“Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And he said, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.’ So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ And those who heard it said, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But He said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’”
Did the Lord Say So?
In today’s Scripture passage, the Lord said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” It’s so hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God that Jesus said that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Does this then mean that there really is no one rich in Heaven? Is it useless for the wealthy in this world to believe in Jesus? Are they not allowed to be saved from sin? The Bible writes that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. However, this passage has a spiritual meaning, and so in reality, there are many rich people in this world who have received the remission of sins to enter Heaven by believing in the righteousness of God.
The Rich That the Lord Spoke of Here Refers to Those Who Are Rich in Heart
This Word was actually spoken to the rich young man who had asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This young man was a ruler. His faith was bound by his own acts. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” Of course, Jesus said so here because in the ruler’s view, Jesus was just a good teacher. The rich ruler saw Jesus just as one of the respected sages in this world, like Socrates, Plato, Buddha, and Confucius. That’s why Jesus said, “No one is good but God.” In other words, He made it clear here that human beings are absolutely devoid of virtue.
Do you also see Jesus only as a human being? Jesus is God Himself. He is also the Son of God the Father.
Our Lord said to the rich young man, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” The rich young man then claimed that he had kept all these commandments. This means that he had kept all the Word of the Law of God with his acts. He had not committed adultery, nor murdered anyone, nor stolen, nor born any false witness, and had honored his parents.
However, far from praising the man, our Lord said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The Bible says, “But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.” That’s why Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus’ point is that the young man had to be poor in heart. In other words, for those whose hearts are filled with the things of the world, the gospel salvation of the water and the Spirit offered by our Lord cannot enter their hearts. Nor is there any room for our Lord’s Word of life, the Word of the remission of sins, to enter. The young man in today’s Scripture passage was rich in both his flesh and his acts. He was a self-righteous man. So it was a forgone conclusion that this man would not accept Jesus as his Savior, nor have the eyes to recognize Him as such. After all, his heart was already filled with the things of the world, and so how could Jesus have entered his heart? How could the gospel Word, which proclaims that Jesus has saved everyone through His baptism and blood from all the sins of the world, enter such a heart?
The rich young man tried to obtain the remission of his sins and eternal life through his own acts. For Jesus, in contrast, the young man’s salvation did not rest on his own acts, but on Jesus’ baptism and blood. They focused on different things. The young man thought that he could eventually obtain eternal life if he did many good deeds and kept the Word of God and His commandments, whereas Jesus, in complete contrast, was the Savior who had come to deliver those who knew their sinful nature and therefore relied on the love of God and His righteousness.
Everyone living in this world is completely devoid of any virtue. Jesus wanted the young man to say that there was no one good but God, and that every human being was an evil and inadequate sinner. But the young man’s focus laid elsewhere. He was a rich man both materially and spiritually, with his heart filled with self-righteousness and hypocrisy. So those whose hearts are rich—that is, those who are self-righteous—cannot enter Heaven, just as no camel can ever go through the eye of a needle. However, the Lord preaches a message of hope saying, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” No one can enter Heaven by relying on his own righteousness and virtues or by keeping the commandments with his own acts. However, Jesus said that what is impossible with men is “possible with God.”
Indeed, the Lord died for this rich young man, for this evil man. He made him sinless by being baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, the representative of all humankind, and thereby taking upon all his sins. He also bore the condemnation that the rich young man had to bear before God for his sins. Our God has saved everyone—the rich, the poor, the old, and the young alike, and even those who don’t know that God does exist.
Everyone Is Always Insufficient in Both Body and Spirit
Doesn’t everyone in this world commit sin until the end of his life? Everyone commits sin until the day he dies. What about you then? Do you believe that you yourself commit sin until the day you die, or do you believe that you can avoid committing any sin in the future? We all commit sin until the end of our lives without any exception. You know that as a human being, it is in your nature to commit sin from your birth to your death. If Socrates were here, he would have commended you, for he said, “Know yourself.” So all human beings are poor, completely devoid of any virtue or righteousness before God. That is why you must believe that Jesus has saved you through His baptism and blood. Indeed, man has nothing to boast of in his acts.
The Lord said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” We can be saved from all our sins by believing that the Lord bore them all through the baptism He received from John the Baptist and the blood He shed on the Cross, but unless we do so, we cannot say on our own, “I have no sin; I am a righteous person.” There is no way for anyone to be confident of this unless he believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Yet even though everyone commits sin from the day he is born to the day he dies, those who don’t know their sinful nature still swear to God, “If You forgive me just this one time, I will never commit such sins again.” People say such things only because they don’t know themselves; if they knew themselves, they would have no choice but to thank the Lord for saving them. So the Bible says, “Let God be true but every man a liar. No one is good but One, that is, God.” If you know and understand this Word, I am sure that your faith will grow and you will lead an upright life of faith in your personal relationship with the Lord.
We humans have no genuine virtue but only false goodness. It’s all nothing more than hypocrisy. We are devoid of any genuine goodness. You may then ask, “A lot of people do good deeds in their lives, and so what’s this if not virtue?” It’s hypocrisy. It’s merely a lie. We can see this when we look at the Bible saying, “No one is good but One, that is, God.” Can anyone really lay down his life for someone else and give up his everything for the sake of others? If anyone does this, it’s actually done for himself, not because he is inherently good. No one can give up his everything for something that is completely unrelated to him. People practice virtue because it is somehow related to them.
Just a moment ago I had asked you, “Does everyone commit sin from the day he is born to the day he dies?” Your answer was yes, that everyone does indeed commit sin from birth to death. This was the correct answer to the right question, and if that is the case, then it means that we could never be saved unless Jesus bore, in the Jordan River, all the sins that we commit throughout our entire lifetime. Even though we have now been saved, we still commit sin again, and so if the Lord had not taken away all the sins that we commit from now on until we take the last breath, then it would not have been possible for us to be really saved, nor would we have been able to say so.
However, through His baptism, our Lord bore all the sins that you and I commit until the day we die, and thereby He has become our perfect Savior. If this is true, then one must admit that only God is good. The Bible says, “‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ And those who heard it said, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But He said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’” This means that no one can reach his salvation through his perfect acts, by not committing sin and keeping the Law of God.
However, the Bible says that this is possible with God. Having come to this earth, Jesus has saved you and me from all the sins of the world—that is, from our original sin, our personal sins, and our future sins—through the baptism He received in the Jordan River from John the Baptist and the blood He shed on the Cross. When we quietly ruminate on this love of the Lord who has saved us, we can see that Jesus knew even all our future sins, bore them all through His baptism, and thereby saved us from all the sins of the world. And the covenant that we made with our Lord is forever unchanging, so assured and secure, that once we realize the salvation of the Lord, we can’t help but thank Him. By saving us through the baptism He received in the Jordan River and the blood He shed on the Cross, the Lord has made it possible for us to enter Heaven just by our faith in His righteousness. All of us will die at least once at the end of our lives on this earth, but those of us who take this salvation by faith will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, we who believe in the baptism of Jesus and His blood have been saved from the sins of the world to enter Heaven. This remission of sins is so precious that whenever we think about all these blessings of God, we cannot help but give Him all thanks.
Salvation cannot be bought with money. The rich young man would not have been saved even if he came back to Jesus and said, “I will give up all my possessions, and so please save me from sin. Use all my possessions to help the poor, but in return, send me to Heaven and give me eternal life to live forever.” The wealthy who try to obtain eternal life with such a mindset will not be approved by Jesus, but instead be cast into hell for their lack of faith. The salvation from sin that God has given us is so precious that no one could achieve it on one’s own, but God has fulfilled it once and for all through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We must all recognize that every human being disobeys God until his death.
Even Christians Are Standing against His Righteousness
When we turn to the Old Testament, we see how the people of Israel had disobeyed God until their destruction, and in the New Testament, we see that those who disobeyed Jesus were actually those professing to believe in God. Who agitated to crucify Jesus? It was the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the scribes, the three uppermost classes in Israel and its leaders, all of whom professed to believe in God faithfully. The Word that Jesus spoke was not the word of the earth. It was the Word of the Kingdom of Heaven. So those who were poor in heart believed in Him. And the marginalized in this world, the sick, the disabled, and the widows believed in Him as well.
However, the leaders of Israel gave Jesus up to be crucified, saying, “Release Barabbas and crucify this young Man Jesus.” And as though this weren’t enough, they incited the people and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Let’s take a moment to look at the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the scribes. The chief priests were the leaders of the Law of God. These people offered the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement once a year and presided over the legal system of the nation of Israel. They were the judges, in other words.
The chief priests believed that they were qualified to remit away others’ sins as well as theirs at any time. The Pharisees believed that they were preserving the conservative Law faithfully and unchangingly, adhering to the Word of God not only by themselves but also leading others to keep it, and therefore they believed that they were qualified. The scribes were men of authority. They were self-righteous people who thought that they believed in God faithfully and protected their nation. So all these three classes of people were rich.
However, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the chief priests rejected Jesus. When we turn to John chapter 3, we see a man named Nicodemus appearing, who was a religious leader at the time. This man was looking for God and waiting for the Messiah. He, too, did not realize that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior. So he just called Jesus rabbi. However, Jesus explained salvation to him, saying to him, “One can see and enter the Kingdom of Heaven only if he is born again of water and the Spirit.” So Nicodemus was eventually born again, and when Jesus died on the Cross, he and Joseph of Arimathea laid the body of Jesus in a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, but he was someone looking for God.
Is Jesus really just a man or God Himself? He is God. Even though in His essence He is equal to God, He came to this earth in the image of man to save mankind. Those who recognized this Jesus as God Himself and their Savior were devoid of their own merits. Only those who had no merit of their own at all recognized Jesus. And only these people were saved by believing in Jesus’ baptism, which washed away the sins of the world, and His blood on the Cross.
The scribes, the Pharisees, and the chief priests were full of their own merits. In this age also, many conceited people agree that Jesus is the Savior, and that one is sinless if he believes in Jesus. However, they can’t agree when we say, “Jesus has blotted out all our sins with His water and blood.” Why? Because they don’t agree that they are so evil without any merit, and they are ignorant of what the Lord has done for such evil beings like them. It’s because they don’t know the Truth that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River in order to bear the sins of mankind. So they believe only in the blood of Jesus. They say that Jesus has blotted out all sins with His blood alone. However, the Truth of salvation is that Jesus has blotted out all the sins of mankind, all the sins of each and every human being, by being baptized and condemned on the Cross.
Those who believe only in the blood of Jesus have too much of their own righteousness. It is not by His blood alone that Jesus has saved us, but it is by the baptism He received in the Jordan River as well as His blood that He has saved us. Those who are self-righteous do not recognize what Jesus has done for them—that is, the baptism of the covenant that He received in order to bear the sins of mankind, and the blood of the covenant that He shed on the Cross (Matthew 26:26-28, Leviticus 16:21). Today also, those who are self-righteous even as they profess to believe in Jesus—the men of cloth, those who make a lot of offerings, those who hold high church offices, in short, the so-called leaders of Christian communities—are unable to be born again, for they do not believe in the baptism that Jesus received in order to save us sinners from all the sins of the world, the baptism of the covenant foreshadowed by the laying on of hands in the Old Testament. Such Christians cannot believe in this baptism of Jesus because their hearts are too wealthy. Anyone who wants to believe in Jesus must be devoid of his own merits and virtues, and only then can this person accept the salvation that has come by the water and blood of Jesus.
The Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). For you to become poor in spirit, you must realize just how insufficient you are and how many sins you will commit in the future, and only such people can fully accept Jesus as their Savior and what He has done for them. Those who are confident that they will not commit too many sins in the future are sinners and modern-day Pharisees standing against Jesus.
Another type of Christian leaders will boast about their high positions in their denominations, saying, “I am the head of this denomination!” Because they’ve done many things for their respective churches, they are self-confident that they will go to Heaven even if they have sin. But these people will all go to hell, for they have not been born again. Nonetheless, Jesus has blotted out even their sins with His baptism and blood. All that they have to do is just believe in this Truth. The salvation of everlasting life is attained by believing in the baptism of Jesus and His blood. It’s not enough to just believe in the blood of the Cross alone.
The Bible says, “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). Think about this for a moment. Think about how you have lived so far, how you were so childish and didn’t really mature until later on. Haven’t you lived all this time having mad thoughts and doing mad things? Is there anyone here who wants to object and say, “Maybe that’s true for you, but I’ve never lived like that”? I am sure that some of you may want to say this. But in God’s sight, any sinner that does not pass his sins to Jesus by believing in His baptism cannot believe in Jesus’ crucifixion either, and therefore he will be punished farther down the road.
