Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Rich Young Ruler was Elect

Sound doctrine and the Greek text prove the rich young ruler was saved.

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἕν σοί ὑστερεῖ ὕπαγε ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ δὸς τοῖς πτωχοῖς καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι ἄρας τὸν σταυρόν.
Mark 10:21

I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard sermons or read commentaries that concluded that the rich young ruler was damned because he wouldn’t give up his “great possessions”. Those who draw this conclusion do so mainly from two points: one, the fact that he went away sad, rather than rejoicing; and two, that nowhere else in the Gospels is it mentioned that he returned to follow Jesus after having sold all his possessions.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
Before going into the doctrinal and grammatical proofs of the young man’s salvation, allow me to answer those two points first. It is true that we never read of the young ruler’s returning to follow the Lord, but, conversely, we never read that he didn’t. The text only says that he went away unhappy, not that he went away and refused to obey Jesus.

That the young man left sad confirms that he believed Jesus was telling the truth. He was grieved because he knew that he had to sell all his stuff and give the money to the poor. Jesus had answered the young man’s question about inheriting eternal life by giving him an honest rebuke and the sole remedy for his one spiritual failing. The young man felt the sting of conviction from the rebuke and accepted the truth of the remedy. After all, if he thought Jesus was talking nonsense, he would’ve gone away annoyed, bemused, or disappointed because Jesus wasn’t the “good master” he thought he was. He wouldn’t have gone away “sorrowful” because “he was very rich”.

This repentant response to Jesus’ words leads into the doctrinal proof of the young ruler’s being one of the Elect. Everywhere in the Gospels, those who are unbelievers (therefore not Elect) uniformly respond to Jesus’ accurate descriptions of their spiritual state with anger; their pride is always inflamed.
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. Luke 7:30
The self-righteous Pharisees and scribes never went away depressed by the changes they had to make in their lives, because they didn’t believe they had to make them. Not that Jesus ever gave them any! He reserves advice for those of His sheepfold. It is completely pointless to tell goats to behave like sheep.

Of the three synoptic accounts of this event, it is Mark’s Gospel that mentions Jesus “beholding” the young ruler and then “loving” him. Independently these details might be disregarded as unimportant, but together they take on a profound significance that is hard to ignore. The Greek word translated “beholding”, ἐμβλέπω [emblepo], means “to turn one’s eyes on”. The word translated “love” is the verb ἀγαπάω [agapao]. Agapao means “to welcome (to a household), to entertain” and also “to be fond of in a familial or dutiful way”, like a man to his family and vice-versa. In the NT, it is the word used to indicate God’s vessels of mercy (Romans 9:22-24), those whom He has chosen for salvation. That Jesus’ “love” follows His “beholding” indicates a this-so-therefore relationship between the two. What Jesus saw—the heart (mind) of the young ruler (see 1 Samuel 16:7)—was reason to “love”, or “welcome”, him to the family of God.

I examined this connection between God’s agape and His election in great detail in the first installment of the Deconstructing Doctrine series:
Loving to God is the same as choosing; the same as being faithful to; the same as being merciful to. It is, in short, the activity of favoring above another.

Take a look at Matthew 12:18, where we read [my emphasis added]:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles”.
Matthew is citing Isaiah 42:1 where it says of Messiah:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
Notice that Matthew has revealed to us that the OT idea of God's elect (Hebrew בחר [bachar]) is equivalent to the NT idea of God's beloved (ἀγαπητός [agapetos]).
Of course, the doctrine of Election is anathema to those who insist—against all biblical evidence to the contrary—that God loves everyone. Only they can countenance the idea that Jesus loves this rich young ruler but refused to save him. It is this kind of perverse thinking that led Billy Graham to say that, because He created him, and even though He damned him, God must love Satan!

Ah, no.

Sorry, Billy, but God only saves those He “loves” (agapao), and only “loves” those He saves.

We also know that believing (having faith), which is the gift of God (Eph 2:8) to His Elect, is what saves. Faith (or belief) is the Greek word πίστις [pistis]; “to save” is the verb σῴζω [sozo]. Nine times in the Gospels, Jesus says that faith, pistis, saves, sozo (Matt 9:22, Mark 5:34, 10:52, 16:16, Luke 7:50, 8:12, 8:48, 17:19, 18:42; the phrase "made whole" in the KJV is the word sozo in the Grk NT). The rich young ruler was said to lack one thing to be perfect (Mat 19:21) and it wasn’t faith. Remember, Jesus wasn’t rebuking his lack of belief, but his covetousness. Thou shalt not covet was the one commandment of the Decalogue that the young ruler hadn’t been “following from his youth”.

Of course, guilty of one is guilty of all, but it is not keeping the commandments that saves; it’s faith. And this the rich young ruler had.

As for commandments, there are more than ten. In the Greek NT, every time Jesus says something in the active imperative mood, it is another commandment. It is not a suggestion or a conditional request; it is a direct, face-to-face command to someone; a command that is always obeyed. Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to follow Him (Matt 4:19, 9:9; John 1:43), he commanded them to follow him. And they did. Every. Single. Time.

Why? Because, as Jesus said in John 10:27:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
He wasn’t saying that they aren’t saddened by what they hear (see Prov 3:12 & Heb 12:6), but that those who hear Him follow Him. The rich, young ruler obviously heard, and understood, the Lord, because he went away saddened.

Also, the Greek word for “hear” is ἀκούω [akouo]. As we see in Mark 12:29, where Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, akouo is equivalent to the Hebrew word שָׁמַע, [shama]. When used exhortatively, as imperative commands, both of these words mean “to hear and obey”. So, just as anyone who will obey Jesus, heard Him; anyone who hears Jesus will obey Him.

Nowhere in the NT does anyone ever disobey a direct command from Jesus. After loving the rich young ruler, Jesus gives him five imperative commands:
Go! Sell! Give! Come! Follow!
Without a doubt, the rich young ruler went, sold, gave, came and followed. So, clearly, he was one of the Lord’s Elect and was surely saved.

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