expert in the law asks, "What must I do to inherit eternal life (Who is my neighbor?)?" The answer is to love God above all things and live God’s gospel of love.
WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?
July 30, 2006 - PENTECOST 8 - Luke 10:25-37
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Dear Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
What must I do to be saved? Or what must I do to inherit eternal life? These are age-old questions from the very beginning of time. Oh, it is true mankind spends a lot of time living as if this life is the ultimate destiny of mankind. Many live lives believing their heaven is here on earth. So it has become in our society and our day and age that not so many are too concerned about eternal life. If you ask them where they are going when they die, many certainly would say heaven, rather than hell. So man sometimes figures he can work out his own salvation. He figures he has another chance, figures that God is so good and kind that he will let anybody in. That is not the case, is it? We can’t depend on ourselves. We can’t depend on our own wisdom or knowledge. We can’t depend on our works, because we fall short of God’s glory. In fact when Jesus was with his disciples, he told them it would be easier for the camel to go through an eye of the needle than it would be for the rich to get into heaven.
The disciples said, "How can that happen? How can that be possible? No one would get into heaven." Jesus told them that answer was true. "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27). With God all things are possible! With God we even are given our eternal salvation, something we don’t deserve, don’t earn, can’t buy. God gives to us freely. When we ask, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The question is wrong, isn’t it? It is not what I do, but what God has done. We are going to use that as our theme: the words of this expert in the law when he says,
“WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?”
Jesus said if he wanted to do something, I. Love God above all things.
II. Live God’s gospel of love
I. LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS
The expert in the law was only coming to test Jesus. "On one occasion an expert in the law came stood up to test Jesus, ’Teacher,’ he asked, ’what must I do to inherit eternal life?" That would be the right question for him. He was an expert in the law knowing what the law said. This expert in the law, of course, knew what God’s Law says. God’s Law says to do this and don’t do this. God’s Law was very clear, black and white. So when he asked, "What must I do," Jesus knows what the expert wants to hear. He says to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" The original says, "What do you recognize there? What do you believe there?"
Jesus told him to get his law books out and look at them and what do they say? Then the law expert quotes the very letter of the Law. "He replied, ’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,’ and ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’" He doesn’t just quote the first commandment. He quotes the first commandment and its meaning. Then he quotes the summary of the second table. "Love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus says the Law of God is summed up in those two commandments. Of course, that was the correct answer. If someone wanted to inherit eternal life, they would do those simple things.
Jesus agreed. Jesus said, "You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live." It doesn’t say to do part of it or some of it some of the time, but he says, "Do all of this and you will live." This is something that is impossible. Yet, what happens as we get to see the heart of this lawyer or expert in the law? He really wanted to know how he could save himself. He didn’t want to depend on Christ or God or anyone else. In verse 29: "But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ’And who is my neighbor?’" Supposedly, this expert in the law knew God. He recognized God, and he knew he could love him with all his heart, soul, strength and mind. He felt that way; but when he looked around him, he didn’t know his neighbor. He says, "Who is my neighbor?" He knew what the law said, but he didn’t recognize his neighbor. If he didn’t recognize his neighbor, he really, truly did not know God. In reality that was the question, "Who is my neighbor?"