There are at least two occasions where Jesus, when He was on earth, was asked this question directly: “What shall I do to inherit Eternal Life?” If we think about it, today, we essentially ask the same question, just differently: How do I know I am saved? Or, Can I lose my salvation? Christ is the only gate to Eternal Life. Therefore, shouldn’t we treasure the answers that our Lord Himself gave to this question? Who – we may ask – better than Christ Himself is qualified to answer this question? Shouldn’t Christ’s words on the matter – the One in whom Eternal Life resides (1 John 5:11) – be esteemed for what they really are: the authoritative answer on the subject of Eternal Life?
We hope that you will join us in studying the scriptures for yourself, and examining this article. We look forward to your comments based on your own study of the scriptures, telling us whether or not we have misinterpreted the verses we are using in this study.
[Note: We are using the New International Version (NIV) Bible. The numbers in parenthesis next to each Greek word is the Strong’s Concordance number]
Some may argue that Christ’s answers are not necessarily applicable today, in the administration of Grace in which we live, since He spoke those words before His death, resurrection, and the advent of the Holy Spirit who now dwells in those who believe. But to that position, we strongly disagree, and we shall submit to you our reasoning for believing that the answers Jesus-Christ gave back then are just as true and relevant to us today as they were to the people who heard them more than 2,000 years ago. But first, let us examine the two records where the Lord Jesus-Christ was asked this question.
Record 1: Mark 10:17.
Mark 10:17 – And when he [Jesus] was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
The following was Christ’s first response:
Mark 10:18, 19 – “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’
Please note that Christ linked Eternal Life to the observance of the royal commandments that God gave on the two tablets of stone. It is also worth noting that Christ made absolutely no reference to the Law of Moses. And it gets even more interesting from that point. The man responded as follow:
Mark 10:19 – “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
And to this response, the Lord Jesus said:
Mark 10:20 – Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
First it says that Jesus “looked” at him. The Greek verb translated “look” is emblepó (1689) which means that Jesus did not just look, but He stared at him with a “locked-in gaze”; He looked at him in a sustained, concentrated way, with special “interest, love or concern”. This was not your regular look. If this man did not have the Lord’s attention before, he certainly had it now. And the verse says that after looking at him in such way…He loved him! Oh Father in heaven…what does that mean?? Father, what do you mean that Christ loved him? Why, Father, did you judge it necessary for us to know that Christ loved this man before answering him again?
After loving him, Christ finally unveiled where the man was falling short. He fully exposed the deepest fleshy passions of his own soul: The man was too attached to his current life. Jesus invited him to leave his current life behind, and to follow Him. And what followed is nothing but pure sadness…
Mark 10:21 – At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The English translation does not capture completely the gravity, the intensity, of this moment. The word here translated “sad” is the Greek word lupeó (3076) which means severe sorrow and pain. According to the definition, it is the same word used to express the pain of childbirth! Just imagine the grief in this man’s soul! Perhaps – just perhaps – this is why Jesus first looked at him so intently and then loved him, because He knew the excruciating pain the man was about to experience once He fully exposes his fleshy passions. But you see my friends…our Christ is The Christ, He cannot change Himself, He cannot deny who He is (2 Timothy 2:13)…He will tell us the truth. Nothing is hidden before His face.
But here it is…here was the answer: Question: What should I do to inherit Eternal Life? Answer: Give up your life that you hold so dear, and follow me. It is worth noting that Christ demanded that the man lives his life behind before asking him to follow Him. The reason why this is critical is recorded in Matthew 6. First, we decide to leave the current life behind, then, and only then, can we fully apply ourselves to follow another.
Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
But what does it mean to follow Christ?
Suppose that you are ready to drive to a city 250 kms away for a special event. You ask your friends to follow you in his or her own car. Everything else being equal, if upon arriving at the destination you look around and your friend is nowhere to be found…did your friend follow you? The correct answer is NO. Does it matter that your friend started to follow you and then stopped at some point? Even if he/she followed you for 200 kms then took an exit, does it matter? No, it does not matter, because when someone asks you to follow him (or her), it is understood that wherever that person will be, and wherever that person will end, you too are expected to be there. Therefore, when Christ asks us to follow Him, it is understood that we should follow Him forever (that is, until we die).
Record 2: Luke 10:25
Luke 10:25 – On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
One cannot escape both the similarities in the questions but also the stark contrast in attitude between this person in Luke with the one in Mark 10. The first was genuine in his question, he came running to the Lord, and kneeled before Him. He called Christ good master. He truly wanted to know what He should do to inherit Eternal Life. By contrast, the one here “stood” before speaking and as an expert in the law, his purpose was to “test” Jesus. In other words, he thought he already knew the answer. Nevertheless, here is the Lord’s answer:
Luke 10:26 – “What is written in the Law?” he [Jesus] replied. “How do you read it?”
Very interestingly, Christ points directly to the Law. Which Law? The Law of Moses or the royal Law of God graven on the tablets of stones? The next two verses make it plainly clear that Jesus was referring to the royal Law of God, just as He did with the man in Mark. Note how He, Jesus, approves the answer of the expert.
