Who Then Can Be Saved?
Chan Gin Kai
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
A rich young ruler had asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. He was very disappointed when Jesus pointed out the one fatal flaw that could stop him. Jesus explained that is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. It was a hyperbole, to describe something that is so hard that it is practically impossible.
The crowd got the gist after seeing the encounter between the rich young ruler and Jesus — it is not just impossible for the rich to inherit eternal life, it is impossible for everyone. If just one fatal flaw is enough to stumble this paragon of virtue who had kept all the commandments since he was a kid, how much more difficult will it be for everyone else?
“Who then can be saved?”
Indeed, this is a question that concerns everyone.
Jesus’ reply sounded indirect and almost cryptic to me when I first read it. He did not make a list of virtues that has to be attained. He did not preach about what the crowd needed to do or change in their lives. Instead, he said that though it is impossible for them to attain salvation, it is possible through God. You can’t do anything to save yourself, but God can save you.
He pulled the crowd’s focus on themselves, to God.
This is humanity’s vanity. We always make it about ourselves. What can we do? What can we achieve? How can we prove ourselves worthy? We do that in school and at work. And we bring it to church. But it is never about us, it’s all about God.
We’ve got to put our pride aside, and let this sink in: We will never be good enough, we will never be worthy, and we will never deserve salvation.
You may be good enough for an Ivy League school, or the school swim team, or a promotion at work, or a place in Mensa, or a role in NASA; but you will never be worthy of heaven. Like a kid short of a few marks to pass an exam, we need to humbly approach Jesus with our begging bowls and ask for mercy. We need him to cover our shortfall.
First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)
When we read the above passage, we tend to focus on proving our repentance by our deeds. We make it all about us, as though our salvation is in our hands to achieve. There is no doubt that repentance is crucial to our salvation (Luke 13:3). But let’s not miss out what we have to do first, we have to “turn to God”. We need His mercy.
Repentance is not just useless without God’s grace; repentance is impossible without God’s strength.
We may not be wealthy like the rich young ruler, but our chance of salvation is as slim as his. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
But with God, our salvation is possible.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.