Faithlife Sermons

A Ruled Ruler

Gospel of Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

Spurgeon writes, “‘One thing you lack.’ What was the one thing that this young man lacked? It was the full surrender of his heart to God in Christ. He had not done that. Our Savior gave him, therefore, a command which tested him.”
Luke 18:18–30 ESV
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

A Serious Question

And a ruler - This man is the leader of a synagogue or a member of the Sanhedrin (Jewish ruling council). Matthew tells us that he was young. He is probably between 24 and 40. To be a ruler of a synagogue he had to have been a very moral and religious man. We find out in verse 23 that he is extremely rich. Therefore, this young man had everything based upon the understanding of life at the time.
And a ruler - This man is the leader of a synagogue or a member of the Sanhedrin (Jewish ruling council). Matthew tells his readers that he was young. He is probably between 24 and 40. To be a ruler of a synagogue he had to have been a very moral and religious man. We find out in verse 23 that he is extremely rich. Therefore, this young man had everything based upon the understanding things at the time.
Asked him - Here’s a man who has everything and yet he is still lacking something. I believe that he knows his lack. He has done everything that he can do in his own strength and still does not have assurance that he possesses eternal life. Well, he is in the right place, talking about the right thing, talking the the right person. He is talking to the one who IS eternal life.
Good, Teacher - He knows the reputation of Jesus to be good. We will look at this designation closer in just a moment. He also knows Jesus as a teacher. He is one who delivers doctrinal truth. He is an instructor. He is a rabbi.
What must I do to inherit eternal life? - This ruler has achieved much in the realm of religion, but he still asks a serious question. Some have argued that this young man was not sincere in his questioning of Jesus and that he was not really a genuine seeker. I believe that this question is genuine. The first clue is in this text in verse 23. The ruler is said to have become sad at Jesus’ demand. If he was not genuine, he would not have showed disappointment at Jesus’ expectation. The second is found in the parallel passage in Mark.
Mark 10:17 ESV
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees to ask the question. These actions are not the ways of a person that is false in his pretenses.
Eternal life - He is speaking of being a part of God’s eternal kingdom. He asks what must be done to receive salvation. All he knows is a salvation or religion that is works oriented, so he asks what he should “do”.
He is asking, in short, what must I do to receive salvation. We have to realize that all this man knows is a kind of salvation or religion that is works oriented. Therefore, he asks what he should “do”.
It looks very good for the ruler here, but the story takes a surprising turn with Jesus’ response.
R.C.H. Lenski writes:

The picture that is thus drawn of the young ruler is really pathetic: so eager to do, so desirous of life eternal (while many young men are carried away by the world), so strongly attracted to Jesus, expecting so much of him—and yet so far from the right road to life eternal!

Eternal life - Here, he is speaking of the quality of life that comes with knowing God.
John 17:3 ESV
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
It looks very good for the ruler here, but the story takes a surprising turn with Jesus’ response.
R.C.H. Lenski writes:

The picture that is thus drawn of the young ruler is really pathetic: so eager to do, so desirous of life eternal (while many young men are carried away by the world), so strongly attracted to Jesus, expecting so much of him—and yet so far from the right road to life eternal!

The picture that is thus drawn of the young ruler is really pathetic: so eager to do, so desirous of life eternal (while many young men are carried away by the world), so strongly attracted to Jesus, expecting so much of him—and yet so far from the right road to life eternal!

