A Series of Answers to Common Questions
Didnt Jesus plainly teach in his instructions to the young ruler that a person is saved by observing the Law? (Cf. Mark 10:19-20; Matthew 19:18-20; Luke 18:20-21) Yet Paul contradicts Jesus by saying that a person is saved through faith in Christ (cf. Romans 3:21-28; Galatians 2:16). Why, then, do Christians follow what Paul wrote instead of what Jesus taught?
If the questioner had taken the time to carefully read the context s/he would have seen that Jesus didnt teach that following the Law saves a person:
"Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life? Why do you ask me about what is good? Jesus replied. There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments. Which ones? the man inquired. Jesus replied, "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother," and "love your neighbor as yourself." All these I have kept, the young man said. What do I still lack? Jesus answered, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, FOLLOW ME. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:16-24
Notice something quite interesting here. After the man tells Jesus that he has carried out the commands Christ still says that this isnt enough since these commands didnt make him complete in Gods sight. Christ expressly says that if he wanted to be perfect he needed to abandon everything and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Jesus is basically demanding a devotion that is to be given solely to God.
In other words, Jesus is saying that perfection doesnt come by observing the Law but by following him, which presupposes that Jesus is absolutely perfect and does not need to carry out the Law for his own salvation! After all, sinners cannot be made perfect by following another sinner, but only by following someone or something that is perfect in and of itself.
Notice, also, that Jesus listed six of the Ten Commandments, but not the first four. These particular commands were given to govern a persons relationship with others, whereas the first four govern a persons devotion to God. The mans trouble was that he loved money more than God, and hence his money had become an idol. The Lord was plainly telling him that he had to be willing to die to his money and give it up in order to devote himself completely to the pure worship of God, and the way to do this was to fully devote himself to Christ. What Jesus was basically implying was that following him is to fulfill the first four commands since Jesus is God!
To put it another way, Christ was saying that to follow him was to follow God, to love him was to love God, to die for him was to die for God etc. And, just as Jesus told Peter, anyone who was willing to do that for Christ would be rewarded with eternal life:
"Peter said to him, We have left everything to follow you! I tell you the truth, Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields FOR ME AND THE GOSPEL will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fieldsand with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." Mark 10:28-31
This in itself shows that Jesus wasnt claiming that following the Law saved a person.
But there is more. Jesus statement regarding it being difficult for a rich man to enter heaven shocked the disciples, making them wonder whether anyone could be saved. Here is how Jesus responded to their shock and dismay:
"When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, Who then can be saved? Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:25-26
Man cannot save himself, since this is humanly impossible. Only God can do the impossible and save man, and does so through the Person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is precisely why Jesus told the young ruler to follow him so that he could be perfect before God. Sadly, he loved his riches more than Jesus.
Moreover, the Lord Jesus clearly says that humans are evil by nature and need to be made good in order to bear the fruit that pleases God:
"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who ARE EVIL say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." Matthew 12:33-35
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you ARE EVIL, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11:13
"The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil." John 7:7
He even said to his contemporaries that none of them carried out the Law:
"Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?" John 7:19
Since human beings are evil by nature they are not able to carry out the Law. They need to be first transformed in order to do what the Law requires. Again, this is a work which God alone can do since God is the only One who has the ability to change a person and make him good.
Yet by failing to do the Law they come under Gods wrath. This is why Jesus himself taught that a person is saved by trusting in him as Savior, as the One who has come to redeem sinners by his life, death and resurrection:
"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:28
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45
"One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw THEIR FAITH, he said, Friend, your sins are forgiven." Luke 5:17-20
"Then Jesus said to her, Your sins are forgiven. The other guests began to say among themselves, Who is this who even forgives sins? Jesus said to the woman, YOUR FAITH has saved you (he pistis sou sesoken se); go in peace." Luke 7:48-50
"As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. Who touched me? Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you. But Jesus said, Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me. Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, Daughter, YOUR FAITH has healed/saved you (he pistis sou sesoken se). Go in peace." Luke 8:42b-48
"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, Jesus, Master, have pity on us! When he saw them, he said, Go, show yourselves to the priests. And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked himand he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? Then he said to him, Rise and go; your faith has made you well (lit. has saved you (he pistis sou sesoken se))." Luke 17:11-19
"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: "God, I thank you that I am not like other menrobbers, evildoers, adulterersor even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get." But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14
"As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He called out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, What do you want me to do for you? Lord, I want to see, he replied. Jesus said to him, Receive your sight; YOUR FAITH has healed/saved you (he pistis sou sesoken se). Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God." Luke 18:35-43
The Greek word sesoken that is used in many of the above passages from Luke comes from sodzo, which means:
1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
a) one (from injury or peril)
1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue
b) to save in the technical biblical sense
a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance
Jesus was basically telling these specific individuals that they were being saved by their faith in him!
There are more references:
"He said to them, This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke 24:44-47
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:14-18
"Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. Then they asked him, What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." John 6:27-29
"Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Fathers will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life." John 6:35-40, 47
"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." John 7:37-39
"Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? Yes, Lord, she told him, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:25-27
Moreover, the other apostles besides Paul taught this same truth, that a person is saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Peter
"BY FAITH in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," Acts 3:16-19
"All the prophets testify about him that everyone who BELIEVES in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days." Acts 10:43-48
"‘The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, "Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved." As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?’ When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.’" Acts 11:12-18
"He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts BY FAITH. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." Acts 15:7-11
The Apostle John
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." John 1:12-13
"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." John 20:30-31
"for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God We accept mans testimony, but Gods testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:4-5, 9-13
Even John the Baptist preached this same message!
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29
"To this John replied, A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, "I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him." The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for Gods wrath remains on him." John 3:27-36
What the foregoing shows us is that both the Lord Jesus and his followers taught that individuals are saved by believing in Christ, and once they are saved they are then empowered and transformed by God to live holy and obedient lives to the Law as defined and interpreted by Christ and the NT.
Before we conclude we need to once again reiterate and emphasize this point: Individuals who are transformed by God do not live in obedience to the Law for their salvation, since they have been saved by Christ, but for their personal holiness, since God saves sinners out of their wickedness in order to live holy lives pleasing to him. In the words of the blessed Apostle Paul:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithand this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:8-10
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hopethe glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:11-14
So as Christians we believe in all that Jesus and his Apostles such as Paul said and wrote, and what they taught is perfectly consistent with one another.
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