Matthew 19:16-30 Supplemental sermon

What does the Law require?  That you be perfect.  But as we are all born destitute of the glory of God (Romans three, verse twenty-three) nothing but curse can be found in the Law.  Therefore nothing remains for us but to lay hold on the undeserved gift of righteousness.  The Law, then, is the first part of instruction by which we are led to acknowledge our sin and depravity.

And that’s exactly what Jesus did with this rich young man.  The second table of the Law first, and then the first table.  The rich man wouldn’t acknowledge any fault from the second table, but it was the first that radically exposed his lack – love of God and denial of self.

Entrance into the Kingdom is difficult for the rich, because our depraved existence makes us intoxicated by ourselves and things and our heritage and our money.  Men and women and children will not look to Heaven to acknowledge and declare their utter need for righteousness.  And the analogy of the kamil being passed through the eye of a needle amplifies the difficulty.  Those who are “self-swelled”, says Calvin, have great difficulty entering into the Kingdom, because it requires forsaking self and being reborn as a babe.

So it became obvious that the rich man, the representative of Israel, was not reborn into the Kingdom, for his dependance upon his own righteousness and upon Israel and the land was exposed.  He wouldn’t “forsake” it (his self and his wealth) to follow Christ.

All of this produced great anxiety among the disciples, and they asked Jesus what their following Him would gain them!  But He answered the real question, which is, “What has to occur in order for us to gain eternal life?”  And the answer from Jesus was that those of them who followed Him into the New Birth would judge the twelve tribes of Israel.  In other words, those disciples who were reborn (palingenesia) would speak and write the words of Christ, which would rebirth many and bring destruction on the rest!  Judging the tribes of Israel is, of course, Old Testament terminology in the New Testament setting.  The inspired instruction of the apostles will be the Truth – spoken by Christ – by means of the Spirit – through the men – to the Church – in the world – for the salvation of the world!  When light enters the darkness, everything about the darkness is exposed and judged by that light!  So, as the words of the apostles are preached and taught to the tongues and tribes and nations of the world, it is all exposed to the Light, judged, and “regenerated” in the Resurrection of Christ!  The “twelve” tribes of Israel, in New Covenant terms, is quantitative, definitive fullness of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ.

So, therefore, the anticipation of the true Church, down through the centuries since the Resurrection, is the fullness of the Kingdom.  There is no hint, in all of Scripture, of the defeat of the Kingdom in history.  Rather, the issue here is rebirth – salvation for the world in Christ!  All of the darkness exposed to the Light; all His enemies judged; and a reborn, restored creation welcoming the triumphant return of its King.  Then God the Father will receive, from His hands, the complete work for which He was sent.

The palingenesia – the Rebirth – the regeneration accomplished by the Second Adam at His resurrection.  “You who did follow Me in the palingenesia...”, Jesus said.  Literally the “again genesis”, the again beginning, the new birth; following Christ in the new beginning; being “born anew” in Him.

This is where I want to spend the rest of our time this morning.  There are several passages of Scripture to look at, and I have a number of comments to make.  But of all the absolutes of the salvation and work of God – testified and evidenced in the God-breathed Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments – it is the “palingenesia” which has just dropped out of the language and preaching of the modern Church!  It has disappeared as if irrelevant – many times as if by design; and yet it is the nucleus, the essence, of the Gospel!  There is nothing at all of more importance to be preached and to be known than the fact that mankind is cursed and dead in Adam, and that he must be rebirthed in Christ the second Adam.

From the preaching of ministers and the teaching of educators and the rhetoric of politicians and the cries of the protestors and the verbiage of the editorialists – most of what we hear is the need for some kind of “change”.  Presidents build their entire campaigns for the presidency around the very simplistic message that America needs a change!

Ministers and priests and rabbis present us with moral metaphors and similes (short stories) in order that we might “change” our attitudes about ourselves and others, and that we might feel better about ourselves.

Educators tell us that the changes required for the further evolution of societies depend upon the numbers of people who receive the minimum basic knowledge of life and relationships.  Lack of education, low self-esteem, and environmental deficiencies are the cause of behavioral aberrations.  Education can change the world!  (They say.)

Politicians and bureaucrats promise change by manipulating (social engineering, they call it), by manipulating the legal and monetary system.  Their intervention is required in order to bring about change and social utopia – for the society to feel good about itself.

