|Vol. 14 No. 2 February 20121||
And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question. (Mark 12:28-34)
The Pharisees had been silenced by Jesus as they tried to trick Him. The Sadducees had been put to silence by the wise answers of Jesus. Now a scribe, who is also described as a lawyer, decided to take a shot at finding out if Jesus is truly wise. He asked Him a question about which there was a great deal of disagreement among the doctors of the law. It does not appear that the scribe was trying to trick Jesus, but was rather truly testing Jesus’ knowledge of the Law. The question, essentially, is “What is the greatest command of all?” Of course, all of God’s commands are important and carry the weight of God’s authority with them. However, this question was not inappropriate. Jesus, of course, replied that loving God was first and loving your neighbor was second. The lawyer/scribe agreed totally with Him, recognizing that those things come first and guide the follower of God to offer sacrifices according to the Law.
It is Jesus’ response that I want to particularly note. He said, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.” Of the several inferences that can be drawn from this statement, I want to note two here. First, he could only be “not far from the kingdom” if he was not in the kingdom. Secondly, then, there was something that he still needed to do to move from being “not far from the kingdom” to being in the kingdom.
From time to time, I hear someone talking who is part of the denominational world. Many times, while their language often is filled with unbiblical terminology, there is also often a great deal of recognition of the truth of God’s Word. In many cases, I think that someone I am hearing or talking to fits in the category of those who are “not far from the kingdom of God.” The problem is that the person who is not far from the boat still drowns.
It is possible, and this is important, for someone to believe in God, to recognize Jesus as His Son, even to see the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, and still to be “not far from the kingdom.” Holding onto denominational groups, doctrines and philosophies keeps one from being in the kingdom, no matter how close he or she may be to it. Failing to teach the truth on how to become a Christian, how to worship according to God’s will, failing to recognize the necessity of obeying God (Hebrew 5:8-9) as well as having a mental assent, or on the other hand, teaching that we can somehow earn salvation by good works done on our part, all of this will keep us out of the kingdom, no matter how “close” we may be.
It saddens me to think of those who are not far from the kingdom, but who never come to the understanding of the truth that causes them to take the actions necessary to be in the kingdom, and to remain faithful to it. Many are good moral people – very religious people – truly dedicated people, who have been deceived by denominational dogma, and kept from ever truly entering the kingdom. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven’” (Matthew 7:21). He went on to show that many will think they were right, whom He will reject. Many of these will be those who are not far from the kingdom – but lost.
In view of this let us: (1) Examine the Scriptures and make sure we are in the kingdom, not just close; (2) Do all that we can to show those around us, those who profess Christianity and are not far from the kingdom, the way to the kingdom and into the eternal home with the saved through Jesus. (3) We must teach in love, in humility, but without compromise. How sad to think of those who will spend eternity separated from God, who had been not far from the kingdom of God, but who were never shown the way into the kingdom of God.
Recently, I came across this little piece of wisdom, and I quote: “Men do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself but because it contradicts them.” I do not even know who made this statement or when and why it was made, but I do know that it is a “jewel” of wisdom.
The word “contradict” means to “say the opposite of what has been said”; “to be contrary to or disagree with”; “to declare untrue” or “to speak against.” We often hear someone quote two different Scriptures from the Bible and affirm that they are contradictory to each other. How foolish! God is perfect, and He did not put into His Holy Word something that would “speak against” or “say the opposite” of something He said somewhere else. Only men are capable of doing that. Men are just not willing to accept the Word as perfect, and they themselves want to change the context or meaning of Scriptures so that they can salve their own consciences about the falsehood they are peddling.
There are those who sometimes just set out to create confusion and cause others to question the validity of what is said. When Paul preached at Antioch to a Jewish audience, he made quite a stir and the Gentiles asked him to preach the Gospel to them on the next Sabbath. Following their request, we read in Acts 13:44, “The next Sabbath day, almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. But, when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy and spoke against those things that were spoken by Paul; they contradicted and blasphemed.” The Jews most definitely were there just to cause trouble.
However, the Jews were noted as being troublemakers. We read in Acts 17:7ff, “Those Jews who didn’t believe were moved with envy and took certain lewd fellows of the baser sort and gathered a company and set all the city in an uproar and assaulted the house of Jason (where they believed Paul to be staying) and sought to bring them out to the people… they troubled the people and the rulers of the city.” The Jews had an agenda to fulfill their own hate and disregard for the person of Paul and others because they were jealous of the following Paul had. In order to accomplish this, they took into their company those with a bad reputation, and they were willing to blaspheme, which is to speak evil of God. What a price they were willing to pay for their anger and hate!
From the beginning, God has punished those who go against His will because, in doing so, they deny His power and authority. In the Garden of Eden, God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but because they wanted to be “as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), they did eat. They chose to go contrary to the will of God and brought death, the consequence of sin, upon all mankind. There has been and always will be punishment for those who deny the authority and God. He has given us His Word by which to live through His Son Jesus Christ, Who “is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). This means that the message of the Gospel of Christ is never going to change. It is what it is, and we are not to be troubled by “divers and strange doctrines” (Hebrews 18:9) that are contradictory to the Word of God but which erroneously are presented to the world as truth.
God didn’t prepare one set of rules for one class of people and another set of rules for a different class. To do so, would be to create chaos, and “God is not the Author of confusion but the Author of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He has given a singular message for all mankind, and that message is that He wants “all men to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). However, in the beginning, God gave a warning: “My Spirit will not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). He will get tired of man’s contradictions and lack of respect for His authority and take vengeance on those who don’t know Him. Contradicting God is self-destruction!