‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’

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I’m afraid that stressing salvation by faith—and only faith—Christians are missing some important teachings of Jesus.

      On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

      “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

      He 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.'”

      “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28).

Unfortunately, in the modern church, the expert in the law would have said, “Simply believe, have faith.”

So, armed with a yellow highlighter pen, I worked my way through the printed-in-red teachings of Jesus to understand what He taught we must do to inherit eternal life. After all, He is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6).

Jesus does emphasize . . .

Faith

      “Jesus said to the woman [who had washed His feet], “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).

      Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

      Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15).

      For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

      Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him (John 3:36).

      I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).

      For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).

      I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life (John 6:47).

      I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins (John 8:24).

      I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25-26).

But Jesus also emphasizes . . .

Faith and . . .

However, I was surprised (actually shocked), to find that three times more yellow-highlighted passages dealt with putting that faith into practice in tangible, practical ways.

So, please read the following passages carefully and ask yourself, must I go beyond simply faith to experience eternal life. And for those who see a contradiction between “salvation by faith” and “salvation by works,” remember that in the infinitely complex mind of God, things that seem polar opposites to us, fit together in perfect harmony: a God who is three, yet one; a Son who is completely human and yet who is completely divine; a God who is absolutely sovereign and yet allows absolute freewill to His creations; etc.

Love for God and others

      On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

      “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

      He 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.'”

      “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live” (Luke 10:25-28).

      [To those who showed compassion] “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

      “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

      “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

      [To those who showed no compassion] “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

      “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:34-46). A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

      And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.

      “You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.'”

      And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”

      When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:18-22).

Love for enemies

      But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45).

Peacemaking

      Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).

Communion

      Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53-54).

Obedience

      Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).

      Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

      “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments” (Matthew 19:16-17).

      “If a man keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51).

Righteousness

      Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).

      For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

      If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (Matthew 5:29-30, also Matthew 18:8-9 and Mark 9:43-48).

      The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 13:41-43).

      Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:47-50).

      Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned (John 5:29).

Childlikeness

      And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3, also Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17).

      I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Luke 18:17).

Self-denial

      Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:14-27, also Mark 8:34-35).

      . . . any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 134:33)

      The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me (John 12:25-26).

Servanthood

[To the servant who had wisely used his talent] “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” (Matthew 25:21).

[To the servant who buried his talent] “‘And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth'” (Matthew 25:30).

Speaking truth

      Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33, also Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26, Luke 12:8).

      But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37).

Forgiveness

      And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25).

      “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).

Fruitfulness

      Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matthew 21:43).

      “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

      “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:1-6).

Perseverance

      All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22).

      By standing firm you will save yourself (Luke 21:19).

Putting faith into practice

      “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27).

© 2006 James N. Watkins


Some further thoughts

January 2008

The apostle John wrote, arguably, the most familiar passage of scritpure: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

However John also wrote three letters in which he argues works are an essential part of faith. In 1 John 2 he writes:

Keep the commandments

      By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him . . . (2:3-4 NASV).

Walk the walk

      . . . but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked (2:5-6).

Love your brother and sister

      The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (2:9-11).

Don’t love the world

      Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world (15-16).

Do “the will of God

    The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (17).

Practice Righteousness

      If you know that. He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him (29).

© Copyright 1999 James N. Watkins

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3 Responses

  • Levy Musa says:

    Please help me understand the things of the Lord

    • jameswatkins says:

      Hi Levy, the best way to understand the things of the Lord is to become involved in a Bible-believing church. I have a lot of spiritual resources on my site (and there are literally millions of other site on the things of the Lord, but they are no substitute for a local church.

  • I suspect in the back of my mind is still the Church Historic philosophical debate of Faith and Reason! I was looking for sermon foundation when I ran across this page. Personal encounters wuth God in the OT and Jesus in the NT; even the Apostle Paul are fascinating to me because right learning and right understanding is facilitated when you consult the Right Source! What amazed me here is that Jesus states that the Kingdom was prepared from the beginning! I’m a Baptist Pastor; not Kingdom Hall at all.



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