St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Sermon on Luke 10:25-37

Text: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

As children get older, they get into a stage of asking “Why?”. ‘Why is the sky blue?’ ‘Why does it snow?’ ‘Why do I have to take a bath?’ These questions begin a lifelong process of learning. Children ask questions of their teachers. Employees ask their bosses about how they want a job done. When you want to learn something, you start out by asking questions. Some questions cannot be answered. No matter how hard we look, we cannot find the answer. This morning, we have a question before us, which is really one of the most important questions that has ever been asked. We thank God for revealing the answer to us. The question we want to look at is WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED? We will, first of all look at 1. What The Law Says and then we will look at 2. What The Gospel Says.

Our text begins with a lawyer coming to Jesus with a question. A lawyer was a person who was well-acquainted with all of the Old Testament laws. When he asked the question, he wasn’t really looking for an answer, in order to learn. Rather, we are told that he had ulterior motives. It says that he “stood up to test Jesus.” He wanted to trip up Jesus. He hoped that Jesus would answer incorrectly, so that he could prove Jesus to be a false teacher. The lawyer stood up to ask Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”.

Jesus turned the question around and asked the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”. By means of this question, Jesus was showing that he was not teaching anything that was contrary to the Old Testament. He was adhering to God’s law in all of his preaching and teaching. Jesus asked the man to answer his own question. ‘What does the law of Moses say?’

The man was well-versed in the Old Testament. He studied it every day. He was one of Israel’s religious leaders, so it did not take him long to come up with an answer. He restated what is found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” By quoting these two verses, he was summarizing the two tables of the law that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

First of all, we want to look at the first table of the law, which deals with our relationship with God. For example, we think of the First Commandment, which reads, “You shall have no other gods.” When we hear this commandment, we naturally think of people bowing down to statues of wood, stone or precious metal. We’ve all seen pictures of people doing this. They, obviously, are not worshiping the true God.

Yet, these are not the only gods that people have in their lives. People put monetary gain in God’s place. They put rest and relaxation and recreation ahead of God. Why go to hear God’s Word, when there are other things to do? Whenever anything becomes more important to us than God, we have made them our gods. They take the place that God deserves and demands in our lives.

Rather, we are told the attitude we are to have, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Note the four “all”s! The law says we are to be completely devoted to God. God does not want to share this place with anyone or anything. God calls for and expects complete and total devotion. Everything we think, say, or do is to be to his glory. That is what the first table of the law says.

The second table of the law speaks about our relationship with those around us. This would include commandments four through ten. Let us look at a few of these commandments to show our love for our neighbor. The Fifth Commandment tells us, “You shall not murder.” We might think that this is not a problem for us, an easy one to keep. This commandment does not just talk about taking another person’s life. It also speaks about harming them or ourselves in any way. It speaks about hurting people with our words. It speaks about being angry with others. It tells us to help those around us in every way we can. The Seventh Commandment tells us, “You shall not steal.” This also includes doing our very best to make sure that others keep the things that are theirs and not try to pull one over on them.

When the lawyer summarized the second table of the law, he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s a pretty tall order. We are so quick to look out for ourselves, and others secondarily. The law tells us to have the same concern for others that we have for ourselves.

After the lawyer gave his answer, Jesus commended him. He said, “You have answered correctly.” What the lawyer had answered was perfectly in line with what God said. Then Jesus gave the lawyer the answer to the question he had originally asked: “What must I do to be saved?”. Jesus told him, “Do this and you will love.” What the law said is in the form of a legal contract. “Do this and you will live.” This means a complete and total obedience to all of the law. Throughout our lives, we must be perfect. If we keep the law perfectly, we will have earned eternal life. It will be our just wages for a job well done. The formula is simple. “Do this and you will live.”

The reverse is also just as simple. ‘Don’t do this and you will die.’ If we fail to keep God’s laws perfectly, we deserve death, an eternity of punishment in hell. Just as those who keep the law perfectly will live, it is also true that those who do not deserve death. Scriptures say, “The wages of sin is death.”

God’s legal contract applies to us. ‘Do this and live. Don’t do this and die.’ When we look at God’s law, we see that we haven’t done what God wants. We cannot earn eternal life. God demands perfection and we have been anything but perfect. Though the law offers eternal life to those who keep it, no one can.

