The Law and the Profits


The Law and the Profits

March 31st, 1983 @ 12:00 PM

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 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? 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. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Matthew 19:16-23

3-31-83    12:00 p.m.


The Law and the Profits—p-r-o-f-i-t-s.  Reading again an incident in the life of our Lord, of the rich young ruler.  This time reading of the story from Matthew, Matthew 19:16-22.  Matthew 19:16-22:

And, behold, one came and said unto Him: Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

And Jesus said, Why callest thou Me good?  there is none good but One, and that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

And he said, Which?  And Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

And the young man saith unto Him, All of these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

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, follow Me.

But when the young man heard that, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

[Matthew 19:16-22]

I would submit that to any unbiased mind as being one of the most unusual things that you could ever read in human literature much less in positive history, that such a thing could have happened, that the Lord demanded of the young man before he could inherit eternal life, to give away everything that he had.  Now what is unusual about it is the Lord never made any such demand at any time at any place for anyone else, never.

Nicodemus was a well-to-do man.  He came seeking the blessing and favor of an enlightened mind.  What must I do to be saved?  How do I inherit eternal life?  And the Lord never said anything to him about selling what he possessed [John 3:1-21].  Zaccheus is described as a very rich man and he came to the Lord by faith and was saved.  The Lord never said anything to him about selling what he had [Luke 19:1-10].  Joseph of Arimathea is described as a very wealthy man.  The Lord never said anything to him about giving up his possessions [John 19:38-42].  Mary and Martha of Bethany most apparently lived in an affluent home [John 12:1-3], and the Lord never said anything to them about giving up what they possessed.  Yet the Lord says to this young man, “You sell everything you have.  Get rid of it and come and follow Me and you will inherit eternal life” [Matthew 19:21].

Well there must be some profound reason why the Lord would say this to that young successful, affluent businessman.  And the reason is very apparent.  It is twofold.  First of all, his heart and his life were consumed by what he possessed.  His heart was not God-ward.  It was earthward.  And he did not have as his great aim and goal in life the service of our Lord, but the accumulation of wealth, the extension of his earthly possessions.

You know what I know?  Then I am going to tell you why I know it.  If the young fellow had said yes to the Lord, everything I have is Yours, just take it; you know what the Lord would have done?  He would have given everything that the young man possessed; given it back to him, hallowed and sanctified and redeemed.

“Now pastor, how do you know that?”  Because of the teaching of our Lord!  As an example in the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, when the Lord says the kingdom of heaven is like to a rich man, a lord who goes away and he leaves his goods in the hands of his servants.  And he says to them, pragmateuomai, translated in the King James Version, “Occupy till I come back” [Luke 19:13].  You do not have any idea of what the lord says when you translate that “occupy.”  What the lord says, pragmateuomai, “do business, trade, expand” until I come back.  And when the lord came back, he commended his servants.  They had done well, said to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord” [Matthew 25:21].  He would have done that with this young man—given everything he possessed back to him, sanctified and hallowed, if he had placed God first in his life.

Why did the Lord ask this young man to give up everything that he had in order to follow Christ?  A second reason lies in the young man’s persuasion, his idea of what it is to inherit eternal life, to be saved.  Do you notice the question he asked?  “Good Master, what shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?” [Matthew 19:16].  To him it was a matter of his doing.  It is something that he could achieve.  He just needed to know what it was he was supposed to do.  Well, do you notice the next question that he asks?  “Master, all of these commandments have I observed from my youth up; what lack I yet?” [Matthew 19:20].  Any man, anytime, anywhere whoever seeks to save himself to inherit eternal life by his own doing will always be devastated by a lack of assurance.  How do I know that I have done it correctly?  How do I know that I have done it right?  How do I know but that having kept the commandments all the days of my life, I yet will fail when I come to the end of the way?

Now there are two ways that a man can seek to inherit eternal life to be saved.  One of them is man’s way, and the other is God’s way.  And the choice is very simple.  It is one or the other.  Man’s way to inherit eternal life is to be saved by our own doing.

The whole history of religion is the history of a man seeking to save himself, by his doing.  “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” [Matthew 19:16].  There are very distinct things you will observe in history when men seek, and they all do, when they seek to be saved.  One is by self-affliction, flagellation.  Martin Luther beat himself with whips, scorpions, flogged his body.  Origen, the great church father, was a man of self-emasculation.  I have read where Thomas Aquinas had done the same thing in an awesome project—throw away their very manhood in order to be saved.

Another way you will find universally is the perversion of sacrifice.  If you have been to Mexico, you have seen those Aztec pyramids.  They were built for the priests on top to offer human sacrifice that the people might be saved.  I have stood by the Ganges River and have thought of the generations of mothers and fathers who threw their babies to the crocodiles in order to be saved.  When we read the Old Testament, the Molech image was a great empty idol in which they built a furious fire.  And when the arms were red hot, fathers and mothers placed their children as an offering to Molech in order to be saved.  That gave cry—rise to the cry, of Micah, “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” [Micah 6:7].

A man seeking to save himself; sometimes it takes the form of sacerdotalism, sacraments, rituals, ceremony; and for them they build temples and altars and vestments and all kinds of rites and rituals.

And then, of course, sometimes men seek to save themselves and commend themselves to God by doing good.  The problem lies in the thing that Isaiah avowed, “all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” [Isaiah 64:6] in His sight; and we have that same repercussion in our hearts.  Somehow we never feel we have done it right.  We have never done it good enough.  Somehow our good works are not commensurate with what God expects of a lost sinful man.  And that is the cry of this young man: “All of these commandments have I kept from my youth up”.  But I feel in my soul I lack something yet [Matthew 19:20].

