Question [composite of several]: I must disagree with your very excellent article on “One Thing” [May ’02] in which you said concerning the rich young ruler, “The issue was not the young man’s salvation, but rather service to Christ.” In fact, salvation is in view and not service, for this ruler asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Answer: Thank you for your letter. Yes, the young ruler did ask what he should do to inherit eternal life. But there was nothing he could do. Having already broken the law, keeping it perfectly in the future (even if that could be done) would not pay for past sin or justify anyone.
Though he claimed that he kept the law perfectly, that wasn’t true, for “all have sinned.” Nor was Christ giving him conditions for salvation, for “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom:3:19-23).
If “selling all and giving to the poor” is essential to salvation, then none of us is saved. It was Christ’s means of revealing to the young man his love of riches and that he didn’t love his neighbor as himself. Certainly Christ was not telling him that if he sold all he had and gave to the poor he would be saved. It would merely be the means of starting to follow Christ.
I appreciate your thoughts. You make a good point. Thank you very much. Most of all, we appreciate your prayers that the Lord will use us to His glory and to the salvation and edification of many.