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The Rich Young Ruler

Sunday, July 12, 2009 • Steve Hogan • Salvation
Luke 18:18-27

The past two weeks we've been talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the most important message in the world, for it tells us how we can get right with God, how we can be forgiven of our sins, how we can gain eternal life, and how we can be with forever with God in heaven.

- Now the devil knows this gospel message is vitally important.  Therefore he continually attacks it. He does all he can to get people to believe his lies, and to think they're righteous and are going to heaven, when they are actually unrighteous, and are on their way to hell.

Why do you think there are so many false gospels, so many false religions, and so many denominations in the world?  It's mainly because of the devil and his lies.  All false gospels in some way or another are the work of the devil and his demons.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

- But there's only one true gospel message.  And Jesus was continually preaching this message, and was continually contending with enemies of the gospel who were preaching a false message.  Jesus knew people would die and forever go to hell if they'd believe the lies of the devil, and so He kept preaching the truth.   John 8:31-32, 14:5

Jesus Christ then, while He was on earth, was continually preaching the gospel, that people were sinners, and that salvation was found only in and through Him.  He was continually talking to people about their sin and death and judgment and hell, and about repentance and forgiveness and eternal life and heaven.   John 14:6, Acts 4:12, John 3:16-21

Luke 18:18-27 

Luke tells this true story about this ruler who comes to Jesus.  Now he could have been a religious ruler, a synagogue ruler for example; or he could've been a political ruler, working in some way for the Romans.

- Matthew's gospel tells us that this ruler is not that old - he's young.  And Mark's gospel tells us that this young ruler comes running to Jesus & then kneels down in front of Him.

And this ruler then asks Jesus this question: "Good teacher, what do I need to do to inherit eternal life?"  Now that question is a great question.

Now I don't believe this ruler knew what he was really saying when he spoke of eternal life.  According to Jesus in John 17:3, eternal life is a personal relationship with God that begins when we get saved, when we are born again, and then lasts forever.

- But this ruler talked about inheriting eternal life.  You see, this ruler had it good on this earth; he had plenty of money, a good job, a nice home; everything was going great.  And maybe the reason he was rich was because he had already received his earthly inheritance; and maybe now he was thinking about how he could secure his inheritance in heaven.

And so when this ruler asks Jesus about eternal life, I'm not sure he was thinking about getting saved, and being born again, and having a relationship with God.  I wonder if he was thinking about what was going to happen to him after he died; and He just wanted to know what particular things he needed to do to gain his inheritance in heaven.

Now this ruler addresses Jesus as a teacher, which means that this ruler knew Jesus to be a teacher.  But we read that this ruler calls Jesus a good teacher.  But notice how Jesus responds to this ruler: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."  You see, back at that time it wasn't proper to address anyone as good but God.  And so why was this ruler calling Jesus a good teacher?  He may have been sincere in what he was saying, but naive, not knowing it wasn't proper.  But I don't think he really believed that Jesus was God?

Now Jesus, by His response, didn't deny He was good, and He didn't deny He was God; and by saying these things, I believe Jesus wanted to try to establish some basic truths in the mind of this young ruler about His goodness, and His deity, and about this man's sinfulness.  This ruler needed to know that Jesus was the only one who was truly good, and that Jesus was God in the flesh; and if this ruler recognized that Jesus was God and was truly good, then he would have to conclude that he wasn't good, that he was bad, and that he was a sinner.

You see, before this ruler could get saved and have eternal life, He would need to put His faith in Jesus Christ, but before he could place his faith in Christ, he needed to know that Jesus Christ was God, and that he was a sinner, and that as a sinner, he needed to put his faith in God for the forgiveness of his sins, and to gain eternal life.  And so too, this must be the starting point when we talk to people about Christ and the salvation of their soul.  We need to help people see that Jesus Christ is both God and man, and then that they are sinners in need of Him as a Savior.

But Jesus continues, further explaining how this man could gain eternal life.

Matthew 19:16-19   Jesus tells this ruler he needs to keep the commandments; but this ruler, who I believe was familiar with some of the commandments, asks Jesus, "Which ones?  Jesus then goes on to mention five specific commandments from the list of the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses.  And then He mentions one more general commandment given by Moses - "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Now these commandments all had to do with a person's relationships with other people.

But note the young man's answer.  "All these things I've kept."  Now this is amazing - this young man told Jesus that he had kept all the commandments.  But Jesus knew this ruler didn't keep all those commandments.  I mean he hadn't perfectly honored his parents; or been perfectly honest; or perfectly pure; and he didn't perfectly love others.

Now was this young ruler just bragging?  Was he outright lying?  Was he trying to fool Jesus?  Was he naive?  We don't know for sure what was in his mind.

- But surely he was deceived.  You see, maybe this ruler was an outwardly moral person, and he felt that in general he had kept all the commands Jesus had just mentioned.  And by human standards, maybe he was living a good life.  And maybe his parents, his friends, the people in town looked at him as a "good" person.  And so maybe this young ruler believed and thought that he was righteous.

But let me point out something about the words keep and kept that are found in verses 17 and 20.  The word keep in verse 17 is from the Greek "tereo" - it means to keep, to observe, to obey, to rigidly adhere to. John 14:15 - "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments."1 John 2:3 - "By this we know we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments."  The word kept in vs 20 is from the Greek "phulasso".  It means to guard, to keep, to watch, to observe. And so these are similar words, but the word Jesus used was more often used when speaking of obeying God's word.

