The Futility of Works for Salvation


Who Then Can Be Saved?

Luke 18:18-27

See also Matt. 19:16-22 and Mark 10:17-22


Verse 18.

I.   This is a rich, young ruler.

A.     Luke 18:18, "And a certain ruler..."

B.     Luke 18:23,  "...for he was very rich."

C.     Matt. 19:20, "The young man..."

D.     This shows us that there are many people unprepared for eternity.  You don't have to be young or old, rich or poor, a ruler or one who is ruled.  If you don't have Jesus, you aren't ready.


II.   Mark 10:17, The young man came running to Jesus.

A.     This act could show his enthusiasm for searching for the truth concerning his eternal destiny, or it could show his flying from place to place in search of some new thing.

B.     It is certainly more important to note how a person "leaves" Christ (saved or lost) than it is to note his coming to Christ.


III.   Mark 10:17, The young man kneeled before Jesus.

A.     Physically kneeling before God isn't salvation.

1.       Luke 18:25 describes the camel which must kneel before passing through the small gate.

2.       The camel kneeling is a picture of the lost man kneeling spiritually so he can be saved.

B.     Phil 2:10 states that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ.  Does this young man kneeling before Jesus fulfill this scripture for him?  No.  The young man kneeled outwardly, but inwardly he did not.

C.     It makes no difference what we do outwardly (walking down a church aisle, joining a church, teaching a class, preaching the gospel), if our heart is not right with God, all is vain.


IV.   Luke 18:18,19.  When the young man called Jesus "Good Master", why did Christ rebuke him?

A.     Jesus did not deny that He was the master or teacher, and He didn't deny that He was good.

1.       Compare Mark 10:17, where the young man called Christ “good master” with verse 20 where he referred to Christ only as “master”.

2.       The question Christ asked him jolted him into realizing he was referring to Christ as God, but he evidently did not recognize as God.  Therefore he referred to Christ only as master the second time.

B.     His purpose in questioning the young man was to get him to see that Jesus was God.

1.       The word “good” means “that which is naturally good”, indicating that the young man was referring to Jesus as God, without recognizing him as God.

2.       The young man came to Jesus as a good teacher, not as one who had the ability to give him eternal life.

3.       The young man thought he was good enough to save himself.

4.       Compare how Nicodemus came to Christ and the way this rich young ruler came.


V.   Luke 18:20.  Why did Jesus answer the question the way He did?

A.     Compare Acts 16:25-33 and the answer Paul and Silas gave the jailer.  The jailer was asleep while Paul and Silas prayed, sang songs and worshipped God.  He was a cold, calculating man who heard the gospel in spite of himself.  When the earthquake came, he woke up and was going to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  Paul saved his life by telling him that no prisoners were gone.  The jailer then called for a light, and sprang (jumped) in where Paul and Silas was, and fell down before them, trembling because he was looking eternity in the face.  Notice that Paul and Silas said nothing at all to him.  It would be a good thing if some of the modern day "soul winners" would take a lesson on soul winning from this scripture.  The modern method of winning souls is to discern when someone is bothered about their soul, then lead them to Christ before the "spirit" leaves them.  Paul and Silas did nothing, they let the Holy Spirit do His work, and stayed out of the way.  The jailer then brought Paul and Silas out of the inner prison and asked in verse 30, "What must I do to be saved?"  It is at this point that they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved, and thy house."  Jesus answered the rich young ruler different from Paul and Silas because of the different attitude of the two men concerning their eternity.  The rich young ruler was not looking death in the face when he came to Christ, so he wasn't so concerned about his future like the jailer was.  Also, the rich young ruler thought he could do something to inherit eternal life and the jailer knew he couldn't do anything to be saved.

B.     Gal. 3:21-24.  There is nothing wrong with the message Jesus gave the rich young man, for nothing Jesus did was wrong.  Gal. 3:21-24 states that there is nothing wrong with the law.  As a matter of fact, if there was a law given that could have given righteousness (salvation) it was the law.  The reason the law can't give salvation is not a fault with the law, but because all are sinners and cannot obey the law.  The law was not to give salvation, but to show us that we are sinners in the sight of God and to point us to Jesus Christ who does give salvation.  Jesus told the young man to keep the law because he didn't believe he was a sinner.  Sometimes today, it is good to tell people to keep the law, if they don't know they are a sinner.  If the person is honest with God, they will soon admit that they can't keep the law.  If they are not honest with God, they won't be saved anyway.

1.       Of course, many people today believe they are not under the law.

2.       The phrase “under the law” is not referring to dispensationalism, but to the condition of being lost.

3.       Saved people are not “under the law” because Christ as saved us from the condemnation of the law, we have the righteousness of Christ upon us because of imputation.

