Posts Tagged ‘old testament’

Reason #4 – No One Could Every Perfectly Comply With The Law

Man has never been able to live a righteous life on his own.  If man was capable of living a life that satisfied God’s Holiness, the death of Jesus Christ would not have been necessary.  But those who claim Ezekiel 18 presents the terms of salvation for the Old Testament saint must admit they believe man was at some point capable of fulfilling the terms of the Mosaic Law.  If a man was to obtain or re-obtain eternal life based on his Law-keeping, then it must have been possible at some point in his life to stand before God with all of it fulfilled.  Those holding this position must admit this based on their interpretation of this verse:

(Ezekiel 18:21)  “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

On the other hand, the position of faith states that man was never and could never keep all the Law.  Man could never do that which is lawful and right.  The law was never made for those who could perform it.  As the Apostle Paul states,

(1 Timothy 1:9)  “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,”

Those who claim life and death in this passage are spiritual not physical must accept it was possible at some point for an Old Testament person to keep all the Law.  To this, we must say – Impossible! It insults the very nature and character of God and is an insult to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself to imply that man could ever stand righteous based on his performance.  Additionally, those who hold this position must also believe people without the permanent indwelling Holy Spirit were able to do something those who are indwelt permanently today could never do:  Keep the whole Law.


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Maybe the questions raised and answered in this article have always been swirling around me and I just missed them.  Maybe my sensitivity to these issues is more acute now than in the past.  Recently, the subject of salvation from the debt and penalty of sin for the Old Testament saint has been addressed in conversations, forums and sermons.  A passage brought up to me on several occasions is Ezekiel Chapter 18.  The basic question to consider is, “Does Ezekiel 18 prove that God required individuals in the Old Testament to demonstrate their faith by works of righteousness in order to be acceptable to Him?”  In order to narrow down the passage, this article will address this question based on two verses used to “prove” that God accepted the Old Testament saint on the basis of works rooted in faith.

Ezekiel 18:4 – “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

Ezekiel 18:20 – “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

(For the purpose of this article, I make no distinction between the terms “faith plus works” and “faith that works.”  “Faith that works” is a term recently invented.  It describes the viewpoint that Old Testament saints’ faith must be demonstrated (through works of righteousness) in order to be righteous with God.  Essentially, this is “faith plus works” by another name.)

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I apologize for taking so long to get this uploaded.  I had to do some editing and formatting.  There are some minor changes between the posts on this blog and the article version in order to make it more conducive to print publication.  Thanks for your patience and I hope you enjoy it.

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler

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(This is the final post in this series.  I am somewhat torn because there is so much more we could appreciate about it.   I may offer additional information in the future, but in the interest of completing the article and moving on to the article on Ezekiel 18, I leave you with these final thoughts.)

(Mark 10:22)  And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Two things we should note about the Lord’s response:

  1. He used the Law as it was meant to be used: to point out sin.  The Law is like a mirror.  The mirror doesn’t clean off dirt.  It shows the dirt.  In this case, the fact that he was unwilling to help the poor demonstrated his disobedience to the command to love his neighbor.  Love is the operative motive in the Kingdom.  This man was shown by the Lord that he missed the mark and was nowhere near obtaining eternal life.  Some tend to think this man was very close to inheriting eternal life.  The reality is, his guilt in one point of the Law indicated he failed in all of it.  He was not nearly the righteous man he thought he was.
  2. He hit the man right where his heart was: in his wallet.  Jesus didn’t need to address the additional four commandments pertaining to man’s relationship with God.  It was already apparent that wealth was this man’s god.  In Mark he went away “grieved” while in Matthew he was “sorrowful.”  Luke gives even more information on the intensity of this man’s sadness where we see he was “very sorrowful.”  He realized at this point he wasn’t as righteous as he thought he was.  He came to Jesus thinking he “had what it took” and left realizing he couldn’t “measure up.”

This is one of the saddest encounters in the gospels.  It was one of the only times someone went away from Jesus worse than when he came.  His love for wealth was stronger than his love for God.  The faith he so desperately needed to put in the Lord was misplaced in his own wealth.  Misplaced faith was a consistent problem in Israel.  The Pharisees loved their religion and the Rich Young Ruler loved his wealth.  The price of placing faith in the Messiah was too great for this man.  He believed he had too much to lose.

It should be obvious by this point what the Lord was doing in his conversation with the Rich Young Ruler.  He wasn’t telling this man that the only thing left to “do” to inherit eternal life was follow the commandments.  Rather, the Lord was using the commandment to reveal the real heart condition of this man.  Every person in every dispensation must come to a place where they recognize their real need.  Every person must come to a place where they believe they are what God says they are:  a lost sinner.  Only then can anyone be in a position to believe Who God is – the Provider of eternal life.

A little while later in Mark 10, we see a striking contrast to the Lord’s encounter with the Rich Young Ruler.  Compare this encounter with the Rich Young Ruler with blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52.

Rich Young Ruler

Blind Bartimaeus

Regarded Jesus as a “Good Master” – Mark 10:17 Regarded Jesus as “Lord” – Matthew 20:30
He had great possessions – Mark 10:22 He was a beggar – Mark 10:46
He could see but didn’t recognize who Jesus was (Good Master) – Mark 10:17 He was blind but recognized the true identity of Jesus (thou Son of David) – Mark 10:47-48
A rich man unwilling to give up his possessions – Matthew 19:22 A poor man willing to give up everything he had – Mark 10:50
A man who believed he was righteous – Mark 10:20 A man who believed he needed mercy – Mark 10:47-48
Went away from Jesus still blind to eternal life – Mark 10:22 Received his sight and followed Jesus – Mark 10:52
Left Jesus sad – Mark 10:22 Followed Jesus glorifying God- Luke 18:43
Jesus had compassion – Mark 10:21 Jesus had compassion – Matthew 20:34
Did not have faith – wanted to “do” An example of faith – not asked to give up anything

We see two pictures of Israel in these two men.  The Rich Young Ruler is a picture of the state of those who were ruling Israel at that time.  They trusted in their religion and their wealth more than they were willing to trust in the Lord.  Blind Bartimaeus believed Jesus was the Messiah and was willing to give up trusting in anything he owned.  He was at the end of himself.  He was a picture of the little flock who inherited the Kingdom of Heaven.

