Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Rich Young Ruler: Tell-Tale Passage for Soteriology, Number One, Pt. 3

The Jews of Jesus' day needed Jesus as Savior.  No doubt.  They wanted a Messiah who would deliver them from Rome and usher them right into their kingdom.  They were missing the suffering of Christ.  They ignored Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.  However, it was also true that Jesus was King.  He was the King Who would save.  So reception of Him was about Him being King.  He saved unto service of Him.  The Davidic Covenant wouldn't be fulfilled without the New Covenant.  Jesus couldn't be their King, because they couldn't obey Him in their sins.  But the truth remains that Jesus is that King.  They didn't want a suffering King, which was tantamount to a humble King.  They wouldn't deny themselves. The kingdom they desired was all about self and they would never follow Jesus as King, confess Him as King, turn from their own personal reign to His reign, without denial of self.

Very closely related to self-denial is possession denial.  You weren't trusting in Christ if you were hanging on to your own possessions, i.e., building your own kingdom in the here and now.  The earth is the Lord's  If God will be King, He will have the possessions too.

The kingdom of Israel would begin in individual hearts with reception of Jesus Christ.  But you could not enthrone Him and you simultaneously.  Self must be crucified.  That is repentance.  It isn't a work.  As I've written, according to scripture, repentance is granted, as is faith (and even the confession as part of repentant faith, 1 Cor 12:3).

What's unique about Luke 18 next to other tell-tale passages is that you can't explain it away as a sanctification or post-justification passage.  Jesus was dealing with an unbeliever in the rich young ruler.  It's obviously very important, because it is an account found in three of the gospels.  And in each rendition of the same story, Jesus tells him the same thing.

Alright.  If Luke 18:18-30 in fact teaches what I'm reporting, then why is there such a difference between that and what other men are saying?  I can report what I've heard and read through the years, mirrored in what Lou wrote in the essay he linked in the comment section of part one here.

As I have seen it, the massive difference comes from tradition, methodology, and theology.

Keswick Tradition

The tradition is a Keswick tradition.  I could not explain the Keswick influence in one short blogpost.  Whole books have been written on it.  Passages have been understood different than their actual meaning, according to Keswick tradition.   Keswick theology creates two categories of Christians.  First, you have the category of Christian who has only received Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord.  He is still living in sin and disobedience until he reaches a later point of "dedication."  Up to that point, if ever, he is a carnal Christian, living in perpetual disobedience, and yet still saved.  Lou talked about one of those in his linked article, who has "accepted Jesus as his personal Savior," but who was not willing to obey a particular biblical command.  Second, you have the Christian, who, most often long after he has been saved, surrenders to Jesus as Lord.

The rich young ruler passage is trouble for the Keswick tradition.  Jesus had an expectation of the rich young ruler that Jesus would rule His life from the get-go, right from the point of conversion.  The rich young ruler knew that right up front.


Non-lordship props up a methodology, much of it pragmatism.  I've never, ever seen a non-lordship person who was not dependent on a certain amount of pragmatism.  What is most pragmatic is that he gets to go to heaven, but he still gets to keep his life for himself in so many words.  He knows Jesus has saved him, which gives him a certain license to sin.  I recognize that some non-lordship will say, "no," but he is excused in his sin by the idea that lordship comes later.  He is expected to live a carnal life until that later dedication experience.  Any expectation of perpetual obedience for the believer is considered to be a frontloading of works and having salvation cost something, that is, it isn't a free gift, so it must not be grace.

Another part of the methodology is creating a crisis or an event that will get someone to dedicate himself.  Style of preaching very often comes in here, because it often gets very emotional with some scary illustrations to create a feeling that must be the Holy Spirit working.  He is pleaded with to make a decision of dedication or rededication that is about the time when Jesus starts becoming lord to him.

The method of Jesus was different.  He expected everything right up front, which is the idea of "counting the cost."  In other words, Jesus didn't bait and switch, a common strategy in fundamentalism and evangelicalism.   The methodology of bait and switch is incompatible with how we see Jesus operate, so those passages, which are many, where Jesus challenges the potential convert with what he can expect if he follows Christ, are turned into "discipleship" texts.  For Luke 18:18-30 and these methods to fit together, Jesus is said to be doing something different with the rich young ruler than the verses say He does.  Not much is done in making a connection between the words you read in the passage and the strategy Jesus is said to be employing.  Jesus is allegedly doing something that looks nothing like what we read in the text.


Theology also influences someone's take on Luke 18:18-30.  He grew up hearing salvation passages preached as "discipleship."  He's been explaining them now that way for years.  His closest associates do the same.   The whole New Testament now must be seen in that light.  The Bible isn't the authority for the position.  The Bible conforms to the position.

In the theological system that forces an interpretation on huge parts of the New Testament, true repentance is called "works."  Belief, which is something more than "accepting Jesus as your personal Savior," is not belief, but is "works."  If you have to give up anything, it's works.  Believing in Jesus as Lord means Jesus becoming Lord of everything in your life, which is works.  You get saved when you accept Jesus as Savior and sometime later to even never, you become a disciple.  The requirements for being a disciple are much greater than being saved.  A few people can be a disciple, but many, many can be saved without being a disciple.  These are not just traditional and methodological, but also theological.

Some of this theological system hatched in certain schools.   Dallas Theological Seminary has had a major influence.  Almost every evangelical and fundamentalist school has been influenced by Dallas style Keswick theology.  Then you've got all the revivalist schools (Hyles, Crown, West Coast, etc.) that have all fed off of the same kind of Sword of the Lord revivalism that has influenced that segment of fundamentalism.  All of them accredit each other for taking the same approach.

If you were to take all of what I've described here and then plugged it into the rich young ruler passage, you would have Jesus commanding the typical evangelical or fundamentalist to sell, distribute, come, and follow, and they too would say, "No."  However, they're all still saved.  The rich young ruler got special treatment that cannot be applied to or repeated by any other single person in the history of mankind.  You don't have to leave all and follow to have eternal life in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  The requirement is a minimum of a superficial profession of faith with the idea that maybe in the future it will grow into something more, but not necessarily.  When someone makes a profession of faith that is never accompanied by perpetual righteousness, that doesn't mean he's unsaved.  You can't judge that without being guilty of teaching salvation by works.



Hi Bro Brandenburg,
Would you consider the blind men of Matt. 9:27-31 to be saved? They had faith (v.29), called Him Son of David (v.27) and Lord (v.28) and yet went right out and didn't do what he told them to do (v.31)?
John Gardner

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi John,

Yes, I consider them to be saved.

I don't believe in sinless perfection for believers (1 John 1:8-10). It's a struggle. Here was a unique sin, because surely they were talking about this out of a thankful heart. Nevertheless, it contradicted what Jesus said, so it was a sin. I believe that there is no doctrine there that says, if you continue in perpetual sin, you're still likely saved. I think we can judge these things. It's not like someone who hears from Jesus what they're to do, and so they don't receive Him, because they don't like what that will mean to their future, something like: "if I've got to obey, then I don't want Him." Usually our trouble is just the opposite. We're told to talk and we don't--they were told not to talk and they did.