WHO THEN CAN BE SAVED?
TAKEN FROM SAVIOR OF THE WORLD WEB SITE
BY: BRAD EDWARDS
“The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’” (Mark 10:26) (NIV)
“And they were shocked and exceedingly astonished, and said to Him and to one another, Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26,) (Amplified)
The story of the rich man is probably one of the best known Bible stories and for good reason. There are three separate accounts of this actual event found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Everyone remembers how hard it is for a rich person to enter into God’s kingdom – like passing a camel through the eye of a needle, but I believe many are missing an important lesson of this story.
This whole story centers around salvation. It begins talking about entering God’s kingdom and ends with proclaiming that all things are possible with God. Here is the complete account from Mark (NIV):
MK 10:15 “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16] And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
MK 10:17 As Jesus started on his way; a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
MK 10:18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone. 19] You know the commandments: `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
MK 10:20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
MK 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
MK 10:22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
MK 10:23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
MK 10:24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25] It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
MK 10:26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
MK 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Most can understand the idea that one must love God over money and everything else. While this is true, it certainly is not all that we should learn from this. Let’s looks closer at what is really being addressed here.
While walking thru Judea, the topic was “entering God’s kingdom.” After Jesus tells us we must be like children, then comes the “rich man,” but we don’t yet know he is rich. What we do know is this- he fell on his knees before Jesus. This act demonstrates this man’s faith and desire toward Jesus. This man, like all mankind, wants to know how to inherit eternal life God’s life. Jesus first corrects the man by telling him that only God is good. Jesus here was simply saying that any good he produced was from His Father in heaven His words, His miracles and His knowledge came from God, the Father.
After correcting the man, Jesus reminded the man of the commandments. The man, with a sincere heart, believes and says that he has kept the commandments since he was a child. We know that no one, but Jesus has ever lived without sin. Yet, Jesus did not disagree with or correct this man for saying this. Instead Jesus looked at him and loved him! Jesus knew that man’s heart and he loved it! What Jesus says next, I believe, is misunderstood by many.
Jesus tells the man that he only lacked one thing. He tells the man to give all that he has to the poor and follow Him. But look at this again. Jesus did not tell the man that by giving away his wealth that he would earn the right to enter God’s kingdom. This was not the “ONE THING” he lacked. He says that this man would have riches in heaven as a reward for letting go of his worldly possessions. Then Jesus completely answers the man’s question on how to inherit eternal life. He says, “follow me.” THIS is the answer to the man’s original question! The only way to be saved is by following the living Christ in us. It is by Jesus Christ’s power and will that we are perfected! We need Him living in us for us to overcome sin and this world. Of course we must surrender all that we have and are to God and giving away his money was a necessary step towards God. Nothing in our life can come before God. If something is in your life or heart ahead of God, He will ask you to surrender it. He will turn the heat up until we do let go. He must be our first and ONLY love. Our jealous God will NOT stand for anything to come between us.
But now this story really gets interesting! Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them how hard it is for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom. We now hear those most familiar words – “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
At this point, the disciples are shell shocked, flabbergasted, and bewildered! But do we understand why? One must understand that what Jesus was saying seemed to contradict all that God had been doing throughout history while dealing with the Jews. Jesus “seems” to contradict God and His laws in many cases throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5), but of course, Jesus is not wrong – only our understanding of God and salvation is wrong.
So, we must understand that all throughout the Scripture of God’s dealing with the chosen Jews, to be rich was to be blessed by God. One doesn’t have to look very hard to see that many of God’s servants, prophets and chosen were, in fact, VERY wealthy. It was believed that God blessed those who he was pleased with by giving them more sheep, more slaves, more land and so on. Now, consider this rich man who sought Jesus out, feared God and kept the commandments. In the eyes of the disciples and everyone, this man has been blessed by God. This man was a good man. Jesus himself said that he only lacked ONE thing that being Christ.
So, we should easily understand the shock going through the disciples’ minds and hearts at this time. They were likely thinking- “if this man who God has blessed and who has kept the commandments has a hard time entering into God’s kingdom, then we have NO chance!”
