Keep The Commandments
“And someone came to Him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’” (Matthew 19:16, 17)
Some want to criticize the rich young ruler because they argue that his question suggests he believed he could save himself with good works. Yet, are we willing to criticize Jesus’ answer? Jesus said: “…if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
It is possible to do good works while trusting in ourselves. We may think that doing more good works than others makes us righteous, or we may reach a point when we believe that we’ve done enough good works to atone for our sins. We may even deceive ourselves and start acting like we have never sinned at all. Doing good works while trusting in ourselves will not save us. Salvation is “…not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:9) Man cannot boast about salvation because forgiveness is not possible without the blood of Jesus, and God was the only One who could offer that sacrifice.
But let’s acknowledge what Jesus said to the rich young ruler. If we want to enter into life, we need to keep God’s commandments. How is the commandment keeping that Jesus described different from the works that Paul described? The fact of the matter is that there may be no difference in the actions themselves; the difference lies in what we trust. Are we keeping commandments so that we can tell others how great we are and glorify ourselves like the Pharisees, or are we keeping commandments because we know that God is great and because we trust Him to do what He says He will do? Do we keep God’s commandments realizing that our salvation is still dependent upon forgiveness because we believe God when He tells us that all have sinned?
The difference in these two attitudes is subtle, but it is important. When we start arguing against keeping God’s commandments, we destroy the foundations that God has laid for how we should live and how we should worship Him. However, when we argue against self-righteous attitudes, when we challenge one another to remember that keeping commandments cannot pay the price for sin, and when we proclaim the love of God that was manifested in the cross of Jesus, we establish a logical and an emotional basis for loving God and keeping His commandments that will be difficult for Satan to undermine.