Protestors scream at us for policy change, for attitude change, for changes in lifestyle.  Attention to their cause will bring social renewal and environmental salvation!

Editorialists and commentators produce a furious stream of laser jet verbiage (you might also put the talk shows in this category) concerning society’s ills.  Their insights into the problems and solutions are required reading and required hearing in order for society to “change” for the better!  If enough information is supplied to enough people, then society will make the changes necessary to save itself from corruption and chaos!

Now, I went through that in order to illustrate this one point:  the entire society views its condition as one in need of some ‘change”.  (It doesn’t matter, of course, that individuals and groups and institutions and governments see themselves as okay, and it’s the rest of the society that needs to change.)  But if only this could be eliminated – or if that could be added – then all would be better.

If only we had better intercultural relations and universal acceptance of everyone’s belief systems, then the world would be at peace!  Finding a way to rehabilitate criminals and reorient their behavior would bring safety and security to the entire populace!  Discovering solutions to toxic waste problems would end all deterioration of the environment and save the planet!  Free, universal medical care would provide a medical safety net for every person in the country – cradle to grave!

If we could only add the spiritual qualities of fairness and equity and compassion to our nation, then everyone would be equal and we would all have the same.

And the Churches are telling us to “add Jesus to our lives”, or “try Jesus for a change”, or “complement your life by adding a spiritual component”.  “Reach for something a little higher”.  Or, “include the ten Commandments in your lifestyle”!

Add this – change!  Eliminate that – change!  Be yourself, for yourself – change your attitude!  Change your situation.  Change your environment.  Each person has it (power) within himself to change the direction of his or her life.

But, in actuality, this is only a message of hopelessness.  It is a message for the self, about the world.  It is a world-order philosophy that is as surely dependant upon self and the world as was this rich, young man in our text.

Education will not bring social utopia; the social engineering of politicians and bureaucrats can’t produce a good society; the changes required by protesters will not stem the tide of evil; all the editorialists and commentators and talk show hosts combined will never produce enough information to enough people for society to change itself; and all the metaphors and similes and stories, from all the ministers and priests and rabbis, about how to do good, and how to get along with each other, and how to feel good about one’s self will not make one “whit” of a difference in building a godly family or society.  It is a hopeless message.

All the flood of fundamentalist “pap” about doing something for yourself – add Jesus to your life; make a choice to allow Jesus in to your heart – that centuries-old heresy – has really turned this country upside down, hasn’t it?  I mean we’re really proceeding fast toward a mature, Christian nation because of it, aren’t we?  In fact, it’s a message of hopelessness concerned with self and the world.

There is no security from the state.  The more benefits the state attempts to provide, the more chaotic and savage and demonic the society becomes.  As protesters become more militant about the environment and the animals and the babies and the trees, the absurdity of it all becomes more and more evident as the culture plunges further into degeneracy.

Young people pick up on the call to do something for themselves for a change, so they reject parental authority, and the authority of Christ, in favor of their own; and the first thing they step into is darkness and indulgence and lust.  I know this hits close to home, but we have had a number of examples of this in our own reformed Churches!

The prescription for “change” is a prescription for hopelessness.  The message of “adding something spiritual to your life” is a formula for desperation.  “Do something for your self, change your situation” is a cureless remedy which leaves one ruined and undone.  Go ahead and crush yourself – leave yourself in inconsolable hopelessness.  You know how?  Refuse to hear the Gospel, take hold of yourself and make the changes you want to make, and live under your own authority.  Son of Adam – daughter of Eve – you go ahead and do that.  Don’t forsake your self and the world and follow Christ; and your end is misery.  It doesn’t produce freedom; it doesn’t produce happiness; it doesn’t produce self-sufficiency; it doesn’t produce change for the better.  There’s change all right, but the change is always for self; and it’s always downward.  And it’s always degenerate.  And it’s always judged by God as His enemy.

We don’t need change; our need isn’t to add something to our lives; nor is our need to subtract, or eliminate something from our lives.  What men and women and children need is to be re-born!  They don’t need change – they need to be made new!

What does God say in His Word?  Listen to the apostle Paul in Titus chapter three, at verse five:


“Not by works which we did in righteousness, but according to His mercy He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”


Here is the same word as in our text – “palingenesia”.  “Palig”, the Greek word, means again or back.  And “Genesia” means born or life.  So “palingenesia” means reborn or regenerated.

Paul says that God saved us through the “washing” of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit!  Here “washing” signifies the totality of the cleansing wrought by the Spirit of Christ as we are united to His body.  The “washing” or “cleansing” of rebirth removes us from the sin nature of Adam – it cleanses us of our degeneracy.  And it provides us with the perfections and virtues of Christ.  Righteousness!

Another.  Listen to Peter in his first letter, chapter two, verse twenty-four:


“…Who carried up our sins onto the tree in His Own body in order that, dying to sin, we might live to righteousness – for which you were restored by the bruise”!


Now, the “bruise” refers to the statement in the Garden, directly after the sin of Adam, about the coming crucifixion of the Savior!  So Peter is speaking of Christ’s crucifixion being the cause of the restoration of man back to the condition before Adam sinned!

But the point that’s most important here is the word which is translated “dying”.  The root word is the same word here in our text – “genesis”.  Except it doesn’t have the prefix on it which means “again” (palingenesia); it has one which means “separated from”!  So the word isn’t translated “rebirth”; it’s now translated “separated from the sin life”.  So the “bruising” of Christ on the Cross carried our sins to the tree with Him, separating us from the sin life in order that we might live to righteousness.  Note very carefully that we die to the sin-life-in-Adam in order to live in righteousness.  So therefore one who is not living in righteousness has not died to the sin life; has not been separated from it; has not had his sin carried up on the tree in the Body of Christ Himself; has not been restored to the life before Adam sinned; i.e. has not been rebirthed!

Here’s another.  John chapter five and verse twenty-four has a very unusual expression with regard to the new birth.  Here’s what it says:


“The one hearing My Word and believing the One Who sent Me has life eternally and comes not into judgment, but is co-passed out of death into life.”


Passed out of death into life with Jesus – “co-passed”!  The one hearing Jesus, and believing God the Father, is no longer dead – but alive!  And it happened with Jesus when He was resurrected from death!  Now when one is dead, one requires being born again.  And that’s exactly what this is – the rebirth; being made alive again.  “Palingenesia”!

One more.  In First Peter chapter one and verse three we read this:


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the One Who, because of His great mercy, regenerated us into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”


Now, here is our root word again, “genesia”.  Except this time it has, as its prefix – not palig-genesia – but ana-genesia, which doesn’t mean birthed again.  This prefix has, as its basic meaning, the sense of “upward”.  This is especially important, because Peter’s subject is the resurrection – or the rising up – of Jesus Christ from the realm of death!

So Peter, by using the word in this way, is saying that God our Father has “birthed us up” into a living hope in the raising up of Jesus Christ from the dead!  As Jesus was raised unto life from the dead, so we, upon being reborn, are raised up out of death with Him!

So in all the glory of God’s Word we have many expressions of the rebirth; the washing of rebirth; restoration by the bruise; separated from the sin life; co-passed out of death; birthed-up with Christ from death unto life.

And in every case the new birth is unto righteousness.  It is “created-new-life: which dwells in righteousness.  Created new life does not dwell in sin!  It dwells in righteousness because it is separated from the sin life; because it is co-passed out of death; because it is birthed up with Christ from death unto life!

It dwells in righteousness.  It dwells in righteousness.  It dwells in righteousness.  Not sin.  It dwells in righteousness.

The country needs to hear the Gospel of rebirth.  The government officials need to hear the Gospel of rebirth.  Protesters need to hear the Gospel of rebirth.  Commentators and talk show hosts need to hear the Gospel of rebirth.  Educators need to hear the Gospel of rebirth.  Ministers and priests and rabbis need to hear the Gospel of rebirth.  The blind, the weak, the sick, the poor, and the widows and orphans need to hear the Gospel of rebirth.

All else (the gospel of change) brings hopelessness.  A new creation is required.  Men and women and children are raised up from sin and death by hearing the Gospel of rebirth in Christ.  They are co-passed into life in the resurrection of Christ.  They are “birthed-up” to live in righteousness.

So, then, the way to determine whether you are co-passed, with Christ, from death unto life, is to determine whether you dwell in righteousness.  Are you “separated from the sin life”?  Are you “restored in the bruising of Christ on the cross”?  Are you “co-raised” with Him out of death unto life?  Apply the test!  Are you dwelling in righteousness?  Don’t walk away, as the rich man did, full of himself and his own goodness, refusing to forsake all and follow Christ!

Turn – and live no more with the living dead!  Follow Christ in His death and resurrection; and dwell in righteousness.