When the rich young ruler came to Jesus in Mark 10:17-31, his question of Jesus is significant.
He didn’t come asking what it meant to be a disciple, or how to take the next step now that he was serious about following Jesus. He wasn’t looking for a fire to throw a stick in, or a mountaintop experience to fire him up for another year.
No, he came to Jesus asking about how to have eternal life.
Jesus’ ultimate answer was to sell what he had and follow Jesus.
The man was saddened, apparently because although he wanted eternal life, but he wanted his riches more.
What is interesting is Jesus’ response.
Jesus refused to change the terms of the gospel in order to assure a man that he had eternal life. (I alluded to this in a previous post.)
There are some today who talk much about the evil of changing the terms of the gospel.
And I agree.
Changing the terms of the gospel is an egregious offense that presents a false gospel and a false hope. And one reason I agree is because I see Jesus refusing to change the terms of the gospel.
What is interesting is that those who scream the loudest about changing the terms of the gospel seem often to deny the very thing that Jesus says here.
They say that calling on people to repent of false gods and commit to following Jesus is adding to the gospel.
Jesus, on the other hand, said it is what is necessary for eternal life.
Usually, the tack taken by these folks is to say that what Jesus was talking about here was some extra level of discipleship, some second level of commitment that you take after you have believed and are saved, and you take this step if you really want to get serious about living for Jesus.
But “eternal life” is not some extra level of discipleship. It is heaven instead of hell.
Say what you will, but Jesus raised the stakes and did not offer this man assurance.
He did not negotiate with him about his affection for this world.
He did not offer him entry-level Christianity.
Neither should we.