A Surprising Response

Instead of finding terms acceptable to him, Jesus introduced terms absolutely unacceptable to him.  Instead of lowering any remaining barriers that might appear, He raised barriers that heretofore had not appeared.  Instead of making it easy for him to believe and be saved, he made it impossible for him to be saved, so much so that people listening to the conversation said, "Who could be saved?"
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good?” - This response from Jesus has stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Is Jesus admitting that he is not good and only the Father is? I do not think this is the case, because of the emphasis here and the testimony of other passages. So, what does Jesus mean to communicate? First, he is striking at the ruler’s use of the word goodness, which was simplistic and, honestly, not very high. Therefore, Jesus wants to point this young man to the absolute goodness of God. The problem with this man’s concept of goodness was that it was not God-centered, which is why Jesus makes the following statement.
No one is good except God alone - He is saying that only God possesses absolute moral perfection and beauty. He and he only has this unblemished characteristic. Jesus means to get this young man to understand the character of God. The realization of who God is will also make a person know themselves rightly. If God is the only one who is good in the ultimate sense, then it means everyone else is not. Which is what Jesus is trying to get this young man to see.
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good?” No one is good except God alone.
You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother,’” - It is interesting that Jesus does not simply begin to tell him about the grace of God or trusting in God to be saved. Jesus responds to the specific question by reminding the young man of the law, specifically, the Ten Commandments. After he points the man to God’s moral excellence, he turns to the law. Why would Jesus do such a thing? This is important for us to understand. Jesus perceives that this man does not understand his moral corruption. Therefore, Jesus places the standard of the Law before him.
Jesus is using the Law in the way describe by the Apostle Paul
Romans 7:7–12 ESV
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” - As far as the young ruler is concerned, he is blameless from the time he was a child. He is stating without hesitation or reservation that he has obeyed the Law completely.
And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.”
Philippians 3:6 ESV
as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

A Searching Demand

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack - Interestingly, Jesus does not rebuke the young man directly for believing that he has obeyed the Law completely. However, he does tell the man what he still does not have. Jesus is going to show him where he falls short.
Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me -
Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me -
Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me - Jesus has a way to get to the heart of the matter. He commands this man to do three things to have eternal life.
One, have a massive sale ridding yourself of all your material possessions. Two, take the money that you gain from the liquidation of you things and give it to the poor. Three, leave everything and follow me. Leave all and become my disciple.
And you will have treasure in heaven - After the second demand, Jesus tells him that he will have treasure in heaven. He will have a wealth or store possessions in the presence of God.
John MacArthur, “Instead of finding terms acceptable to him, Jesus introduced terms absolutely unacceptable to him.  Instead of lowering any remaining barriers that might appear, He raised barriers that heretofore had not appeared.  Instead of making it easy for him to believe and be saved, he made it impossible for him to be saved, so much so that people listening to the conversation said, "Who could be saved?"

A Sorrowful Ending

But when the he heard these things, he became very sad - As the demand of Christ rolled from his lips, the man became extremely sorrowful. The opportunity to follow Jesus was not good news for this man. For him, it was a burden to obey and follow the Messiah. Why?
For he was extremely rich - The reason as stated by Luke is that this ruler was very, extremely, greatly blessed with wealth. He owned a great number of treasures and trinkets that he loved and valued. You could say that his possessions actually possessed him. At the heart of his sadness is that actually obeying the law by giving to his neighbor and following Jesus were not valuable enough for him to surrender all that he had materially. Jesus has shown him emphatically that he really is NOT a law-keeper and is not blameless.
For he was extremely rich -
Ligon Duncan writes, “He is showing this young man that in his heart he is an idolater. He worships his money. He worships his property. He worships his stuff. And he cannot inherit eternal life when he's worshiping something else other than God.”

Practical Application:

We should avoid the type of “gospel” presentation that portrays following Jesus as easy.
So called human goodness and works will never be able to save the soul and grant eternal life.
Eternal life is assured when a person’s heart is unattached to the things of this world and set on the surpassing value of Christ Jesus
Eternal life is assured when a person’s heart is unattached to the things of this world and set on the value of Christ Jesus
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Refrain: Than to be the king of a vast domain Or be held in sin’s dread sway; I’d rather have Jesus than anything This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy name
I’d rather have Jesus than anything This world affords today.I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy nameHe’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs; I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy nameHe’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs; I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs; I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
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