Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" Matthew 19:16

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Mark 10:17

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Luke 18:18

Looking at each different passage we find several things about this man.

1. He is young.

2. He is a ruler (whether religious or civil we are not told).

3. He had wisdom or he could not have been a ruler as a young man.

4. He was rich, but he knew something greater was to be had.

5. He was submissive to Jesus by calling Him Good Master or Teacher. (Only 2 people in Scripture addressed Christ with such honor – Nicodemus and this young man.)

6. He gave Jesus great honor by kneeling before Him.

7. He asked a very serious question not to trick Jesus, but sincerely asking how to get to Heaven.

8. He was a Pharisee because he believed in eternal life indicated by his question of how to get to Heaven.

9. He thought he had to do something to get there.

10. He thought he was willing to do whatever it took to attain eternal life.

The young man intended to honor Jesus as a good man, but when Jesus pointed out that only God is good, he did not retract his use of the word. Jesus wanted the young man to recognize Him as his own good God, and to gently assist the young man’s faith. Jesus wanted the young man to place praise in its proper place by giving glory to God and not to man. All crowns will lie at His throne. We’ll keep none for ourselves. We call Him God because He is good! Jesus’ goodness is His glory, yet He was continually pointing to God because He sent Him: Incredibly complex and incredibly humble.

By the young man’s question, we know that he was convinced there was a greater place after death, and that he sincerely wanted to go there. It is rather rare that a young man thinks upon these things much less a rich young man. Perhaps his many responsibilities and his wisdom got him to thinking about eternal life, or perhaps there had been a death in his family.

Jesus says, “enter into life.” He is emphasizing that the only true life is that eternal life. This life in our puny physical bodies is not truly worth calling Life for the moment we are born we begin to die. This life is so brief and finite. It always makes me so sad when a believer is afraid to die. As Paul said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Jesus takes the opportunity to emphasize the thing to do to enter Heaven is to keep the commandments. Jesus listed the commands that God had given to show the Israelites how to treat each other. It was human to human relationship commands. He ended with, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ the royal law (James 2:8). These are the morals and values that any true believer must exhibit. They are indicative of true faith, exhibit true faith.

Of course we receive eternal life through faith by the blood of Jesus. However, Jesus’ time had not come yet, so Jesus emphasized what was still in effect.

The Old Testament saints had eternal life through faith. They entered into life by obedience to God’s commands.

This is huge.

The Old Testament saints did not earn eternal life by doing good works and obedience to the law. Scripture is quite clear that it is a gift from God through faith. No where clearer is that noted than in Hebrews 11 – The Great Hall of Faith.

As Jesus makes it clear in John’s Gospel, we enter into our eternal life (which comes instantly the moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus) by obedience to Jesus’ commands.

If you love Me, keep My commandments. John 14:15

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. John 14:21

And this is exactly what Jesus did. This love is reciprocal.

If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. John 15:10

This gives us many blessings and a happier life. This lifestyle of obedience gives us peace, comfort, and joy from God Almighty. Our obedience includes the one thing we must do for our salvation.

… because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.1 John 3:22-23

Thus we add virtue to our faith by our obedience, and this adds knowledge, and to knowledge is added self-control, and to that is added perseverance, and to that is added godliness, and to that kindness, and to that love. Peter speaks of this:

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 2 Peter 1:3-7

Notice how Peter points out that it all comes through divine power? Life and godliness cannot be attained by working for it. It only comes from practicing obedience, thus we receive the precious promises and escape the worldly corruption.

Jesus did not go into those first of the ten commands: Worship and serve only the Lord God (have no idols), do not speak God’s name vainly, keep the Sabbath and keep it holy, which have the essence of Christianity. He was emphasizing that which the religious rulers of the day were missing completely. They had missed the emphasis God put on the evidence of our love for Him.

Indeed, when the young man said he had kept all these commands, evidently it was truth because Jesus did not contradict him. Mark records that Jesus looked at him with tenderness and love after he said this. How sweetly it pleases God that we exhibit love and mercy toward our neighbors, and not just toward our siblings in Christ.

This declaration shows that it is possible to outwardly exhibit characteristics of Christianity, to have high standards of values and morals. But even though it is possible, without faith in Jesus the heart is still wicked and unclean. The young man’s arrogance is doubly evident because he never recognized his lack as Jesus would have him recognize it.

He knew he lacked something else why run to Jesus and ask Him what he could do to have life. The repentant heart would have said, “Woe is me! I have not kept these commands in my heart! What may I do to receive pardon for my heart sins?”

But Jesus let that go. What good would it do to have an intense theological discussion about points of the law? He zeroed in on a more effective way to pierce the man’s pride and arrogance. To be perfect the young man must go sell all he possessed, give to the poor, and then follow Christ.

The rich man’s true love bubbled to the top. He was sorrowful, but went away. He could not let go of his riches. Relying upon his riches, having faith in his bank account, and reveling in the comforts of wealth will keep any person from entering Heaven. It is misplaced faith. It is trusting what the moth and rust can destroy rather than trusting in divine power, grace, and mercy.