Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
“All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:20).
The question of eternal life is one in which every enlightened and normal person is interested. That, “infidels live, but do not die” is a terse statement of fact which has found substantiation in noteworthy dying experiences of certain avowed skeptics and infidels. Nothing will do to live by that will not do to die by. The death of an infidel places a grim emphasis upon the folly of unbelief. But the death of a Christian is the climax of a life and the fruition of hope.
And to the one who thinks seriously on the question of life hereafter, its corollary, what to do to be saved, forces consideration. Instances in the Bible of these questions being asked and answered are numerous. But there are a few outstanding instances where the inquiring subjects were persons of moral excellency. Such examples justify the main theme of the present treatise—that the inheritance of eternal life is not administered upon the sole condition of morality, or mere right living. There are certain conditions which determine the attitude of the heart and will of man toward God, which these examples emphasize
“What Lack I Yet?”
The propounder of this question was a prominent young ruler. It is not often that men of such high position ask the question, and our interest is immediately quickened. This inquirer was also very wealthy, which is another item of interest. Moreover, he was moral. He had met all the demands of the moral law from his youth. And yet, despite all the personal qualities of this intelligent, moral young ruler, he lacked a certain condition of heart that qualifies for entrance into heaven—that of full surrender and submission to the Lord’s will. It is one of the tragic scenes of sacred narrative that one so intelligent and good should fail in the final test and turn from Christ and eternal life.
“Ye Must Be Born Again”
There was another ruler among the Jews named Nicodemus. He belonged to a large class of respectable men. He confessed his faith in Christ and intimated his desire to have a place in the approaching kingdom. Yet, to this respectable citizen, an upright, moral man, Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). If this was true of Nicodemus, is it not true of all respectable citizens and moral men today? And does it not show that morality alone does not save?
“Words Whereby Thou Shalt Be Saved”
Introducing Cornelius to us, the writer of Acts places unusual emphasis upon his moral character. He was devout—strict and conscientious. He feared God. He prayed, not occasionally when called upon, but always. He was benevolent—gave alms to the poor. His moral character challenges the best of us. Yet Cornelius was not saved. Did not an angel say to him, “Send men to Joppa and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved?” (Acts 11:13-14). Singular language, indeed, to use to a saved man! But why send for Peter? The answer is plain. Cornelius, the good, moral, benevolent, even God-fearing man, had not heard the gospel of Christ. “And how shall they hear without a preacher” (Rom. 10:14). So Peter was sent for. Cornelius heard and obeyed the “words whereby” he should be saved.
“A Certain Woman Named Lydia”
Lydia was a business woman, a well-to-do woman, as indicated by the costly goods she sold, and “one that worshipped God”—a religious woman—in the city of Philippi. The writer of the narrative does not fail to emphasize her moral and religious character.
Was she saved? Strange, indeed, if so, that God should send two preachers across land and sea to preach the gospel to her! And stranger still, if salvation is the direct work of the Holy Spirit independent of the preached word!
Briefly, but with inspired accuracy, the conversion of Lydia is told in the following terse sentence: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized,” etc. (Acts 16:14-15). Here was a moral and religions, but unsaved, woman who was required to hear the gospel and obey it in order to be saved. That being true of Lydia, is it not true that people may be strictly moral, even religious, today, and not be saved?
Why Morality Does Not Save
The Saviour of all who are saved knows what the unsaved must do to be saved. And He, with marked and accurate simplicity said, “Go,…preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).The Lord made no exceptions. Who of us will dare to do so?
Salvation consists in doing, not merely in being. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). If morality alone saves, the death of Christ is void, and man dictates the plan of salvation.