“When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ And looking at them Jesus said to them ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” (Matthew 19:25-26)
This conversation, in the aftermath of Jesus’ encounter with the Rich Young Ruler, teaches us some important things about entering the Kingdom of God:
— First, it teaches us that the standard is high. After the Rich Young Ruler had departed grieving, unwilling to sell his possessions and follow Jesus, the Lord said: “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” He then said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. This impelled the disciples to exclaim: “Then who can be saved?” (:25) Most people probably had the idea that a rich person had an easier path to the Kingdom: they were able to give a lot of money to God’s work, and to give alms to poor people, which they assumed would give them “credit” with Him. If these privileged few would find it hard to get to heaven, then what about THEM? The standards must have seemed extremely high.
The fact is, the standards for heaven are indeed high. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Contrary to popular opinion, everyone does not pretty much automatically get into heaven. The standard for entry is extremely high, and very few are actually saved. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate … few are those who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
— Second, with those high standards of entry, the condemnation of all mankind before God is total. NO ONE qualifies for heaven on the basis of our own merits. This is why Jesus responded to the disciples’ question of who can be saved by saying: “With people this is impossible” (:26) “There is NONE righteous, not even one” Romans 3:10 proclaims. “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:23 summarizes. If it depended upon mere human works and righteousness, not a single soul would be saved. Salvation is “impossible” for us to achieve.
— But Jesus also indicated that there is one hope: that God can accomplish for us, what we cannot for ourselves. Thankfully He added, “But with God all things are possible” (:26b) Although no human could be saved based on our own merits, God Himself provided a way for salvation. In fact, that is why Jesus came to earth. He summarized His mission in this way: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus came to purchase the way for us into heaven, by paying the price that none of us could afford, crediting His own righteousness and salvation to everyone who would trust Him as Lord & Savior. So there is a possibility of salvation. But there is only this ONE way. Jesus added: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
As the old hymn proclaims, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” If we will turn from our sin and follow Christ as Lord & Savior, then we can indeed achieve through His grace what is impossible for us on our own — and enter the Kingdom of God!