Matthew 19:16-30 Part 2

Man is made in the image of God – formed from the dust of the earth.  He was in communion with God – not as an equal, but as a special-and-beloved-creation responds to its Creator.  And he had dominion over all the rest of God’s creation.  But he sought to be “as God” – independent.  (To know what God knows, to be as God is.  To think and do independently, rather than thinking God’s thoughts after Him.)  And he rebelled against God, thinking that his thoughts and deeds are equally true – just as good!  And he died – by the curse of God.  God cursed him!  The creation called “man” became sin thereafter – his essential nature.  And thereafter, even though he knows the Creator, his course has been to be “as God”.  With his eye on himself, he wills to create for himself and by himself (independent) – always doing what is right in his own eyes.  His entire world and life view is self-centered.  Rather than that intimate, subordinate relationship of a special and beloved creation responding to glorify its Creator (as Adam first did), man now acts and reacts in terms of himself and the world.  Rather than analogous thought, and derivative thought, man seeks original thought (his thought is just as good!)

Even though God is still His Creator; and even though the world and everything in it still belongs to God and acts according to His Providence, and even though all things still redound to the glory of God, and even though every breath man takes solely depends on the will of God, and even though man’s knowledge of all of this is conscious and unavoidable – be still thinks and acts as if none of this were the case!  He suppresses it!  This is his cursed nature; and, as Paul said, he is dead!

Now, when this rich, young man came running to Jesus, he asked him what “good thing” he could perform in order that he might have eternal life (verse sixteen).  And Jesus responded to him by saying, in effect, why would you be asking Me about some good thing you might do?  Goodness has its existence in God!  So if you wish to have life, then keep all His Holy Law!  Why do you think you can do something “good” independent of God?!

In other words, acknowledge Him and be in submission to Him and all His Words!  Respond to Him and glorify Him in everything you do.  Be His image!  Be what He made you!  For He is your Creator and He is the Good!

Now, some will say that Jesus is bordering on deception, here, or at least being disingenuous (because He already knows that this man cannot be saved by doing the works of the Law).  Yet He says to this man that if he wishes to live, then he must keep the Law!

But Jesus is doing no such thing.  There is no deception here whatsoever, for it is truly the case that if man were to acknowledge God as The Good and be His image, and keep His Commandments, and do all to His glory, then he truly would live!  But Jesus cuts this man deeply with His Law-Word by pointing out that, although he may have followed his own sense of some interpretation of five of the Commandments, he certainly had no similar claim to the first three.  For he would not give up his eschatological wealth and claim to the “land” of Israel to follow God’s Messiah, or his independent idea of his own goodness!  Therefore idolatry and enlightened self-interest and vanity and covetousness were obviously the intent and focus of his life, and so the whole Law of God was broken.  Even his claim to be a Law keeper was a vain imagination, because his cursed intent was his own self-interest.  You see, the reason why the Law cannot save is not due to some defect in the Law.  The problem is in man!  We cannot be saved by the works of the Law – because of usnot because of the Law!  We are cursed of God!

So as Jesus says in verse twenty-one, if you wish to be perfect then turn your full attention away from your “self” and the land of Israel and your earthly inheritance, and all your vain imaginations; and focus your entire being in submission upon the glory of the Person and purpose of God your Creator, and you will be perfect – keeping the whole Law!

Why are you asking me, Jesus says, about a “good thing” that you might do in order to inherit life (as you inherited the land by being a good son)?  Does good come originally from you?  All you have to do, young man, is invalidate the curse of God!  Turn from your own nature, shun your own intent and your own interests, disable and disqualify what you are (selling and giving away all as evidence of that), make null and void your entire ancestry and take on a new one!  That’s all!  If you will but do this simple thing then you will be perfect, and you will lay up treasures in heavens!  Fully obey the First Commandment!

Jesus wasn’t being deceptive or disingenuous; what He was doing here was illustrating man’s inability to do anything about his own condition!  The perfection that is required of man, in order to overturn the curse of God on man and his sin, is impossible for man to do!  Jesus imposes the perfect Law of God on this man – crushing his perceived adequacy; and He requires him to forsake his heritage and ancestry and be reborn into another Adam!  There, you see, is the center of the Gospel of God.  Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Law and the Perfect Law-keeper; and He is the second Adam – our new inheritance!  Cursed man cannot be the image of God no matter what good thing he attempts to do!  It is self-deception!

Jesus was doing what our Puritan forefathers called their “Law work”.  They preached the Law of God in order to destroy the self-conceived adequacy of the “self”.  They did not moralize about how to live a little bit better life when they preached the Gospel; they didn’t beg men to “add Jesus to their lives” in order that they might get along with each other in society; they did not appeal to men to “accept Jesus into their hearts”!

But they did preach after the example of Christ here in our text.  In order that man might see his own condition under the curse, the perfection of God’s Holy Law was imposed on him; and men and women and children were faced with the requirement of a rebirth out of this cursed Adamic race!  That is the kerygma – the preaching of the Gospel!