My fellow believers, have you not had mad thoughts quite frequently? Not only mad thoughts, but have you not actually done mad things also? All of us have done so before God. Moreover, all of us are bound to continue to commit sin until the day we die. Are you confident that you won’t commit any sin in your life? No? Then you are being truly honest. Now then, are you grateful to Jesus knowing that He has blotted out not just your past sins but also your future sins? If your answer is yes, then it is none other than people like you who are poor in heart, and it is such people who can be saved. And it is our God who saves such people. It’s written, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Put differently, it is God who has saved us.
But in the Bible, Jesus said to the rich young man, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and then follow Me.” The young man’s heart was troubled when he heard this. Even though he had said to Jesus, “I’ve done everything to keep the Law commanding me not to murder, not to steal, not to commit adultery, and to honor my parents,” our Lord knew what was in his mind and said to him, “Sell all you have and distribute to the poor, and then follow Me.” The Lord knew that this rich young man had tried his utmost to obey the Law, and that he was sincere in his desire to keep all its commandments. But Jesus also knew that in his heart, wealth was his god. In other words, even though the young man claimed to practice and keep the Law in his life, he wasn’t actually following the Word of God; rather, he was seeking the riches. Knowing this very well, Jesus told him, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and then follow Me.” Put differently, Jesus was saying to the young man: “It’s not God whom you believe in, nor is it God whom you are following. You are neither keeping the Law nor striving to do so for the sake of God, and so you cannot enter Heaven. Unless you cast away the riches that are in your heart, you will never be able to go to Heaven. You will not be able to receive eternal life nor attain salvation. However, even though this is impossible for you, if you discover yourself, realize that the wealth that you cherish as though it were your god actually is not the real God, and truthfully desire to believe in God, then you, too, can be saved.” So our Lord is saying to us, we need to believe in His baptism and blood.
The Gospel of the Water and the Spirit Has Remitted Away the Sins of This World
There are many people living in this world. The issue facing them all is whether they actually believe in the righteousness of God, or, like this young rich man, they believe mammon as their god. If we believe in God, our possessions mean nothing. So long as we use these possessions for a good cause like the faithful steward, our riches by themselves will never constitute a sin before God. But if we regard and believe this wealth as though it were our god, then the wealth itself will turn into an idol.
Everyone’s mind is preoccupied with the riches of the world, and everyone seeks the wealth of the world. However, if you really want to follow God, your possessions should not mean much to you. You have to listen to the Word of God that says, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is mine.” Everything you have belongs to God, and you are just managing what God has entrusted to you. And if you really believe in God as your God, then you should surrender yourself to His written Word and acknowledge its teaching. If the Word says that you are a sinner, that you will commit sin until the day you die, and that you will harbor mad thoughts and do mad things, then you should admit them all and say, “Yes, I am indeed such a sinner; that is who I really am.”
The Bible says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?” (Jeremiah 13:23) This passage means that because we were all conceived as sinners in our mothers’ wombs, we simply cannot change ourselves on our own. We can be saved only if God Himself saves us from all our sins through the water of His baptism and His blood on the Cross. So the poor in spirit can say to the Lord, “Lord, it is Your salvation that has delivered me. It’s the water of Your baptism and Your blood on the Cross that have saved me. I accept the salvation You are offering me.”
The Bible that we now have is the holy Word written by the holy God. God had written His Word through His servants. So we say that this Word of the Scriptures is the Word of God. The Bible is also called as the Scriptures because it transcribes the sacred Word. To believe in this Word as the Word of God is to believe in God Himself.
As it’s shown in Matthew 3:15, do you believe that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River to thus fulfill all righteousness, and that He has thereby saved us all? Do you believe that the Lord has washed away all your sins? Do you believe that He was condemned on the Cross in your place? Do you believe that Jesus died in our place, and that He rose from the dead again in order to raise us back to life? And do you believe in this God who is now sitting at the right hand of the throne of the Father, and who will come again in the future? If you do, then this means that you have been saved.
Our Lord has saved us from all the sins of the world through the baptism He received and the blood He shed on the Cross in order to deliver us from all sins. I give all my thanks to the Lord for giving us the gospel of the water and the Spirit and the righteousness of God.