Now that leads us to God’s way for a man to be saved.  For us to inherit eternal life, God’s way is through the gift of His mercy and grace mediated to us by our acceptance called faith [Ephesians 2:8].  There are three things to be said about God’s way for us to be saved, and the number one is this: it is free.  Salvation is always a gift of God.  It is free [John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-9].  There used to be a song that our nation sang, “The best things in life are free.”  God’s air is free.  God’s sunshine is free.  God’s rain is free.  God’s time is free.  Like the manna that fell from heaven to feed the people in the wilderness, it is free.  It is a gift of God [Exodus 16:12-15].  I sometimes think of a man who refuses the grace gifts of our Lord as a man standing by the side of the Amazon river, the greatest river in the world, and he dies of thirst.  Or, like a man standing under fifty feet of air, of atmosphere, and he refuses to breathe.  Salvation is a gift of God.  It is free [Ephesians 2:8].  Our great Lord God is not a merchant selling his wares, He is not [an] auctioneer selling salvation to the highest bidder.  He is a royal King; a great King bestowing His gifts to His people.

God’s way of salvation is second, not only free, it is a gift.  He bestows it upon us but it is based upon the finished, completed, perfected atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ [Romans 3:23].  In preparing this message, I came across an unusual thing.  There were two wonderful cabinetmakers in a shop.  One of them was a devout Christian, knew God’s Word, knew the way of salvation.  And the other cabinetmaker was not a Christian.  Well, the Christian was doing all in his power to win his friend and yoke fellow to the Lord and to the faith.  And the man demurred, and refused, and rejected because, he said, “I just cannot believe that accepting Christ, just trusting Christ, I could be saved.  There must be much beside.”

Most of the world feels that.  Man can’t be saved by just trusting the Lord Jesus, he must work also.  He must do something else and beside.  Well, one day while they were in the shop working together, the man, the cabinetmaker who was a wonderful Christian picked up a plane and walked over to a beautiful French table and he took the plane as though he would begin working on it.  And when his friend saw what he was about to do, he said, “Oh don’t, don’t!  I have finished that table.  It is finished.  It is finished.”  And the Christian cabinetmaker laid the plane down and said, “It is finished.”

The Lord bowed his head crying, “It is finished” [John 19:30].  We don’t add to the perfect work of our Lord.  It is done.  It is finished.  And that is all I need; pleading, the mercy [Titus 3:5], and the love [John 3:16], and the atoning grace of Christ [Ephesians 2:8].  A man may go to heaven without wealth, or without health, or without friends, or without culture, or without learning, or without ten thousand other things, but a man can never go to heaven without receiving Jesus in His atoning grace [Acts 4:12; John 14:6].

A last word, God’s way of salvation; it is mediated to us.  It is given to us.  It is offered to us by faith.  Faith is the hand that reaches out to receive it.  It is given to us.  And the only condition God makes is that we take it.  That is all.  I think when the Lord looked down on lost humanity and thought within Himself, “How is it that I shall make a way of salvation to which everybody can respond?”  Well sell it for money, but some too poor to buy it.  Some may be to be learned and come into it by study and wisdom, but some are unlearned.  And the Lord thought within Himself and said, there is a common denominator that all mankind can share, and that is just to receive it, just to take it, and that is the only condition.  Receive it.  Take it.  It’s a gift from God [Ephesians 2:8].  It’s something God has done for us.  When the young man says, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life” [Matthew 19:16], he did not realize he did not have to do anything.  God has done it for him.  He just takes it, receives it.  That is the only condition [John 1:12].

You might say, “Well, that is the most unusual thing in life; that we live by taking, that we live by faith, by trust” [Hebrews 10:38].  My friend, all of life is just the same.  We live by faith, by trust.  When the farmer sows his seed in the soil, he does it by faith, trusting God for an increase.  When the mariner goes to sea, he trusts his ship.  When you get into an airplane, you trust the pilot.  When you are sick and have an operation, you trust the surgeon.  The poor widow will go to the bank and trust the bank to keep her savings.  A man will take an insurance policy and trust the company beyond the day of his death.  We live by faith.  And that is the way we come to know our Lord is by trusting, by believing, by receiving, by accepting [Hebrews 11:6].  And when I do that, something happens on the inside of me.  My life is no longer working in order to obtain eternal life.  My whole world is in another direction, in a new creation.  I now work and serve and love and praise because of what Jesus has done for me.  Oh, bless His name!  Bless His name.  It is a wonderful way to live.  It is a wonderful way to be.  It is a wonderful way to die praising the blessed Jesus who thus has bestowed upon us the gift of eternal life [John 10:27-30].

Could my tears forever flow,

Could my zeal no languor know,

These for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone:

In my hand no price I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling.

[“Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me,” Augustus M. Toplady ]

And God never turned down a poor suppliant sinner who came to Him and asked, “Lord, for Jesus’ sake, remember me” [Romans 10:13].  That is the way to inherit eternal life.  That is the way to be saved.  And our Lord in simple and humble faith, we reach out our hands to Thee [Hebrews 10:38].  Fill them Lord, with Thy love [John 3:16], and mercy [Titus 3:5], and grace [Ephesians 2:8]; with Thy love and pardon and forgiveness [1 John 1:9].  Then may the rest of our lives flow God-ward and heaven-ward in praise and thanksgiving and gratitude for what Jesus has done for us.  O bless His name.  Praise His name.  What the Lord has done for us.  For ever, now and through all ages world without end, may our hearts abound in love and gratitude to Thee, precious Savior, amen.