Inheriting Eternal Life through Grace

Matthew 19:7-9

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

This is another example of how Jesus was instructing the Pharisees on law. They were trying to use the Law to get him to stumble in his words, but Jesus not only knew the Word, he was the Word. I love how they “tested him”, and Jesus’ response was “because of your hardness of heart…” He always takes it back to the heart.

I’ve heard people use this scripture and build entire marriage and divorce doctrines based o this scripture because it was the commands of Christ. But again, we have to look at who he is talking to and what covenant they are bound to. Jesus had not died and ushered in the age of grace at this point. So, he was instructing those who were under the Law about how to abide by the Law. The Law requires these things, so they were bound by the Law.

So, under grace, does that mean we can just get divorces with no consequences. On the contrary. There are painful consequences for getting a divorce, and if there are kids involved, there is the impact on them. How does divorce affect them?

Jesus pointed out that marriage was created to be experienced between one man and one woman. If that’s how God created marriage to be, then anyone can have hope to work things out. I believe that. I believe there is incredible grace and strength to work out issues and make marriage work.

But, if it doesn’t, there is no guilt, no condemnation. Jesus does not look at divorced people any less that non-divorced people. His immeasurable love reaches everyone.

Matthew 19:16-22

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This is a great example of how Jesus instructed people (while he was alive and grace was not in effect yet) to follow the commands of the Law. The young rich man asked, “What good deed must I do…” He was asking what good deed would allow him to have eternal life. Under the law, all of the commands had to followed outwardly (“keep the commandments”). But, not only that, they had to be followed inwardly as well (“go sell what you possess”).

The key is what Jesus said after that. Almost as an after thought. “And come, follow me.” That’s the key. If this guy would come and follow Jesus, he would eventually find eternal life in Christ, not in the good deeds he had to do. As Jesus pointed out, doing the deeds outwardly and inwardly don’t give you eternal life. They make you “perfect”.

I also find it interesting that Jesus started the dialogue with a slight rebuke. “Why do you ask me about what is good. There is only one who is good.” Jesus didn’t even claim or receive the comment about “goodness”. Why didn’t Jesus say he was good? He immediately redirected all goodness claims to God. Is it possible that we cannot be good in the flesh? Is it possible that Jesus himself, even in bodily form, could not claim to be good? (Romans 3:12).

Matthew 19:23-26

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Often, we hear preachers talk about how it’s more difficult for rich people to get to heaven, and that it’s better to be poor. I don’t think that’s what he’s saying here.

With riches comes a strong hold on this world. The “kingdom of heaven” refers to what Jesus revealed to people, that the “kingdom of heaven” was here now. It was “at hand”. Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven alive today in this reality. So, I think he was saying that rich people will have more cares for this world and have a difficult time entering into and experiencing the reality of the kingdom of heaven today here on earth.

There is a notion of salvation, because his followers asked “Who can be saved?” Jesus gave a great answer foreshadowing the age of grace that was almost there. With man, it’s impossible. But with God, all things are possible. When Jesus later died and rose to life, then salvation became possible for rich people to enter into the Kingdom of God with ease and rest.

Matthew 19:29-30

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Jesus goes on to explain what this age of grace will require–that we forsake everything in this world. And when we do, we’ll receive both “a hundredfold” in this life and we’ll “inherit eternal life”. This is what Jesus came to do–not to give us more rules to follow, but he came to give us eternal life when we simply place him most important in our life. In Christ, we have eternal life. That’s grace!

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