Daily Bible Nugget #675, Matthew 19:17

The Nugget:

Mat 19:17  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.

My Comment:

This passage (Matthew 19:17) was brought up in a discussion about baptism regarding the assertion that good works are required for salvation. Jesus spoke in a manner to indicate that “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

To make this important answer more accessible for all readers here, I am making use of my answer in that discussion in this separate main post:

Dear Dave,

You brought up a most interesting passage, Matthew 19:17, in a comment above.

Mat 19:17  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.

I placed the following note on this passage in my newest Bible study tool, The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury:

but if. FS184A, +1Co 15:2, Note,—The Lord answers this inquirer according to the terms of the Legal Dispensation, which had not yet expired, and under which, as a Jew, he was: with a view to vindicating the requirements of the law, preparatory to the announcement of the grace of the gospel; to the faith and privileges of which, however, he afterwards invites him in the words Come and follow me, Mat 19:21 :—whence also the difference between this answer and that given by the apostles to the same question, in the case of the Philippian Jailer, Act 16:31,—he being a Gentile, and the New Testament dispensation having been opened. So in the other instance recorded, Luk 10:25, the Lord answers according to the Law, but yet (as in this instance) in such a way as to convince of sin by it, and so lead from it. See the references (De Burgh, p. 91). +Lev 18:5, Neh 9:29, Eze 20:11, 12, 13; Eze 20:21, Luk 10:25, 26, 27, 28, Rom 2:13; Rom 10:5, Gal 3:10, 11, 12, 13; Gal 3:19, 20, 21, 22, 23 24, 25.

 

Notice the reference to Leviticus 18:5,

Lev 18:5  Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

This must be contrasted with Genesis 15:6,

Gen 15:6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Both of these passages (Leviticus 18:5 and Genesis 15:6) are cited in the New Testament a number of times.

[Genesis 15:6 is cited at Romans 4:3, 6, 9, 22, 23, 24. Galatians 3:6. James 2:23.

Leviticus 18:5 is cited at Romans 10:5. Galatians 3:12.]

Paul tells us that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ:

Gal 3:24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Gal 3:25  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

It is plain that if “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” then, as Paul teaches, “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Thus, we conclude with Paul, being justified by faith, we are no longer under the law.

Therefore, any  properly informed Jew or properly taught Gentile would know from Scripture itself that salvation is by faith alone, apart from the works of the law. Remember how often Jesus asked his hearers (Matthew 12:3. 21:16. Mark 2:25), “have ye not read?”

That does not mean that because we placed our faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation that we are free to become lawless. Rather, as Paul clearly and carefully teaches,

Gal 5:16  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Gal 5:17  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Gal 5:18  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Notice that  Paul explicitly declares that if we are led of the Spirit, we are not under the law.

Paul further teaches that those who are genuinely saved by faith also produce the fruit of the Spirit, “against such there is no law,”

Gal 5:22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Gal 5:23  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Gal 5:24  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Gal 5:25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

So if we are not under the law, we surely are not saved by obedience to the law. This would be “another Gospel,” contrary to what Paul (and the Bible as a whole) taught, and is anathema!

Lev 18:5  Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 18:5 teaches one of the two ways we can be saved: if we keep the law perfectly, we can be saved. But no one except our Lord Jesus Christ has  perfectly kept the law. So, according to the central emphatic point of the book of James (as seen in its literary structure—the whole book of James is one great chiasmus, and the central member of the chiasm is James 2:10), anyone who claims to have kept the law, and yet offends in one point, is guilty of all:

 Jas 2:10  For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

[The chiastic literary structure of the book of James is displayed on page 1847 of the Companion Bible.]

No one, therefore, will ever be saved on the basis of obedience to the law.

The second means of salvation declared in Scripture is justification by faith:

Gen 15:6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

This promise given to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant has been extended to us all as the only means of our salvation as explained in detail by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 4. Notice the obvious: this promise was given before the institution of the Mosaic law and therefore has precedence over it.

Now when James declares that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), he is not contradicting himself and neither is he contradicting the Apostle Paul. If you see a contradiction, you are obviously misreading the text of Scripture.

James had just told us earlier in his letter (James 1:18) that we have been begotten by the word of truth:

Jas 1:18  Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

He also speaks of the “engrafted word, which is able to save your souls,”

Jas 1:21  Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.

Therefore, James is speaking of the fact that genuine faith in our Lord Jesus Christ  transforms our nature and produces the fruit of the Spirit–the good works that are seen by men as the outcome of our genuine faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 Response to Daily Bible Nugget #675, Matthew 19:17

  1. ken sagely says:

    hello jerry matt 19:17 very signficant question that this man asks the Lord acts 16:30-31 similiar question and answer vs 3- Sirs what must i do to be saved? vs 31 and they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him. Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, John 6:47 He that believeth on me hath everlasting lifeJohn 17:3 This is eternal life eternal that they might know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent. Hab 2.4 The just shall live by faith

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