Question: I heard a message, which was on works. It was from Luke. Luke 18:18 / The Rich Ruler and Luke 10:25 / The Good Samaritan. I’ve been searching the Scriptures for other Words about eternal life and Luke seems to be the only Book I can find where works could be taken to be the way to eternal life. Of course there are many more passages which speak of the free gift of eternal life through the righteousness that flows from Him – and I know this is the overwhelming theme of the Bible with regard to salvation. The Rich Ruler was told to follow the commandments, give to the poor, leave all behind for the sake of the kingdom and follow Jesus to eternal life. The Good Samaritan is to follow the Law “Love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . neighbor as yourself”. Jesus teaches us to have mercy and this is His answer to the question of inheriting eternal life.
Is it my imagination or do Luke’s writings hide the narrow road to salvation?
Answer: We first have to go to the character of God. Because God is righteous, there can never be something or anything errant in who God is or what He does. Therefore, what God records could have no error or inconsistency. Therefore, Scripture, in its original manuscripts, can have no errant thoughts or passages, or errors. We call Scripture “inerrant” or “without error.” Therefore, Scripture cannot have contradictions, because God is ultimately the author of all Scripture, although He used men who wrote His thoughts toward us and He did not hinder the writing style, character or background of the human authors of Scripture; it is all recorded without errors or contradictions (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).
So first, we’d have to look at what is the doctrine of salvation. We would say salvation is “by grace through faith” Eph. 2:8-9. So when another passage seems to contradict it, we look at the passage in light of the clear passages and try to determine what is really being said – so that we see and acknowledge no contradictions in Scripture. Too often, people will teach something based on a verse of Scripture, but their interpretation contradicts another passage of Scripture. The problem is not the Scriptures, but the interpretation of Scripture.
When Jesus was talking to the rich young ruler, who was pretty proud of how much he was “doing,” Jesus challenged him at that point to show that what he was “doing” didn’t make or prove that he was God’s child. The commandments show that we can’t keep them and we need a substitute of someone who can – Jesus.
The basic meaning of salvation (or “to save”) is “deliverance.” We are delivered from the penalty of sin at salvation to become a child of God. We are delivered (saved) from the power of sin, when we live according to God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. We will be delivered from the presence of sin, only when we are free from our body of death and receive the resurrection body.
Luke is not establishing a system of works for salvation. God will have none of that (Eph. 2:8-9). Luke is showing that there is only one perfect man, the God-man, Christ Jesus (Luke’s theme). Salvation is not based on what we can do, but on what He has done. We could go into specifics on those passages in Luke, but hopefully the above answers the basic question.