GOD’S STANDARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS CONVICTS US ALL OF OUR INABILITY TO MERIT SALVATION BY GOOD WORKS
Jesus is concerned with exposing self-righteousness and the inability to fully love God and our neighbor as the law requires. There is no works-oriented approach to obtaining eternal life that man can successfully pursue. So as Jesus enters into this evangelistic dialogue with this prominent Jewish religious leader who was an expert in the OT law, He presses home the demands of the law. This is not some simple recitation of religious platitudes about how to be kind to other people. This is a hard-hitting parable of conviction that is designed to crush the pride of a sinner who is in denial about his lost condition.
2 KEY QUESTIONS THAT EXPOSE THE FUTILITY OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
I. (:25-28) QUESTION #1 = WHAT SHALL I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?
A. (:25) Asking the Question
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying,”
Morris: he asked his question, not in the search for information, but to see what kind of answer Jesus would produce. He may even have been hoping that Jesus would do badly and that he would have the opportunity of showing Him up.
Deffinbaugh: He feigns respect for Jesus as a teacher of the law, but he is only seeking to test Jesus by questioning Him so that he can then say, “Your teaching is not consistent with the law.” When the lawyer asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life,” this phraseology is not that of the Old Testament. The Old Testament law says, “Do this and live.” The lawyer is using Jesus’ terminology, and is asking, “What is the essence of your teaching?” He wants to take the bottom line of Jesus’ system and compare it with the bottom line of Judaism so that he can then say, “Your system is wrong.” That is his intention.
“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Comes from a salvation by works orientation; does not understand the grace of God
J. Ligon Duncan: Jewish people in the time of Jesus were very concerned, and even Gentiles, were very concerned about the question of how a person can be accepted by God at the last judgment. How can a person be welcomed into the kingdom of God? How can a person inherit eternal life? And that language of “kingdom of God” and “eternal life” and “being saved” is all related.
MacArthur: All evangelism, beloved, begins here. It is not about this life. It is not about prosperity in this life. It is not about health in this life. It is not about happiness in this life. It is not about healing in this life. It is not about success. It is not about money. It is not about possessions. It is not about freedom from trouble. That’s junk-bond evangelism. It’s not about that. That bilks people out of their souls on false premises. Run from people who sell that; they’re false teachers. And so, if you’re going to do some evangelism, you’ve got to move people from “Jesus is going to fix me here,” to “Jesus is going to deliver me in the life to come.” Until the sinner really understands that, evangelism can’t even start.
B. (:26-28) Answering the Question – In the form of a Question
1. (:26-27) The Gold Standard for Righteousness = Obeying the Law
a. (:26) What Does the Law Say?
“And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law?
How does it read to you?’”
The bible is the only authority for how one can be right with God and obtain eternal life
b. (:27) Substance of the Law Summarized = Love God and Neighbor
1) Love God
“And he answered and said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind;’”
Deffinbaugh: His answer to our Lord’s question draws together two of the great Old Testament texts:
(1) “loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength,” a citation of Deuteronomy 6:5; and,
(2) a citation from Leviticus 19:18: “You are to love your neighbor as yourself.”
2) Love Your Neighbor
“and your neighbor as yourself.”
Joseph Parker: Love of God means love of man. Religion is the divine side of philanthropy; philanthropy is the practical side of religion. We must first be right with God, or we never can be right with man. If we begin by endeavouring to get right with our neighbour, we shall fail. But if we begin by establishing right relations with God, according to the conditions which he himself has laid down, we shall find that being right with God our whole life is elevated and all social relationships are redeemed from error, and our neighbour is loved with a lofty and pure charity.
2. (:28) The Application
a. (:28a) Confirming the Answer
“And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly;’”
b. (:28b) Commanding the Behavior
“do this, and you will live.”
Deffinbaugh: Jesus answers, “You tell Me, according to the law.” He responds, “One can be saved by perfectly and persistently obeying the whole law, with one’s whole heart, soul, mind and strength.” The lawyer is now on the spot. The system he is seeking to defend, is a system that cannot save anyone. In seeking to condemn Jesus, the lawyer has just condemned himself and the whole world.
Hampton Keathley IV: When Jesus tells the man to “do this and you will live,” He is not saying, you can get to heaven by being perfect. He is using the man’s statement and saying, “Assuming it is true for the sake of argument, do it and you will live.” Jesus is just holding up a mirror so the man can see his sin. He makes an accommodating statement – to accommodate the man’s understanding and help him see the truth. Jesus knew the man could never do it. He wanted the man to see it too. You’ve heard the statement – “You’ve got to get them lost before you can get them saved.” That is what is going on here. Jesus is trying to make the man see his need for salvation.
