Well, my dear friend, you are correct in this, and our Lord Jesus indeed had something quite different in mind as he related His message to this young ruler. Let’s read these verses and see if we can discover the message intended not only for the ruler, but for all of us! In Matthew 19:16-17 we read, “And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments”. You’ll notice in these two verses that the young ruler considered the Lord to be merely a rabbi, or teacher. This is why the Lord Jesus challenged him right away with His identity. Remember, Jesus was “Emmanuel,” or God with us (Isaiah 7:14). The Lord Jesus was the very Son of God, God with us, and thus He asked, “why callest Me good?” This was a test of the young ruler’s faith. There is only One who is good, and that is God. Did this young man realize that the Lord Jesus was God in the form of a man? In 1 Timothy 1:15, we find out that this same Lord Jesus “came into the world to save sinners”? This young man was looking for that one good thing that he could do to obtain life, but indeed, we are sinners (John 3:23; John 6:23), and as such, we cannot save ourselves by good works (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5). We need a Savior, and the Lord Jesus is that Savior. The only way in which a man can inherit eternal life is through faith in the finished work on Calvary’s cross by the Lord Jesus Christ. We are incapable of keeping the law of God. We read in James 2:10, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all”.

Now, what about this man, and what about you and me? Can we keep the law perfectly? Let’s see what the Lord Jesus said in verses 18-22 when the young man asked about which laws he must keep in order to be saved: “…Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions”. Now, had this young man really kept the law perfectly from his youth? The better question is whether any human is capable of keeping the law perfectly! The answer is a resounding “NO” though many today still seem to believe that salvation is based on their good works. Consider the law as described by the Lord Jesus: “Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery….” We read in the NT that any who gets angry with their brother for no reason and even call them a “fool”, they have sinned before the law (Matthew 5:22). As to those who love their neighbor as themselves, consider a story by Dr. Wolsten from England in the 19th century: This was a British physician and preacher who went to make a house call, and someone came to the door and proclaimed that the doctor’s house was on fire! Well, Dr. Wolsten was very worried about his family and property; then someone else came to say that it was in fact his neighbor’s house which was on fire. To this he initially proclaimed, “thank God!” But then realizing that his neighbor was the one in trouble instead of him, he was ashamed because he saw for real that he himself valued his own home more than his neighbor’s. And, as in James 2:10, if we break even a single point of God’s law, we are guilty before the law! Thus, the only way in which a guilty man can be saved is by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 6:23; John 5:24; Acts 4:12; Acts 16:31).

And now, what became of this young man? Well, we are not told. He felt he needed to keep some part of the law for himself, but indeed, how could he keep any of the laws perfectly?  How did he love his neighbor as himself if he would not share his wealth with them? But now, the true test was his willingness to follow the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me”. The young man departed from the Lord Jesus, having desired to earn his own salvation by the works of the Law.

And now, what about you and me? Do we need to sell all that we have in order to be saved? No, not by any means. I believe that this “test” of the Lord Jesus was to instruct the young man, whose heart the Lord really understood, so that he might understand that it is not through works which we have done that we are saved. None of us can keep the law perfectly. But can we put our trust in the Lord Jesus alone to save us? There are many, and very many today who refuse to believe that there is “life for a look at the Savior,” and feel that they must earn their way to heaven. But salvation is not at all by our own righteousness, but through Christ’s redemptive act on our behalf at Calvary. He alone purchased our pardon, and what we must do is believe on Him in order to receive life! Praise the Lord for that, because on our own, we remain lost, ruined sinners.

In the second verse of the hymn Rock of Ages, we read,

“Not the labor of our hands, could fulfill the Law’s demands.

Could our zeal no respite know; could our tears forever flow;

Naught for sin could e’er atone,

But Thy blood and Thine alone.”    (#232, Hymns for the Little Flock).

 And now, my dear friend, are you saved by Grace alone through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?  I trust that you are. But, for any who read this response who have never believed personally on the Lord Jesus, I would like to share Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast”.  (SF)  (513.5)