4.       The phrase “under the law” is used only 10 times in the entire Bible.  A good study.


VI.   Matt. 19:20, the rich young ruler confessed that he had kept all this things from his youth up, "What lack I yet?"  Here is a man who had done all he could possibly do to be saved, and yet felt in himself that he had not done enough.  Works can never satisfy concerning salvation.  Only Jesus can really give the internal peace that reveals salvation. 

A.     Mark 10:21, Jesus loved him, (in a social or moral sense).  I do not know if this means he is one of God's elect or not.

B.     Luke 18:22, Why did Jesus tell the man to sell everything and give the proceeds away and come and take up his cross and follow him?  Did Jesus indicate that poverty is the way to salvation?  No.  Jesus wanted the man to realize that everything he owned was of no value as far as salvation was concerned.  Every good work he had performed was not enough to earn salvation.  Jesus wanted the man to give up everything he had gained and accept that which only Jesus could give him.


VII.   Mark 10:22.  The young man went away very grieved because he had great possessions.  There are many people who come to Jesus desiring salvation, but go away without salvation because they are not willing to accept salvation on God's terms.  They are not willing to admit they have nothing to offer Jesus, and they must leave everything behind.  Will you come to the very door of salvation, then turn away because you don't want salvation the way Jesus offers it? 

A.     Jesus watched the man walk away.

1.       Jesus had plenty of power to save him, but Jesus would not save him because the man did not come to him the proper way.

2.       Jesus healed every person who came to him asking to be healed, but this man did not ask Jesus Christ to save him.

3.       Luke 18:41 – Jesus healed the blind man who cried, “Give me my sight.”

4.       Will Jesus watch you walk away from salvation because you will not come to Christ, confess your sins and ask him to forgive you?

B.     Luke 18:24,25 - They that are rich have difficulty entering into the Kingdom of God.

1.       Their minds are on their (possessions – self-righteousness, so forth)  wealth, and not on spiritual things.

2.       Matt. 6:19,20 - They are laying up treasure on this earth, and not in heaven.

3.       Most rich people trust the influence that comes with great wealth to "give them a better chance" at heaven than a poor person gets.

C.     It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.

1.       Custom has it that there is a gate into Jerusalem known as "The Needle's Eye".

2.       In order for a camel to go through that gate, it must get down on its knees.

3.       A camel cannot carry a load, get down on its knees and crawl on its knees to go through the gate.

4.       The load must be removed first, then the camel can go through.


VIII.   Mark 10:23 records that after the man went away, Jesus began to make the point that those that trust in riches shall hardly enter into the kingdom of God.

A.     Jesus is not saying the rich shall not enter into the kingdom.

1.       Jesus is saying those that trust in riches shall into enter into the kingdom.

2.       Those that trust in their self-righteousness shall not enter into the kingdom.

B.     Mark 10:24 records the people were astonished out of measure.

1.       Compare to verse 26 where the people were astonished out of measure because Jesus repeated his previous statement, adding force to it.

2.       It is amazing that these saved disciples did not understand what Jesus was talking about.

a.       The truth is that just because a person is saved doesn’t mean they understand everything about salvation, or the way God thinks.

b.       Every saved person must be taught about spiritual things.

c.       The disciples did not understand the death of Christ, they had to be taught.

d.       The disciples did not understand the resurrection, they had to be taught.

e.       The disciples did not understand anything spiritual, they had to be taught.

f.        We must also be taught.

3.       God does not think like we think.

a.       Mark 10:25 the way a camel enters the eye of a needle is to remove all his strength, and completely depend on Christ and what he has done on the cross of Calvary.

b.       Isaiah 55:8-10 – “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” 

c.       Matthew 16:24-26 – “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

d.       John 12:24-26 – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” 


IX.   Luke 18:26,27.  Who then can be saved?  With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  You may think it is impossible for you to be saved, and it is if you don't trust Jesus with everything.  You must come to Jesus confessing that you are blackened with sin, within and without, a total sinner, with nothing but sin.  Then and only then can you be saved.


People That Were Saved


1.       Exceedingly wicked people.

a.       The woman at the well.  John 4 - This woman was probably a prostitute.

b.       Mary Magdalene.  Luke 8:2 - Seven demons were cast out of her.

c.       The woman taken in adultery.  John 8:1-11 - Go and sin no more.


2.       The common working man.

a.       Matthew the tax collector.  Matt. 9:9 - Jesus called Matthew away from his business, instructing him to follow him.

b.       Peter the fisherman.  Matthew 4:18,19 - Jesus called him away from his business of fishing to catching men.

c.       Luke the physician.  Col. 4:14 - Luke is a physician.


3.       Religious people.

a.       Nicodemus the Pharisee.  John 3 - He came to Jesus by night.

b.       The 3,000 that was saved on the Day of Pentecost.  They had gathered at Jerusalem to worship God at the feast of Pentecost.


4.       Whosoever believeth: