Question from a visitor:
Mark 10:17-19 says,
“Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit
eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus
answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the
commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not
steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother."
Jesus, as I see, is not talking about right and wrong but talking about how to achieve
eternal life (salvation or justification). He was saying that the
Law of Moses can justify the believer.
Paul represents only one form of early Christianity. Another important form was Jewish
Christianity, which supports an alternative view. The disciples
were stressing the Mosaic Law as the true way of salvation, and
passages such as Mark 10:17-19 strongly support their claim unless there is another interpretation for it.
The early Christians did not regard the letters of Paul or any other Christian writings as a
scripture at all. They only believed that the commandments of
Jesus were equal to the Old Testament. Any Christian has the
right to overlook the letters of Paul & dispute first on the basis only of the commandments of Jesus.
We read the New Testament stories with caution, where Paul had to go back to Jerusalem
to seek authority from the disciples. They debated, and Paul even
charged Peter with hypocrisy! If Paul had been speaking on behalf
of God, he would not have gone back to consult other disciples, and
they would not fall into such dispute. This means that his
opinion was fallible unless they came to agreement.
Only in the second half of the second century the Christians who revered Paul so much
started to give his writings equal authority to the Old Testament and
to the sayings of Jesus. This is definitely not the opinion of
all Christians at that time. This was a later development, so as
a genuine interpreter of scripture we have to go back to Jesus
first. Only then we can evaluate other people's teachings.
This is my point, and my question to you. If the Old Testament
laws can't be followed today this is another issue all together.
Response from Christian Data Resources:
Thank you for your questions. You have brought up some valid concerns, and I have attempted to address them below.
1) Salvation through the Law
Everyone who has ever received God's grace gift of salvation has
received it through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the
cross. In Old Testament times, the people placed their faith in
the pre-incarnate Christ by looking forward in time, based upon the
Word from the prophets. In modern times, we have the extra
benefit of actually having a historical record of Christ's sacrifice.
Yet, in one way, we are indeed justified through the law, although
indirectly. Each of us are challenged by the law, but we all fall
short. We all have personal sins in our lives (Romans 3:23,
6:23), and we also have imputed sin from Adam (Romans 5). As a
result, none of us have lived a perfect life to satisfy the law.
We are powerless to justify ourselves by our works (Galatians
The answer to this dilemma is that God saves us by grace through faith
(Ephesians 2:8), through the perfect sacrificial lamb, Jesus
Christ. He is the only one who was able to live a life free from
sin, thereby fulfilling the law. We are saved when we simply have
faith to accept this free gift of salvation from God. We are
virtually fulfilling the law when we place our faith in the One who has actually fulfilled it.
Now, I agree that the passage in Mark 10:17-19 is somewhat confusing. However, please remember that the Gospels (Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John) record the words of Jesus before
he gave Himself up on the cross. In this respect, the Gospels are
set in the same time frame as the Old Testament (before the cross), even
though they are included in what we call "The New Testament."
Jesus was speaking to those who did not yet realize that His coming
death on the cross would be the sacrifice that they needed for their sins--to fulfill the law.
In this respect (the most logical from that perspective), Christ was
most certainly speaking the truth when He told the man in Mark 10 that
he must obey the commandments in order to inherit eternal life.
When this man claimed to have fulfilled the law, Christ challenged him
in verse 21 to "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and
you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Only
then, in verse 22, did the man realize that he had not truly obeyed
every aspect of the law: "At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth."
2) Paul's Opinion
I too have been troubled by passages that seem to imply that Paul's
opinion was fallible, even as he was under the direction of the Holy
Spirit when writing his letters. With regard to his seeking
authority from the disciples, I believe that this was simply an attempt
However, in addition to this instance, I find the following scriptures somewhat troubling:
- 1 Corinthians 7:6 says, "But this I say by way of concession, not of command."
- 1 Corinthians 7:25 says, "Now concerning virgins I have no command of
the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is
- 1 Corinthians 8:8 says, "I am not speaking this as a command, but as
proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love
Although I cannot fully explain this paradox, I do believe that there
are far fewer such instances in Paul's letters than in most