And they said to Jesus, “WHO THEN CAN BE SAVED?” They thought perhaps no one could be saved given how hard it was to save a man who has been blessed by God and followed the law.
But Jesus puts their hearts and minds at ease by summing up the entire point of this story in these words: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” This is where many misunderstand the salvation process. Salvation begins and ends with God. Our faith begins and ends with God. It is impossible for man to do anything to “get to heaven.” The only way into God’s kingdom is by following Jesus Christ who lives in us. He is the door, the narrow gate, the Way. Don’t we understand that our minds can’t even imagine the greatness of God, nor of His plan for mankind? Whatever wonderful ideas we could imagine, God’s plan is FAR greater! His plan for salvation is more glorious than anyone can imagine! All will be saved by His love for us through Jesus Christ even though it may SEEM impossible.
I would like to shift the focus of this study by looking at those who thought it perhaps impossible to be saved – the disciples. They were a motley crew to be sure. I hope no one would doubt that all of the apostles were saved, but have you considered their lives while with the Messiah? They were very ordinary men and all with problems to overcome, but we will see that they only overcame them by God’s power and not their own.
First, let’s consider Simon Peter who many say is the “rock” of our faith. But is he? Not too long after Jesus declares that he will build his church on the “rock.” He rebukes Peter and calls him Satan. This doesn’t sound like a solid foundation for a church- does it? It should be understood that Peter was just a man and was not a “rock” to build God’s church on. The “rock” Jesus speaks of, I believe, is the knowledge that God had given Peter to know that Jesus is the Christ. This knowledge and faith that God had given Peter will be given to all so that God may build His kingdom in us and in all creation. Even though Peter wasn’t a rock, he did crumble from time to time. His lowest moment came when he denied knowing Jesus three times. Imagine Peter, who had seen the miracles, heard the teachings, walked on water and even witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, denied knowing him because of fear for his life. How could Peter be saved? He denied Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father (MT 10:32). Peter, once Simon, once Satan was surely not going to enter God’s kingdom. He was a scared, carnal man who cursed at the name of Jesus before men after witnessing first hand the Son of God! Look at what Peter was given and look at how Peter reacted in his natural state. This is the key! Peter is still operating with a carnal mind and heart. So how will this carnal man driven by fear be saved? Well, Jesus gave the answer- follow Him. He will lead us to salvation. No man is strong enough to overcome this world, not even Peter. Peter needed Christ indwelling in him to make all things possible. Peter received Christ at Pentecost, as did the others. This Life transformed them from the inside out.
Next, consider doubting Thomas. Why did this man doubt that Jesus was raised from the grave? Did Thomas not witness the myriad of miracles of Jesus? Did Thomas not hear Jesus saying that He would be raised on the third day? Did Thomas not see Jesus raise others from the dead? Did Thomas not believe the other beloved disciples he was joined with? Was there any reason to doubt? Yes, like Peter, Thomas was not yet “born of the Spirit.” Jesus went away so that His Spirit could return to them and IN them. We can’t follow Jesus into God’s Kingdom without God’s Spirit. Thomas didn’t have this yet. He, like the others, had been given spiritual gifts, witnessed God’s power and been taught God’s ways, but this wasn’t enough to overcome doubt, fear and sin.
Lastly, let’s look into Paul’s life. Saul, “a man of God,” was on the road to Damascus screaming out murderous threats to Christians and persecuting them. He hated Christians and believed them to be the worst kind of heretics worthy of death. Saul was VERY religious, but he was dead spiritually. He was not yet born of God. But in a moment, Jesus Christ came to him and changed this man’s heart, beliefs and direction. Jesus Christ put Saul to death and brought Paul to life! But what of this so-called, “man of God” before Christ transformed him? Wasn’t he headed straight to hell? When we read the famous account of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, we clearly see that Saul was the worst goat imaginable. He persecuted those following Jesus an act worthy of being cursed into age-lasting correction (aionion kolasin Gr.). He himself admits that he was the worst of all sinners as we read.
