I am here to show that it is possible for any man to be saved but it is impossible for any man to save himself except God saves him. ‘As Jesus was setting out on his journey a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked him “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said to Him.. “You know the commandments…”. And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth”. And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go sell all that you have and give to the poor , and you will have treasure in heaven and come and follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples , “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God..” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God”, Mark 10:17-27.
The question asked by our Lord’s disciples “Who then can be saved?” and our Lord’s reply “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” is the focus of this paper. I will show that it is possible for any man to be saved but it is impossible for any man to save themselves except God saves them.
It is possible for any man to be saved -
The disciples were astonished by the difficulty put forward by our Lord in his analogy when he said “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” Mark 10:24. Upon hearing this that is his disciples ‘they were exceedingly astonished’. The evangelist in his gospel heightened their astonishment by adding the word exceedingly which means to an unusually high degree in their hearing of our Lord’s analogy which disposed them to asked the fearful question “who then can be saved?” Jesus replied to their question in a negative in regards to man’s ability of saving himself but positively in regards to God. Who then can be saved? This question can easily be answered by observing other passages of scripture which clearly offers salvation to every one without distinction. For example, John 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life’. The offer for salvation in this passage is without distinction, it is offered to all and whoever believes shall not perish. Another example is found in Acts 17:30 ‘The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent..’ The command for repentance is to all men therefore implying that if any man should repent and trust in Christ they will be saved. Another example is found in Matthew 28:19 ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. Jesus did not restrict those who may be disciples to a few nations or selected coloured men, but his appeal was universal, it is to all nations. From the passages quoted we can affirm that it is possible for any man to be saved and we have Paul’s testimony in the book of Romans which affirms that all are guilty before God consequently everyone needs the same salvation. Therefore it is possible for any man to be saved, but it is impossible for any man to save themselves because in order to be saved one needs to believe and trust in Jesus Christ. And here is found the difficulty, Man cannot save themselves unless it is done by God.
With man it is impossible to save themselves except God saves them -
Our Lord Jesus Christ could have answered the disciples question when they asked ‘who then can be saved?’ with an answer which exalts man over his own salvation. Jesus could have said that ‘man only needs to believe in himself, or man needs only to try harder in observing and keeping the commandment. Or that man only needs to be a good person and he/she will be saved. But our Lord gave no such responses but emphatically declared “with man it is impossible”. How impossible is this impossibility? It is in the absolute sense just like Lazarus could not bring himself out of that tomb except by the absolute authoritative voice of Jesus Christ. It is so with man, man cannot save themselves that is that man cannot inherit eternal life by any merits of their own. With man there is no hope of ever inheriting salvation or entering that blissful paradise which the Lord Almighty has promised to man if they should heed his commandment. The apostle Paul in Ephesians 2 gives us the natural condition of man’s spirituality which is that it is dead. It is dead to its necessity of living for that which is righteous and wrapped in its own covetousness, pursues its poisonous will which is naturally pacing itself away from God. Men in general are self-seeking and idolaters, they are by nature corrupt and unwilling to come to God. Therefore it is said 'all are worthless and their righteousness are filthy rags’. If this offends you I make no apology because I can only work for the truth and forbid I to slander the truth of Christ as to accommodate the fanciful notions of man’s pride of itself. Our Lord declares that it is impossible for man to save themselves as the famous song echoes ‘Who O Lord can save themselves, their own souls could heal?’
Thus far it is established that 1. It is possible for any man to be saved and 2. It is impossible for any man to save themselves. If we were left with this two clauses without any hope of man achieving actual salvation then man is truly a miserable creature who when of good conscience has zero hope of salvation. But man has an unfailing hope which is that although with man it is impossible to save themselves it is entirely possible with God without no effort at all.
Man’s only hope of ever achieving salvation lies ultimately in the Sovereign hands of God. To understand this doctrine and be at peace with it, it is wise for the individual to understand man’s hopelessness and total responsibility in its own inability of achieving salvation. The young man who came to our Lord Jesus with a question of how it was possible to inherit eternal life went away sorrowful when he realized what he had to give up and whom he had to follow in order to possess eternal life. He went away sorrowful because the inheritance was not in accordance with how he perceived it was to be attained and it is so with many today. I am sure that you are friends with many souls who are decent people and see themselves to be good in their own sight and can affirm the keeping of the commandments to a degree of good sufficiency and yet when you ask them to follow Jesus they see no need of it. Or if you ask a man of another conviction, or of another faith to follow Jesus, they will mock your offer or may kindly reject you. This is to prove what Jesus said when he asserted ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him’ John 6:44. It is impossible for man to save themselves unless God draws them to Christ. Elsewhere it is affirmed that ‘unless you are born again you will not see the kingdom of God’ and it is the Spirit which causes a soul to be born again. With man it is impossible but not with God, for Paul writes ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved… For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God’ Ephesians 2:4-8. You see, Paul stands in total agreement with our Lord Jesus that it is impossible for man to save himself (it is not of your own doing) but with God it is possible (God made us alive, for by grace you have been saved through faith, it is the gift of God).
I hope you have seen thus far that it is possible for any man to be saved and that it is impossible for any man to save himself except God saves him. Salvation is only possible with God and although God beckons all men to repent and offers them salvation, yet man is unwilling unless God actually saves them by drawing them to his Son and regenerating their souls through His divine Spirit. Salvation is therefore entirely possible with God and it is a gift. Therefore, anyone who has left everything for the sake of Christ will indeed inherit eternal life because with man salvation is impossible but with God it is possible because His divine grace makes us able to respond to the divine calling. I hope you may affirm with me ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me’.