Mormon prophets testify that to gain eternal life we must obey the commandments. Recently I received a comment pointing me to the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 as proof that LDS prophets speak God’s truth. The commenter writes: “Christ is asked point blank: What must I do to gain eternal life? And Christ’s response? Keep the commandments.”
I absolutely love this story because when you read it carefully it actually shows that a person can’t gain eternal life with their works! This story gives Christians a great example of how we should share the gospel with someone who thinks they can be “good” enough at obeying God’s commands. This story shows that Jesus understood God’s intended purpose of His law. (Read my recent Post from February 11th titled: “Why did Heavenly Father Give Us Commandments?” for more information.)
This young man was someone who thought he didn’t sin very often. Here we read about an arrogant man who truly believed that he was “good”. We can see his arrogance in his response to what Jesus says to him. His first words to Jesus were “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Before he even begins his conversation with Jesus, he already believes that he must “do something good” to gain eternal life. Notice that he doesn’t ask Jesus how to gain eternal life, he already thinks he knows. Jesus responds to this by saying “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God” Jesus tells the rich man that only God is good! This gives the young man the opportunity to come to the realization that he (the rich man) is not good.
In response to his question Jesus tells the rich man “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” He does this because Jesus knows the purpose of God’s law!! Jesus understands that this man has to recognize how sinful he is, before he will seek a Savior! Jesus gives this man God’s laws, and He comes down very hard on him. He first gives him the “do not“ commandments:
1) Do not murder 2) Do not commit adultery 3) Do not steal 4) Do not bear false witness.
And then Jesus tells him the “do“ commands:
5) Honour your Father and Mother 6) Love your neighbor as yourself.
And how does the rich man respond? He tells Jesus that he has kept all these commandments from his youth up. This man believed that he was “good” and possibly only lacked “one good thing”. But, do you think that Jesus believed him? In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus had already taught that we must be as perfect as our Heavenly Father! Jesus taught that looking on a woman and lusting after her is the same as committing adultery. Do you think Jesus believed the rich man’s claim that he had always loved his neighbor as himself?
At this point in his life this man sees no need for a Savior. Why would he? He truly believes that he is good enough to gain eternal life with his own works. He had already rejected the message Jesus first gave him—that “only God is good”, and boldly claimed that he was good. So, in response: “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
Think about the commandment that Jesus gave to the young man. This would be a very hard thing to do, to sell all you have and follow Jesus. But, Jesus lovingly told him the one thing that would cause this man to look into his heart and see that he was sinful–that he was not good. This is the purpose of the law. God’s law is a mirror for us to look into God’s Word and see that we are sinful and that only God is good! We do not hear anything more about this rich man, but possibly he came to faith later as a direct result of Jesus’ pointing out his sin to him.
God’s Law was given to you as a way to cause you to despair of saving yourself through you’re own works–and then to cling to the perfect works of Jesus! Through faith in Jesus you will be credited with His righteousness! All praise and glory to our Savior Jesus!