I appreciate the respect that Jaime Harker showed to Jesus and the Scriptures in her recent article promoting Violet Valley Bookstore, and her points are well taken about true Christian love. But I believe she left out some important things that result in misleading assumptions.
She quoted from Galatians 3:28. Galatians 3:27-29 speaks of salvation through faith in Christ. All human beings are creatures of God by creation but not all are sons of God, or children of God. We are sons of God only by faith in Jesus Christ and therefore part of the family of God. We are privileged to belong to the family of God and to be treated as a child who belongs, who is welcome in the Father’s house, who is loved by the Father, who is provided for and protected, who shares in the family inheritance only if we are “in Christ.”
Paul says in Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” That is not talking about water baptism. That is spiritual baptism. I Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit, we have all been baptized into one body.” That’s the baptism of the Holy Spirit by which we are united with Christ and become a part of his body, the church, which is symbolized by water baptism.
We are given a status of equality with all other believers. Galatians 3:28 indeed says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The categories are ethnicity, class and gender, and there are only two genders, male and female. There is no hierarchy of rank among believers in Christ. There is no ethnic, class or gender stratification. There is an equality in Christ. This is not talking about erasing sexual distinctions and role distinctions. Those things are still valid. Men are men and women are women and they are different, and they are assigned different roles to play in different spheres in society, but no one “in Christ” is inferior to anyone else as a matter of value or worth or significance.
Finally, we are Abraham’s offspring. Verse 29 says: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Paul is talking to Jews and Gentiles and what he says is that whether we are Jews by birth or Gentiles by birth, we are Abraham’s offspring if we belong to Christ. It is no special privilege to be a physical descendant of Abraham. It is however a privilege to be an offspring of Abraham and heir of the promise. How do you get to be an offspring of Abraham and heir of the promise? By faith in Christ. If you belong to Christ by faith, then you are Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to the promise.
I agree with Jaime that Jesus ate with publicans and sinners, violated traditional religious customs, and included women as important disciples. What might be misunderstood and what is important to note is that Jesus violated the traditional religious customs of the Pharisees and incurred criticism from them for it, but Jesus never violated the law of God, rightly understood.
Jaime quoted Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus is teaching there that the standard of righteousness that God requires is even more stringent than anyone ever imagined. He requires nothing less than perfection and that leaves all of us hopeless apart from His grace.
I am glad that Jaime brought up the account in Luke 10:25-37 of the conversation between Jesus and the questioning Lawyer that includes the parable of the Good Samaritan. The question the lawyer asked was, “who is my neighbor?” So Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan and then he says, not, “this is your neighbor,” but “which one of the three proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
The lawyer had to answer that it was the Samaritan. So Jesus said to him, go and do likewise. Jesus was saying, “I have just shown you what it is to love your neighbor as yourself,” so how are you doing? How do you measure up? The passage is intended to confront us with the question, “how do you measure up to keeping the law of God regarding loving your neighbor as yourself?”
Jesus didn’t tell this story to illustrate how the lawyer could be a better person. He told it to expose a serious deficiency in his heart. He told it so that the lawyer would see for himself the guilt of sin in his heart. The point of the parable of the Good Samaritan is that this lawyer, and all of us as well, are guilty of breaking the law of God, in particular, not loving our neighbors as ourselves, and we cannot exonerate ourselves from the guilt.
What did the lawyer do? We don’t know. The story ends without telling us. But what he should have done was admit to Jesus that he had not kept the law of God. He had not loved his neighbor as himself. He should have admitted that he was guilty of breaking the law of God and he could not exonerate himself from the guilt. And then he should have asked Jesus, “what can I do to cleanse my heart from the guilt of breaking God’s law?”
And then I can only suppose that Jesus might have said something like this, “take up your cross and follow me,” “come to me,” “believe on me,” “receive me,” for this is why I have come. I have come to die for sinners. I have come to reconcile sinners to God. That’s why I am on my way to Jerusalem now, to make a substitutionary atoning sacrifice for sinners. I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.
So, to answer the original question, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer is: read and accept the authority of the Word of God; admit that my problem is not ignorance but disobedience; I have violated God’s holy law; admit that I am a sinner against God; admit that I cannot exonerate myself from my guilt and that I need grace and mercy; I need a savior; and then flee to Jesus in repentance and faith, and submit to Him as Savior and Lord.
What I am saying is that the obligation to keep the holy law of God, not only to “love your neighbor as yourself,” but also “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” should continually drive us to the realization that God is holy and we are not holy. And unless the Spirit of God breathes new life into our souls, unless the love of God himself is shed abroad in our hearts, unless God stoops in grace to change us, we are hopeless.
While we are on the subject of the holiness of God there are some other issues in this article that need to be addressed. One is that homosexuality is a sin and the other is that the only valid biblical marriage is between a man and a woman. Consider the following passages of Scripture.
Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
Romans 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality.
1 Timothy 1:9-10 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.
Jude 1:6-7 – And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
I am grieved at the lack of knowledge of God. We don’t seem to know anything about the holiness of God. We try to create for ourselves, in our minds a god that is all love and no wrath because that is the kind of god we can easily love. But a god that is all love, without holiness, without wrath, is not God. Such a god is a god of our own making as much as if we carved him out of wood or stone. What we need more than anything else is to know God, the true God, and thankfully we can know God through Jesus Christ whom He has sent.