Now, this was especially repugnant to Jews as Jesus preached.  Their heritage and their anticipated eschatological glory was most important to them.  Their inheritance in the land, and the promises of God (perceived promises), their Abrahamic descendancy, their Mosaic system (grossly perverted), their Davidic kingship, etc., their hope in the restoration and glory of Jerusalem – all of these things full of the “richness” of their history and their ancestry.  (But it was the ancestry-in-Adam that had to be forsaken!)

And they rejected outright – just as this rich, young man did – their own deadness in the curse of sin and the Law; and they rejected any notion that a new Genesis and a new ancestry was required in order to satisfy that curse!

Jesus preached the Law of God to this young man in order to crush his own perceived independence and goodness (and his idea that doing something good in addition would merit eternal life); and He compelled him to forsake and reject his entire Adamic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, Jewish, Jerusalem inheritance in order to be reborn and follow Christ!  And seeing that he could not meet the requirements of the first table of the Law, and he could not rebirth himself from his ancestry in Adam, he went away being grieved by these things!  We have no knowledge of his condition after this encounter, and that’s not the point.  But this event, as is evidenced by the apostle Matthew, is one of crucial importance in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And the text requires us now to examine this young man’s condition – and therefore the condition of mankind in general – before God and His Holy Law.  And then we’ll come back to the “forsaking” that is demanded of us in order to enter into the Kingdom of Christ. (verse twenty-nine)

But as I indicated at the beginning, man is under the curse of God, and he is dead in sin.  And that condition is seminally and representatively transmitted to us through our fathers – and their fathers – back to Adam.  And not only that, but it is said that we actually sinned in Adam.  Therefore the curse that was imposed upon him, causing him to lose his inheritance of life, was also imposed upon us.  “The race” – humanity – is a race whose characteristic is sin.  (thinking and acting independent – self centered)

Now this characteristic, or condition, of ours is described in a number of ways in Scripture, and we want to examine it so that we fully understand the “state” in which all mankind exists.  We as believers will never really know this passage of Scripture, and we will never really grasp the content of the Gospel, unless there is a complete, working knowledge of the condition from which we’ve been saved – reborn.

Genesis chapter six, verse five says,


“God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”


(A Biblical expression of the doctrine of depravity.)  Every thought, every concept, was perceived as independent of God.

Now, when Adam fathered a son, the Scripture says this,


“Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image, and called his name Seth.”


In other words, Adam communicated his fallen nature to his posterity by fathering one in his own image!  Job, later on, then says,


“Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?  Not one.”


A fallen, miserable, unclean creature gives birth to another one just like himself!  One who thinks independently of its Creator!

King David later said this,


“Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”


The “fountain” (source) of sin is the very nature of man himself; and he is sin at the moment of conception.  The apostle Paul says, in Ephesians chapter two, that


“we are by nature the children of wrath….” 


By nature we are worthy of, and liable to, the wrath of God.  We are condemned before we have done good or evil, for we are children of the curse!  We sin because we are sinners cursed by God.

The world is filled with filthiness and all manner of lewdness and wickedness and the profane, because it all breaks forth from man himself, who is the fountain of corruption.  Out of man himself proceed evil thoughts; adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, etc.  And from his loins come forth distorted creatures – malformed in many ways; all as wicked as their fathers, and many bearing even the physical anomalies due to sin.  (Consider the grotesque and misshaped creatures in the national news lately, some of which doctors have attempted to separate and repair and save.)  Consider the wars and famines and “natural disasters” and “accidents” and pain and disease and crime and misery and death – all of which are the result of man’s sin and the curse of God.

Consider the necessity of the state to punish evildoers and rule by fear of death.  And consider the fact that, even in the saints of God, there has to be a constant battle to kill corruption!  And in the Church – the requirement to excommunicate those who will not repent from open sin!  These are all evidences of man’s sin nature.

Well, what about our abilities?  How they are deformed and distorted!  The Scriptures say that,


·      “there is none that understands.”  (Romans three, eleven) 

·      Mind and conscience (the seat of judgment) are defiled (Titus one, fifteen). 

·      Man’s apprehension of the Truth is corrupt (Psalm fifty, verse twenty-one). 

·      Paul, speaking to believers in Ephesus, said “before, you were in darkness.”

·      And he said, in Romans one, that all men “bear the truth in suppression.” 


So not only is there blindness and darkness and zero understanding, but there is opposition and aversion to the Truth!  We actively suppress the Truth!

In Psalm fifty-eight, the Psalmist says,


“They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” 


So in every child (infant) – every person – there is not only no understanding, and an aversion to the Truth, but there is an innate will and desire to lie!  We will to lie to ourselves and to others.  It is our heart’s desire to be liars!  We want to be independent of God, we will to suppress the Truth, we turn the Truth of God into a lie!