II. (:29-37) QUESTION #2 = WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?
A. (:29) Asking the Question
“But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus,”
MacArthur: “But wishing to justify himself” literally in the Greek means desiring to proclaim himself righteous, desiring to proclaim himself righteous. And this was a public event. Remember now, he stood up in an environment where Jesus was very likely teaching. He stood up and in the middle of everything that was going on with the people sitting around, this man was not about to confess the reality of his wretched heart. He wanted to maintain the deception. So he rejected the pangs of conscience that prompted the question. He disdains the conviction of sin which he feels on the inside. And he seeks to publicly reaffirm his achievement as righteous. . . what keeps people from being saved when they understand the gospel is the issue of whether or not they will admit their wretchedness.
“And who is my neighbor?”
Donald Miller: The lawyer thus suggests limits to loge. There must be those to whom the obligation to love does not apply. This was an effort to evade the real issue by theoretical discussion. Furthermore, it focused attention on the worthiness of the object of love rather than on the condition of heart of the one who is to do the loving.
Deffinbaugh: it is difficult to test one’s love for God. How do you assess one’s attitudes, one’s devotion, one’s meditation, one’s relationship with God? You can’t. But if you want to find some way to measure one’s love for God, you can look at his love for his neighbor. Isn’t that what the Book of James is saying to us (and 1 John too)? James says that a man who professes that he has faith and yet doesn’t show love for his neighbor is a man with a false profession. I find it interesting that the title of one of Chuck Colson’s books is Loving God, but the subject matter of that book is about loving man. When you read this book, you find that the love men have for God is expressed by their love for their fellow man. I suspect that the reason this lawyer is so uneasy about the command to love his neighbor is because he knows his love for his neighbor is deficient.
B. (:30-37) Answering the Question – In the form of a Parable
1. (:30-35) The Story
a. (:30) The Situation
“Jesus replied and said, ‘A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead.’”
Morris: The road from Jerusalem to Jericho runs down a steep descent through desolate country. The distance is about seventeen miles and the road descends more than 3,000 feet. It is the kind of wild country in which robbers might well be safe.
b. (:31-35) The Reactions of Different Individuals
1) (:31) The Priest = Indifference and Avoidance
“And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.”
2) (:32) The Levite = Indifference and Avoidance
“And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”
3) (:33-35) The Samaritan = Showed Love and Mercy
a) Ignored Existing Social Prejudice
“But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him;”
b) Saw the Need
“and when he saw him,”
c) Motivated by Compassion
“he felt compassion,”
d) Dressed His Wounds – Intimate Involvement
“and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds,
pouring oil and wine on them;”
e) Provided Immediate Care – Personal Expense and Inconvenience
“and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn,
and took care of him.”
f) Provided Long Term Care – Whatever It Takes
“And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’”
2. (:36-37) The Application
a. (:36-37a) Confirming the Answer – Who Acted Like a Neighbor?
“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”
“And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’”
b. (:37b) Commanding the Behavior
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’”
J. Ligon Duncan: Jesus in this passage is not telling this story to show the lawyer how to be a better person. He’s showing him his sin. . . Jesus says it will take more than right answers to inherit eternal life. It requires a life of perfection in not just giving the right answers or knowing the right answers but living the right answers and doing the right answers and guess what? No human being except one has ever done that.
Deffinbaugh: Now we see why Jesus doesn’t go any farther with this man than he does; it is because this man first has to see the inadequacy of the law keeping system he embraces as the only means to obtaining eternal life. This man will not turn to Christ as the Messiah until he first turns from his dependence on law keeping to save him.
It is all about the right application of the text of Scripture. It does us no good to delight in the story of the Good Samaritan if our hearts remain cold and merciless to those in need.
Steven Cole: A little boy came home from Sunday School after learning about the Good Samaritan. He told his mother the story in great detail. He had all the facts straight and all the people in their right character roles. Then the mother asked, “What is that story meant to teach us?” The little boy replied, “It means that when we are in trouble, others should come to help us.” Well, not quite!
In fact the point of the story is not even primarily that we need to show ourselves to be a Good Samaritan towards others. Instead, it is intended to show us the depravity of our own hearts; our inability to keep the law as a means to obtaining eternal life; and to drive us to Christ and His mercy and grace to save us and empower us to love God and others as we should.