Don’t get caught off balance

Walk in Wisdom – Gleanings from the Scripture


Luke 18.27 – But He said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Sometimes, the word “balance” can be looked upon as a dirty word in Church circles. It can be perceived as (because at times it truly is) a code word for “compromise.” No doubt, there are times when the great and especially hard doctrines of Scripture make us want to soften them some. We fear how they will be heard and received by others. So, under the guise of balance, we in fact massage the truth to say something it really doesn’t. On the other hand, we can be so invested in a particular doctrinal slant or system, that even if the Scripture itself brings a modifying, nuancing or balancing picture, we immediately suspect it as compromised. When in fact, it may truly be the Biblical balance. And I think our text today can serve as a good example for us.

These words spoken by Jesus, appear at the end of an exchange He had with what verse 18 calls “a ruler”. Due to the reference in verse 23, this man is most often referred to as the “rich young ruler”, for “he was extremely rich.” It is a
bittersweet passage with Jesus saddened at the response to this man Mark 10 says He “loved”. Setting before him – in answer to his question – the need to count Heavenly treasure worth more than his earthly goods, the man left. We do not know what became of him. But when the Disciples respond strongly to Jesus’ assertion that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, Jesus gives our text, both sides of which are necessary to an understanding of the truth. An answer however which is often posited in terms of only one side. Let me explain.

When it comes to preaching the Gospel, two things must be kept both in mind, and in tension. To stress one and ignore the other will always give an imbalance. Here then are 2 truths which must be paired up when presenting the Gospel honestly to men.

1. From man’s side of the equation, salvation is impossible. No one can save themselves. No amount of good works, can save anyone. We must be careful to maintain that salvation is of the Lord, lest anyone imagine their personal worth or merit enters into the picture in any way. Rich men in Jesus’ day were considered spiritually advantaged – otherwise they would not be rich. Some think the same even today. But it wasn’t true then, nor is it now. External riches are no sure gauge of God’s favor in spiritual terms at all. This is a great misnomer. “I must be alright” one might say, “look how God has blessed me!” But it is a lie. Many a blessed man or woman will die in their sins. No level of good works, no amount of personal piety, no acts of religious duty, no imagining that a person is fine with God as is will suffice. No amount of simply wanting to be saved will either. The truth is, with man, salvation is impossible. This is the preaching of depravity and personal inability.

But that is not all that is said here. Nor is it all we can say without distorting the message ourselves. It is at this point we can virtually fail to even give the free offer of the Gospel at all. We can conclude that since with men, it is impossible, therefore there is nothing at all to be done. But that is not so. Why? Because –

2. It IS possible with God. We need beloved to be sure they know salvation IS possible, even though they can never earn it or produce it. How is it possible? With God! So we hear the words of Paul when dealing with the Philippian Jailer – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16.31) Spurgeon said it this way: “If men are to be saved, we must in plainest terms preach justification by faith, as the method by which the atonement becomes effectual in the soul’s experience. If we are saved, we are saved by the substitutionary work of Christ, no merit of ours is wanted, and all men save to do is by a simple faith to accept what Christ has already done. It is delightful to dwell on the grand truth that “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.” O glorious sight – the Christ sitting down in the place of honor because his work is done. Well may the soul rest in a work so evidently complete.”

Let us tell them plainly and absolutely – with men, it IS truly and utterly impossible. But let us never neglect to tell them, the things that are impossible with men, are possible for God, and to have faith in Him who saves those who put their trust in Christ.

Half a Gospel from a neglect of either half – is half a Gospel still.


4 thoughts on “Don’t get caught off balance

  1. Thanks for that Reid. This ties in closely with the subject of your post “confessions of an ex-“highper” calvinist”…which I want to read properly when I can because I don’t understand the correct “balance” as I need on the atonement.
    I’m reminded of this sermon I read a while ago

    Forgive me, I’m off subject…they have a paper there on Rom 7 which was instrumental in changing my view of that passage.

  2. Excellent sermon. I like it a ton. In terms of the whole topic, Bruce Ware put me on to reading G. Michael Thomas’ excellent work – “The Extent of the Atonement” – A Dilemma for Reformed Theology from Calvin to Consensus.

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