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Inheriting eternal life
October 25, 2010
by Rev. Michael Nirva, St. James Lutheran Church, Howard Lake

The Word of the Lord, Mark 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?’”

Who was the rich young man who asks this question? Luke tells us that, although still young, he had been chosen a ruler of the synagogue. As such, he presided at the service, appointed or permitted suitable members to pray, read the scripture, and expounded on the readings.

Here was a young man interested in religion and the question of the afterlife. We can see him approach our Lord with the glow of eagerness and enthusiasm. He came running and fell on his knees.

Now, to whom is the question directed? It is directed to the right person, the one who gives eternal life; to Him who won it for the human race. It is addressed to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The question is directed to Jesus, who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever believes in Me will never die.” (John 11:25-26).

The rich young man comes with an important question, but wrongly, he thinks he must do something to inherit eternal life. He thinks he has to earn salvation; as though eternal life comes as a reward for good works. The young man did not come to Jesus to receive eternal life as a gift from Him, but to ask Him what he should do to acquire it.

Today, even as then, there are many who feel that they have to earn salvation by good works. That is the religion of the natural man, and it is a false assumption that heaven is gained by being good. No one can keep the law of God perfectly, as Psalm 52:3 declares, “There is no one who does good, not even one.”

Jesus tries to turn the young man from his work righteousness by directing him to the law of God. He proceeds to convict the young man of the idolatry of loving money more than God, and tells him to go and sell everything he has and give it to the poor.

In response, the rich young man sadly walks away. Out of a compassionate heart, Jesus says about the young man, “One thing you lack.” The young man lacks true saving faith in Christ, who must always be the object of saving faith.

What then, is the correct answer to the question, what must I do to inherit eternal life? The Holy Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).

Believe that Jesus has done everything that is necessary for your salvation. Believe that Jesus has perfectly fulfilled the law of God for you, taken your punishment upon Himself, paid your debt, and purchased salvation for you with His holy precious blood.

By faith, we receive the promised inheritance, eternal life in heaven. Therefore, we gain heaven not by our struggles and efforts, but we are saved alone by His mercy and grace.

May God keep you in this saving faith so that you may receive, both now and forever, the promise of never-ending blessedness. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.