Luke 10:27, 28 – He [the expert] answered, “‘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. 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Here we have, Question: what must I do to inherit eternal life? Answer: Do the royal Law of God.
However, in the next verse, because the man was seeking to justify himself, he replied “And who is my neighbor?” The verb translated “justify” in verse 29 is the Greek verb dikaióō (1344) which means that he sought to demonstrate that he was “already” righteous. The fascinating answer Jesus gave is recorded from verse 30 to 37.
Luke 10: 30-37 – In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Now; while the two individuals in the two records above had two very different attitudes toward Jesus, and very different motives for asking about how one may inherit Eternal Life, there was an implacable consistency in the Lord’s answers, as well as a common theme behind where these two men fell short. The consistency: Do the Law of God, and you will inherit Eternal Life. Christ said in unambiguous terms that to inherit Eternal Life, one must observe the Law of God.
On the other hand, while these two men could not be more different, they had one critical thing in common: They both thought they had fulfilled the Law of God (not the Law of Moses) and both of them were wrong. The man in the Gospel of Mark was wrong because he failed to recognize that when Christ was asking Him to live his current life behind and to follow Him, He was asking him nothing more than to apply the very first commandment of the Law of God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”. Christ was not adding anything to that Law. He simply translated it in terms that were directly applicable to that man. The man in the Gospel of Luke was wrong because he had failed to understand what the Law meant by a “neighbor” when the Law states: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. In either case, Christ did not add or subtract anything to the Law of God. He simply emphasized the aspect where each of the two men was falling short.
Oh, how perfect is our Lord! What He said elsewhere must really be true my people:
Matthew 5:18 – For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Can’t we see people? The Law of God that Jesus gave as answers will remain absolutely intact until everything is accomplished and until heaven and earth themselves disappear! We might be under the administration of Grace but it is obvious that neither heaven nor earth has disappeared! So the Law of God stands my people…It stands!
Are Christ’s answers regarding Eternal Life applicable today?
We believe the answer is a resounding YES! First, one should consider that although Christ gave those answers more than 2,000 years ago, Eternal Life is still a future reality today, in the same sense that Christ’s return is still a future reality. However, let us suppose for moment that the answers Christ gave do not apply to us today, because we are in the age of Grace. Let us consider as well what Christ told Peter and the remaining 11 disciples regarding Eternal Life:
Mark 10:28-30 – Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” 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 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life.
Please note that this exchange between Jesus and Peter took place right after Jesus invited the man in Mark 10:17 to leave his life behind and to follow Him. Christ repeats the exact same thing here, when Peter states that they indeed had left everything to follow Him. Christ confirms that none who does such will fail to receive Eternal Life. But here are some questions: Are not those the same Apostles who later delivered us the message of Grace? When they entered themselves in the age of Grace, did Christ’s message to them regarding salvation become irrelevant to them? Did the cross, where Christ’s work was completed (not started and then completed, but completed!) negate all the work He did during His ministry? Wasn’t the cross the “confirmation” and culmination of all that work? Did not Christ charge His Apostles to teach us today those things He taught them face to face? How therefore could Christ’s answer regarding how one inherits Eternal Life not be applicable to us today? Did the requirements for inheriting Eternal Life change for those people (like the Apostles) who once walked with Christ but also lived long enough to enter the age of Grace? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit remind us of “all” the teachings of Christ, as John 14:26 asserts?
John 14:26 – But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
If Christ’s answer is not applicable to us today, then is the Holy Spirit not only reminding us what Christ said, but also telling us that in reality the message regarding Eternal Life that He gave really does not apply to us? Is that what the Scriptures teach?
On the evidences above, we believe there is simply no ground for discounting Christ’s answer regarding Eternal Life. This is how we inherit Eternal Life, and there is no other way: We follow God’s Law, not falling in the same trap of misunderstanding that the two men in the records above fell. We leave our formal life and we follow Christ (to the end), loving our neighbor as ourselves.
May our Lord speak to our souls my people. Let us remember that Christ was asked the same question we ask today, and He gave a clear answer: Do the Law of God my people, the Law of God! To follow the Law of God is to follow Christ, and to follow Christ is to do the Law of God. But just like Peter was promised Eternity although he was not perfect, today following Christ is not a matter of perfection, but of genuine commitment: a commitment to leave a life behind, and to reach for another; a commitment to look in a different direction, and to follow a new path in our mind, in our words and in our actions; a direction where Christ is Lord and where we obey His voice, for how can you call someone Lord if you do not obey His command? The Holy Spirit, my brothers and sisters, is here to help us. He has been sent more than 2,000 years ago to stay with us, to help us stay on that new direction, if we submit to Him. Let us listen to that Spirit, for He reminds us of the Word of Christ and of His Apostles. And yes, He teaches us about Eternal Life, in the exact same way Christ taught His disciples. Glory to the Amen, Glory to the Son, and may all who call on His name depart from iniquity. Amen.