Law and Grace

The Hidden Truth of the Rich Young Ruler

A rich young ruler once asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). Instead of Jesus giving Him the answer we give today, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), He gave him the Ten Commandments. Remember Jesus knows all things. From the moment this man walked up, Jesus knew what to say. The man responded, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” (Luke 18:21). This man approached Jesus with pride. Had he kept all of them? No. Jesus told him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor” (Luke 18:22). The Bible says he walked away sad.

The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, but it does not have any power to transform us. Jesus gave the law only to show how impossible it is to earn salvation. Now Luke 18 describes the story of the rich young ruler. Luke 19 explains the story of Zaccheus. God put these stories together for us to see a parallel. The book of Luke describes Zaccheus as a, “chief tax collector and he was rich.” (Luke 19:2). He climbed a sycamore tree because he was short and wanted to see Jesus. The Lord spotted him and said, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5). This whole time that Jesus spent with him, the Bible never records Jesus giving him any commands or laws.

The rich young ruler was given the law and walked away sad; Zaccheus was given grace and declared, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). What a totally different response. It was grace that changed his life. The law simply points out the problem and doesn’t lend a hand to fix it. Grace is Jesus reaching out both hands on the cross, solving the problem.


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