One man shows how a works-based mind thinks about eternal life.  One shows us how faith operates.  One shows us the unwillingness of Israel’s rulers.  One shows us the heart of the true disciple during the earthly ministry of Christ.

Those who interpret this encounter as the Lord’s endorsement of an Old Testament soul salvation that includes works miss the point entirely.  God’s integrity in His being is unchanged in every dispensation.  While the message changes over time, faith is always the approach.  The Holiness of God demands we have a higher view of His nature and character than man’s performance could possible commend.  The Righteousness of God demands our acceptance by Him is only on the basis of His righteousness.  The Justice of God demands those who stand righteous before Him are present on the basis of His provision.

Praise the Lord for His eternal life paid for on the cross and provided to those who choose to believe His message in time past, the present and the age to come!

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I know the current series on Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler encompasses a lot of posts so far.  I plan to release them all in one article.  In the beginning, I thought this blog would lose readership and subscribers.  In fact, we’ve picked up new subscribers and readership has remained steady.  Thanks for sticking with me through this series.  I received a request to help “catch up” on where we are so far.  So until I post the article, here is a summary of the posts so far on this subject:

The Rich Young Ruler

The Rich Young Ruler Intro – Part 1

The Rich Young Ruler Intro – Part 2

The Rich Young Ruler Intro – Part 3

The Rich Young Ruler Intro – Part 4

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler – Part 1

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler – Part 2

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler – Part 3

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler – Part 4

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler – Part 5

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler – Part 6

Old Testament Salvation and The Rich Young Ruler – Part 7

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(Mark 10:19)  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.  (Mark 10:20)  And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

The testimony of the Rich Young Ruler was he “observed” these six commandments.  The Lord was only dealing with the six that pertained to love between people.  Four were left out which related to love for God.  This man felt he had sufficiently followed these six commandments.  He knew there was something missing because we see in the Matthew account some additional information.

(Matthew 19:20)  The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

“What lack I yet” indicates he was at a loss for understanding what else needed to be done to inherit eternal life.  The word lack comes from the Greek word hustereo which Vines’ defines as “to come or be behind.”  In other words, he was wondering where he failed to measure up.  He certainly felt he hadn’t failed on these.  In other words, the Rich Young Ruler felt he had the “bases covered” on the six commandments!

(Mark 10:21)  Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him

The gaze of the Righteous Sovereign, Ruler of the universe, King of Creation, fell on this man.  This man just proclaimed his righteousness before God Himself.  And Jesus loved him!  Do you understand the significance of this?  Does this impact you?  Think on it for awhile.  Let it sink in.  God saw man and loved him.  In spite of everything man had done, God still loved him.  I need this thought in my daily life and so do you.

Why would Jesus love this man?  Did he love him because he “said” he kept the six commandments?  Does God’s love commend the obedience of man?  Does God’s love demonstrate itself because man performs good works?  Absolutely not!  If Jesus loved this man because of his obedience or even his sincerity, it would impugn the character and integrity of God.  Everything about the righteousness and holiness of God would be destroyed if there was something within man that could sneak through these guardians of his character and cause God to love man.  Jesus loved this man because He chose to love him.  Jesus saw this man as a lost sinner in need of salvation.  These are the people God chooses to love!  Let’s not pretend we understand it.  Let’s not proclaim we know what it means.  Let’s just agree to accept what God chooses to do in His grace.

(Matthew 9:12)  But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.  (Matthew 9:13)  But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Why would the Lord even talk with this man if He didn’t regard him as a “sick” person who needed to repent?

(Luke 19:10)  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Israel was a lost nation full of lost people.  The Rich Young Ruler wasn’t an exception.  He was a typical representative of the way people thought about earning potential of good works in the sight of God.

One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Once again, the Lord directly answers the man’s question.  What did he lack?  Jesus gave him two terms:

  1. Give up his idol – money.
  2. Submit to the persecution that comes from being a disciple – take up the cross.

Obviously these terms weren’t the details of the Kingdom gospel.  These two things were designed to show this man his real heart and his real need.  He was pursuing salvation on his own terms and not God’s terms.

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(Mark 10:19)  Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

Immediately after Jesus tells the Rich Young Ruler to keep the commandments in order to inherit eternal life, the Rich Young Ruler asks a logical question in Matthew 19:18 – which commandments?

(Matthew 19:17)  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.  (Matthew 19:18)  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,

Jesus runs down a list of commandments taken from the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20.  But notice He doesn’t tell the man to follow all ten.  He only gives him six commandments.  Why these commandments?  These are the commands that talk about how people should relate to each other.  The sins listed – adultery, murder, stealing, bearing false witness, defrauding, honoring father and mother – are all about issues between people.  You can see they are the commands that provide God’s view on man’s relationship with each other.

It’s just as important to notice the four commandments omitted are the commands regarding people relating to God:

(Exodus 20:3)  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

(Exodus 20:4)  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

(Exodus 20:7)  Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

(Exodus 20:8)  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

The Rich Young Ruler didn’t think he had a problem because he viewed himself as righteous before mankind. This is what he thought gave him the capacity to earn eternal life.  The Lord was going to show him the truth about his righteousness and his incapacity to earn God’s acceptance.

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