But the main point is this - this ruler didn't keep the commandments the way Jesus was talking about keeping them.  And he had to have known that he was answering in a way different than what Jesus was talking about.  And I believe there was pride here - this ruler really thought that he was good enough to gain eternal life.  But he was deceived - he was wrong - he was dead wrong - he had to be perfect, and he wasn't.

Now what was Jesus' purpose in telling this ruler these laws of God?  His purpose was to help this man see the incredibly high standard required by God and the impossibility of any man keeping that standard.  And Jesus wanted this ruler to see that he had broken God's standard, God's laws and was a sinner.

Romans 7:7-13  The Law is good; it is holy.  The Law helps us to know what sin is.  And the Law helps us to see that we are spiritually dead.  The Law was to be like a mirror to this man by which he could see the sinfulness of his soul.  It surely couldn't save him.

Galatians 3:10-14   No person is justified by keeping the Law, for no man can perfectly keep the law.  And in fact, every person who tries to keep the law is under a curse.  And only Christ can redeem us from that curse.  Only Christ can deliver us from that curse.  It is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that we gain eternal life.  Romans 6:23

Galatians 4:24   The Law is described here as being like a tutor, a teacher, and it is that which can lead us to Christ.  It is that which shows us that we are sinners, and that we need Christ, that we need Christ to be our Savior.   1 Timothy 1:8-11

And so Jesus shares God's Law with this ruler.  But this young ruler said he had kept the law, and therefore in his own mind he was thinking he wasn't guilty.  But not only that, Matthew 19 tells us that this ruler wanted to know from Jesus if there was anything he was lacking; and I can't help but believe he said this a little piously and proudly.  "Hey Jesus, I've done all these things - is there anything else I need to do to inherit eternal life?"

- But Jesus knew that this young ruler was guilty, and that he wasn't yet convicted of his sin.  But Jesus knew the heart of this young man, and instead of going over the same commandments, Jesus wanted to get to the heart of the matter, to what He knew was the main sin issue in this rich young ruler's life.

Luke 18:22-23   This statement from Jesus must've been shocking to this young ruler.  "Sell all he possessed, and give to the poor, and then follow Jesus, and become one of His disciples."  This young ruler was very, very rich, extremely wealthy.  He had lots of land, lots of gold and silver, a very nice home, lots of nice furniture, plenty of good clothes, and many animals.  And there's no way would he want to sell it all; that was unthinkable.

Matthew 19:22   "But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property."  This young man heard the truth, but he didn't like what he heard.  One version said he became gloomy.  Indeed, he was greatly saddened.

And so what was Jesus saying?  Jesus was telling this young ruler how he should be living his life if he were to be a follower and a disciple of Christ.  It should be a life of love for the Lord, and love for others, a life of sacrifice and service for others.

- Now He wasn't saying that this young ruler had to do a lot of good works to get saved, that he needed to be a philanthropist.  He wasn't saying that at all.  We know salvation is a free gift.  You can't earn salvation.  No one can earn salvation.   Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 6:23

- Jesus, by saying this, was communicating the "Great Commandment," the most important commandment, that this man was to love God with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.

- You see, Jesus' desire was to communicate to this young ruler his main sin, his primary sin, that He wasn't loving God, but rather that He was loving His money, His possessions, that he was loving himself.   Deuteronomy 5:6-9, Romans 1

Matthew 6:19-21   This too spells out what Jesus was communicating to this man, that money and not God was his master, and that he was loving his money, but not loving God.  Now many people in the world don't get saved because of this sin of loving their money and possessions instead of loving God.  They would rather hang on to their money and possessions in this life instead of loving God.  And they'd forfeit a wonderful & eternal relationship with God and treasures in heaven.  And they would go to hell, deservedly so and eternally so.

Jesus' desire for this young man then was to realize that he was a sinner, and in particular that he wasn't loving God.  And Jesus wanted this man to realize that it wasn't a matter of keeping these laws, but being sorry for his sin, and confessing to God that he had broken the law, and that he was in need of forgiveness, and believing that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior, the Lamb of God who could take away his sin.   John 3:16-21.

Mark 10:21  "Jesus, looking at him, felt a love for him."  Jesus really loved this man.  He had great compassion for him. He really wanted to bless this young man with salvation, with eternal life, with treasures in heaven.  And Jesus' goal in talking to this man was to help this man know that he needed to be humble and broken so he could be saved and have eternal life.

- And so here is this rich young ruler, and he was standing in the presence of Jesus Christ, in the very presence of God, and he wanted eternal life, he wanted a future inheritance.

- But he was proud, and was not willing to ask Christ for mercy; he was not willing to admit his sin, and repent of his sin, and come to Jesus and believe in Him.  This ruler loved His own life, and didn't want to give it up.  He didn't want to love Christ, to love the King of kings, and receive the greatest blessing of all, eternal life.   1 John 2:15

Luke 18:24-27  Indeed it is impossible for a person to get saved on His own.  It must be the work of God, the work of the Spirit in a man's heart.  God is the only one who can grant us repentance and give us the faith to believe in Him.

Jonah 2  -  "Salvation is of the Lord."



Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

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