And in every case (person) there is this ironic high-mindedness (and I say “ironic”, because there is absolutely no reason why one who is devoid of understanding, who has an aversion to the Truth, and who is born speaking lies and doing corruption, should be high-minded), but every human creature thinks so highly of himself and is so self-centered that he magnifies the power of his independent, original, free will!  He is insubordinate to his Creator and wishes to be “as God”  (independent).  Therefore there is an utter inability to be and to do what is acceptable in the sight of God!  His every ability, his every choice, is egocentric and from self-esteem.  This is confirmed by Paul, in Second Corinthians chapter ten, when he says that the Gospel


“casts down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God….” 


Man’s fallen will, from birth, is set on independent, self-exaltation!  But, in the Gospel, there is lowliness of mind, poverty of spirit, and seeking after the exaltation of Christ – rather than self.  A willingness to suppress the lies and deception rather than suppressing the Truth.  A desire to turn from self-exaltation to submit to God.

In the fallen creature there is no understanding, an aversion to the Truth, a will and desire for corruption and lies, and complete self-centeredness.  What else?  Naturally there is a corruption of the affections!  Man loves what he should hate, and he hates what he should love!  He glories in his shame, and he’s ashamed of glory (Proverbs two, thirteen).  His affections are upside down, and, therefore, he gives birth to every kind of abomination; he is a spiritual monster – having love for evil and hating that which is good.

So the understanding, the will, the conscience, the affections, the self-image and even the body are all involved in the curse of God – bringing forth only evil continually; and giving birth to grotesque creatures in kind; and suffering all the miseries of rebellion and curse and death!  Man is wholly a creature of sin; and he is incapable of extracting himself from the condition; and he is completely unable to discover even the reason for his condition.  He is impotent to change the fact of his sonship in Adam!  His heritage is set; his nature is what it is.  A cat is a cat because it’s a cat.  It can’t will to be a banana.  Likewise, man is man because he is man; he can’t will to be a descendant of someone other than his father Adam!  Now, if that’s circular reasoning, then so be it – there’s nothing wrong with circular reasoning.

Now, this rich, young, son of Adam – son of Abraham – son of Isaac, son of Jacob, son of David, son of Israel, son of Jerusalem – with all his inheritance and ancestry, bearing in himself the curse of God and His Law, kneels before Jesus and wants to know what “good thing” he can do to buy his way into eternal life!  Remember that he is dead in sin – he is devoid of understanding, self-deceived, he has an aversion to the Truth, his will is in opposition to God, he is “high-minded” and full of self-esteem, his affections are upside down (being a lover of that which he should forsake), and even his body is under the curse, for he will suffer and die!  And also remember that his entire earthly inheritance is soon to be taken away from him – everything he owns – for his beloved land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem are about to be destroyed!

And Jesus reproves him, from God’s Law, that he is depraved, unclean and defiled.  He is independent of God, therefore he has broken the first table of the Law.  He cannot do a “good thing” in order to inherit the Kingdom like he inherited his wealth (God is Good; and cursed, depraved man can do no “good thing.”); and that, in order to have the perfection he desired, he must “forsake” the earthly and follow Christ!  Here is the “forsaking” issue from verse twenty-nine of our text.

Now, we’ll spend more time on this next Lord’s Day as we come to verse twenty-nine.  But what Jesus is demanding here is rebirth!  His ancestry, his heritage, the system, the land, his inheritance, his self – all negated and invalid in the rebirth!  No more inheritance from his father; no more descendancy from Abraham; no more hope in the eschatological city; no more glory in the land of Israel – because the rebirth invalidates all past heritage!  A dead, depraved man under the curse of God must have a new nativity; a new Genesis; he must have an all-new-ancestry – not like the one by his father Adam.  And this new infancy would be such that all earthly things would be in him “as corruption”, as Paul says of his own Jewish heritage.

And a new ancestry in the second Adam would be such a treasured pearl that all else paled into “dung” in comparison.  Forsaken.  “Sell all you have, young man, and give it away (evidence), for that inheritance is nothing.  And come follow Me,” Jesus said.  “I Am the second Adam; and in Me you would have a new inheritance – a new ancestry upon whom there is no curse and no sin; a new land, a new Israel, a new city and a new temple!  “Behold all things are made new….”

Your old inheritance – your old lands, your old nation, your old city, your old ancestry are nothing!  They are worthless.  Forsake it all.  You must be made new!  Only the new man in Christ can image and glorify God.  Submit and respond to the Creator and think His thoughts after Him.

By the preaching of the Word, the Spirit of Christ is pleased to make newborn infants from full-grown dead men and women – and from children.  Jesus preached the Law to destroy the vain imaginations of dead men (the Law kills); and he preached the New Birth and the forsaking of the old ancestry.  These things we must preach!  And the new inheritance for those who turn in repentance is awesome!  We are made heirs to the glory of Christ Jesus the Lord.  From the old to the new; from death unto life; from Adam to Christ.

Next Lord’s Day – the prophetic Word and the foreshadowings of the New Birth in the Older Testament Scriptures.  People of God, remembering what you were reborn from, give constant praise and thanksgiving to the God of your salvation.