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  • Chad Werkhoven

Matthew 19:16-26 - Mission Impossible

Ten commandments?? How about 10x10x10?

Read / Listen

Read Matthew 19:16-26

Listen to passage & devotional:


Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 93

Q. How are these commandments


A. Into two tables.

The first has four commandments,

teaching us what our relation

to God should be.

The second has six commandments,

teaching us what we owe

our neighbor.



He started off so well. This rich young man asked Jesus the question that should be everyone's top priority: "what good thing must I do to be saved?" All of us - every person born since Adam - instinctively knows there's a relationship between salvation and doing good things. But this young man is smarter than most, for he can see that not everything that seems to be good actually is. He wants to focus his efforts on what really counts.

Jesus didn't need to think about the question for too long. Although it's a profoundly important question to ask, it's not at all hard to answer: if you want salvation, perfectly follow the commands of the One who is good.

Here's where things started to go off the rails for the young man. He asked Jesus, "Which ones?"

It's moments like this that we really see the patience of our Savior. He would have been totally justified to burst out laughing at the glaring stupidity of the question, or even to have the young man instantly smote with fire from heaven for daring to suggest that some of God's commands are more important than others. But Jesus doesn't do what the rest of us would have done if we were in His position. Jesus continues to engage the man in conversation.

Keep the second table of the law, Jesus tells the man. In other words, love your neighbor as yourself. At this, a smile likely came upon the young man's face. After all, he had certainly never murdered, committed adultery, stolen or lied. Or so he thought as he confidently reported this to Jesus, at the same time wondering if there was a detail or two Jesus could suggest he ought to add to the list, just to be really sure.

Somehow the man missed the fact that Jesus had said nothing about the first table of the law: those first four commandments that teach us what our relationship ought to be with the One who said, "Be holy, because I am holy." Jesus goes on to tell the man that perfection requires much more than following ten commandments. After all, nowhere does the Bible command a person to give away all that he has. True godliness includes all of the implications of both tables of the law, whether they've been written down or not.

Both this rich young man and the disciples are absolutely crushed by Jesus' answer. Who could possibly meet this exponential criteria for salvation?

Dig Deeper

We understand God's law to have three purposes:

  1. It shows us how sinful we are;

  2. It provides a general guide for how society should behave;

  3. It shows the saved how to live gratefully.

The Heidelberg Catechism properly focuses on the third use of the law: gratitude. But don't forget that you will never really be truly grateful unless you first understand your guilt.

This is why we read some portion of God's law in our worship services, so that we are regularly convicted by it; so that each week we're forced to ask with the disciples, "who then can be saved?"

So when we hear Jesus answer, "with man, [salvation] is impossible, but with God all things are possible," we can look at these two tables of the law as a guide for grateful living in response to God's grace freeing us from our exponential guilt.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, the One who is good;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for His law, that we've met its conditions in Christ, and pray that we';; use His law as a guide for grateful living.



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 1 Corinthians 16


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