Does this pronouncement of the law make you feel uncomfortable? It, apparently, had that effect on the lawyer. We are told, “[The lawyer] wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “‘And who is my neighbor?’.” He wanted to excuse himself. He wanted to make allowances for his actions. So, he was hoping to bend God’s law to make it a little easier to keep. Jesus answered his question by telling the well-known story of the Good Samaritan. By doing so, he further emphasized the lawyer’s inability to keep the law.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, we are told of a man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, which was about seventeen miles away. The road was full of twists and turns. The sides of the road were filled with caves, which gave ample opportunity for robbers to hide and ambush unsuspecting travelers. That is what happened to this man. He was robbed, beaten soundly and left for dead.

It so happened that a priest happened down that road that day. Surely, this man would help someone in need! Yet, we are told that he passed by on the other side of the road. Perhaps, he was afraid that the robbers were still there. Perhaps it was a trap. Perhaps he didn’t want to become ceremonially unclean. Whatever the reason, he passed by, refusing to get involved. Then a Levite passed by. These were men who assisted the priests in the temple. They had been schooled in the truths of God’s Word from youth. Yet, as soon as he saw this wounded man, he crossed to the other side of the road and quickly went on his way.

The next person to come by was a Samaritan. Samaritans and Jews hated each other for centuries. They wanted to have nothing to do with each other. We would expect this man to walk past, without a second glance. Yet, what do we see? This Samaritan “Took pity on him.” “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.” “He put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” He also made sure that the man would continue to be taken care of by giving the innkeeper two denarii and promising to pay the balance, if the bill should exceed that amount. This would ensure the man of room and board until he was recovered. This Samaritan cared for this man. He didn’t care about reward or recognition. Rather, he loved because he wanted to. He chose to show love to this man.

After Jesus told the story, he asked the lawyer, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”. The lawyer had asked, “Who is my neighbor?”. By this story, Jesus was showing the man that the question isn’t “Who is my neighbor?”, but “Am I being a neighbor to those whom God has placed in my life?”. The lawyer had to admit, “The one who took pity on him.” The Samaritan saw someone in need and, without thinking of himself, he helped this man. He showed himself to be a true neighbor.

After the lawyer admitted that it was the Samaritan who was the neighbor, Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” Jesus was holding the mirror of the law in front of the man to show him that he had not kept God’s law perfectly. He did this so that the man would repent of his shallowness when it came to his relationship with others. Jesus wanted the lawyer to come to him for forgiveness, so that he truly could have eternal life.

We are not told what the lawyer did. We can only guess that he went on his way, without coming to Jesus for forgiveness. May we not make the same mistake! As we hear the story of the Good Samaritan, I’m sure that there are many times that each one of us can think of that we were not a neighbor to those in need. We have failed to live up to our end of the contract. When Jesus says, “Do this and you will live,” we must confess that we cannot.

So, what must we do to inherit eternal life? We cannot earn it. A man in Philippi asked Paul the same question. Paul’s answer was, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” The key ingredient is faith in Jesus Christ. The reason that we place our faith, our hope in him is because of what he did. He, alone, kept all of God’s laws perfectly. He did not commit one single sin in thought, word or action. Jesus also sacrificed himself on the cross for us. He paid off the debt that we owed to God. He also rose again from the dead, showing that he had won complete victory. Because of what Jesus did, we don’t have to worry when we come to the end of our lives if we’ve done enough good things to counterbalance the evil. That could never be done. One sin would be enough to condemn us. But, Jesus paid for them all. He paid the price we never could pay. This is all ours through faith in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit creates a faith that accepts all of the gifts that God offers to us. That, too, is a gift of God. What must I do to be saved? Nothing. Jesus did it all for me.

Now, having been forgiven, we want to show our thankfulness in our lives. Here the story of the Good Samaritan can act as a guide for us. There are many people in need that we come into contact with every single day. They may be in need physically, emotionally or spiritually. Out of love and thankfulness, we want to help others. It may be helping with physical needs, by helping someone out. We are to be concerned with our neighbor’s physical well-being.

Yet, there is a more pressing need and that is their spiritual welfare. There are people that we know of, who are spiritually starving to death. God has given you the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, to share with others. When we see a brother or sister in the faith sinning, we care enough about them to tell them that they are sinning, so that they can repent. Help those in need, even if they haven’t always been pleasant to you. Out of love for God, we look to help our neighbor.

Someone once said that the moment that we stop asking questions is the moment we stop living. Life is full of questions. Some we will find the answers to. Others we will not. Thank God that we have the answer to the question we have been pondering this morning: “What must I do in order to be saved?”. We have seen that we cannot earn it by keeping God’s law. Rather, we place our hope and trust for our salvation in Jesus Christ. We thank God for sharing the answer to this all important question. May we, motivated by love for him, share the answer with others. Amen.