The Possible Impossibility
In Matthew 19:16 – 26, we are told of an impossible situation. This passage begins with an encounter between a wealthy young man and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The question this young man poses is this:
“Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”
In making this statement, this young man mentions the first impossibility in this passage which is the:
Impossibility of working to obtain eternal life.
This above question is universally asked by the world and carries with it an impossibility. The idea that man can work to obtain eternal life is displayed in all religions of the world except biblical Christianity. No man can work their way to Heaven. Man, in his fallen state has been “working” to try to obtain eternal life since the fall in Genesis 3. This is clearly demonstrated in the account of Adam and Eve. Notice what Genesis 3 verse 7 states, speaking of Adam and Eve, after they partook of the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden, thereby committing sin:
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
Here we see Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together trying to fix the problem of sin by performing a ‘work’. Just one chapter later we find the next generation trying to accomplish the same end. In this subsequent passage Cain and Abel are found bringing an offering unto the Lord.
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”
Why was Cain’s offering not respected by God? Surely Cain brought the best of his crops. No doubt Cain had given an abundant offering, yet the works of his hands were not good enough. Looking forward to our day, man is still trying to do the same thing. Man contrives that good deeds will earn him eternal life. Man insists on religious exercises to earn himself the right to Heaven. Man’s attempt at working his way to Heaven comes in many forms. Some are religious exercises (baptism, church attendance, giving, church membership, sacraments etc…) while others may be secular (performing charitable acts, good deeds etc…) but the Bible says that man cannot work enough to merit eternal life.
The second impossibility mentioned in this passage is by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ which is the:
Impossibility of keeping the whole law.
In verses 17-20, our Lord reveals this truth to the young man.
"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. 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, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?"
Deep in the heart of man our pride lies in wait to deceive us. We are willing to justify ourselves even in the face of the Just One. Here this young man answers piously, “I have no sin!” Ironically, he was breaking the commandment he had just affirmed he had kept, “Thou shall not bear false witness.” Though he may have kept the letter of the law there can be no doubt that he had transgressed the spirit of the law; that is in his heart. You see, man attempts to keep the law but, in the end, finds it an impossibility. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) One simple infraction of God’s law results in complete failure. The route of self-righteousness is forever barred from man as a means of obtaining eternal life. Paul’s comment on the law in Romans 7:10-11 tells us this, “And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”
The Lord immediately points this out to the young man in verses 21 and 22. In the end the Bible states that the young man, “…went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” This young man, much like men today, was unwilling to give himself to Jesus. The truth is, he was willing to make concessions for eternal life, but to give his heart to God was asking too much. In John chapter 3:19-20 we find this statement concerning our unwillingness to turn from our sin to our Savior. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”
As we continue down through this passage we come to the final impossibility. After this young man leaves, the Lord makes an astounding statement. “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” This statement shocks the disciples as they perhaps reexamine this young man’s status in life in their minds. Here was a man that was successful in the world. Here was a man that was successful in religious matters, but yet the Lord had uttered these words, “how hardly…” Jesus’ disciples exclaim the last impossibility:
“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?”
And so, we have the:
Impossibility of Salvation.
Man is hopelessly lost. All that man can muster falls short of the impassable gulf that is affixed between us and God due to our sin. The solution is beyond the reach of man in of himself. Man cannot work his way to eternal life. God’s law cannot be kept by man and therefore is not an option to earning eternal life. So, who then can be saved? The answer is given by and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He states, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” What a wonderful truth; the possible impossibility! Left to our own devices salvation is impossible, but through faith in Jesus Christ by God’s grace man can be saved. Had this rich young man turned from his sinfulness to Jesus Christ the passage would be vastly different.
You see the young man failed to:
1. Understand he was a sinner. (The thrust of his whole conversation was “How can I” earn my way to Heaven. At the same time, he denied he was a sinner.)
2. Understand Jesus is the Savior. (He did not recognize that Jesus was the God-man, otherwise perhaps he would have sold everything and followed Him.)
3. Understand he needed to give his heart to the Savior. (This man was unwilling to give up the riches of this world [his idol] and give himself to the Lord.)
The Bible is very clear for you and I concerning this possible impossibility. We have the benefit at looking back toward the cross and knowing what has taken place according to God’s Word. You too can be saved if you are willing to admit you are a sinner. “For all haved sinned and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23). Secondly, you can be saved if you believe and understand that Jesus, the perfect Son of God, paid the price for your sins when he was crucified on a cruel Roman cross. He gave His life on the cross for your sin, was buried, and rose in victory from the grave three days later. And then lastly, you too can be saved if you would give your heart to the Savior. The Bible describes this several ways:
“…repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 20:21 (turning from your sinfulness, and turning to, by faith Jesus Christ)
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10: 9-10) (the act of crying out to Jesus for salvation by confessing your sinfulness to Jesus, believing the good news about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and asking Him to save you.)
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) (the heart belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only way to be saved from the punishment of Hell and on your way to Heaven)
So how does someone accept this salvation that God is offering to man through His Son and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? This gift of salvation can be applied simply by calling upon the name of the Lord. You can call upon the Lord by praying and asking to be saved. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) My friend, experience the wonder and joy of this possible impossibility right now! If you do not know for sure Heaven is your home, bow your head right now and call upon the name of the Lord.
If you made a decision to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior let us know about it, so we too can rejoice with you in our decision. Call us at 757.838.0340 or contact us at email@example.com
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
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Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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