1TI 1:12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13] Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14] The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1TI 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. 16] But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17] Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
First we read that Paul was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance and unbelief. This may be true of 99.9% of humanity! Didn’t Paul hear what the newborn Christians were saying? Obviously, Paul knew ALL about this Jesus person. Most of the world knows ABOUT Jesus, but like Saul, they have carnal knowledge about Jesus. So, how can Paul say he was in ignorance and unbelief? Apparently, carnal knowledge and belief is worth nothing in our relationship with God. But where does one get true knowledge and true faith? They ONLY come from God as Paul says next by giving credit to God’s grace that was poured out on him. Next, Paul elaborates that the reason he was shown mercy was to glorify God’s unlimited patience.
Another similar passage is found in Ephesians:
EPH 3:7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8] Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9] and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
The words are simple but do we really believe and accept what Paul is saying here? He again declares that he is the least of God’s people and that God chose him. How many Christians believe that they “made a decision for Christ”? The only decision being made concerning our salvation is when God desires it to happen. Do we REALLY believe that we are saved by God’s grace and Jesus Christ’s faith? The Holy Spirit comes and goes like the wind and as God pleases. We do not control God’s hand in salvation, but are submissive partners in a holy union with Him. Or how many Christians believe that they did something to “secure” their salvation? What type of works secure our salvation? The faith and grace are not our own, but both gifts from God. Here is a passage that sums this up in 1 Timothy:
TIM 1:8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9] who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10] but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Again, Paul gives credit only where it is deserved. God has a plan, a purpose that is being worked out in mankind. God planned complete restoration of creation and universal salvation of mankind in His Son, Jesus Christ before time started. Only now, is this magnificent plan being shown to mankind. All will be saved and saved the same way- by grace through faith. NEITHER is ours – they are from God. This is not to say we have no role in the salvation process. Many may fight God’s love, but He will wear them down. For those who are obedient to His Spirit in them, they will continue to mature into sons of God by their Father’s love for them. For those who try to resist God’s love, they will suffer at His hand and will be corrected. Through our sufferings we are taught and perfected in Christ Jesus.
Jesus Christ’s purpose for coming to us was to save us – not just some of us. Jesus Christ will never change His purpose, His character or His love for us. He will not stop searching out that lost sheep until He has found it. He will leave the 99 that they may rejoice with heaven when He returns with the lost one! When you are watching the news and see murderers and thieves, do you see someone that God cannot find and save? When you are walking down the street seeing many souls in despair, do you pass by someone God cannot save? When you have turned away from God in your sin and then look in the mirror, do you see someone that God cannot save? Are we to be as dumbfounded as the disciples were and ask, “who can be saved?” Or rather, do we know and trust the living God and say with boldness, “who CAN’T be saved?” Really, who can withstand God’s love and for how long?
So all the apostles, all the saints and all of us sinners are saved the same way – by God’s grace through Jesus Christ’s faith. It is Christ in us that is born of God and overcomes this world and sin. Christ is universal and so is salvation.
EPH 4:5 There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called 5] one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6] one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Even if you still can’t accept that God will save EVERY man, woman and child created in His image and likeness, only a fool would say that it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to do this. Remember, ALL THINGS are possible with God. If it is His desire to save ALL men, who will hold back His hand? For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, read and believe:
1TIM 2:3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4] who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5] For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6] who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time. 7] And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle – I am telling the truth, I am not lying
ISA 46:10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
God has a purpose for ALL of mankind that He hid in Jesus Christ, the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD! Which do you suppose pleases our Father, throwing His disobedient children into an everlasting torture chamber or saving every one of them from death and sin by the power given to Christ Jesus? God will destroy death and the works of the devil. God will do ALL that He pleases! What an awesome Father we have in heaven! All will come to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him through Jesus Christ! Amen!
His peace and understanding be with you,
WHO THEN CAN BE SAVED [Brad Edwards] 1